For the 874th anniversary of my native city I went to the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts. There are currently two “Italian” exhibitions. One, in collaboration with Pinacoteca di Siena, focuses on the rise of the Sienese school of art. It features at least one work attributed to workshop of Duccio di Buoninsegna and works by Simone Martini, Giovanni di Paolo, and others. It also demonstrates some rare Sienese biccherni and 13-14th Italian paintings and altarpieces from the Pushkin Museum collection.
Another exhibition features works by Giambattista Tiepolo (18th c.) and other Italian painters of 17-18th cc.
In the city, in one of the boulevards, there is an exhibition of Soviet photography. Photos span 1930s-1980s and focus on celebrations in Red Square and Moscow architecture.
Below is one of exhibits, a painting by a 17th c. Neapolitan master, “The healing of the man sick with palsy”.
Animals without people and people without animals are equally in distress – and this is a truly good motivation to protect the Nature.
Not only theatres and museums are suffering from the financial losses due to pandemic. Zoos are also in huge distress – and, as the Russian zoo workers state, not only because of the lack of money. Animals without people is a poor sight, too.
The zoo keepers in Kaliningrad, Voronezh and Yekaterinburg in Russia noted the animals’ astonishment at the absence of visitors. In Kaliningrad, the llamas were surprised to see no people on the first day of lockdown in spring 2020. Having waited for a few hours, they retired to the farthest corners of their cages. Tigers and monkeys, who are especially fond of people’s attention, all but succumbed to depression. And even fish – the koi – were upset to have no visitors.
I suppose it is easy to understand the animals. They realise they are in captivity, and people’s presence makes a very necessary “link” between the cage and the outer world. Without this link, the outer world becomes an unattainable dream. Indeed, animals without people are bound to find zoos unbearable.
Budgeting the Cause
The financial problems the zoos have faced are partly exacerbated by their place in the country’s budget. In Russia, for instance, the zoos are assisted by special charitable funds that come under the jurisdiction of the Culture Ministry. The Government tries to support all cultural institutions, although it has to single out the likes of the Hermitage and the Bolshoi Theatre. And, rightfully, the preservation of the Hermitage comes ahead of that of a zoo, especially a regional one.
Meanwhile, regional governments and visitors have been giving their little help to save the animals. A zoo in Novosibirsk received 27,5 mln rubles (~267K GBP) from the local government. And a zoo in Nizhny Novgorod collected nearly 300K rubles over an evening via the Internet (~1000 GBP).
The applications can be made for loans or grants up to £100,000 to pay for three months of animal care costs.
The fund for zoos and aquariums will close on March 10, while the conservation part of the fund will open for applications later this month.
Life Goes On
There is also a bright side to look at. A year ago, at the start of the pandemics, a zoo in Cordoba, Mexico welcomed three cubs – a tiger and two pumas – whom they named, respectively, Covid (male), Pandemia (female) and Cuarentena (male). Life continues at other zoos, too. And this is what one may find particularly striking. In spring 2020, we all contemplated the maleficent impact of a man when dolphins returned to the Venetian waters, and animals came back to the city streets. Yet in zoos animals cannot survive without the humans. So, animals without people and people without animals are equally in distress – and this is a truly good motivation to protect the Nature.
I was going to tell about this, but tonight’s snowfall makes an ideal backdrop for my story.
I witnessed the final 11 years of the USSR. I was a child, so my memories don’t contain any grim episodes. Instead, I remember the Soviet period as a very quiet time, synonymous with such words as security, safety and peace.
And it was also the time when families were very close-knit and generally kind-hearted. Money was rarely an issue, for everyone was generally pleased with what they had.
Following the demise of the USSR, families began to fall apart. For the second time in the 20th century, after the Civil War of 1918-1922, fathers and sons opposed each other. The civil war didn’t break out this time, but money and the opportunities it provided became the bone of contention. I can’t help pointing out that this expression is a perfect, if sad, metaphor for the conflict that engulfed generations of Russian people.
There was one more important change, apart from money. Younger people began to drift away from their families and homes. Some headed abroad, others to nightclubs. Shops began to work till late, and very soon there appeared those that never closed their doors.
And this was one of the biggest departures from the Soviet times. In Soviet Russia shops used to close any time between 6 and 9pm. I cannot remember a shop that would remain open till 10pm or later. Obviously, there were a few “duty shops”, like the chemists, that would stay open but there’d be only a handful of them for the whole of Moscow.
We often consider any restriction as an encroachment on our freedom. On second thoughts, restrictions help to structure one’s life; without limitations and boundaries people are quite incapable of implementing even the simplest regime.
In Soviet times, when most people finished work at 6pm sharp, they had some three hours to do their shopping. It is true that there were queues at the cashiers, but it’s now clear, why: lots of people had to do their shopping before 9pm. They also had time to meet their friends, visit the theatres and cinemas, walk or attend evening classes and clubs before coming home and spending the evening with their family.
Then, when many shops began to work 24/7, it suddenly became possible to do any shopping at any time. Time with the family became not so important, or it was difficult to make time for them. When you work for yourself, as capitalism often demands, you make your own success and fortune. But, as we have plainly seen, very few people are capable of managing their time well. And, as much as those 24/7 shops were convenient, they also helped to devalue the time. Indeed, if you can do your shopping any time, it doesn’t matter when you actually get to do it.
“Thanks to” the pandemics, shops in Moscow currently work from 8 till 11pm. In the spring 2020, some of them even closed at 9pm or 10pm. Naturally, we had to plan a shopping trip, or we and our pets would be left without food. This added some pressure, but I suddenly realized that I enjoy the quietude of the streets after 11pm.
Before, the traffic never stopped whatever the weather. Tonight there are only few cars, mostly taxis, that snail through the snowfall. People are at home. I don’t think they all sleep, but most of them do.
We hear about different conspiracy theories, but, if my observations are anything to go by, the traitors of mankind may not quiet achieve their goals. By getting back to the normal regime, sleeping when one is expected to sleep, and shopping in the day people are likely to improve their life and perhaps even make it more harmonious.
In historical terms and in the Russian context, this may indeed be a U-turn to the Soviet past and the best it had to offer.
Walking in the Biryolyovo Arboretum for the first time in winter brought lots of skiers, children and glorious snowed pine trees
I used to visit the famous Biryulyovo Arboretum in summer but never in spring, autumn or winter. But there’s always a space for a miracle! On January 2nd, 2021 I added some wintry views to my collection of photos! Join my walking in the alley of pines, which I renamed into The Trail of Smiling Pines (by analogy to The Trail of the Lonesome Pine film). I was walking in the Biryulyovo Arboretum from 1.30pm to 5.30pm. The last 2 videos were made at dusk, around 4pm, when I moved from the pine alley to that of deciduous trees. Then I made a very short video of a starting snowfall. It was magical walking in the Biryulyovo Arboretum in winter, and I hope you take time to walk there with me.
I’m sure you’re interested what measures are undertaken in Russia for New Year Night 2021. Restaurants and Red Square close for the night.
I’m sure you’re interested in what safety measures are undertaken in Russia for New Year Night 2021. Here’s a short digest:
shops close at 10pm;
restaurants shut down at 11pm;
ice rinks close at 7pm;
no official street festivities;
New Year fireworks can be watched in the city centre but people have to have hot drinks on them, as no cafes or street vendors work;
underground and public transport work all night;
Red Square in Moscow is shut down for visitors for the night.
New Year in Russia, just as Christmas in the UK, has always been a family holiday. Two or three generations sat down to one table to bid farewell to the old year and welcome the new. With time, youngsters began to get together for huge celebrations at the restaurants and regional hotels. Due to virus, the tradition is back, although some families have to celebrate New Year separately for health reasons. My Instagram friend had a baby this October, and then her parents fell ill. So, she is meeting New Year with her husband and their baby daughter. But their New Year Night 2021 will be truly blissful.
We’ve had some sleet today, and some local folks are setting off fireworks already. I’m off to walk my dogs, and then I plan to go out to snap a few photos of the year 2020 as it is drawing to a close. I’m very happy as I’m on the verge of great changes, and I sincerely wish all of us to find happiness and faith, whatever happens in the world.
While a new lockdown has been announced in several European countries, the Moscow Mayor, Sergey Sobyanin, hopes to avoid the drastic measures. To do so, the following measures have been implemented:
no public transport access for pupils aged 13 to 18, pregnant women, people over 65, and those who have disabilities or chronic illnesses;
shops’ working hours restricted to 7/8am till 11pm;
masks and gloves are mandatory in shops, on public transport and in crowded, busy places;
at least 30% of workers to work out-of-office, except those whose presence is critical;
leisure centres closed until the end of November;
night clubs and bars’ visitors must obtain and scan a QR-code (until the end of November);
if hospitalised, a person can only receive food packs from the relatives; personal visits not allowed.
We are waiting to hear about restrictions on visiting the places of worship. This Wednesday, when the Russian Orthodox people celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Kazan, one of holy icons that played an important role in fighting the Polish and Lithuanian intervention in the 17th c. November 4th (the day of victory over the intervents) has been celebrated since the 17th c., minus a few decades when November 7th (the day of October Revolution) was celebrated instead. It is the day when Russian people traditionally visit churches. And this time, unlike the Great Lent, the faithful will be able to participate in the service, albeit in masks and gloves.
Moscow is obviously affected most, as it is bigger, and more businesses and people are located here. Incidentally, in Paris, people have been leaving the capital ahead of a new lockdown. This is unlikely to happen in Moscow, as a lot of famous dachas are not adapted to winter conditions.
I suggest we all keep in touch at this time, so please share your experience of living through the pandemia, suggest the topics we can discuss, or look at my brisk notes on the first wave of epidemics in spring this year.
While others debate the effects of wearing a mask, I wonder if it is a test on one’s inner freedom
For the second day running one of Russian radio broadcasters, VestiFM, is discussing a truly vital question:
How to make citizens wear a mask?!
The question sounds crazy because “to make” is to force someone to do something against their will. In the days of “we shan’t be slaves” a mask is called nothing but a “muzzle”. According to this logic, the task is, more or less, to make the Russian citizens wear muzzles.
A MASK: FREEDOM AND RESPONSIBILITY
Since March 2020, just as you, I have been reading various opinions of the doctors as to whether a mask protects you, and how well, and if the demand to wear it at all times is really justified, and whether this runs against the Constitution and the civil rights, etc. Likewise, I cannot doubt that the virus exists, and people fall ill, among them – my friends and their relavites.
Add to this numerous publications about the “Illuminati conspiracy”, and I suspect that someone really wants to see all the craziest forecasts come true so we can witness “apocalypse now”. You see, the TV passions are no longer exciting, but a live catastrophe is just the right thing!
You know what I think? I think that the virus, the pandemics, and all related restrictions run a check on the degree of our inner freedom. We may call it Jesuitism and abuse, or look for the culprits. Or we can admit that the most aggravated are those who are in no way responsible for their lives. For them, to wear a mask is not a measure to protect oneself and everyone around; it is a pain because the inner restrictions (which sees no-one but you) are now coupled with the outer.
Believe me, this is one’s personal choice. It has nothing to do with the circumstances, place-and-time, or the “wrong” head of state. This is one’s own fear: to fail, to take responsibility, to make a decision, to choose. It is far easier to find a scapegoat and send it off to the desert, so one can sit back and keep fearing.
You may disagree and say that age is a factor, but let me disagree with you, too. Anxiety has nothing to do with age. It is a consequence of a person’s desire to control – especially if the object is out of one’s sphere of influence, in principle. Today we witness people who are ready to give their all just to prove that the mask is not necessary and can be done without.
A person who takes primary responsibility for their life is doing the following in the present conditions:
Wearing protective equipment;
Avoiding, if possible, busy places;
Looking after oneself, the near and dear, and friends.
And what do some people do instead? Anything, except looking after themselves. Still, if anyone is really awaiting the Doomsday, please remember the parable of the wise and foolish virgins (Matthew 25:1-13). Five wise virgins took with them the oil for lanterns, the foolish ones didn’t. Then the latter ran out of oil and couldn’t enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
To look after oneself and wear a mask in busy, crowded places is the task of the wise virgins. Yet Christianity respects one’s free will, so it is only a fine that can make “free citizens” wear masks. Meanwhile, my friend was attacked on the Moscow underground when one such citizen tried to rip the mask off her face.
WELL, WHAT IF ALL THIS IS TRUE?
One final thought, especially for those who love conspiracy theories. Suppose, all this is true: there is a conspiracy, the Masons and the Illuminati, the digital concentration camp, and so on. Suppose even you’ve had an epiphany, and now you are dead certain as to who is guilty of all this mess. To begin with, any such culprit is an illusion; the real masterminds remain behind the curtains, so you shouldn’t be too pleased with your guesses. Secondly, what’s next? Most likely, there’s nothing you can do. Are you planning to keep on living in spite of these terrible people’s ? Then remember that the main goal is to reduce the population of the Earth. Smart, free people are indispensable in the face of a pandemic: it is thanks to their irrepressible love of freedom and concern for others that the goal is achieved much easier.
This is a brief note to say hello to my readers and subscribers! I’m delighted to learn that people are subscribing to LCJ. To let you know, I’ve been blogging since August 2006, and it was almost a non-stop entreprise until 2014, when I began teaching and there was less time to research. So please take your time to browse the calendar or the list of categories.
In the meantime, these are the views from a hospital window in Moscow where I have to spend this weekend. Apparently, it is necessary once in a while.
As I grow older, I cherish Sundays more and more – especially this year when I finally don’t work on Sundays. I’m discovering the beauty of “taking time”: I don’t rush my breakfast, dog-walking, reading, doing something about the house, if I must. The feeling of prolonged time is so palpable on Sunday, yet there is also this special silence and relaxedness that is so characteristic of the fin de weekend. Whereas before I’d be thinking of what else to do for the next day, this time, this October, I’m just looking forward to the dog-walking and evening tea.
Over the years I’ve done so much and gone so far that I can’t help taking time and looking inside rather than collecting the impressions of the outer world. My religious views also suggest the inner work, the improvement of the inner vision and wisdom, and I am glad this is so. The year 2014 was a turning point in my religious outlook, and I’m glad to be among the faithful. I’ve never been an atheist, but the years of agnosticism or misconception of the role of the church are also firmly in the past.
Hence tonight, as I’m looking out of my window, I feel this immense warm gratitude to each and every person on my path that, knowingly or not, made me who I am now. As the city is sinking into the dusk, I’m catching the last glimpses of Sunday – to imbue the coming week with calm and joy.
It may seem I live from sunset to sunset – so many of them have I captured in the last few years since I was back to Moscow. Each of them is truly spectacular. Occasionally, I think that I could move to the countryside, but one thing that would influence my decision is the opportunity to watch sunsets.
I worked with a guy whose parents lived in a house halfway between Cambridge and Chichester. From the front it was just another country house, but the back door led from the kitchen into the yard that overlooked the beautiful expanse of either rapeseed or rye framed on the horizon by the woods’ greenery and the azure sky. We visited his parents in the evening, it was summer, the sun was setting slowly, and the sky was lazily donning the darker blues, adding a tint of feminine pinks to its subdued countryside glamour.
So, if that could be the view from my backyard that I would get upon moving to the country, I probably wouldn’t give it a second thought. Meanwhile, I continue enjoying the captivating sunsets from my block of flats.