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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    From Russia with love

    I am just off the plane from Moscow, a gigantic, opulent city, and I just found out that my roommate was beaten and mugged on the street outside my dorm. When I came into my room, tired from wandering around the streets of Moscow and the Red Square, he was holding a packet of frozen vegetables to his face, because that is all we have access to on Grazdhansky Prospect.

    I flew to Moscow from St. Petersburg on the day he was mugged. There is no question that St. Petersburg’s airport, Pulkovo, is my most hated airport, since I find nothing more depressing and unpleasant than Soviet Constructivist architecture. The fact that anyone can stand dirt-smeared concrete buildings actually upsets me.

    Moscow is much more like a major American city than St. Petersburg, except half of it still seems to be in 1994.

    There are still little box cars with no hubcaps on them, stained with dust, and you can’t stand on the street because any one of those cars might pull over and offer you a ride.

    Seriously, if somebody feels like making some money, they can just pick up random people that want rides; you have no way of knowing anything. It is out of control.

    In St. Petersburg, my roommate was walking to catch the last Metro near our dorms. Near the station is the Pizza Bar, a wannabe New York-style pizza place that sees as many American students as Russian citizens.

    My roommate decided to stop there instead, where he was followed and confronted by “”four Russian dudes.”” After that the story is a bit hazy, probably because he got beaten and stomped on and had his wallet stolen.

    Apparently, until this year, Moscow had the most billionaires of any city in the world. Downtown, that luxury is strikingly clear. Bentleys, Maseratis, Chanel, G.U.M. (the world’s most absurdly upscale shopping mall) and pretty much every designer store of any type can be found. But not all of Moscow is quite so wealthy.

    The city, which holds 13 million people, expands over an incredible distance, and is hazy and surprisingly low to the ground. The landscape seems to be nearly free of skyscrapers, and the orange-brown tint cast over the city makes it look like a dust bowl just blew through. For some reason, which confounds me on a daily basis, Russia is a very dirty country – or, at least Moscow and St. Petersburg are dirty cities.

    Every car, every building, even the sky, is brown and unclean. When the snow melts, there is brown mud – everything is brown or grey – there is very little color in this country, and the winter lasts six months. You can begin to see why drinking is the national pastime.

    Apparently, after my roommate was beaten, he went with our resident directors to file a police complaint. His description of the police station was something like this: The entire police station was one man sitting at a desk in a dark room, smoking, wearing jeans and a shirt, with a gun strapped to his leg.

    First, everyone must know that the bureaucracy in Russia is the most backward, absurd system ever created. The amount of paperwork that needs to be done for any given event is incredible. And so, a police report requires somewhere between one and two hours of descriptions and information that was probably of no real help. But this is Russia.

    The differences between St. Petersburg and Moscow are immense – one is a gigantic city and the other is a smaller, more manageable metropolitan area. But the difference between Russia and America is incalculable. Everything, from the culture to the architecture to the standard of living, is different. While Russia may not always be a pleasant place to live, it is endearing – most of the time – and its qualities are unlike any other

    I have seen in the world. Muggings and ineffectual police aside, St. Petersburg and Moscow are two cities which have an absurd number of experiences to offer anybody. But, after two and a half months, I may say that that is enough time; any more and you may be contemplating some escape from the city, especially if the people that you know are getting mugged or discussing whether or not they have gotten giardiasis or the Russian death flu.

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