Back From St. Petersburg
June 26, 2005 3 Comments
Indeed I am back, back to the land of boiled cabbage and queues. In the White Night of St. Petersburg’s summer, blogging, surfing and generally keeping up with the world receded in importance. The hangovers did not help for that is a land where beer is considered a soft drink and seeing some dude taking delicious little sips of ‘Russian Standard’ vodka at … well at, breakfast. But for the first time I was living in an idea, a conceit that killed millions, a city built by the will of a single man. Russia, and particularly St. Petersburg, I found, is a place that has been cut, ploughed, planted and whipped by a ruling class that has been determined to turn national life into an expression of philosophical ideas. It has, as M. Epstein says, been treated as a tabula rosa on which foreign ideas can be writ with all the necessary violence. Being in St. Petersburg, taking in my favourite building, Kazansky Cathedral, I knew that its beauty – and indeed greatness – reflected the relentless succession of projects that has blighted the lives of millions and destroyed lives past count. Projects, national projects kill. When the determination of Peter the Great to Europeanise Russia is considered, then the soviet period is soon understood to have merely been a version of this project. Russia, for we of 5-year development plans and nationalist aspirations, serves as a warning beacon. I will come back to this in the coming weeks, once I have gotten my feet under me.