11 October 2009

A small case of mistaken identity

I diligently spent my Saturday at the former Lenin Library -- now the Russian State Library -- still fondly referred to as "Leninka". Until my laptop battery ran out, that is. Some of the government-funded research institutions I've been visiting are ill-equipped for contemporary technological uses. At others, grim archivists respond with one word -- "crisis" -- to my futile question about recharging, evidently in reference to saving on utilities under uncertain economic conditions.

As I headed to stand in line for an extremely overpriced cappuccino (to do my part in alleviating the said crisis!) in central Moscow, I began encountering various signs of patriotism. First, I saw a number of thin, nonchalantly chain-smoking youth donning military-styled caps, wrapped in giant white-blue-and-red flags. Then -- a couple of excited fashionable ladies with smaller flags as well as a group of emo teenagers in scarves with the same color scheme.

Perhaps it was the advertisement for Edinaya Rossiya party in white-blue-and-red that led me to link all this activity to today's Moscow City Duma elections. The campaign banner covered an entire side of a building where New and Old Arbat split, as late afternoon sun rays flooded its leader's -- Putin's larger-than-life photograph with divine light.

"Could all the people I just saw be part of the status quo-supporting Nashi movement that I've read about? Am I witnessing urban political activism in action?"

Further, I passed by two athletic males in dark bomber jackets, their military pants tucked into combat boots, and, later yet, a non-descript adolescent with a sun wheel awkwardly drawn onto his brown faux-leather bag with a black permanent marker.

"Are these extreme right-wing nationalists? Will I be able to photograph something curious?"


"Will they kick my ass if I do?"

It was not until I successfully consumed the somewhat-botched-but-still-overpriced cappuccino and got onto the subway, as my laptop bag attempted to travel by itself pulled by the human deluge, that I (embarrassingly!) discovered the actual reason for all this commotion.

They were all simply going to a soccer match.

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