August 01, 1997

Of Round Numbers and Phenol Concentration

Russians love anniversaries of any kind. And so do we, the journalists and staff working at Russian Life. After all, what better pretext to have a good time and enjoy a couple of good old honey drinks (see this month’s recipe for myedovukha) or even something stronger? This time, the pretext is far from contrived. The 850th anniversary of Moscow is enough grounds for us not only to have a good time, but also to give some thought to what Moscow represents for each of us – Muscovites, one-time visitors, or expat-veterans who by now have become an integral part of the city’s multiethnic landscape.

Some love Moscow for its beautiful lights (see story on page 28). Some come here in search of a job, which is all but guaranteed in this time of economic revival (see this month’s lead story). Some admire the pace at which Moscow’s temperamental mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, is restoring the monuments of his native city – both the high-profile ones, like Christ the Savior Cathedral and the low-profile ones, like the monument to the heroes of Plevna, which I drive by each morning on my way to work (see our Russian Calendar, page 27).

We, like any Muscovites or guests in Moscow, can’t help heralding the new, welcomed changes in the city. Having mentioned the Plevna monument (which will be unveiled this August for the 120th anniversary of the Russian-Bulgarian campaign against the Turks), we also ought to cite another historical place in our neighborhood: Chistye Prudy (literally “clean ponds”). According to the historian Ivan Kondratiev, Moscow’s first settlement was built near this site by the rich and famous merchant, Stepan Kuchko. Unfortunately, today the area is far from being as “chisty” as it was 850 years ago. As we were working on this issue, the Russian press reported an all-time high concentration of phenol, nitrogen dioxide and carbon dioxide in our district. This may explain why yours truly has been suffering from a hitherto unexplained cough – a cough I had previously blamed on the Coca-Cola and Baskin-Robbins ice cream enjoyed recently with publisher (and lead article co-author) Paul Richardson at an important monument for Russian Life personnel – the Dunkin’ Donuts store near the Chistye Prudy metro station.

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