Rob's Russian Blog: The beginning
This article was written by Rob Lee, published on 15th August 2011 and has been read 3060 times.
I remember falling asleep in the back of a car in a Moscow traffic jam, knocked-out by the muggy contrast of icy February cold and blazing Mercedes heating systems. I remember staring open-eyed in terror at a Kalashnikov-armed guard in St Basil’s cathedral when I got too close to one of the display cabinets. I remember sledging down snow-banks without brakes (they’d frozen overnight). I remember the smell of old churches in Suzdal mingling, quite oddly, with my first taste of smoked salmon…
I was about 6 or 7 years old when Russia first took hold of me. I went with my family to visit my cousins who were living in Moscow due to my uncle’s work at (I think) a large cigarette company. Despite my age, I remember many episodes from the trip in vivid detail, things that would inform the choices I'd make in later life.
At secondary school, back home in Devon, I had to pick my language options for 1st and 2nd year. Without the slightest hesitation, I picked Russian over French - those ‘onion domes’ and snowdrifts constantly reappearing in the back of my mind. I carried on with the language through to GCSE and ended up in Russia, again, for the Year 10 trip with the History department. This time, my imagination was captured by the European-styled imperialism of St Petersburg. I stood outside in the cold reliving the chaotic and beautiful film scenes of Eisenstein pictures, imagining those rehearsed hordes clambering on the gates of the Winter Palace...
With an interest in the country stretching beyond its language, the course was an obvious candidate for A-level. The chance to study it in parallel with English literature (my other academic passion) at university was the final step, where I now find myself. Constantly playing in my mind, and to the annoyance of a few university friends, I seem to name-drop Russia in almost every conversation. (‘six degrees of Russian separation’ they call it). Well now’s my chance to meet the country once again.
Although I am obviously heading abroad to pursue a study of the country, literature and language for my actual degree, this trip is, in a way, a personal journey for me. A journey to rediscover both some of my earliest memories and, to a certain extent, the foundations of my personality. Not to mention my current world-view. It’s time to see whether Russia feels the same to me as it did in 1997 and it’s time to see how she reacts to an older version of me. How will she keep me? What will she teach me? And most exciting of all where will she take me?
PHOTO CREDITS: (1) "Winter Palace" taken from Archer 10