Posts Tagged ‘Revolution’

December has a special meaning (kind of) for Eastern Siberia (the region of the middle of Siberia, not the Far East), if not just for Irkutsk. For better or for worse, it has nothing to do with the Mandy Moore song (blog post’s title) or the Disney movie Anastasia about the last Russian tsar, in which the song is featured.

The history. The unsuccessful Decembrist Revolt against the tsar of Dec. 14, 1825 by the so-called “Decembrists” (dekabristy), a relatively small group of high-ranking members of the army, bureaucracy, and society, resulted in a variety of sentences for the group’s punishment. Most were sent to the area around Irkutsk to do hard labor in mines for a number of years, and then were required to settle in Siberia for the rest of their term before they were allowed to return to the European part of the country, excluding Moscow or Petersburg.

The expedition. On Wednesday, our grammar teacher, Irina Melentievna, organized an expedition for us 3 Americans and the German/Austrian/Swiss group of international students (6 of them came) to Irkutsk’s Decembrist Museum, which is the renovated house of the wife of the Decembrist Sergei Grigoriyevich Volkonskii.

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Proletariat of All Countries, Unite!

As we learned on Tuesday, the day before Wed., November 4, the National Day of Agreement? Peace?, no one really knows what the November 4 holiday is for. People just know that it was created since the fall of the USSR to replace the other, communist-celabratory holiday, today, November 7, the Day of the Great October Revolution (the October referring to the old-style calendar, when the Revolution took place in 1917).

And people also know that November 4 is now a day off work/school. Accordingly, a friend from my econ class, Vova, and I celebrated with beer and conversation the eve of our day off school. Three (or more) cheers for Russia and Agreement!

As for today, Romany and I and our friends Nelli and Ira are getting together to watch My Fair Lady in Russian and make American cookies po-russki, which in no way relates to Lenin’s and his cronies’ takeover of St. Petersburg over the course of a few hours in 1917. Although, Romany and I agreed, that they were overall molodtsi (“good fellows”) for as smoothy as they got the job done. . . as much as they kind of messed up the next century of Russian history, demographics, economy. . . everything. . . .

The People and Army United!Regardless, the beautiful thing about Russian, is that you can just say “S prazdnikom” (“Happy holiday”) whenever there’s an official or un-official holiday, and people generally won’t ask you which one you’re referring to. So to you new Russians and USSR sympathizers alike, s prazdnikom!

Tatyana Eduardovna, perhaps my only hope for survival in this country, sadly, has left on the train for a few weeks to help their daughter care for her new son/their grandson. Like I told my parents, she promised that she’d be back in 2-3 weeks, “soon enough,” and that I’d be fine under the care of Evgenii (her husband) and Masha.

But the last time that happened, i.e. when Evgenii left on his mid-autumn train trip, promising to be back in 2-3 weeks, he didn’t come back until 4.5 weeks later. That is, this morning at 6:30 a.m. That is, as Tatyana Eduardovna was walking out the door.

Not sure if that was the plan or not, but it worked out fine. For them–I was still trying to sleep.

Though, admittedly, less than a day after his arrival, I’m already saying it’s nice to have Evgenii around again, awkward small talk and forced 4-5 meals a day and all.

When we were eating last (this was meal number 4 of 5–I’m positive there’s another one in store for tonight), he showed me pictures on his phone of black-and-white photographs of his distant family, circa Revolution of 1917. Despite the howling wind and snow and the electricity going out three times, from what I could gather (he mumbles, like all Russian men, but I’m probably at an 80-90% understanding rate with him now–he’s really good about knowing when he’s using esoteric vocabulary and stops to explain). . .

  1. He was proud of their involvement in WWII–and rightly so. An insane amount of valiant soldiers and civilians died (26 million) for their Russian homeland, and being related to a fallen soldier (which I think, on average, everyone here is) is a matter of great pride.
  2. He didn’t seem to have a problem with the fact that the Bolsheviks took away his great-grandma’s family’s factory after the Revolution, what, with the fact that it went towards national industrial production and all. And it’s still pumping out widgets today in Moscow. Different owners, though, I guess, but Evgenii’s not suing.
  3. He was apparently still rather agitated over the overpriced food goods available on the train. He told me about this three times in the 20 minutes we were sitting and talking. The first time they were twice as expensive as regular stores. Then they were 2-3 times as expensive. Then 3-4. But since he was also proud of the fact he outsmarted the train company by bringing his own food, meaning he didn’t have to pay such outrageous prices, and given the insistence of his dissatisfaction, I’m assuming the natural conclusion to this train of thought is, “Well, it wouldn’t have been like this back in the Soviet day.” Which, don’t freak out, is not an uncommon conclusion at all among this generation.

I also got an update on a Russian idiom I’d learned this summer: Literally, “Scholarship is light. Not-scholarship is darkness,” basically, “Without the light of knowledge, life is in darkness,” or something along those lines. His version, though, “Учеба – свет, неучеба – чуть-чуть свет, и на работу” (“Scholarship is light; Not-scholarship is a little bit of light, and then just go work.”) Hm. The humor isn’t translating. Go figure. It’s funny in Russian, I promise.

He also played baseball at his second cousin’s house in Novosibirsk. The cousin has a baseball field. Uh huh. But I don’t care about the fact that they probably didn’t play the game right–I’m still just basking in my successful explanation of tee-ball. Good thing that they didn’t call it Я-ball or Q-ball or after some other non-mutually included letter of the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets.

Also now just realizing that the way I explained it as the “tee” being constructed of an upside-down T shaped thingy [hand motions here], from which, of course, the game derives its name, was completely wrong. Darn.

And the successes in Russia continue. . . .

(Post-script: The Oxford English Dictionary has “T-ball” listed as an alternate spelling. So I’m not totally wrong. See! Always room for compromise, even in Russia.)