Our Man In Moscow
DATELINE: October 17, 1998 -- Golden leaves, I mean, so in spite of daily mishaps people just cant take them to heart as much as they deserve. Everybody knows that time runs faster in Russia - in only ten years weve lived the equivalent of 25 years in other places. So now we are witnessing a new phenomenon -- every other Young Professional, a Russian version of the Yuppie, is now queuing to be registered as "unemployed."
The balloon burst, so all the accountants and consultants and advertising people and sales managers who have felt on top, have fallen hard on their muscular asses. Nothing good about that, as they are taking with them a tenfold number of hairdressers and waiters and.... It is not yet seen on the surface, but if this goes on for several months some of the brand-new offices and bars are doomed for disregard and decay - and you know that the most unlucky feature of high-tech architecture and design is the fact that they just cant grow old with dignity.
I am again amazed at our stamina. I am trying to imagine any Western country where:
- local food is only 15% more expensive than the month before, but
- every imported item is 3 to 4 times more expensive
- most of the offices that paid moderately high salaries have cut them 50%
So just to save at least some of the habits people got used to for several years they are now to work three times as much as they have been (if one has got that option).
After only one day of marches and protests it looks like people have once again clenched their teeth to continue their daily fight for survival and dignity.
Happily enough the new government is too slow to make any Grand Program - they are pragmatists who have decided to turn survival tactics into strategy: just making a small repair here, a small restructuring there.... Nothing conceptual, everything trivial.
And at the same time, an unprecedented attack on Yeltsin the Old Bear is undertaken by several newspapers, and by influential TV Channel Four, which means that a group of bankers got impatient with the President. Mr. Lushkov, the Moscow mayor and one of the favorites for the future presidential elections, has joined the choir stating he does not think Yeltsin will finish the end of his term. Another important TV Channel One, known to be controlled by notorious Mr. Berezovski (who is behind Mr.Lebed, another runner for the Big Office) has started a severe attack on Lushkov who is known to hate Berezovskis guts. It is obvious that every major political actor has initiated his parliamentary campaign in order to pull a part of the rivals electorate to his side. It is getting warm in Russian politics.
Ordinary bread-eaters, busy with tightening doors and windows prior to a winter that is expected to be frosty this time (The Lord was sympathetic with us for ten years, and yet His patience is not without limit) are bored with all of them.
At such a time it sounds good to do something positive, and a lot of artists, after losing hope to get money, have turned their attention to making Pure Art once again. As for me, when free from fighting for bread and beer, I continue preparing a Russian edition of a Renaissance treatise, written before 1463 by Antonio Averlino, called Filarete. That has been going on for 12 months already. Ive translated it into Russian, using English and modern Italian translations, and am checking it with a Latin version. Together with my young assistants weve scanned and worked all the drawings, and made several 3D reconstructions. Ive selected some 150 pictures of the artists who were contemporaries to Filarete, and we scanned details that usually would go unnoticed, and now I am busy polishing the text and making a layout... Many of my friends are doing similar things.
A new book was offered to our zine (http://www.russ.ru/english) for a critique: Leonid Taruashvili, a Georgian born in Petersburg, has just published "Tectonics of the Visual Image in Ancient and Medieval Poetry (Cultural and Historical Foundations for the Architectural Order)."
This nicely corresponds to the Golden Autumn mood.
All of us are neatly crazy in a mild way.
Slava Glazychev can be reached at email@example.com