Russia

10.3.2017 – Saint Petersburg, Federal City

In these days, 100 years have passed since the decisive russian February Revolution in 1917. The people was discontent with the Russian involvement in World War I. The Russian military was no match for well equipped Germany, and the Russian casualties were disastrously high. Many farmers fell on the battle fields as soldiers, the farms were neglected, resulting in severe food shortage. Strikes and riots, first by women, started 8 March 1917 (23. Feb according to the old Julian calendar being used in Russia). Demonstrations prevailed during the following days. The local garnison that was called out to quell the uprising turned around and supported the protesters. Czar Nicholas II wasn’t a good war strategist, he had long been at the front himself, leaving government to his German wife the czarina. She was tremenduously unpopular. Many of the military officers wished for the czar to step down. He tried to hand over the throne to his brother, who refused, and then to his 11 year old son which was a bleeder and had already several times almost died. After a few days Czar Nicholas II accepted to abdicate. An interim government from the Duma was established.

Russia then became one of the most liberal, free and democratic countries in Europe, but the interim government was weak. They did not manage neither to withdraw Russia from the World War I nor to reallocate land use and ownership for farmers. But it granted freedom of speech and freedom of assembly and abolished death penalty. On the other hand the harsh food situation was difficult to solve: many farmers were still on the battlefields as underequipped soldiers, or already dead. Less food was produced and distributed. The war sustained. Also, the profound inequality must have been hard to accept in the extremely rich Saint Petersburg, with it’s pictoresque palaces and gold plated spires for all the wealthy nobilities, compared to normal people’s shortage of food, their poverty and war losses. Add to this the ideas that had developed throughout the 19th century on human rights, equality, normal people being able to uphold livable lives with some leisure time, decent payment and enough of what they needed.

The Bolchevik movement, that did not partake in the interim government, experienced substantial growth in members and support throughtout the spring and summer 1917. This was a time of crisis. The Bolchevik movement gained legitimacy and confidence, and it culmintaed in the surprisingly peaceful October Revolution in 1917 when the Bolcheviks took power and deposed the interim government.

Is is depressing to think about what might have happened if Czar Nicholas II had carried out reforms in time and actually introduced a constitutional monarchy in 1905, as indeed were about to emerge, but was halted when the czar dissolved the Duma shortly after it’s inauguration. This happened at the same time as Norway and Sweden underwent a peaceful divorce and Norway established a constitutional monarchy. Imagine how many lives would have been speared, and how many lives would have been improved. The later series of events paved the way for brutal forces.

Here is a short list of Russian Empire / Soviet Union loss of lives 1914-45:

  • 4-5 million during the World War I 1914-17.
  • 8-13 million during the following Russian Civil War 1917-22, of which about 5 million of hunger 1921-22.
  • 6-8 million during the Soviet famine 1931-32 that followed enforced collectivization of the agricultural sector.
  • 2 million killed during the Great Terror of political repression instigated by Stalin 1936-38.
  • 27 million[1] during the World War II 1941-45 – 16 % of the Union’s population.

Apart from the wikipedia number, the source for these death tolls are the Russian Political History Museum in Saint Petersburg, with it’s exhibition viewed March 2017. Different sources throughout the world show a wide range of numbers.

Thinking of this, trying to understand these numbers, to just have the faintest idea of the horros and despair behind each and every one of these infants, kindergarten and school children, mothers and fathers, craftsmen, students, factory workers, farmers, artists, politicians, bureacrats – caring, honest and ordinary people, is… well, words become weak. This is not long ago. My oldest uncle was born 1915, my father 1925, even my mother was 4 when the Soviet Union entered World War II. They grew up and was formed as individuals in this time.

 

Soon after the October Revolution in 1917 a ruthless civil war broke out. Many parts of the Russian Empire aimed for independence; Finland managed to do so in 1917-18. There were many political fractions. But the hope for the Bolcheviks being better at ending the Russian engagement in World War I than the previous interim government resulted in an unremorseful five years long continuation of the civil war 1917-22. A drought and the many years of war resulted in the Russian famine of 1921. The economy was destroyed. In order to speed it up,  Lenin had to reverse his policy and decreed the New Economic Policy in 1921, which implied a capitalistic liberalisation with possibilities for private initiatives and enterprices. This worked, but possible enthusiasm was quelled by negative propaganda, since this reality didn’t fit ideality.

The Soviet Union was then proclaimed in 1922. Lenin died 1924, explicitly mentioning in his testament that Stalin was not to succeed him, due to Stalin’s ruthless and bold nature. However Stalin knew his divide and conquer tactics and managed to play his rivals up against each other and eventually gained power. The New Economic Policy was abolished by Stalin in 1928 as the first five year plan of the command economy was launched with substantial industrial development. At the same time Stalin established an absurd government of fear and terror, where knowledge was worth nothing. In such a political climate, as part of the first five year plan, the forced collectivization of agriculture devoid of reality was inconsiderately implemented with relocation of farmers, not taking local agricultural knowledge into account. This resulted in the Soviet famine 1931-32. Unlike in 1921-22 drought was not severe in the affected areas. The famine was officially denied until the perestroika in the 1980s.

Stalin feared upheavals as a consequence of the denied famine 1931-32. The threat of a new war following Hitler’s German takeover in 1933 made Stalin to perceive a risk of political opposition again starting an uprise in case of invasion and new Russian unstability. Hence his pre-emptive act of removing opposition through the Great Terror, at its peak 1936-38. Even though the Great Terror effectively killed many opponents and sent many others away to Gulag labour camps in Siberia, the people experienced this absurd rule and grew less content with it’s autocratic leadership. The outbreak of the World War II in 1939 secured Stalin as a dictator, as he and the Soviet people could now focus on a common external enemy. The better part of Soviet industry was in the west of the Union – in Eastern Europe – which now soon would be exposed to a possible German invasion. Stalin started a massive relocation of industry from the west to the cities east of the Ural mountains 1940-42. The town of Novosibirsk housed a major part of this relocated industry and grew rapidly to become Russia’s third largest city. It was established in 1893 during the construction of the Trans Siberian Railway which was to cross the river Ob here, on it’s way east into Siberia to gain access to natural resources. Now, this relocation of industry was a good tactic move, so military equipment could indeed still be manufactured after the Soviet Union entered World War II upon Germany’s attack in 1941, and indeed the westernmost parts of the country were exposed and invaded by the Germans.

The reasons for World War II are many and complicated. Contributing to the complex image of reasons is the many preceding wars, unbalanced power of the different countries, uncertainty of each other’s intentions and an immense polarization. While Russia, seen from the Western European Monarchies in late 19th century was perceived as a an ally, powerful, underintustrialized, yet huge country, this shifted with the Russian Revolution. Conservatives in Europe feared the power and emerging ruthlessness of Soviet Russia. Many workers and unions in Western European countries became inspired and gained confidence during strikes. Inequality was still huge. Soviet propaganda spread the impression among responsive poor workers of an equal society where everyone got what they needed, no one were poor and etc. Tension increased. In order to avoid a disastruous revolution it is possible to imagine liberal or conservative voters to hold their nose, keep their eyes closed and vote for the closest perceived strong leader thought to be capable of keeping their country together, against both internal revolt and a perceived external expansive enemy.

What could possibly the European spirit in the 1930s counterfactually have been, given a Russian Empire gradually developing into a constitutional monarchy in the years leading up to 1914, a liberal democracy, respecting human rights, the freedom of all indivuals, wanting and realising the importance of a conscious civil society and economy?

 

Stalin died in 1953. Soon the system loosened it’s power and increased freedom in general, increased production of consumer goods (the amount of raw steel consumed by each individual pro anno is after all limited). This immediately increased the living standards, the economy boosted. A new Soviet era of pride came. The Moscow Thaw 1953-68 gave new Soviet self confidence along with the Space Race. Still, it wasn’t over until 1991. One can wonder if indeed it still is.

After 1991 there has been quantum leaps of freedom for Russians and most of the former Soviet Union republics, but in Mirnyj a statue in memory of Stalin was erected as late as in 2005, with the inscription “Stalin, the great commander”. In almost all earlier Soviet Union cities there is a war memorial, commemorating the great effort and the Soviet victory. We have to remember the substantial loss of lives during World War II – 27 million Soviet lives. Everyone has lost someone.

Nikita Krushchev denounced the personality cult and dictatorship of Stalin at the 20th Communist Party Congress in 1956. This was a severe admission. Yet the cult is not completely over. Lenin statues are everywhere: Always of large dimensions, in stone, iron, copper or bronze, looking down on us, diminishing us as individuals. Nowadays the well-behaved and low voiced, sober Vladimir Putin is on TV every day, creating an image of an all-present leader taking care of mother Russia. Many claim that Russia is not ready for full democracy, the country being too large with too many diversive wills, needing a strong, unifying leader to keep it all together. Democracy indeed made Brexit possible, demonstrating how the European Union can be dismantled by free and popular votes. And who knows who else may enter the scene after free elections? The U.S. elected one of the world history’s most incompetent polititians in 2016. This context must be kept in mind.

 

Russia’s territory is militarily difficult to defend. The western border crosses acres of flat land with no natural given boundaries. The western borders have been disputed and indeed changed in countless wars during the centuries. Eastern European countries have risen, fallen, been crushed and kept alive as vassal states. Many of the different peoples of Eastern Europe are united by slavic languages, except the rumanians, hungarians and estonians, in some degree they share a common cultural history, and to a certain degree a religious common ground with the Orthodox Church. Apart from the Poles, Tchechs, Slovakians, Lithuanians, Hungarians, Slovenians and Croatians largely being catholic, Estonians and Latvians being protestants and Albanians, Kosovans and some Bosnians being Sunni Muslims. The long southern border reveals a complicated relation to Ukraine and the Caucasus, further across steppes through Central Asia, deserted and mountainous areas and acres to the Pacific Ocean. Many of these neighboring regions are politically unstable. This as opposed f.ex to the easily defendable territory of the USA with military friends to the north and south, flanked by huge oceans to the east and west.

People, all over the world, to all times, want to live our lives in peace. To have sufficient food, live in a dry, clean and warm place, free from violence, having our children, parents and families safe, being able to learn and educate ourselves, free to organize, free to speak about what we want, without risking violent reaction. We want a life free of thought police, without others to decide how we should live. We want to live as we want, without being in opposition to others, to how others want to live their lives. We want to be what we are, without being against what others are.

A full world order agreement is unfortunately highly unlikely in the foreseeable future. At least from our present time “point” of view. This being given, we all depend upon different sovereign states to take care of security, logistics and rule of law, probably centered around language groups, cultural reigns and areas of common history, of common experience. This implies international borders as demarcations of jurisdiction. But across almost every divisive line throughout the world, there is a gradual transition of language, of culture, of manners and human relations.

The compromize key is to soften these borders, to make transition as easy as possible, yet respecting the need for demarcation of jurisdiction. Clarity and predictability is needed to obtain a calm and peaceful stability. We have to build states that respect basic rights, privileges, possibilities and benefits, so that to as little degree as possible it shouldn’t really matter on which side of the border we live.

 

Russia was populated by loosely organized nomadic peoples until Scandinavian Vikings expanded up the rivers from the Gulf of Finland, and downstream Dnepr to the Black Sea and Constantinopel in the 700s ACE. They established the Kievan Rus federation. This was briefly at the same time as St. Andrew of Crete wrote his Great Canon of Repentance in the wake of the Western roman Empire. The slavery economy of late Roman Era developed to serfdom in feudal states from 900 ACE. Later the Grand Duchy of Moscow developed and from the 1500s it’s eastward expansion gradually took control over the scarcely populated Siberia all the way to the Pacific coast. In the 1600s Russia had few inhabitants and in Europe no other access to the sea than Arkhangelsk on the shore of the White Sea, being ice free only a few months a year.

Czar Peter the Great around 1700 then decided a western turn, to change Russia into a modern European country. He wanted to regain access to the Baltic sea, to build a powerful navy and modernize Russia. He prohibited wearing beard, unless a certain tax was paid, introduced a European dress code, let esteablish the first newspaper, let foreign litterature be translated, initiated exchange of craftsmen, manufacturers and scholars. Until this time Russia had expanded eastward both geographically and culturally. The most important city in the west was inland Novgorod, some 200 km southeast from the Gulf of Finland.

Sweden dominated the Baltic Sea, with control over present Finland, Karelia, Ingria (the outlet of river Neva which comprise present Saint Petersburg and surroundings, Estonia and Latvia. This cut off Russian access to the Baltic Sea. Especially Ingria and Karelia had forth and back been under Russian and Swedish/Finnish rule since the Viking Age. Russia regained Ingria and Karelia in 1700, at the beginning of the Great Northern War (off and on 1700-1721). Peter the Great ordered the construction of a new capital – Saint Petersburg – in 1703, in the swamp at the outlet of river Neva, modestly naming the new city after the saint he was named after himself. This undoubtly shifted Russia’s focus westward and must have been perceived as a great threat to the until then Swedish hegemony of the Baltic Sea. This western shift both modernized civil Russia, but also changed it’s military power. It was a fundamental change for Russia. Even though the Age of Enlightenment did not reach Russia, and not even the early industrialization nor even abolishment of serfdom (being abolished in Western Europe as a consequence of the Black Death from the 14th century on), Russia now definitely turned into a European country.

But throughout the 19th century the czars failed to continue modernisation, failed to support and encourage a strong civil society, failed to improve normal people’s living conditions. Russia halted. Serfdom – or in plain language slavery – wasn’t abolished until 1861, and even then reluctantly, consoled with unfavourable conditions. The czar (Alexander II) was aware of the Revolutions of 1848 against feudal structures in Europe. Note also that the czar’s Emancipation Manifesto was released on 3 March 1861, only one day before Abraham Lincoln took office as president of the USA, after the election campaign in 1860 where Lincoln argued against expansion of slavery, with the U.S. civil war 1861-65 as a consequence.

 

I 1905 there was a quite moderate protest and strike in Saint Petersburg due to food shortage and a wish for more freedom. This happened in the wake of the Russo-Japanese War 1904-05. Czar Nicholas II was on his Dacha outside the city. A courier came on his horse with the recent news. Somewhere between now and the reception of the reply a decisive misunderstanding seems to have occured. Nicolas II was a weak czar a weak commander, but he was a loving and mild family man. The courier returned to the city the the Czar’s reply.

It was understood that the uprising should be knocked down. Several thousand people where killed. This day is later known as Bloody Sunday. The demands and criticism should have been met with understanding and adequate solutions to the troubles. Even though the people grew even more discontent with the weak Czar, and despite their respect for the position being explained as God’s representative, these events did lead to certain steps towards better political influence. The first Duma (national assembly) was congregated in May 1906. But the czar dissolved it just a few months later. This was a blunder of huge historical dimensions.

What if he instead had started a slow process of reforms? Listening to the troubles of his people? Trying to perceive thew world and their challenges from their point of view? Accepted a constitutional monarchy? Important reforms and improvements for the people could have been instigated. The climate for reforms were good.  People’s lives could have improved. Discontent could have been reduced, even staggered, by understanding and trying to ease some issues. Russian and world history could have been quite different. The entire mischance of the October revolution in 1917, the civil war, the Great Terror – maybe even World War II –could have been avoided, if the czar in due time had understood the true needs of his people. Russia could have proceeded a step by step path of reform and democratization, building a strong civil community, a healthy economy, with true freedom of speach. Many – many! – millions of lives could have been speared. But no.

 

Maneuvering in situations of deficient information in combination with deficient judgement may lead to miserable, catastrophic or simply mad decisions.

In the case of czar Nicholas II: because he lived detached from reality in his rich bubble, yet in charge, having failed to build a strong, confident and free civil society and bureaucracy, the infrastructure of a healhty, democratic and free society.

In the case of Stalin: possibly with psychic deficiencies, being beyond any natural scale ruthless in combination with ignorancy and lack of respect for knowledge. Stalin had this maneuvering ability, though. But others around him lacked it. We need this ability to see, identify, recognize and be able to react in time, both to survive and to avoid similar situations in the future. We all owe this to the millions of victims of the Soviet regime and several other regimes around the world. We owe this to the future which otherwize would have to live with the conseuences of our foolishness.

Stalin established a regime of terror, fear and paralysis. Then came World War II. The people did not get their freedom from the yoke. Neither did they get democracy. No right to decide for themselves, no political influence. Plus a regime using propaganda day and night of paroles and utopias of how good everything is or will become, completely contrary to perceived reality. Add to that strong restrictions for the space of thought. Finally, when the masses got literate, all they were to read was folly. Parole litterature. Parole music. Neo classical art. Neo classical arcitecture. All to tell a grandeur story, leaving every indiviual as diminished and unimportant as possible, just existing to realize someone else’s image.

Stalin’s Soviet intensified the hindrance of civil society. Increased disempowering of indivuals, of individuality itself. Any society, at any time, works better for the members, if as many of the participating members as possible contribute. For people wanting to contribute, they count of something in reutrn, a common good, a common project, safety for the group, a better organization of time, in sum better skills due to specialization etc. The key to obtain this is a vivid civil society, where everyone can express their views, where everyone can come together and dicuss possible changes. Also accept, curiosity and scrutiny of other opinions is necessary. A climate for respectful discussions. This implies a policy for basic common understanding and behaviour. Hence a common education. And free access to, and open and available information. A society of diversified knowledge, able to discuss and agree on common solutions, is also able to handle disagreement. We must build societies where disagreement is natural and nothing to be feared, where ideas can be spoken and tested, maybe developed if they seem fruitful, where it’s ok to come together from different positions, where  where one search for solutions not only working in one situation, for one class or one group, but for more people, aiming for everyone. A society which does not render impossible or repel certain groups, as seen in fascist Soviet and nazi Germany, which straight out killed “the others”, which wanted to remove, eradicate, destroy “the others”, not approving the way of thinking, the way of life by “the others”.

If one wants to improve one’s own conditions, seeing that it cannot happen without coming at someone else’s expense, one has to make consessions. Compromices. This is a good value, and absolutely necessary in order to avoid the kind of calamities as in Empirial Russia / Soviet Union, nazi Germany and with the two world wars many other countries have experienced.

 

The Russia of today seems again to want something else than the rest of Europe. Russia is huge and pulled between extremities of several axes: Between conservative values and liberal values. Between western modernity and somewhat eastern traditions. Between central power and decentralized democracy. Between a unifying long trend of russification and respect for local customs and religion. Between the mere dimensions of the country both geographically and in terms of inhabitants and how it’s attitude should be towards it’s smaller neighbours. Between the old Eastern European feudal history, the late communist and Soviet history, both being divisive in relation to the rest of Europe. Between the identity of orthodox christianity with it’s cultural heritage from the eastern roman empire, Bysants and Constantinopel, territorially speaking being overrun by the Turks and Islam. Between it’s by far largest ethnic russian group and it’s many assimilated mongol, Central Asian and Siberian peoples, as well as peoples of historically labil influence in the border areas of Asia, Caucasus and on the Eastern European plain.

What is the true nature of Russia?

Russia has a common fate, or common, inherited experience of the many wars, from Napoleon who almost took Moscow in 1812 to the Germans in the two world wars, other attempted and succeeded invasions, it’s successful expansion, and unsuccessfull attempt for expansion into Afghanistan during 1980s. It is the knowledge of borders being difficult to defend. Borders not being naturally given, not naturally or culturally conclusive, encompassing this huge country, surrounded by neighbours of shifting views, leading to the wish for buffer-zones. It is the lost status as one of two global powers as the main part of the Soviet Union during the cold war period. It is the awareness of relative strength, importance and influence.

The largest and today strongest European country apart from Russia is Germany with some 80 million inhabitants. But the EU as a whole has 514 million inhabitans over an area of 4,3 million km2, before brexit. Russia has some 144 million inhabitants, declining, over an area of 17 million km2. Given the history, given the polarization: how should the collaboration with the rest of Europe be based? How should it be balanced with Russia’s needs for collaboration with neighbours along it’s southern border and eastern shore from Turkey, the Middle East, through Central Asia, to China, Mongolia, North Corea, Japan and the USA? Throughout times Russia has struggled with it’s identity and connection, it’s fears and need to appear strong.

Russia used $66 billion, or 5,4 % of its GDP, on military spendings in 2015 according to SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, sipri.org). The Unites States used $596 billion or 3,3 % of its GDP in 2015. The same year European NATO spent $253 billion. Even though the price level in Russia is lower, maybe around 42 % of the price level in the US[2], the picture is quite clear. On the other hand, aggression, ruthlessness or willingness to spread blood cannot be measured in economic terms.

Maybe some kind of version of the European Economic Area (EEA) agreement might be a constructive connection between the EU and Russia. This is an agreement “to promote a continuous and balanced strengthening of trade and economic relations”. This is to be obtained by the free movement of goods, persons, services and capital, as well as closer co-operations in the fields of research and development, environment, education and social policy. In short: full sovereignty, yet closer social and economic integration. This is possible to combine with Russian integration with other non-European and non-EU countries. We must look ahead, for integration rather than polarization. We all have to try and understand the needs of “the other”, take a foreign perspective. The interests of human beings must be put forward, before the interests of corporations. Civil society, trade and corporations are better organically developed, preferably locally or regionally owned and controlled – in order to serve humanity. Not the other way around.

[1] https://no.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dødsfall_under_andre_verdenskrig
[2] http://www.smartepenger.no/2292-svak-krone-men-disse-landene-er-fortsatt-billige

 

6.3.2017 – Mirnyj, Sakha Republic

I travel together with illustrator and Russia-scholar Kristian Krohg-Sørensen. The trip would be difficult without his good temper, excellent skills in Russian and continuous conversations on Russian politics and history. We were met at the airport by the utmost welcoming and friendly and curious guides Natalia and Dima, who took us to the hotel to dress properly for the -26 degrees centigrade and setting up our gear.

Airport Terminal
I had ordered supplemental batteries that didn’t arrive in time for our departure from Oslo, then quickly borrowed a battery from notam the day we left, and counted on buying more in Moscow. Easier said than done. Special batteries are rare and requires knowledge of store brands and areas of the city to look for certain kinds of stores. Google turned out to return quite unreliable answers, similar shops gave dead end advices, after a taxi-sightseeing to possible shop-locations Canon couldn’t say on phone and required us to send an e-mail request. But then the train departure came up. We had to resign and hope for the best.
The train took us to Yekaterinburg in 27 hours, where time allowed dinner until a taxi drive to the airport. The taxi driver propagated the Russian takeover of Crimea from Ukraine. Mirnyj is located in central Siberia in the Sakha Republic. Time is UTC+9, while Yekaterinburg is UTC+5. The four hour flight took us eight hours ahead for a beautiful descent into Mirnyj airport with plenty of old passenger planes parked and covered in snow.

Mirnyj diamond open pit
The kimberlite deposit was discovered in 1954 and the city and mine established 1955. Communication even today is restricted to a 800+ km dirt road unusable during spring to the nearest larger city Yakutsk, 5 several thousand km winter river ice roads, a.o. to Irkutsk and Novosibirsk to the south and southwest, and river boat transport to the Arctic Ocean during the few summer months. And air transport some days a week for light, fresh or expensive goods all year around. There was nothing here until the mine and mining city of Mirnyj was established. The gold mine eventually became the world’s second largest man made hole in the ground, with it’s circular, conical form like an inverted mountain, or abnormally enlarged greek theatre. Underground operations continued after the open pit was decommissioned in 2001. Due to tunnels below the pit, is has been crucial not to let it fill with water or refill it with it’s excavated landmasses.

It makes an immersive impression upon approaching it. Lorrys constantly drive by on the wide dirt road with excavated masses from the underground mine to the landfills. Opposite and adjacent to the hole is the 40 000 or so populated city. It’s crucial economic contribution to the Soviet Union and later Russian Federation, and to the 40 000 or so people who live and work here due to it’s existence. In one day the mine will be empty. What will then happen to this remote town and it’s inhabitants?

The batteries actually endured the harsh temperatures. Important was the heatpacks that I attached to the outer pocked of my jacket, having the auxilliary batteries adjacent in the inner pocket to keep them warm. Two days of recording and filming around the pit and in town and a Sunday of Siberian leisure of shotgun training, snowmobile driving, eating whale and moose liver and trying out the Russian banja (Sauna) is now over. The only hotel in town has no internet connection to offer guests, my phone has refused to connect in any way since UTC+5 and today we located a café with slow wifi to offer. We’re curious before the last day in Siberia before heading to Novosibirsk and St Petersburg to understand more about the February and October Revolution hundred years ago. During this pivotal time of the early 20th century, information was misunderstood or ambivalently interpreted, myths constructed, changing Russian, European and World history. Context is indeed crucial to how information, actions, music – any stimuli to our brain – is percepted and handled.

 

3.3.2017 – 23:43 Yekaterinburg

Moscow for three days and a trip to Sergiev Posad near Moscow for the Great Canon of Repentance in the Monastery of the Holy Trinity. I attended the Canon on Athos, Greece, last year. A very welcoming Father Dionysij showed us around and had a chat after the service.
Two hours ago we disembarked the train in Yekaterinburg after 27 hours. The temperature regime onboard the train was +26 degrees centigrade. The routined travellers dress in T-shirt and shorts. Some dinner downtown Yekaterinburg until our flight with Alrosa aero in two hours 0140. The flight is further four hours and four time zones east to Mirnyj, Siberia.
The vast distances, enormeous territories and familiar yet foreign culture is immensively interesting to experience for a Western European.

 

27.2.2017, Moscow

Tass. Russian News Agency.