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"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up."

Arthur Koestler 

Tuesday
Sep012015

The Museum of the Russian Revolution of 1905

Barricades in MoscowThose of you who remember your high school history might be saying to yourself: "Doesn't he mean the Revolution of 1917?" 

No, there actually was a revolution in Russia that failed in 1905. Here is the Wikipedia discussion of the causes of that revolution:

According to the author Sidney Harcave, who wrote The Russian Revolution of 1905, there were four problems in Russian society at the time that contributed to the revolution: the agrarian problem, the nationality problem, the labour problem, and the educated class problem. Taken individually, these issues may not have affected the course of Russian history, combined the problems created the conditions for a potential revolution. 

"At the turn of the century, discontent with the Tsar’s dictatorship was manifested not only through the growth of political parties dedicated to the overthrow of the monarchy but also through industrial strikes for better wages and working conditions, protests and riots among peasants, university demonstrations, and the assassination of government officials, often done by Socialist Revolutionaries."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revolution_of_1905 

There were some reforms as a result of this uprising, but since there was another revolution in 1917, it was not enough.

We more or less stumbled upon the museum while we were walking in Moscow and leaving a Church (the ladies having to stay outside as they had no scarfs. For those interested in this Biblical issue click here) Igor mentioned that a house we walked by was where the Revolution of 1905 was planned. Next door was a museum and Diorama. We returned after our boat ride and saw the museum.

Bloody Sunday In St Petersburg I most enjoyed the paintings that depicted the city and the society of 1905. It also included a large number of artifacts from that time–a printing press, beds that would have been used by workers (they did not look comfortable), and lots of other artifacts too numerous to mention.  There were also rooms that had items from the Great Patriotic War (WWII to us) and a large room dedicated to the uprising in Moscow that ended communism in 1991 by opposing a military-led coup against Gorbachev. (I will talk about this later.) 

Most impressive was the diorama of the Revolution. In a large room, and done in various scales to show distance, was a layout of Moscow in 1905. Except for when we are kids and we do dinosaur dioramas, and the occasional Disney diorama desperately in need of refurbishing that we might see, dioramas are a lost art for Americans. We were seated right in front of a reconstruction of a barricade.

There was sound effects, and lights of the various things that happened on that day. The narration was in Russian, but it looked impressive. After the Russian version, there was a delay and the Russians left. We stayed and the English version was played just for me. While it was shorter, it was also impressive. 

The assistant director then gave us a private tour of the rest of the museum since I was English-speaking and he had a modest amount of English. Mostly he read from an old script in English for me to explain the various exhibits. While traveling in Russia does present linguistic difficulties for an English speaker, the Russians go out of their way to be helpful, and the private tour was a prime example of this. Click here for a brief description of the museum.  

One interesting thing that happened was that the narration in English talked about the workers, and solidarity and so on, typical soviet propaganda as the narration was written before the fall of the Soviet Union. But the more I thought about it, the less like propaganda it seemed. Does anyone doubt that workers were mistreated in Russia in 1905? Not if you have any sense of history at all. 

Of course American workers were well treated at that time! Oh...wait...I just remembered a variety of blog entries that the beloved editor of this blog, Pam Dewey, has done on the treatment of American workers at March on the Tsars Winter Palace. As you can see from the above painting it did not end well. roughly the same time as the Revolution of 1905--it was not pretty. A sample:  

"Pinching Pennies--'til They Screamed"  (Expose' of horrific working conditions of young women employed in Department Stores in New York City, from McClure's magazine in 1910)    

"Plausible Deniability" (Overview of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City that killed 146 people, most of them young women 16 to 23, caused by hellish working conditions)

"And a Little Child Shall Lead Them" (Five-part series on the horrors of Child Labor in America around the turn of the 19th/20th Century) 

This is leading me to return to a subject I talked about on occasion before my blog's hiatus. I have talked before about what I call templates, or ways of looking at the world that we all use. These can be helpful, but they can also lead to error. If we accept the propaganda we read without critical thought, we will end up parroting what we are supposed to believe.

Would I have been on the barricades fighting the Czar? I am not sure. But will you join me on a metaphorical barricade as I begin to talk about the templates we use and propaganda?

Sunday
Aug302015

Transportation in Russia

While I have talked about this before, I thought my recent trip to Russia was a good opportunity to talk about it again.

In America a car is a basic necessity--just try to get to your place of employment on a bus. If you are lucky, you might be near a bus route and your place of employment might too. But the chances are you will have a long walk at one, or both ends of your trip. Yes, I know that some large cities have adequate mass transit. Even Los Angeles has added train lines in recent years that seem to be well used--at least the train stops look busy as I drive by.  But as a general rule the US is structured around the automobile, with driving a car being a rite of passage for American teens.

Typical Parking in MoscowWhile the Russian middle class are buying more and more cars, Russia is not structured around the automobile. Parking is a big problem in all modern cities, but it is acute in Russia. The older apartments were built with the assumption that no one would have cars. The result is cars parked everywhere--on side walks, in the street that was not designed for it so one half of the car is on the dirt, and so on.

We took a boat trip on the Moscow River in Moscow. Our host was my wife's friend since grade school. He dropped us off at the boat and drove to his place of employment to park and walked back. We walked back after the ride. It took about 20 minutes. BTW, I recommend the boat trip if you are in Moscow. On my first trip to Russia I did so much walking I lost weight.

The traffic in Moscow did not seem that bad, but Igor was avoiding the heavy traffic areas as he lived very close, but not in Moscow. He also had some sort of real-time navigator with traffic information. Every trip we made could have been done on the bus system. A car is, of course, more convenient. One major factor in the convenience is the Russian winters--waiting for a bus in the winter wind can't be much fun.

Moscow City on the RiverIn my wife's home town it costs 15 rubles, 20 cents, to ride anywhere in the town one way on the bus. If for some reason you want to take a taxi, a one way trip costs 100 rubles, about $1.50. If I lived there, except for the winters, I would not want a car. Since a taxi is so cheap, I might not even want a car for the winter months. (You may have noted I said, if I lived there. This is a real possibility if I retire next year. A little goes a long way in Russia.)

Russian cities have an extensive rail system that connects most of the larger cities. From Murom to Moscow, a 4 1/2 hour trip, it costs from 450 ($7) for a seat, 800 ($12) for a sleeping car you will share with six people with upper and lower bunks in an open area, a four person cabin with more privacy will be around 2000 ($29). There are also more luxurious accommodations available that include food, a safe for money, more personal service, and a TV.

A lot of the blogosphere is concerned about an economic apocalypse. I do not agree, but I also do not think it is impossible, just unlikely. Russia is very well suited for such a scenario. They are a large energy exporter, and contrary to what you might expect, even with Ukraine being independent, Russia has been a grain exporter. Currently Russia taxes grain exports to reduce domestic costs. In Russia land seems underutilized, and many Russians grow their own food in a garden plot or at their dacha (farm house).

Russia has many economic issues, but Russian transportation is well situated for a crisis.

Next time I will talk about an interesting, and rather obscure, museum I went to on our Moscow trip.

Friday
Aug282015

Hazelnut Snickers

Top 10 Weird and Unusual Snickers

I was in Russia recently and noticed that a hazelnut Snickers double bar was at the checkout. The hazelnut added an interesting tang. The cost was 40 roubles. That is about 70 cents. In the US at a similar checkout at the store it would be around $2. I noticed that while food was more expensive in roubles than it was on my last trip, it was a lot more inexpensive in dollars due to the drop in the rouble.

Coffee was an issue for me as instant coffee is not my first choice. Instant coffee is the staple for coffee drinking in Russia. However this is more an issue of space, as the average Russian kitchen is small. But I did notice that the Russian version of Best Buy, Eldorado, had all the coffee machines one might want, including a $1200 coffee machine from Germany. The fact that Eldorado carried it meant that some Russians were buying these expensive machines. Turkish style coffee machines are also popular. 

We had the lunch special at the downtown café several times. It was 320 roubles. It began with a salad. (Think more like a three bean style salad instead of a lettuce salad.) Then I had the Spicy Georgian soup. (Think the Eurasian country next to Russia, not the American state.) Then the main entrée was cabbage rolls stuffed with ground beef. 320 roubles is $4.50. There is no sales tax and a tip is optional more than expected. Yes, you buy the bottled water, but this is really a necessity as Russian water is of varying quality. Oh, let me add that this was for both my wife and me and it included tea. This type of lunch special is called the "businessman's lunch." 

Food in Russia is of a generally better quality. Yes, the fruit and vegetables are not as pristine as an American would expect, but they are organic. The tomatoes are especially nice in the summer as the varieties are designed to be eaten locally and are not made tough genetically for transportation. It was difficult to get the exact food I wanted, but the choices were large in some areas, like deli meats. I love Russian deli meats like lamb sausage, or chicken roulette. Alas, since I was in vacation mode I ate too much of these meats. Now I must pay!

Next time I will talk about Russian transportation.

Sunday
Jul052015

Is this Prophetic For Today's vote in Greece? 

Tuesday
May122015

A Sacred War