With the first snow of the year, I thought I'd head back to Red Square and catch some of Russia's winter magic. The lights are up in all the stores, and Ded Moroz is everywhere. It's the holiday season.
Perhaps it wasn't the best day to go - there was no snow on the ground, and the famous skating rink is still being set up. Apart from the beautiful Northern European mist settling in, it was bleak and grey as always. Still, there was a light snow falling, and an air of first-winter excitement. Everyone was happily strolling by and taking pictures of the skating-rink-in-progress.
The grounds in front of the Kremlin were open (there was some sort of military parade when I was there in September), so I looked around and checked out some of the memorials. The flat blocks commemorate famous battles in the Great Patriotic War (also known as WWII) - can you guess what this one is?
I was also lucky enough to have my first unobstructed view of St. Basil's, blocked by a children's festival last time. It's just as beautiful as they say. I couldn't stop staring, and when the church bells rang on the hour, it seemed absolutely perfect. The light snow, the beautiful domes, the ringing throughout the square. I was in Russia, and for the first time in a while, it felt right.
Today I gave Lenin's tomb a pass - once was enough, and it's closed today anyway - but I did get a few pictures of the exterior. Those blocks in the back are tombs of other Soviet leaders. One of them is Stalin, I think the one furthest left.
I wasn't there when that guy nailed his delicate bits to the cobblestones a few weeks back (though that must have been a sight to see), but I did manage to catch the Louis Vuitton monstrosity. Yes, it's as hideous as they say. And yes, I'm with the authorities on this one. It should be taken down. Thankfully, that is exactly what they are doing.
There were news crews everywhere, which I found most interesting - with all the strange and unfortunate events going on in the world, you pick an ugly statue? Somehow, though, it seems fitting. This is an example of the changing nature of Russia. Twenty-five years ago, a giant ugly Louis Vuitton suitcase in Red Square would have been unimaginable. Now, all the brands and fashions of the world have landed in Moscow, and for the most part they've embraced it. Sometimes it's an awkward, overly conspicuous fit, as we see today.
It makes me wonder which direction Russia will go in. It's becoming more and more clear that this moment is something of a turning point. Russia could start on one path, or on another. Maybe several at once. Getting to know Russian youth through my job, I've seen a lot of potential in the next generation. Whatever happens - I think that this decade will be one of crucial changes. For better or for worse.