Mankind's only alternative 29   NOV.   21  
Mankind's only alternative
War Nerd RSS
MAIN  RUSSIA  WAR NERD   [SIC!]  BAR-DAK  THE VAULT  ABOUT US  RSS
 
 
EXILE BLOGS

The Fall of The eXile For all those wondering what the "Save The eXile Fundrasier" banner is all about, here it is as simply as it can be phrased: The eXile is shutting down.
June 11, 2008 in eXile Blog

War Nerd: War of the Babies in Taki's Magazine The War Nerd talks about babies, the greatest weapon of the 20th century.
May 28, 2008 in eXile Blog

Kids, Meet Your President A website for Russian kids to learn all about President Medvedev's passion for school, sports and family.
May 22, 2008 in eXile Blog

Cellphone Democracy Cam If this girl was exposed to Jeffersonian democracy...
May 20, 2008 in Face Control

More Classy B&W Dyev Photos Yet another hot Russian babe imitating the Catpower look...
May 20, 2008 in Face Control

Proof That Genetic Memory Is Real! Sure, the Ottomans shut down the Istanbul Slavic slave markets centuries ago...
May 15, 2008 in Face Control

Russia's Orthodox Church Youth Outreach Program The priest is going, "Father Sansei is very impressed with grasshopper Sasha’s...
May 15, 2008 in Face Control

More Classy B&W Club Photos w/Russian Dyevs We took the Pepsi Challenge here...
May 15, 2008 in Face Control

Blogs RSS feed

Feature Story December 12, 2003
 
Meeting the NatsBols
By John Dolan Browse author Email
 
Page 3 of 6
 

My first try at seeing the Smolensk Historical Museum, just down Lenin Street from the Tsentralnaya, failed because the power was out. It was warm in the lobby though, so I sat happily a while as platoons of schoolchildren trooped in behind their teachers, only to be told melodramatically, "We're in darkness!" So I got lunch at a bakery/produkty: a loaf of raisin bread, two sweet rolls and three cans of coke for 40 rubles; and walked back to the hotel. You could live very cheaply here, if you had my unhealthy fondness for bread and fizzy drinks.

Campaign posters were everywhere, most of the big expensive ones featuring United Russia's grizzly (which I swear they stole from the California state flag) and the slogan, "Persuading by deeds."

Other posters gave a better indication of what life is actually like in a provincial Russian city, particularly the ones offering to buy hair. Selling your hair is a big business in Smolensk, judging by the number of posters offering to pay "top prices" for natural hair (less for gray or dyed hair). "Top prices" means "up to 650 rubles." Again, I kept translating the prices into Moscow terms: if my hotel room cost as much as a Kitai-Gorod latte, then a Smolensk woman's hair costs as much as dinner for one, two stars. Without wine.

I ate my 40R lunch in my room, looking out the window at the snow falling on a parking lot. As I watched, a car pulled in, parked, hesitated, then pulled out to park again. A man got out, looked anxiously at his parking job, then checked the locks on the two driver's-side doors and started to walk away. He stood in the snow for a long two seconds, then went back to check the passenger-side doors as well and hit the remote on his car alarm twice, just to hear that reassuring chirp, before he walked away. Possession still seems tentative out here.

With no phone in my room, I had to find the main post office to buy a phonecard. It turned out to be in one of those vast Soviet buildings that have no usable space inside their gargantuan facades. I haven't seen such pompous and cramped designs since I stopped frequenting universities.

Then it was down to the grim business of trying to reach the NatsBols from the phone down the hall, using the 9-digit pin number of the card,plus the 11-digit number for Sergei's mobile on the phone. After a couple of hours of trooping back and forth to the phone, I finally convinced the NatsBols I was staying at the ratty old Tsentralnaya; they'd transposed me to the upscale Rossiya, where Westerners stay.

Thanks to the hotel's weird acoustics, I could hear the NatsBols coming long before they reached my room, and was surprised by the gentle sound of their voices. You always think radicals are going to be noisy, aggressive people, and they almost never are. It's the mainstream people, the buyers and sellers, who yell; the fringe is, as a rule, very polite. Limonov, their patron, is the perfect example: it would be hard to name a more polite, reserved citizen of Moscow.

When I opened the door for them, I got my second shock: I knew these people! Not them, personally -- but I knew their likes, had known them long ago in California. These sudden identifications are dangerous, facile and often misleading, especially across cultures, but I stand by this one: these were kin of the punks of San Francisco, long ago.

There were three of them: Sergei Fomchenkov, the Duma candidate and head of the Smolensk NatsBols; his wife, Taisiya Osipova; and another party member, Ilya Kondrashyov.

It was Taisiya who seemed most familiar. She was taller than her husband and wore a heavy, dark wool coat. She was almost protective of Sergei, and seemed a little older than he was. Sergei was quiet, watchful; Ilya, an excited bearded fellow, was the most effusive, often finishing the other two's sentences for them.

And of course we were all very awkward. I wonder how much social awkwardness has to do with extreme aesthetics and ideology, actually. They do seem to go together, in my experience. I remember confessing to another punk vet -- who looked, now that I remember, a lot like Taisiya--that I'd gone to those shows at Temple Beautiful alone, and come home alone, for all my wild thrashing up in front. She said, "So did I. We all did." Ineligible romantics, in a very unromantic culture, a cool culture.


SHARE:  Del.icio.us  Digg  My Web  Facebook  Reddit

Browse author
dolan@exile.ru
 
 
FROM THE VAULT

President Bush Assassinated! : A Patriot Falls
Comix
al-Dilbert :

Anne Applebaum On Capitalism And Russian Beauty : Blyadi and the East

Nashi: Is It Really The End? :
 

 
 
 
LATEST ARTICLES

Save The eXile: The War Nerd Calls Mayday
Editorial
The future of The eXile is in your hands! We're holding a fundraiser to save the paper, and your soul. Tune in to Gary Brecher's urgent request for reinforcements and donate as much as you can. If you don't, we'll be overrun and wiped off the face of the earth, forever.

Scanning Moscow’s Traffic Cops
Automotive Section
We’re happy to introduce a new column in which we publish Moscow’s raw radio communications, courtesy of a Russian amateur radio enthusiast. This issue, eXile readers are given a peek into the secret conversations of Moscow’s traffic police, the notorious "GAIshniki."

Eleven Years of Threats: The eXile's Incredible Journey
Feature Story By The eXile
Good Night, and Bad Luck: In a nation terrorized by its own government, one newspaper dared to fart in its face. Get out your hankies, cuz we’re taking a look back at the impossible crises we overcame.

Your Letters
[SIC!]
Russia's freedom-loving free market martyr Mikhail Khodorkovsky answers some of this week's letters, and he's got nothing but praise for President Medvedev.

Clubbing Adventures Through Time
Club Review By Dmitriy Babooshka
eXile club reviewer Babooshka takes a trip through time with the ghost of Moscow clubbing past, present and future, and true to form, gets laid in the process.

The Fortnight Spin
Bardak Calendar By Jared Lindquist
Jared comes out with yet another roundup of upcoming bardak sessions.

Your Letters
[SIC!]
Richard Gere tackles this week's letters. Now reformed, he fights for gerbil rights all around the world.

13 Toxic Talents: Hollywood’s Worst Polluters
America By Eileen Jones
Everybody complains about celebrities, but nobody does anything about them. People, it’s time to stop fretting about whether we’re a celebrity-obsessed culture—we are, we have been, we’re going to be—and instead take practical steps to clean up the celebrity-obsessed culture we’ve got...

 
 
 

    MAIN    |    RUSSIA    |    WAR NERD     |    [SIC!]    |    BAR-DAK    |    THE VAULT    |    ABOUT US    |    RSS

© "the eXile". Tel.: +7 (495) 623-3565, fax: +7 (495) 623-5442
E-mail: office@exile.ru