Besides the -30 temperatures, various corpses of animals who did not survive the winter nights littering the footpaths, German 194o’s buses full of short and stocky Russian Grandmothers who barely fit through the doors of said bus and a multitude of steadfast and intriguing superstitions, I discovered this 1992 time warp I inhibited for 6 months was quite famous. Madonna’s, “Like A Virgin” and “Vogue” were there on repeat on public buses mixed in with a constant techno remix of Katy Perry and various Russian pop songs and I was surrounded by people who either dressed like 1940’s war film heroines or sex vixen circa 1997 walking in 4 feet of snow in 6 inch rabbit fur knee-high boots.
Murom, my ancient home town for 6 months, was first mentioned in literature in 862 and is situated in Central Russia approximately 300km east of Moscow and sits on the bank of the Oka River. It has catered to some amazing guests who I am sure turned up without an invitation – Alexander the Great, Alexander Pushkin and Ivan the Terrible to name a few. Murom is like that cousin who has some juicy gossip but will never tell and you can never quite figure out if it’s because it is so scandalous or because their memory has forsaken them. (The cousin who is invariably found dead with some kind of hand imprint around their neck and a relative in the corner trying to act inconspicuously while trembling, “the b**ch wouldn’t tell me!”)
I lived in this town for six months and found trying to distinguish between what is a myth, firmly believed and what is fact is almost impossible. Russians are incredibly superstitious people, I cannot count how many bottles of champagne were cheerfully shoved in my face in the casual work place to mark an occasion that called for, ‘blessings’ and ‘luck.’ (Brought a new car, met a new ‘cute’ guy, wanting to get pregnant, birthdays, husband no longer has erectile dysfunction, travelling overseas. Pretty much every occasion. Ever.) The only blessing I seemed to get out of it was a slightly blurred vision and a general feeling of happiness.
I am sitting here (circa 2011) listening to Adele’s 21 album and thinking back to this little town. So many stories I want to share with you but where do I start? I decided to start with these photos. Small snap shots of the town I saw everyday as I navigated this vast land that is intriguing, fascinating, harsh, ancient, unforgiving, ruthless, dirty, dangerous, beautiful, breath-taking, out dated, over the top and most importantly, unique.
Have you been to Russia? What did you think?