St. P #4 – Cyrillic:

I am loving the Russian alphabet – getting used to Bepa being Vera, and the other almost-Greek lettering and strange glottal pronunciations.  I am afraid that once again I am leaving with only a few words in Russian, and the tendency to have figured out what I have just read about 10 seconds too late.  Pizza Hut and KFC retain Western billing.  Starbucks isn’t here yet.  McDonalds (MkDohavdc) is recognizable from the golden arches, and Gasprom signs are prominently on display over the city – Putin’s friends.

On the Sunday of the workshop, there is an anti-Putin demonstration in the city.  Of course I hear nothing in the workshop, well away from the square, but later I hear that there were several thousand demonstrators, but only 700 allowed in the square by the overwhelming force of National Guard and elite troops (troops, not policemen – shades of Kent State) sent by Putin to control the protest.  Many were beaten up and arrested, the rest chased to the metro.  Meanwhile, Putin was actually in town, watching the Russian ‘no rules Fight Club’ team beat the Americans with Jean Claude Van Damme.  Irony definitely a requirement.

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