Saturday, March 10, 2007

I really regret not being able to write every day - to write as much as I want to every day. To reply to people's emails. To write down all the exciting things about Marta. Once again, I wish I had a clone - and it'd also be great if the day lasted 30 hours, not 24. I wouldn't be so sleep-deprived then, too.

Anyway, here's how I spent March 8.

Mishah had a day off, so he went for a walk with Marta, and I took a cab downtown (or is it uptown? it is...), to Chistiye Prudy, the area where I hadn't been to yet, since my return from Kyiv.

The driver was a 30-year-old Uzbek guy from Tashkent who has lived in Moscow for half a year. He complained about the loose morals of the local males: on the average, he gets propositioned twice a week here, by "all those transvestites and gays." A cute guy, a Muslim. The ride was over before we got to discuss xenophobia.

It was the first really warm, really sunny day, so wonderful, so I walked and walked and walked. Originally, I had been planning to have coffee and read a book at the coffee place on Pokrovka, but I just couldn't stop walking. I only took a few pictures during my walk - here's one:

It was nice seeing women with flowers (though so many had their men with them - and it was often the guys who were carrying the bouquets - as if flowers are such a heavy burden for a woman to carry herself). It was also nice saying "Happy March 8" to those poor women who had to work on what was a day off for the rest of us: a kiosk woman I bought water from, a bookstore woman, etc. It felt nice to make them smile.

I didn't give up on the idea of having coffee, but when I was ready to pause, the place I went into on Tverskaya was choke-full. So I decided to walk past our former place on Bolshaya Bronnaya instead, across the street from the synagogue - the lousy weather of the past two months hadn't allowed me take this nostalgic walk.

I was near the McDonald's on Pushkinskaya, feeling pregnant again (because this was the area where I spent most of my pregnancy), when I saw one of those ugly buses, with curtained windows, and then a few more, and I had this click in my head right away, and I turned left, and yes, there was an awfully tiny rally near the square - which I wouldn't have noticed if it hadn't been for all the riot police around.

Just like in September 2005, two and a half months before Marta was born - I wrote about that rally here, here, and here.

There were only a dozen people or so, protesting Russia's involvement in Chechnya. I walked by, read the slogans, accepted a leaflet from an eccentric-looking man, got reminded that March 8 wasn't just the International Women's Day here but also the second anniversary of Maskhadov's death (a flashback: dead Maskhadov on every TV channel, Ramzan Kadyrov's sick sick sick sense of humor - this corpse was his March 8 present to every Chechen woman).

I continued on my walk towards our Bolshaya Bronnaya place.

But when I was a block away, I heard some noise, turned around and saw a guy climb the blue toilet booth a few meters away from the protesters, and then a riot cop got there after him, and, after some struggle, he pulled the guy down, from all the way up, into the snow.

Damn, I thought, as I saw a pack of journalists rush towards the toilets: I was there just two minutes ago - why did I not stay?

So I went back, in time to capture the cops carrying the poor guy to the bus:

But my footage is nothing, especially compared to this:

Normally, I wouldn't link to anything by the folks who shot this video - and who, it turned out, were counter-rallying against the anti-war folks (the guy on the toilet roof was from their crowd): Rossiya Molodaya, a youth movement that seems to be very much like Nashi, as moronic (though I do admit I haven't bothered reading about them at all - all I know is they are against "liberal fascists" and "political prostitutes").

But this video is different: it's something that I watched from afar - because of the really bad timing.

I hung around for a while, taking pictures of the poor anti-war people (will post them later, I hope).

One cop there had a tiny notepad and a pen: he walked around, diligently copying all the slogans. I wonder why he was doing that. In the last Esquire, there's a selection of LiveJournal entries by Moscow cops - an awesome piece - maybe he was one of those bloggers. :)

And I've finally seen that elderly woman who goes to every rally, left and right, just because she loves it. (Later, I'll post my photo of her, and a link to LJ user nl's hilarious entry about her - need some time to find it).

One woman at the rally held a poster that said Aslan Maskhadov wasn't a terrorist but a slain president of the Chechen Republic. Okay. But I've had this question about him for a few years now and kept forgetting to ask it here. A rhetorical question:

Maskhadov used to be the "anti-aircraft and artillery division chief-of-staff at the Baltic Military District in Vilnius, Lithuania" (from here) and "took part in the Soviet army's attempt to suppress Lithuania's nationalist independence movement in January 1991 - an episode he quickly came to regret" (from here):

"I was in Lithuania, in Vilnius during those events. I also thought at that time that the Lithuanians were allowed to do what they wanted, to live under the wing of Russia, they lived normally there. And today it is shameful for me that I had those views and I think differently."

(From here.)

And then he also regretted the Chechen fighters' involvement in the war against Georgia, on the Abkhaz side:

"The participation of our volunteers in the Abkhazia conflict against Georgia is not the best page in the history of relations between two brotherly nations," Maskhadov said. "We acknowledge today that our volunteers were deceived. At the outset of 1993-1994, on the eve of Russia's invasion into our territory, on the eve of Russia's aggression, we should not have been involved [in the conflict], taking into account strategic, tactical, military and political considerations. We had no right to do this. We only damaged our interests, even from military point of view, even from political point of view, to say nothing about the brotherly relations between our peoples. I hope that this will serve us as a lesson forever."

(I've no link for this, it's in my Beslan notes, but is easy to find - here's the source: The Jamestown Foundation's Chechnya Weekly, Vol. 5, Issue 33, Sept. 1, 2004.)

The question is this, I guess: how come politicians always manage to get off so easily? Or something.

To wrap this up, I did walk past our former house eventually and it was such an emotional boost for me. All the memories from that totally different life we had. And, strangely, the impromptu rally experience had the same effect on me: a glimpse into the past (a more realistic observation, though, is that the opposition seems to have gotten even thinner in the past year and a half - or perhaps I'm wrong and they've all just moved to St. Pete...)

Anyway, it was a great day, and I've written more than I expected I would, and there'll be some pics later, and then for a while I won't feel too guilty about not writing here.


  1. Dear Veronica,

    I am glad that you wrote as much as you did, setting a perspective on everyday life to society around us, "jotting down what you see in the margins of life as you live it." It is really a welcome change from the "high politics" I write about, and in many ways it seems more worthwhile.



  2. thankyou as well.

    It was good to see in pictures how things are in Ukraine. I love how easy it is to make digital films of events like this.

    I'm guessing the protester was arrested for going on top of the toilets.