While the majority of the time, I feel as though everything in my life is a trainwreck of horrible coincidences, I have to admit, the timing of certain life choices are ironic. When I first chose Russian as my language in college, I didn’t know the impact it would have on me or the rest of the world due to global politics. Living in Russia in 2017 is a crazy choice but an important one, and while part of me wishes I had studied here earlier on in college, I’m glad I’m here now because it is the only time in history I’ll be able to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Revolution!
I have legitimately been geeking out over the celebrations here. Our director let us know that the Hermitage was putting out an exhibit about the Revolution, so my friends and I HAD to go. It was amazing! Everything was decked out in red, and a few rooms were dedicated to detailing the timeline of Nicholas and the Bolsheviks. I especially wanted to go to see the exhibit because they had on display both Nicholas II and Lenin’s portraits. Lenin, as I’ve said multiple times, is such a fascinating person to learn about. And the way they created the exhibit only exemplified this.
One interesting thing I’ve noticed is the unabashed celebration of communism. My professor Ilya has talked to us about it several times, and even he has said that many Russians still “long for the Soviet Union” and “communism”. Sounds weird right? I actually just wrote a paper discussing why most Russians still love Stalin, and that goes hand-in-hand with a nostalgia for simpler times, like the USSR. To some people, it may sound like nonsense, but it’s really down to the psychology of the Russian people. Being able to walk into the Hermitage and see this enormous display of the Revolution was surreal, and it allowed me to dive even deeper into the Russian psyche. And more often than not, it has to do with revolution.
After walking around the Hermitage for an hour or so, we saw the new exhibit and decided we wanted to get something to eat before the Festival of Lights. The Festival is another part of Revolution celebrations; the state sets up a massive light display that is shown on the Palace Square. Usually, you can just walk through the square, but police had set up barriers and you had to file through metal detectors in one opening. Not going to lie, it was crazy! I have never seen so many people in one place in Russia before, and I feel like I should’ve felt nervous, but I didn’t. Lately, I’ve been feeling more at home with Russia, and for me, it was fun to run through the crowd until we got to the center. Big celebrations are usually an excuse for Russians to get ridiculously drunk, and there were definitely a few of them, but for the most part, people were just drinking moderately (I think mostly to keep themselves warm). Finally, we got to the center of the square and the lights show began. It was beautiful! I only got two pictures, but the light show was a half an hour long and told the story of the Revolution. At the end though, the light show turned a bit morbid. The numbers 1917 shifted to show 2017, along with the earth burning. The overhead voice that had been speaking the entire time started to talk about communism rising again. Everyone started cheering and clapping; it was a very unnerving experience. Despite that, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I’m so glad I was there for it!
I’ve been trying to be more productive with my time, so I’m glad my friends and I spent the day exploring the history of Russia some more and experiencing it as well! I’ve definitely adjusted to the Russian way of life, which includes thinking 30-degree weather “isn’t that cold”. I’m also a fan of how dessert for breakfast is acceptable here, and nobody does anything (including work or school!) before 10am. I think I’m really gonna miss it.