What is it about Russia that intrigues me so much? Every time i come across a photo or article on the former Communist super power - i have to stop and and stare and scrutinize; then wiki, google and blog. This is a country with so much history; much of it so tragic. We've all read at least one Russian novel; i think i've read two. We all know what happens in those books, and it always leaves me wondering, "Jesus fucking Christ, what goes on in that country?!"
And part of that curiosity stems from Russia's abstruse reality. I know little of its actual goings on; and unlike so many other cultures of the developed world - Russians don't seem interested in spreading Russian fever; (Vodka, Tatu and Yakov Smirnoff aside.) Because of that seeming reluctance to give it up; my curiosity grows. Similar to some Asian cultures that seem shrouded in mystery; but like their big drunk mustachioed uncle...Anyway - there are three sources of information about Russia that i've found, and it's safe to say that non of these alone provide me with what i feel is an accurate portrayal of Russia, Russians, and er, Russianity. Wikipedia gives me the facts; population density, some dry jerky bits of historical data, maps galore. Black and White photographs...
But what about the flesh and blood, the kids on the street, the movers and shakers, party kids, or the family off in the middle of nowhere, now, living - for that there's the "Russian issue" of Vice Magazine. (don't scoff at me, dick.)
Every weekend, Russians head out to their countryside dachas. For most people this means a crumbling shack on a small plot of land. “Rest” involves either never-ending work to make the dacha marginally inhabitable, or hopelessly growing a few tomatoes and cucumbers in the dacha plot. No matter how it starts, it always ends up as getting drunk off your ass and letting nature take its course.

Even though Russia’s the toughest country with the toughest homophobes in the world, they love faggy music. Even Italians can’t match Russians’ gay love of Eurotrash pop and techno.

False modesty and affected self-loathing are not good strategies to win over people of any strata in Russia. You don’t want to be the type who says “shucks,” even in coded irony. In the West, false modesty, proving that you can laugh at yourself, and self-loathing are all just strategies intended to show how strong, cool, and self-aware you are. It’s one of those coded social lies that come naturally to us, but which are exposed for what they are in a culture as direct and fearless as Russia’s. Only a loser would tell people that he’s a loser. If you hate yourself, then why the fuck should anyone else waste their time on you?
Another way Russians are unlike Americans is in the name department. The entire country has six names for guys and six for girls.
The girls are all named one of the following: Natasha, Nastya, Lena, Sveta, Ira, or Yulia. The guys are all either Sasha, Sergei, Vlad, Igor, Alexei, or Dima.

And thirdly and lastedly. Live Journal. yep - "What?" you say? "Live Journal, isn't LJ the bastion of the white suburban pre-teen? I thought so too - but in recent months, actually for the last year or so - i've been noticing a very steady rise in Russian language entries (or at least i think it's russian, at the very least it's Slavic.) I know this because i regularly view the 40 most recently uploaded pictures to LJ - and every time i see a picture of a Bear (russians, are obsessed with bears; aparently bears are like Paris Hilton in Russia...) or of teenagers doing some sort of weird and wild partying or just straight up having sex (Russians must have immunity to the LJ obscenity rules...) i know it's a russian entry - and sure enough when i click the photo, i get taken straight to a journal full of goblty gook.

Anyway - It would seem, and I would also hope, that no amount of reading and watching would be able to distill such a massive impenetrable culture... But rather that i need to actually go there, and live there, and even then, it'd only be a portion, just a pocket in place and time. Regardless, i'm very curious.
Photos taken from the following sources:

Exhibition of early color photographs from Russian Empire by S. M. Prokudin-Gorsky
Englishrussia |here| + |here|


mike said...

check out "Lost Cosmonaut" by Daniel Kalder for more on Russia's underbelly and what not...

casey said...

Holy crap. What an amazing post!!!!!!!!

This is goes in my "post of the year" file. So far your only competition is Undead Molly — her Ignorant Mouth Creature reports are amazing.

Tmoore said...

Thanks for the recommendation Mike; This and Gogol's Dead Souls are next on my list... such a long list...

Hey thanks Casey, but I'm afraid my terrible proofreading will forever keep me out of the running against a nit picker such as Molly :)

Kate said...

taking a class on the aftermath of communism in Russia and i've been dreaming of running running off to see it -- the professor makes it so enticing with his stories of drunken physics professors and people not feeling any responsibility towards, well, most anything. . . i dunno its nuts. Last night I an email from olga (evergreen, you know her?) who is now living in St Petersburg, and today you bring it up. Curiouser and curiouser.

Anonymous said...

If you haven't already seen it: "Burnt by the Sun." If you watch it let me know because I haven't seen it in a couple years.

Tmoore said...

i havn't seen it, but i'd like to - i'll be sure to let you know, "Anonymous"... (?)

angela said...

my friend daria rode a bus in russia alongside chaotic traffic and princesses riding horses down the middle of the highway.

Undead Molly said...

Nit picker?!? I'm taking that as a compliment you mangy tapeworm habitat.