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Our life in Russia Russian Flag

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To view any photo at full size, click on the thumbnail. All photos are copyright Wayne and Patricia Primeau. All Rights Reserved.
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churchWayne and the dog and three cats arrived at the end of August 1998. Patti joined the rest of the family on 1 October. We lived in Moscow for three years and enjoyed our time there. We made many Russian friends during our stay and have been able to stay in contact with them over the years.

churchMoscow is a fascinating city. It was founded in 1147. For a North American it was unbelievable to be surrounded by such a sense of history. It never ceased to be a thrill for me to look out of our kitchen window and see the Hotel Ukraina, one of Stalin's extremely ornamented "Seven Sisters".

our apartment buildingKutuzovsky Prospect from our apartment The architectural mix of Russian Imperial, Stalinist adornment, Soviet ugly and modern architecture must be unparalleled anywhere else in the world. Our apartment complex on Kutuzovsky Prospect (left) and indeed most of the buildings on our street (right) are examples of what we lovingly came to call "Soviet Ugly", the prevading style of many of Moscows neighbourhoods rebuilt after the Great Patriotic War (WWII).

Kiev Metro StationThe Moscow subway system, the Metro, is excellent. Each station on the central "circle" line is a distinct work of art. Many of the older stations on the outlying lines are also beautiful. The building of the Metro was administered by Nikita Khrushev, possibly the only good thing he ever managed, even though the death toll in its creation was appalling. While we lived there it was still illegal to photograph, almost all tourists did and the police (the militsia) rarely seemed to worry about it. Gradually Russia is overcoming it's old Soviet era illogical hangups, but it is a slow process. Click on the link for a self-guided tour of the Moscow Metro.

Bolshoi Theatre During our stay in Moscow we were fortunate to see a number of operas and ballets at the world famous Boshoi Theatre. The Bolshoi Opera Company was always wonderful. The Bolshoi Ballet Company, while still a good company, seemed to lack the precision and mastery of movement which were its hallmarks when we had seen them on tour in North America many years ago.

Tzar's BoxThe Theatre itself is a magnificent theatre with beautiful paintings on the ceiling and trim in red and gilt throughout. The theatre curtain is adorned with the CCCP and hammer and sickle insignia of the former Soviet era in matching red and gold, and a huge Soviet crest adorns the top of the "Tzar's Box", still called that today. The Bolshoi desperately needs major structural renovations. It is to be closed for extensive repairs as soon as sufficient funds have been raised. The theatre's companies will continue to perform in another venue during the period of construction, estimated at three years. Follow the link for more photos of the Bolshoi and its environs.

vietnamese marketA major part of settling in to a new home is learning where to get what one needs on a daily basis. In a different country, that means learning what brands are available and which best suite your family's needs. In the latter part of 20th century, the North American press gave a lot of coverage to food and commodity shortages in Russia. We often visited several of Moscow's open air markets which specialize in selling produce, local and from other republics in the Federation as well as imported from other parts of Europe. While CNN was reporting food and commodity shortages, the market stalls were heaped high with fresh fruits and vegetables. Other markets were full of clothing and household goods. The photo shows me haggling for a pair of winter boots at a Vietnamese Market.

GUM on Red SquareAs the temperatures drop in winter, the variety of fresh produce decreases and prices rise, but this should not come as a shock as the same thing happens in Canada and the northern US. While prices for the imported goods rose as the value of the rouble dropped, local produce remained relatively inexpensive when available. I did read in one of the local English language newspapers that the cost for a subsistence basket of goods had increased 30% between August and November of 1998, but at that period the value of the rouble was plunging. Even then, there were still throngs of shoppers at the more upmarket shopping centres such as GUM, pictured above.

We got signed up with a local internet provider at the end of October 1998. We tried to use IBM when we first arrived, but their service in Russia was terrible in 1998. There were a number of local internet service providers. The Embassy personnel used a several different ISPs and they all seemed to be as reliable as poor quality phone lines would allow, more expensive than comparable service in Canada, but one could get on-line most of the time.

ZvenigradDuring our first winter, I joined an Art History and Culture class run under the auspices of the International Womens' Organization. The group met once a week either for a lecture or a field trip. With them I was able to visit the Vysoko-Petrovski Monastery in Moscow and the Monastery and Museum at Zvenigorod, about 90 minutes outside of Moscow towards Smolensk.

winterIn the minds of most people from North America and Western Europe, Russia is the country that invented winter (although we Canadians take exception to this idea as we lay claim  to having a national capital colder than Moscow by several degrees, either Celsius or Fahrenheit). For some photos of our first Russian winter, click here.

For summertime views of Moscow from the river, click here. Click here to see views of life along the Moscow River in summer.

Links to our Russia section

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This page was updated on 26 November 2007.

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