Thursday, October 29, 2009

Old Slides and Old Soldiers

In April 1991, I and several other members of a Saskatchewan trade mission to Kazakhstan had two free days in Moscow while our team leader, mentor and magician was busy turning two cartons of Marlboroughs into two more air tickets to Almaty. It was still the Soviet Union in those days, though the coming August would be the end of it.

We decided to spend a day in the Moscow Kremlin which as well as being the seat of Soviet (and now Russian) government is also wall to wall museums. Piled up against the armory were the actual cannons that the actual Napoleon had abandon on his actual ill-fated attempt to capture Moscow. The reality of history was suddenly overwhelming to this Saskatchewan boy.

Many of the museums were Cathedrals some of which are now back in service (so to speak) for state occasions. One of them was the Uspenski Sobor or Cathedral of the Assumption. Photos were forbidden so I bought a set of 18 professional slides. They were in gorgeous colour and well worth the extortive price charged to foreigners.

The slides spent years in my desk drawer for want of a better place to put them, always with the idea of turning them into photographs for an album. Today I dug them out and scanned them. Many years too late as every one had faded to sepia tones.

Anyone with slides who doubts the warning that their quality does not last might look at these pictures. The coloured ones I pulled off the web from several sites.


  1. I really appreciated this as I know nothing (almost) about Moscow--or Russia for that matter. My mother always wanted to go there, but never did, and I feel bad about that. If my father had wanted to travel, or if she had had more money, I know she would have.

  2. Can you still turn two cartons of Marlboroughs into a couple of plane tickets?

  3. Snowbrush, it is never too late to learn about Moscow. Go and see it since your mother couldn't. The Kremlin and the Tretyakov art gallery will take up as many days as you care to spend and of course there are dozens of other wonderful places to visit.

    Rob-Bear - you only wish. Consumer items are no longer rare in Russia or any of the FSU. Only the money to buy them.

  4. If the money to buy consumer goods is rare, I'm surprised there isn't an underground, barter economy.

    Or is it like in Canada -- the yawning chasm between the rich (Putin, his pals, and his party) and "the rest of us"?

  5. Same as everywhere in the world. Lots to buy, just not enough money to buy it with. Tanya and I were talking about buying cars in Soviet times. People had money but there were not enough cars. Now there are cars and people don't have enough money.

  6. Yup; the place is still a mess. Just a different kind of mess.


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