Thursday, 21 March 2013

The Kremlin in Moscow, Ivan the Third sets a bad example, a Georgian dinner and Azerbaijani wine

Another pleasant day, sunshine sparkling on the diamond studded deep snow piled up on the banks of the paths and roads. The snow leaves little caps on all the street signs and lamp posts, and sleeves on all the boughs and branches of the trees. We will miss it when we get back to London, because there there is only two inches of it, but here we have several feet of it, it is a legacy of primitive communism, it belongs to everyone, and it decorates everyone’s world here, in Moscow, equally.
Talking of communism, we are off to visit the Kremlin.
It is more ancient than the Magna Carta, it was built as a wooden fort in the 12th century to keep out the Golden Horde, and it has been the home of the Czars ever since, apart from a short period when Peter the Great moved the capital to St Petersburg. It is forbidding, a fortress behind high red brick walls, but it has a soft centre of churches and golden domes which you would expect to create an atmosphere of reverence and contemplation, the kind of atmosphere which would lead to a vision of peace and harmony for the world.

But no!
These Czars were a power crazed gang of mafia merchant lords.
Ivan the 3rd turned the free landholding peasants of Russia into Serfs so that he and his mates could make their fortunes selling grain to the newly emerging world markets. He also instituted the ‘strong hand’ style of government, absolute power concentrated in his hands.....are you thinking what we’re thinking?

Capitalism though, was built on slavery and it’s headed that way again, but less of this, back to the Kremlin, where all sense of timeless authority and the peace of God guided by the rituals of the Orthodox church is rudely interrupted by a monstrous soviet edifice. 

It lies like an imposition, a  gargantuan mausoleum for dead dictators slap bang in the middle of a medieval square, a slap in the face to everything humble, meek and mild, gentle and forgiving, the polar opposite of everything illustrated by the almost sensuous, gorgeous but gloomy frescoes that decorate the churches that sit around it, which are cowed into submission by its brute force.

The Dormition Cathedral - The Czars were crowned here.

The Dormition Cathedral - the Patriarchs and Metropolitans were buried here.

The Archangel Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin. The burial church of Muscovite Princes and the first Czars of Russia including Ivan the Terrible. We counted 45 coffins.
Being brave won't help you dodge the grave. ( Philip Larkin )

At least the soviets were honest. Honest atheists.
Power and force were their ruling weapons of choice and they made no bones about it, if you’ll forgive the pun.
Stalin said that Ivan the Terrible wasn’t terrible enough, he was a bit of a softy really, and there you have it.
Around 40 per-cent of Russians agree with the statement that Stalin was a wise and strong leader, so Ivan the third created a tradition that produced Stockholm Syndrome (one falls in love with one’s captors) on a vast scale.

Less of this, it was time for some fun, so we left these monuments to power and glory behind us and set off to meet Elena’s friend who was due to treat us to a meal at the best Georgian restaurant in Moscow.

She did and it was superb!
Soon we were chilling out and feeling grateful for small mercies, taste buds and constitutions that relax under the influence of alcohol.

How do people live without it?
It always makes us feel happy and well disposed to mankind.

Our meal bargain with a unique Georgian creation that looked alarmingly like human testicles.
I have no idea whether they taste like them, but they were delicious, absolutely exquisite, so if they do it might be worth bearing in mind if you are short of an idea for a dinner party and the shops are closed.

Next came another cracker, a pastry with an egg in the middle and cottage cheese - again, delicious.

We had asked for a bottle of Georgian red wine, but it transpired that it was Azerbaijahni wine due to the recent war between Russia and Georgia.
This is when politics get really serious, but it seems that the dispute has been settled and normal service with Georgian wine will resume soon - the glorious arts of peace!

It was time to leave, and we were soon back on the tough streets of Moscow town.

Once again, we came across a set of the telephone box lookalikes that now serve as public toilets.

It is surely the greatest indictment of soviet communism that it was unable to provide decent public toilets for its toiling masses.

There were no public toilets at all in Moscow or anywhere under the soviet system. These telephone box versions are a vindication, at some level, of the idea that market forces respond to consumer pressure, although the pressure would have to be very great indeed to force me into one.

Still, we are glad to be here, we love Moscow despite everything, and anyway, near earth asteroids began to worry us so we needed to get home quickly. The report in the on-line Guardian was very concerning, but frustratingly short on detail.... it seems that it is not hypothetical that one could strike very soon but we weren't sure whether that meant last night...did we have time to go to the loo or could we wait until we got home?

We got home.

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