originally from Saturday, July 17, 2010
Now that I’m going to Russia (a lot has happened since I last wrote in this blog, right?) I am getting some supplies. So far, I have ordered two essential things: a prescription medicine that I doubt I could find in Moscow, and a pair of warm winter boots. Now, I have never owned a real pair of winter boots. For a long time I’ve been wearing hiking boots, rainboots stuffed with wool socks, or, idiotically, damp converse hi-tops (I’m pretty skilled at jumping huge, slushy puddles). I’ll tell myself, aw, I can make it another winter. It doesn’t even snow that much, and plus, if your feet are cold, it’s okay. You’ll be inside soon.
Living in Moscow, however (at least as I see it, I must emphasize the fact that I’ve never been to Moscow before, and I’ve never been to Russia in the winter!) should demand a higher level of intrepidity and preparedness. So, I got some black calf-high boots with lots shaggy fur on the outside and the product name “polar”. I feel good about this. A winter coat (again, clothing myself for a winter has never been my forte and I’ve been fending off the cold in a paint- and toothpaste-stained ae parka for the last three years) and a serious hat will have to wait until I get to Russia, though, because I don’t want to be laughed at when winter comes. I expect to use the best Russian advice to get an incredible hat and coat. That way, when I come back to the US with these things, I can go around looking a little slavic and outlandish. Iam looking forward to this.
Anyway, I just finished reading Richard Pipes’s A Concise History of the Russian Revolution, which has some very deep and beautiful historical revelations which make me regret a little bit majoring in English and not History. (But I graduated. So whatever.) I want to include this little passage about what happened when Bolsheviks destroyed sacred church objects in an attempt to eradicate, you know, the opiate of the masses.
“In 1919, the authorities ordered the exposure of the relics of saints to which devout Russians attributed miraculous powers. They revealed that the tombs contained not perfectly preserved remains of saints, as the church asserted, but either skeletons or dummies. Whatever effect these exposures had on intellectuals, on ordinary people they produced the opposite of that intended. An old peasant explained to an American visitor, “Our holy saints disappeared to heaven and substituted rags and straw for their relics when they found that their tombs were to be desecrated by nonbelievers. It was a great miracle.”
I’ve never been into organized religion. In fact, this passage points out both the cruelties of the Bolsheviks and (by far the lesser sin) the deception of the Orthodox church. What I love about it, though, is that these peasants, in the midst of all they were suffering, could still profess a belief in their saints, a belief in miracles, a belief in good. I tried to imagine being that American (I’m assuming he was a “fellow traveler” or enthusiast of the communist Revolution). What did he think when he heard it? Was he very scornful, or was he completely bowled over?