Download in St. Petersburg, Russia

20 Sep

My second day in St. Petersburg, Russia. I woke early to another typical breakfast. Choice of cheap yogurts, fake coco-puffs, corn flakes, salami, crusty breads, old cheeses, instant coffee and heavy cream. After filling up, I head down the street in search of the International Hostel. There, I’m to meet a Russian tour guide to take me on a walk through St. Petersburg. A Canadian named Kat joins me and together with Nicoli we set off to see the city. Nicoli asks if there is anything in particular we wanted to see or do. Kat wanted to see graffiti. Bizarre. I told him, I wanted his brain. That’s it.

Nicoli is born and raised in St. Petersburg. He’s around 37 and very well traveled. He’s driven across the US and through South America. So, when he gives the US a hard time – well, he can. He’s probably seen more of it than many US citizens.

We go in search of graffiti. The purpose of the tour is to see things that aren’t truly historical. Meaning, we stay out of museums and churches – that is the trendy churches. We did happen upon a church built by Peter the Great – only four churches stayed standing under Stalin – and this was was adorned on the outside by Turkish cannons and guns. Nice. It was a gift.

As we walked, I asked him about Russia’s history. We started with the civil war and revolution. They used these words interchangeable. He began with WWI and said that Russia really did not want to get involved in the Ottoman break up and Balkan mess. The Germans “made them” for the Hungarian – Austrian empire was going to divide up the Balkans and the Germans wanted a large share, so the Russians had to get their share too. WWI, technically never ended, which gave way to WWII. Russia did not want to go to war with Hitler because they had their own civil of war of sorts going on at home. Stalin was purging Russia…

Back to WWI. This was the time when the Tsars of Russia were loosing control over Russia. They were internally imploding and the working class were demanding rights. Lenin was in Germany waiting for the perfect time to come in under the umbrella of the party of the working class – Soviets – to brand his government idealism. Germany saw Lenin as their puppet and saw him as weak and controllable. Little did they know. The story goes is that Lenin and his men knocked on the Tsar’s door in St. Petersburg, they left, no bloodshed. Nicoli said that Lenin and his crew rewrote history and said that there was a revolution because people needed a huge revolutionary event to rally behind. Nicoli went on to say that all of Russian and Soviet history has been rewritten and it is only in the past years that they are seeing the horrors and lies of their past. When you walk down the street, a seething sense of injustice is written on their faces. These people don’t smile. I mean – never. Not even the couples that are “in love” and holding hands. No expressions. Stone.

At one point, we were walking down this street. Nicoli said, this was a street devoted to Lenin and his history. Stalin wanted to erase all of Lenin and the past, so he torched the street. Burnt all the relics, papers, guns – anything – attributed to Lenin. He said, “today, we have a museum – over there – it’s a joke. It’s all made up. There’s nothing of substance in there. We know that. The tourists, don’t. I advise you to stay away. Waste of money.”

As we walked through the blighted and wealthy areas of St. Petersburg, he talked of days under Stalin, Gorby, Yeltsin and Putin. He said that Stalin killed more than 50 million Russians. He did not use the world kill. He said purge. He would purged even his own men. He would hire them – keep them around for a year or so – then kill them and their families. He wanted no trace of their existence or linkage to him.

The civil war was against the White Army and Soviets – Red Army was really Stalin against against anyone who did not support him. Talk about bully complex. If you were at a bar and told a Stalin joke you could be considered an enemy and killed. Your family killed too. Fear was everywhere. Even in the middle of no-where-ville, Siberia. That still confuses me…

Another point. We were walking through an apartment complex and he was pointing out a WWII bunker. He said, these bunkers in St. Petersburg saved an estimated 20,000 lives. The famine killed over 2 million during the same time period. Hmmmmmmmmm…

Oh, there was so much. I loved Nicoli’s brain. I think Kat was frightened by my questions. We talked about the end of the Cold War. He said the break up of communism had to do with money. The US and West paid Russia a lot of money to stop making nuclear warheads. A lot. Soviets’ economy was not working. They did not want to loose face. They needed money. They could no longer support its communist defacto states like East Germany, Poland, Czech, Cuba, etc. There was a lot back dead agreements and, in the end, we paid off the government to stop the cold war. This is according to Nicoli. Who knows. It all seems plausible. Because during the 80s, those economies were going into the shiter. East Germans, Poles, Russians were all fleeing because of economic and social uncertainty. More Russians were escaping. Their lives were bleak. They no longer trusted their government. It was time – They’ve been watching the US for years. Gorby came and it talked about another way to run the government. He allowed for smaller Providences to hold elections. He allowed for Estonia, Latvia and other Providences to become independent. Soviet Union was thawing…

Oh, I could go on and on and on and on… A few funny things was capitalism was branded by Yeltsin. And, Yeltsin represented vodka and hugs. So, they thought that was capitalism – a lot of drinking and hugging. Funny.

The day was amazing. I learned a lot. It gave me a keener look at Russia. And, I will say that these people need to laugh. Smile. It’s a nation that needs some Protaz… or uppers… or a Starbucks on every corner. Something. They need to smile… I want them to smile.

One Response to “Download in St. Petersburg, Russia”

  1. MaryStuart 24/09/2010 at 10:51 pm #

    thanks for the history lesson! i need it. sorry they are so sad. wow, so much history.