Soviet Civilization: A Cultural History by Andrei Sinyavsky

Just arrived. My first-ever attempt to order from That was easy. After I go through it myself to see how same things are said in English I’ll probably leave it in my Moscow apartment on the same shelf as Stewart Miller’s Painted in Blood: Understanding Europeans, Rancour-Laferriere’s tedious Slave Soul of Russia, humorous Molvania: A Land Untouched by Modern Dentistry by Cilauro &Co, Leaving Katya by Paul Greenberg who actually stayed here years ago, Brodsky’s Less than One and a few other books that attempt to get to the core of things and expose the algorithm that makes Russia what it is. There is a kind of mind that is comfortable with numerous manifestations. It’s owner would prefer how-to instructions to an explanation how things work. No, this selection is for someone who opts for general principles. Someone who is sort of lazy and tries to reduce the infinite number of facts to an idea or a formula. The above selection if for that type of person.


Novopodrezkovo flea market in Khimki. Photos, comments.

How we went there as sellers
a couple of weeks later >>

Finally, here is the promised set of images, made by Alexandra, with my comments.

General view. One serious dealer has a whole makeshift barn to himself. Privileged traders are in stalls. In the outer reaches there traders who sell from cars. Poor babushkas just spread their wares on the ground.


Andrei Sinyavsky. Soviet Civilization: A Cultural History.

sinyavskyRecommended background reading

Beliefs and values at the core of the Russian culture and especially its Soviet version exposed and analyzed. The nature of perestroika, the paradox of freedom ordered from above, and why “a pyramid can’t be upgraded into a Parthenon”. Widely available in English. The book is based on a series of lectures, and reads very easily in Russian. The English translation I’ve looked at is a bit heavy, which is the cost of staying close to the original text. That forces the translator to turn to words rare and obscure to find close equivaletns. Recommended to anyone who needs to understand how things work here on the level of underlining principles and mechanisms.

You may want to take a look at Sinyavsky’s obituary in The Independent for a summary of his life and his works.

Stalin’s bunker

What’s all this excitement about? Just received yet another question about Stalin’s bunker and the Cold War Museum. It is somewhere near Metro Taganskaya. Let me see..  Yes, it is there. English version of the site is available:

The address is  5-й Котельнический пер., дом 11, tel. 8 495 500 0554 or 8 495 500 0553 as dialed from any local phone. 

Pre-trip reading

If you are heading here with intentions more involved that  a few business meetings or doing the Red-Square-Bolshoi-Lenin’s-Tomb-Novodevichy-Sergiev-Posad routine it may be worth it to try to understand how and what we Russians are made of.

May I once again recommend Painted in Blood: Understanding Europeans by Stuart Miller. Although he muses about Europeans from the American viewpoint his observations can be easily applied to understand Russians. MORE>>

A time capsule of old Zamoskvorechye spirit

Today I would like to present the Ostrovsky Museum in Zamoskvorechye, Malaya Ordynka 9/2. Alexander Ostrovsky is a playwright, and is considered to be the founder of the Russian theatre tradition. The Maly Theatre (to the right of Bolshoi if facing it) is Ostrovsky’s creation, and its repertoire is still based on his plays. The fat bronze man in front of Maly is Ostrovsky himself.
The museum is in the house where Ostrovsky was born in 1823. Such an old wooden houses is rarity in Moscow today, and in itself is a historic rarety. MORE>>

Museum of the USSR at VDNX

Soviet era objects. Cars, phones, TVs, cameras, radios, food and drinks, food stamps, movie posters, clothes, shoes, toys and games, home decoration, cards, medals, badges, stamps and souvenirs, and more.

Descriptions of exhibits in Russian and English.


The museum is located at VDNX, Hall No. 2. It’s 20 minutes from Metro Alekseevskaya, close to my apartment that is available for rent June, July and August 2013, and possibly after that too.

Site of the museum >>  The English version is empty but the tour guide said it will be available real soon.

Lots of museum photos here >>