Like usual before we get to the clever insights and dirt on Putin, you get a little geography lesson. This post will also include the last 1200 years of Moscow history downsized for Americans. It’s very exciting to have all of this local history coming to together in one place. As background, Geoff is Russian, on both sides of his family. I am half Polish. We came to Moscow from Kazan after being in Mongolia. We will be heading to Denmark before Turkey on our world tour.
Here are the connections: Russia was founded by the Danes in 862 AD. It’s not that old as far as countries go. A series of Princes began fighting over the territory right from the start. In 1223, the Tartars and Mongols, came up from SE and invaded Russia. (Remember when I said SE of Kazan is Turkey in an earlier geography lesson.) Ivan the Terrible was able to take back Kazan from the Tartars in the 1550s. He is the one who invented the Russian version of killing dictators. To celebrate the victory over the Tartars, Ivan the Terrible built St. Basil’s cathedral at the Red Square. This cathedral is the iconic image of Russia right next to the Kremlin. Also of personal pride to me is the fact that Poland invaded and occupied Moscow for a few years in 1610.
Young lovers in front of St. Basil’s Cathedral.
Now for the dirt on Putin. When his term current term ends in 2024, he will have been in office longer than Stalin. Putin got the constitution changed by a clony he put in office for one term so he could get the “Presidency” extended and then serve two more terms. Putin has put 7 of his best friends in positions of power like head of the military, KGB, news, police, and transportation. They even include his past Judo teacher.
Geoff and I are here, witnessing the next Ivan the Terrible in Russian history. Just months ago, Putin had a political opposition leader shot on the bridge just to the right of St. Basil’s Cathedral. The bridge faces the Kremlin yet there was no camera footage of the killing on the bridge. Putin promised to find the guilty party and he blamed it on three guys from Chechnya. Nothing more said. The location of the shooting is in the center of the photo below.
The shooting happened on the bridge in the center of this photo.
Here is a Russian saying our guide, Nikita, told us after showing us one of the few statues showing a Russian thinking,
If you think, don’t talk.
If you talk, don’t sing.
If you sing, don’t dance.
If you dance, don’t be surprised.
Finally, for the clever insight, I have the real story about the collapse of USSR. We grew up jumping under our school desks to survive a Soviet bomb attack and then suddenly they didn’t exist. Answer: they opened a McDonald’s here in 1990. The Russians had one bite of an American hamburger, and they converted from Communism to Capitalism in 1991. Attached is the longest line ever for the opening of the first McDonald’s in Russia.
McDonalds line that brought down USSR.
We might not have much history in America, but along with inventing hamburgers, we do have personal freedom and we do not allow our government to get away with the bull shit the poor Russians have had throughout their history. Having said that, I think Russia is right about Ukraine. Crimea was once Russian and given to Ukraine as a gift by Khrushchev. Fighting over Crimea only makes Putin look good because they have a strong argument in their favor. Personally, I think we should put our money towards a YouTube version of Radio Free Europe. Russian youth like to think they are free, so we should blast them with some YouTube videos on the reinstatement of a Stalin-like Russia under Putin.