Moscow Routines

Friday, May 31, 2019

Stadium from the 1980 Olympics
This was my third week in Moscow, with just one more to go. The time has been flying, as they say. Mainly, I've been settling into routines and trying to get my work done. I've been battling a cold, but otherwise have spent most of my time writing and walking around town. 

Inside the GUM Dept. Store
Work has been going well. I've been researching at the RGASPI archive on Bol'shaia Dmitrovka, the same archive where I spent most of my time during the sabbatical. This time around I've basically been doing mop-up work, i.e. checking out questions that have arisen over the past two years while I've been writing my manuscript. So, the work hasn't been quite as intense as it was during my sabbatical year, but in general it's been steady and productive. 

From the post office on Tverskaia
Knowing that nothing I'm doing this summer will either make or break the project has felt nice and relaxing, with fewer highs and lows than there were the first time around in 2016-2017. I remember the thrills back then after finding something really cool in the archive, then heading out the door into the cold and plot how I'd use the freshly unearthed material in my work. RGASPI is located about a quarter mile from Red Square, so after grabbing a hot chocolate on Bol'shaia Dmitrovka I would typically take the long way home--walk down Tverskaia street, then over to Red Square, across the Moscow River and down to the Novokuznetskaia metro station in order to ride home.  

I'm still taking that walk. No, it's not quite as magical as it was the first time around, back in 2016-2017 when I was working in these archives for the first time--all of my previous research had been on the imperial period and had mostly taken place outside Moscow. It was winter, and--more importantly--I hadn't really known what to expect from this archive. So every day I'd walk home, through the snow, in front of the Kremlin and across Red Square and the river. It was a singular type of experience for me. But there are some obvious advantages to the warmer weather, and I'm taking longer routes home now. 

"Cathedral" mosque
I may not be Alfred Kazin, but I've been very much a walker in the city this summer. Recently I took the metro up to the north part of town to the area where the 1980 Summer Olympics were held. There are just a couple of old buildings remaining, alongside a few funky-looking hotels that look like they had been constructed for the event. The neighborhood also boasts one of Moscow's main mosques. If I remember correctly, the one in this neighborhood was demolished to make way for the stadium, then was later rebuilt after the USSR came to an end. 

The weather has generally been really pleasant--typically in the high 60s and low 70s when I first got here, now generally in the mid to high 70s. So, I've been taking lots of long walks, both on my way home from the archive and on my days off. It's all a bit reminiscent of my trip to Russia in 2015. That was a vacation--a month in Russia to celebrate the publication of my book and the tenure vote that had followed.  After having spent time in Russia on an annual basis between 2002-2010, I hadn't been to the country in five years. It had really looked like a different place to me then. Gor'kii Park was filled with Russian hipsters and professionals roller blading and riding their scooters everywhere--all in all, quite a different scene from what I had experienced in Kazan, Ufa, and St. Petersburg in the early 2000s.     

My neighborhood, near Park Kolomenskoe, is pretty well suited for this stuff as well. First of all, the park is enormous and varied. Most of it is laid out with paths and toilets and places to eat for families, but there are some semi-wild areas as well. In the evenings, I also like to go down to the river and take a walk on a pedestrian/bike trail they've constructed--it's less than a five-minute walk from my apartment building. There's a pretty regular crowd of people there who walk, roller-blade, ride bikes, or else informally picnic while chilling on the benches. They play music from their cars, parked on the street nearby, while drinking beer, smoking from big water pipes, or playing backgammon. It's quite a nice scene.  

Buildings in my neighborhood
Otherwise, I've pretty much just been researching and writing. I sent off a couple of articles I've been working on to journals, and just this week learned that an encyclopedia article I wrote a couple of years ago on Muslims in Russia and the successor states has finally gone online. 

The patriarch's pond: but
where is Behemoth?
By the end of most days I'm usually pretty exhausted--the result, I think, of not only all of this furious walking, but also the fact that I'm speaking Russian all day, working in the archives, and living in a big city. I've been sleeping very deeply, and having a lot of really crazy and vivid dreams, usually just before I wake up in the morning. One more routine, I guess.   

I've definitely gotten attached to these routines, and I'll be sorry to say goodbye to them. Soon I'll be headed elsewhere, so I'm doing my best to enjoy things here while I still can. 

Are you a Turk across empires? Order a copy today, then get another one for your libarary.

Photos from this post can be found in the Borderlands Lounge in an album posted here. My previous album is here

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