Friday, May 23, 2014

Red Square, Moscow

Red Square was once a place of executions and military parades. There is still a whiff of that stark history.  Early it began as a market and place of congregation.  Today the churches are much in evidence though security guards at a check point inside, pointed me and my camera towards St. Basil Basilica. I have no argument with automatic weapons.  Today I’m looking for photographs and places of prayer. Kremlin began as wood and the word meant ‘fortified stronghold”. It served as the headquarters of the Orthodox Church and seat of the medieval prince of Rus.   I have come too early for entrance into the many shrines, churches and museums. I’ve enjoyed the quiet, the early sunlight.  Outside the Kremlin there is the tomb of the unknown soldier.  I passed pictures in the nearby rich tourist district celebrating the victories of war and revolution.  In the light of so many Russian deaths in WWII Stalin for all his hardness is more understandable here.  I say ‘understandable’ and nothing more.
I am sitting in a MacDonalds looking at the Kremlin wall near the gate where the Marshall statue sits astride his horse.  There’s a powerful symbolic message in the Golden Arches  proximity to the Kremlin.  All around there is evidence that this area has once again become the ‘market’ , a place where tourists come to visit, shop and congregate.  Cosmopolitanism competes with the ancient and recent local history. France has influenced architecture while elsewhere there’s so much evidence of the original Roman empire.  How far flung are those contributions and perhaps Alexander’s before that.  Greek columns surround buildings. Gold eagles perch atop ironwork gates.
I remember the Kennedy Missile Crisis and my childhood fear of the Russian soldiers. I had nightmares they had landed and were coursing through my childhood Fort Garry neighbourhood.  I took comfort in my father keeping his 30:30 lever action cowboy rifle and ammunition in the sun room.  At school we were taught to kneel beside walls and kiss our asses good bye. Sirens were tested in preparation for nuclear attack.  Later the movie comedy, “The Russians are Coming”, would capture both sides of the insanity of those days.  Equally I remember in 1967 seeing the Russian Cosmonaut achievements at the World Fair in Montreal.  While I appreciated the ultimate ‘star wars’ considerations of President Reagan and how it lead to the fall of the Berlin Wall, I always saw the ‘space race’ more in light of “Star Trek’.  “To go where no one else has gone.”  I love the adventurer, the early explorers and the last frontiers of sea and space.
The summer weather here is glorious. Sun shine, short sleeved shirts and beautiful Russian women in skirts and short shorts.  In winter it is a cold climate like my own Canada. So much of construction and architecture reflects the harshness of this northern environment.  A young lady has sat to share the table. She wears a cross.  I like that the church is celebrated once again here.  The scientist in me appreciates the boundaries of faith and limits of science.  Conflicts are always with the stupid or fearful.  The smart  pray for peace and prepared for war. It was always thus.
As a young man I took more comfort in muscle, weapons and cleverness, older I appreciate prayer, churches and wisdom.  I feared death as a surprise foe then but now I look on it as a sly opponent and perhaps even, eventually, a friend.  Jesus taught “Love your Enemy”. What greater enemy has individual man than death.  He has conquered death.  But I, I faith, in the journey,  not that I wish to make love with Death.  Like Pushkin I’d much rather court the delightful Russian women.   Everywhere spring is welcomed, gardeners planting flowers.   I’m loving it here.   So much of that I know is the joy of holiday and break from  work routine.  

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