{short description of image}  

REPORT - RUSSIA SUMMER 1998


 

15 June -
This is a brief report on the summer trip to Russia undertaken by Richard Aria, James Drummond, Micha Jelasavcic, and John Sloan, the author of these remarks. We accompanied two musical groups on their river cruise down the Volga as arranged by the International Fine Arts Institute. In addition we had our own special tour of Moscow for a few days before and after this group tour. Alopng the way we skipped most of the group concerts in order to see more of the cities. The IFAI had arranged special local guides and vans at each stop on the Volga, and we had our well-known friends in Moscow and St. Petersburg for guides. Of course we took many photographs, but since some of the towns, in addition to Moscow and St. Petersburg, we visited on other tours, many of these photos are collected with others in folders for the town.
We departed Dulles two hours late due to heavy thunderstorms. The Aeroflot flight was rather full, but surprisingly not uncomfortable. They use a AirBus that has all the usual conveniences. The staff was attentive and food good. The direct flight to Moscow is about 10 hours, which seems a long time in the air, but beats the very uncomfortable layover in Frankfurt the other airlines require.

 
 

16 June -
We arrived at Moscow Sheremetov about 3:15 PM, late, due to the late start. But the baggage retrieval system took forever, or at least well over an hour. For one thing they unloaded a large number of huge cardboard cartons first. Naturally our bags were the last on the conveyor. We passed through passport control and customs quite quickly. They have greatly reduced the amount of inspection and hassle in the customs procedure.
We were met at long last in the outer part of the airport by the two best of the military historian guides we had engaged in 1992. They had been waiting in the mob scene for 3 or 4 hours. The long drive to the Izmailovo Hotel took us right through downtown - down Tver street clear to the Kremlin, then back out Bolshoi Lubianka and Pervoi May. It seems it would have been shorter to cut across town on one of the circular roads.
Right from the start during the drive it was apparent that huge changes are taking place since 1993. Gone are the tanker trucks that used to sell fuel by the roadside. Now brand new and modern looking gas stations are on every important intersection and more are being built. Many have convenience stores or even McDonald's restaurants co-located. Everywhere one looks there is new building construction or complete renovation of existing buildings. Vehicle traffic is practically at a stand still in long gridlock. Despite having one of the finest underground metro's and extensive bus and trolley systems, Moscow shows the universal evidence that individual freedom means freedom to drive one's auto. Despite having an extensive railroad system, the expansion of a more modern economy shows itself in the vast quantities of heavy trucks carrying goods everywhere.
Our hopes to have time for sight-seeing and a visit to a book store that afternoon were ended by the lateness of arrival at the hotel. We were barely in time for a dinner. At the hotel we met the American hosts for the river cruise. Then Alexei Nazarevski, one of my friends from 1991-93 arrived to discuss business. He is now publishing a magazine devoted to the military reserves. He had asked for information on hazing within the military in the West. This is a huge problem in the Russian armed forces. He was delighted to receive the information I had obtained from the INTERNET. He gave me copies of several new Russian magazines on weapons and military topics and agreed to meet us again, when we returned to Moscow on 4-5 July.

 
 

17 June -
We were up early, at 4:30, and walked across the park to the old Romanov estate. The basic structure has been preserved. It is a rectangle building with two gates surrounding a central court. The sign indicates that this space was used for military parades. We also took photos of the nearby cathedral dedicated by Feodor Alexeivich. It is boarded up and shows no signs of an effort at restoration.
After breakfast at 7:30 we departed with our historians by van to the special Uniform museum located on the eastern outskirts of Moscow. Since the hotel is also in the far eastern outskirts I expected this trip would not take long. But the driver soon got lost on the main highway to Vladimir. The result was we drove around in circles asking local inhabitants for directions. Finally, we arrived several hours late. The museum director was waiting on the steps for us, who knows for how long. The result was that we were rushed through the museum because the time for our lunch at the hotel had been set. Having a fixed time for lunch or indeed any plan to eat at the hotel is something I try to avoid and this case showed why. But the director again gave us as thorough a guided tour as possible. We had many questions about the uniforms, saddles and other aspects of the displays.
The museum was founded by Tsar Alexander II and its holdings reflect this. The collection of uniforms from the reigns of Nicholas I and Alexander II are the most extensive. But there is one display case with various items of uniform from the reign of Peter I and a few items from the reigns of Elizabeth and Catherine II. There is also an excellent display of military medals from all over the world. Today the museum is part of the active Ministry of Defense uniform production directorate and admittance is strictly limited. No photos are allowed. The administration is even fearful that excessive publicity of the museum's existence will generate an adverse reaction in high government circles and its limited funds will be cut off. On the other hand the curator also complained that some historic uniforms has been damaged when taken as models for creating uniforms for the 'War and Peace' movie.
We rushed back to the hotel for lunch. After that we spent the afternoon touring some of the monasteries in Moscow. We started with the Novo-Spaski, then visited the Danilov and Donskoi and finally spent quite a while at the Novodevichi convent. All are back in church hands and being renovated. This is wonderful news, but for the tourist it poses some difficulties. In comparison to Soviet times admission is now more limited and taking photographs definitely curtailed, even when fees are paid.

 
 


18 June - We were up again by 5 AM since daylight is strong by then. However, I stayed in the room to rest until breakfast at 8. The morning tour took us right back on the Vladimir road and again the driver became lost, even though our destination is right on the main road. We finally found the huge museum of aviation at Monino, which I had visited previously. Here we met the director and administration. We had an excellent, English speaking guide, a museum curator and former fighter pilot. We took many photos both of the vintage aircraft inside the buildings and of the more modern aircraft that fill a huge field outside. The weather was very hot, but the excitement of being able again to photograph this unique collection put the temperature out of mind.
This day lunch at the hotel was canceled per my request, to save time for touring. Instead we simply stopped when we wanted to at a fresh, new roadside restaurant on the main Vladimir highway. This was typical of the many new private enterprises being opened all over Russia. The food was excellent and much less expensive than in a tourist hotel.
From lunch we headed to the museum of the FSU - the successor to the KGB. In other words we were admitted to the private museum of the "organs" that is the secret services. Imagine our amazement to find that there was a very large group of American tourists being shown through the place. They were only to be in Moscow a short time before going on the typical river cruise to St. Petersburg. But someone had charged them the same admission fee that we paid, $40, they were indeed being taken. The museum displays were obviously created as part of the education - indoctrination - program of KGB agents. The walls were covered with the typical Russian displays of photographs of heroic individuals and copies of documents relating to particular events. In particular there was a large amount of devotion to the memory of Felix Derzhinski, the first head of the infamous CHECKA. Other milestones in NKVD-KGB history such as the breaking up of the "trust" in the interwar period were lavishly extolled.
Although the displays were laudatory of the CHECKA-NKVD- KGB, the verbal spiel of the guide was more reflective of current opinion. Nevertheless, the most interesting aspect of the tour was the look of utter dumbfoundedness on the faces of the late middle-aged or elderly American women who were wondering what in the world they were doing in this place. I also had to wonder why I had asked for this tour. Memo for the future, this is definitely not worth the time or money to visit. We slipped out early and walked on Bolshoi Lubiyanka to see some local churches. Then we drove to the Andronikov Monastery to have a special guided tour of the famous Icon museum. The monastery buildings are interesting in themselves. One of the churches is the oldest standing in Moscow, dating from 1360's. Inside we found a priest and several women singing a litany in prayer for the souls of the many people who were killed in this monastery during the Stalin years. The museum is indeed impressive. But the tour, as so often is the case, was too long and the explanations too detailed.
During the two days our Russian historians provided a steady stream of information about the city and its history along with much camaraderie and current jokes. We bid them a temporary good by until our return to Moscow on 4 July. At dinner we joined the large American musical groups with whom we would be cruising on the Volga. The Americans were the Columbus Ohio Children's Choir and the Columbus Village Singers, an adult folk singing group that specializes on presenting American Civil-War-era songs.

 
 

19 June -
Travel with a large group always means delays as everyone is brought in to line. In the morning we met the three Russian interpreters assigned to the tour and Mr. George Gordon, the company representative in Moscow. I don't envy him his job, as it entails making large groups of demanding Americans happy while dealing with the multitude of Russian bureaucracies necessary to schedule such complex tours. We finally got under way and went by bus to the Kremlin. The group had the usual walk around tour of the Kremlin and some of the cathedrals. Meanwhile Micha and I walked up Tver street to see and photograph the statue of Yuri Dolgoruki and the city hall (former governor general's palace). Then we walked through Kitai Gorod and along Kuznetski Most and various other parts of Moscow near the Kremlin.
We were impressed by the extent of the repair and reconstruction work going on throughout the area. Entire city blocks are being repainted and replastered. The very fine modern shops are full of clothing and consumer items. The food stores are bulging with meat and produce. We found many stores specializing in materials for home improvement, not on a scale like Home Depot to be sure, but still stores that didn't exist in 1993. We found a post office in the National Hotel. This is one of the luxury hotels that cater to foreign business people.
The churches and monasteries in Kitai Gorod are being repaired in a major way. We found the remaining sections of the medieval wall of Kitai Gorod. Most amazing, the Resurrection gate church between the State Historical Museum and GUM, that closes off one side of Red Square, has been rebuilt. There was nothing on the spot in 1993. Now it looks like it was never torn down.
The churches and medieval buildings on Varvarka street are looking almost like new already. Too bad the area will always be overshadowed by the monstrosity of the Rossiya Hotel in which we subsequently stayed in 2005. (Not always, it turns out the hotel has been destroyed)
We rejoined the tour group in front of St. Basil's and for the first time had an opportunity to enter and climb to visit all the galleries and chapels. Rather than continue our own explorations, we joined the group for a quick lunch at one of the new McDonald's that are springing up all over. Then we did the tourist thing and walked the length of the pedestrian mall on the Arbat. This too has changed drastically since 1993. Most of the temporary stands are gone, along with all the card tables and kids selling all sorts of tourist stuff. Instead all that has moved inside, into quite well appointed and expensive souvenir shops. Along the walk way now there are many up-scale restaurants with outdoor areas and tables under awnings. Despite the fact that we were about to spend two weeks traveling through the heart of Russian craft making areas, quite a few of the tour group had to buy items at the first stands they saw. I made a few photos of the rebuilt Cathedral of Christ the Savior before the busses departed for the Moscow northern river port.
We found our ship, the Feodor Chaliapin, tied up with 6 or 7 other large cruise ships. The crew was attentive and eager to insure that everyone was settled in their cabins. We departed at 7 PM and had the first of many excellent dinners on board. Cruising north along the canal we passed many Russians out for a late afternoon swim. Ship traffic was light, mostly barges delivering sand and building material for the city. We entered the first lock, number 6, at 2300. It was still light enough to observe clearly how the lock operated. But having seen to that, the hot shower beckoned. After that the bunk felt good after a long and strenuous day.

 
 

20 June -
Up at 7 to watch as the ship passed through lock number 2 into the reservoir section of the upper Volga River. Progress during the night was obviously slow. After breakfast we entered lock number 1 at Dubna and were then sailing north down the Volga River. During the morning there was a special sales event of Russian crafts presented in the salon on the ship's upper deck. Again this was swamped with business even though we were about the visit the very cities in which these items were made.
It was late afternoon before we passed through the lock adjacent to the large dam just upstream from Uglich. The view of this famous medieval town from the river was perfect for a picture. The river was full of swimmers. We were met by a local folk singing delegation and presented with the traditional bread and salt. We docked and had several hours to explore the center of the city. We tried to walk further to the two monasteries in the suburbs, but found they were too far apart and there wasn't enough time. But we did manage to visit the main cathedral and several churches as well as the palace where Dimitry Ivanovich was murdered. Here too were some genuine bargains in wood carved figures.
We reembarked and departed amid much gaiety. Supper again was excellent. Cruising along the quiet Volga in the twilight was delightful. During the night there was a very violent thunder and lightening storm.

 
 

21 June -
Awoke at 6 AM to find the ship was anchored in the river at Yaroslavl. The purpose was to take on fresh food and supplies and transfer garbage etc. to a lighter. We would visit the city on the way back. Underway again and sailing mostly east, we had breakfast. We reached Kostroma around 10 AM. While the larger tour group had a quick bus tour prior to their first concert, we had a private van and driver to take us to historical sites. The main place to see was the Ipatiyev monastery. There we found a historian- guide waiting. He lead us along the walls and through the many towers, explaining all the way the significance of everything. Unexpectedly we found a special exhibition to the Romanov family. This took some time to tour, but it was worth it. The most poignant aspect was the photographs of Nicholas II and his children and the samples of their childhood drawings and colored pictures from school days. The whole thrust of the exhibition was that this was a devoted and innocent family that was brutally murdered without cause. Kostroma and the Ipatiyev Monastery hold a special place in Romanov family history because it was there that Michael Romanov was in hiding when he was elected tsar and the delegation of the Zemski Sobor came to ask his mother to let the 16 year-old become the new Tsar of all the Russias.
As a result of taking time to view this exhibition we were unable to see the nearby outdoor museum of Russian wooden architecture. But I had taken many photos of it in 1993. For lunch we had been given box lunches from the ship. The driver took us to a small river tributary of the Volga and proceeded to take a swim. Micha joined him. That was fine, but in retrospect it seems we could just as well have eaten our lunch at the architecture museum. At any rate we then drove to a large convent that was still not functioning as such in 1993, but now is quite active.
We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the central market square marveling at the volume and quality of the produce and consumer goods for sale and being bought at a brisk pace. Sunday is a major market day and crowds of people are drawn in from villages throughout the large region. Since the weather was quite hot, I confined my purchases to Cokes and ice cream cones. As might be expected a can of Coke costs about .45 cents in a local grocery store but .90 or .95 cents at a stand along the street. Along the way we watched the crowds of well dressed Russian children, many with their parents, that were streaming toward the main city concert hall for the free, American concert. Finally we visited the church of - at which our group in 1993 witnessed a wedding service and baptism. It was already 5 PM, but the church didn't open for evening services until 5:30 so we had to content ourselves with viewing the outside before heading back to the ship.
The next stop was PLYOS, just a few miles down the Volga and on the opposite bank. We were there from 8 until 11 PM. It is on a very steep bluff, actually three bluffs, but the medieval fortress occupies the central position with ravines on both sides. The steep rampart is still evident. In addition I visited two local churches, one inhabited by bats that were coming out in swarms for the approaching night air. The other, despite looking decrepit from the outside, was partially restored inside and fully functional. One of the main attractions for Russians at PLYOS is the museum to Levitan, the artist who popularized the village in the last century with his paintings. As we were waiting on the dock for the last half of the group to return from the Levitan museum the sky suddenly darkened and a huge thunderstorm boiled over the crest of the bluff above us. Everyone made a mad dash for the boat under a downpour and amid a scene made bright by the lightening.

 
 

22 June -
Awoke to find the ship was already sailing south, having passed the major bend in the Volga. From the deck I made photos of several churches in small river side villages. At Chkalovsk I photographed the fighter plane monument to the town favorite son.
We arrived at the dam at Gorodetz at 10 AM and had to wait in the lake formed between the upper and lower set of locks. It was not apparent what we were waiting for. The upper lock is a larger double lock and the lower lock is smaller. The dam is a huge earthen filled structure extending for several miles across the river. There is considerable barge traffic at Gorodetz, mostly carrying bulk building materials or oil. Pollution in the river is quite apparent. We would stop and visit medieval Gorodetz on the way back.
Coming down the Volga one gets a spectacular first view of Nizhni Novgorod high on the right bank just at the confluence of the Oka. The kremlin occupies a central position with its upper wall on the crest and long side walls running down the hillside to the river. Just to the right is the multicolored Stroganov church. And near it the white walls of the monastery. Along the river front the 19th century commercial buildings form an impressive facade. On the other side of the Oka is the main industrial part of the city, with many large cranes at dock side. There also is the large building for the famous Nizhni fair. We had a fine local interpreter as well as a special local historian guide and van. He provided much interesting information about the history of the city and the fortress as we walked through it. He is 85 years old and still going strong as the chief historical architect supervising the restoration work of all medieval and 16th century buildings. Among these is the spectacular Stroganov church. The inside is filled with scaffolding to the ceiling of the high dome and plaster dust is everywhere as evidence of the extensive repair work being done. The architect explained also that major work was required to shore up the building foundations. Among the special buildings I photographed was the Arakcheyev cadet corps building.
We were caught in another rain storm as we walked around the kremlin walls. Our guide took that in stride. Then we walked down the main pedestrian shopping mall street and found some bargains in books, despite a second rain storm. Then we stopped for a Big Mac at the local McDonald's. Again, the amount of money in the hands of the people was impressive. The young folk were dressed in latest fashions. The stores were full of consumer goods. And the shoppers were carrying full bags. We departed Nizhni in the evening, recognizing that we had spent all too little time in this very historic city.

 
 

23 June - I was up early again to walk on deck and look for scenic places to photograph. The Volga at that point is extremely wide due to the huge dam downstream. The right bank is much higher than the left and mostly forested. At 6 we weren't very much further down the river than at 11 the previous night. Evidently the ship has to proceed with caution due to the shallowness of the river in many places. We passed the famous monastery at Makar'evo, the site of the first medieval fairs. I tried to get some photos in the poor light. The towns of Liskovo and Prosek also looked interesting. The river makes many turns not shown on the small map I had. At Vasil'sursk, the fortress built by Vasilii III, I tried to get some photos. Then Kos'modemyansk shows its name in stone letters on the high bank. We passed Cheboksarai around lunch time. We would stop for a visit on the way back. At Zelenodol'sk there is a bridge and dam not shown on my old map.
Kazan, high on the left bank looks lovely as one approaches down the river. The fortress towers on the hill top amid both church spires and the minarets of mosques. Again the company provided us with excellent special guides. The first stops were at two of the earliest remaining mosques. We learned the history of the city and how the Tatars were expelled from the medieval town to live in suburbs, where these mosques are located. We walked through the Russian kremlin, built by engineers from Pskov on order of Ivan IV. The style of the towers clearly reflects the Pskov architecture. One of the most amazing sights was the huge, new mosque under construction within the kremlin. It truly is enormous, much too big actually for its surroundings. It will accommodate 6,000 worshipers.
Outside the kremlin we visited the marvelous cathedral --- composed as our guide pointed out of a convergence of western and eastern architectural styles.
We discussed the origin of the Kazan Tatars from the Volga Bolgars who moved into the middle Volga river basin in the 6th -7th century.
The ship departed at 8 PM, giving us far too short a visit to this exotic city. The evening concert on board presented by the Columbus children's choir was outstanding. They learned to sing a program consisting of famous Russian songs.

 
 

24 June - At 5 AM we passed through the lock by the dam at Togliatti (Stavropol') The weather was hot again. The children played games on the upper deck led by the ship's activities director.
Samara (former Kuibyshev) is a huge industrial city now, stretching for some 35 km along the left bank where the river makes a sharp U bend. The town is relatively new, being built as a frontier fortress in the 1580's. The city is one hour east, ahead, of Moscow, but we kept ship time while there to insure coordination.
We had a very fine local guide. The main treat was a visit to the underground bunker built secretly by Stalin's order directly under one of the Party buildings. As the guide pointed out, no one in the city even knew of its existence until recently. The purpose was to serve as a emergency command post during World War II. There are blast doors. An elevator takes one down what must be equal to several stories to the basement in which we visited the command post and Politburo meeting room. That the majority of the government and the foreign embassies were evacuated from Moscow to Kuibyshev was well known.
We also toured the central part of the city and visited a Catholic church, a Jewish synagogue, and several cathedrals. We returned to the dock at the appointed time only to find that the ship was not there. It was well downstream refueling. We departed at 2300 headed back up stream for the second half of our river cruise.

 
 

25 June - We passed Togliatti and back through the locks during the night. At mid morning we arrived at Simbirsk (formerly called Ul'yanovsk after Vladimir Ul'yanov). It is atop the exceptionally high right bank. We were met again by an excellent local band and singers in costumes. Everyone had a lot of fun dancing with these colorful folk. Then we had to trudge up the hill part way to reach the buses. The road to the dock is too dangerous for buses.
We went with one of the Russian tour groups for a change. The guide simply bypassed the museum and memorial to Lenin in the house in which he grew up. The discussion focused on the large open spaces where the former cathedral and other medieval buildings had stood before being destroyed by the Communists. The view from the empty square on the high bluff is quite impressive. One can only imagine what the cathedral looked like when seen from far off along the river. All the old churches and cathedrals in the city were destroyed, the monasteries too, in one of the more thorough Communist destruction campaigns. One remaining 19th century building is the Goncherov museum, named after the local son who was the author of Oblomov. It is actually the city historical and art museum. On the second floor there is a very nice museum containing paintings, if not by the most famous world masters, nevertheless by talented artists. There are several portraits of individuals such as Catherine II and Elizabeth Petrovna. But the special exhibit on the first floor was most amazing. It was a large wax figure museum style display like Madame Tussand's. Featured were the tsars from Ivan IV and his son and Boris Godunov through Nicholas II and his family. All were dressed in sumptuous state robes. The only missing persons were Anna and Nicholas I. I hope the many photos they let me take will turn out.
We walked all over the central city observing once again the evidence of money being spent on reconstruction, and consumer goods. Crowds of people were going about their shopping. The stores were full of western goods. As we walked through one large building into which many small stalls had been placed, we noticed the large number of such small individual stands each with its separate clerk for a relatively small inventory of goods. For instance, one stand might have several dozen shoes, another 30 or more bras, another handbags, another men's suits. Even though business was brisk, it is hard to imagine much profit being made with such an oversupply of labor for the quantity of goods sold.
Returning to the very fine main city concert hall, we found a special display of local arts and crafts for sale on the occasion of the concert. This was some of the best goods seen during the trip. Especially nice looking were the lace and embroidery and other kinds of handcrafted linen goods. We were taken into a separate part of the building that doubled as a museum. There we saw an exhibition for the 350th anniversary of the city. What a terrible shame. The city trying to celebrate 350 years of history has no architectural history to show. The walls of the gallery were covered with 19th century postcards and lithographs and pictures of what the city looked like before the Communist destruction.
The American concert was excellent and very well received by the large Russian audience. The preliminary program by local Russian singers and dancers in costumes was fine as well.
By the time the concert was over another heavy rain storm was taking place. We had to rush to the buses and then run down the hill for the last half mile to the boat. The singers endured this even though the rain must have damaged their costumes to some extent.

 
 

26 June - I was up at 4 AM to check the location on the river. I checked periodically with my map in hopes of catching the time the ship would pass Kazan and then Sviyazhsk, the fortress built by Ivan IV preliminary to the siege in 1552. We passed Kazan very quickly, while I was resting in the stateroom. But I was back on deck in time and managed to take some photos of Sviyazhsk. In this section the Volga meanders between many islands and the channel is quite full of zigzags. The usual fishing boats were out in long lines. The ship was moving along briskly trying to make up for lost time. We were late to Cheboksarai.
We reached the town right after lunch. On the south side the river was lined with cranes for unloading building materials from barges. The river freezes in winter, with the temperature down to 6 degrees Celsius, so all river operations have to be completed between April and the end of October.
This is the capital of the Chuvash Republic and has a population now of about 500,000. The population of the republic is currently 68% Chuvash, 27% Russian, 3% Tatar, and 1.4% Mordva. We were met by the most colorful folk singing and dancing group to be seen during the trip. The ladies wear very heavy headdresses composed of hundreds of silver coins strung on cords. Such a headdress was for sale in the local museum gift shop, but for many hundreds of dollars.
The town has been changed in recent years. A dam and roadway has been built across the mouth of the inlet forming a lake behind and connecting the riverside of the city on both sides. We had a special tour led by local historians. We met first in the historical society headquarters and discussed the ancient history of the Chuvash people and their ancestors, the Volga Bolgars. The Bolgars were moving north from the Black Sea by the 1st century AD. By the 7th century the had established themselves on the middle Volga, but were still paying tribute to the Khazars. Then they split into several separate political groups (states) with some moving further north and west. There were three elements in local society by the 12th century, Chuvash, Turkic and Fino-Ugric peoples. Great Bolgar was taken by the Mongols in 1237 and incorporated into their empire as a tribute paying group. Later, they were incorporated into the Kazan Khanate until that was destroyed by the Russians in the 16th century. They were converted from being sun worshipers to either Islam or Russian Orthodoxy. The Chuvash were given a Russian (Cyrilic) alphabet only in 1871. Originally the Chuvash language was written in a runic script. Some Chuvash anthropologists see similarities between their ornamental design and Aztec designs.
We were shown archeological artifacts and several interesting models at the headquarters as well as a fine store featuring arts and crafts. Then we walked through town, past a museum to the art of beer brewing, to the local ethnology- historical museum. This is a fine museum for the education of local students. The displays start with flora and fauna of the region then move to fossils from an ancient seabed and then to the prehistoric - Neolithic era - ice age period. Among the animals displayed in a natural setting are bear, (the Chuvash don't hesitate to name him the Upa), ermine, elk, beaver, wolf, fox, and many birds. Stone age weapons and tools are abundant. These were found along the Volga river banks in locations where it exposed ancient camp sites. But now, with the rise in the river level due to dams, these sites are mostly under water. The exhibits show both actual archeological finds and illustrations of life during the time man hunted the mastodon and other wild animals in the region. The ancient people worshiped at a tree and left offerings of coins, grain and meat. The museum has many pottery samples as well. A map of ancient trade routes testifies to the early importance of the Volga many centuries before Christ. Among the the cases show a great variety of artifacts and illustrations of life throughout the middle ages and into the modern period right up to World War II. There is a fine forge, spinning wheels, kitchens, and well built furniture. A series of displays depicts events during the Pugachev rebellion including torture of prisoners and drawing and quartering of those judged to be guilty.
We then rode around town with the local historian to visit several churches, the renovated cathedral and reopened monastery.
The monastery was founded in 1565. Its church of the Cathedral of the Entry of the Mother of God into the temple the walls were full of icons under glass and gold. But the upper parts of the columns and ceiling were still ruined. Repairs began only 6 years ago. There were cast iron, decorated, plates in the floor. I was impressed by the beauty of the choir singing (chanting) an evening service at 5 PM. I couldn't see any but the priest and a few of the faithful. The guide informed me that there was indeed a trained choir hidden in a special place. But even so it was the acoustics that magnified the sound and made it so impressive, as they could not afford more than a few people in the choir. There is also a church over the gate dedicated to Feodor Stalite.
Near the waterfront there is a monument to the local poet, Krivanov, (1890-1915) whose poem about the tragic life of a young woman so moves the people. It was designed and built by Kudryavtsev in 1952.
When Catherine II visited the town in 1767, a carpet was laid from the ship to the house in which she stayed and to the Trinity Cathedral. The house was furnished especially for her. And it still stands today.

 
 

27 June - I was awake at 4:30 in the morning light. I went out to look at the river. There wasn't much to see in this stretch of the Volga, so I went back to rest and went out again at 6 AM. We were near Leninski Sloboda, south of Nizhni Novgorod. The usual lines of fishermen were at work. Generally one or two men huddled in heavy clothes in small rowboats or rubber rafts. It was cold and they must have been stiff from sitting so still for hours. There were also fishermen using rod and reel from the banks. Occasionally there were cars parked next to the water, although no road was visible. The villages along the river are isolated. There are occasional ferry operations and a few hydrofoils to move people and goods from one side of the Volga to the other.
The right bank is very high in this area. The only river traffic I saw here was a barge with a large load of iron scrap. The lack of river traffic is a sign of the depressed economic activity in the region and indeed throughout the Russian Republic. There is high unemployment. One wonders all the more at the amount of buying and selling of fine looking consumer goods in the many shops.
In this area the Volga makes several sharp turns. Actually there are many turns throughout its course. My attention was drawn the first afternoon to the use of navigation markers along the banks. Of course there are different shaped buoys anchored to mark the relatively narrow channel. But to aid the pilot in keeping a straight course, wherever there is a turn one finds on the bank two triangular markers, one behind and higher than the other. The have lights as well for nighttime visibility. While cruising along the straight stretch the pilot only has to keep these two markers in a straight line to keep the ship on course from one turn to the next. Upon making a turn he then picks up the next pair, sometimes quite a few miles ahead.
Coming from the north, Nizhni Novgorod is the most impressive city on the river as its medieval ramparts rise on the high hill and are visible for miles. Coming from the south one passes several modern towns with white high rise apartments on the right bank and only sees Nizhni suddenly close-up on the left as the ship rounds a bluff. The ship makes several wide sweeps through the islands and shoals then turns to the city. We stopped for 5 minutes to change some Russian passengers.
North of town. First Kosino was in view. The river is narrow for a stretch with low banks. Men using scythes on hay were visible. Balakhva village had apartments - and aggregate and sand were being loaded.
We arrived at Gorodetz at 2 PM. The ship passed through the lower lock and anchored by shore in the lake between locks. The main part of town is on the high bluff down stream from the lower lock. There was a monastery here much earlier, but the town got its name as 'Gorodetz' in 1171 when it was one of the frontier forts established to protect his borders by Yuri Dolgoruki, the founder of Moscow, Periaslavl-Zaleski and so many other outposts around the Suzdal-Vladimir principality.
We were met by a local historian for a special tour. First we visited the embankment area where there is a fine monument erected in 1994 to Alexander Nevski, who died in somewhat mysterious circumstances (possibly poisoned) in his brother, Andre's, home here in 1263 on his way back to Novgorod from the khan's court and Sarai . There we were greeted by the local dancers and singers in traditional costumes. Nearby is another monument built in 1995 to commemorate the 'affair of the brides'. This refers to the medieval custom on special holy day each year when the eligible and future brides showed themselves to the men. They were valued for their reason, modesty, shyness, and ability as good housekeepers, as well as for their beauty.
We then walked through a special historical preservation district in which all the wooden homes are kept in good shape to show off their elaborate carved decorations. The medieval town was protected after a fashion by the extensive forests on all but the river side. But the forest created soil unsuited for extensive agriculture. So the town quickly became a center for woodworking and wood crafts. At first this was executed in the decoration of wooden ships for the river trade. Eventually that was superseded. The masters then liked to show their skill in the decoration of their own homes. One home, we were told, has a present value of 130 million rubles but is a special preservation house. It and other homes are in catalogues of exceptional architecture. The whole city is a special archeological preserve. No digging is allowed without supervision. Many ancient and early medieval artifacts have been found including very rare armor and helmets now preserved in the local museum. Another home was one Catherine II wanted especially to preserve. She gave it to Yuri Orlov and then to Panin. While it belonged to Panin his local manager wanted to put the owner's symbol above the windows. This was to be two dd and a large crown. But the wood carver made a fish instead. Another home has the symbol of Vladimir with two Rusalki.
The population in the 17th century became largely "Old Believers" and many still are to this day. Thus they are pleased to try to live not only by the old ritual but according to the old ways in their entire life style. At present the town has 34,000 inhabitants and the region has about 90,000. This makes it the second smallest, after Plyos, of the towns we visited along the Volga.
This museum is excellent. It displays the finest of local handicraft arts, wood working and linen. Several rooms are devoted to display of medieval or early modern home furnishings and the tools people used in their daily living. There are also two excellent models of the medieval city ramparts and the wooden fortress. There is a rare helmet from the 12th century found in someone's garden.
We then drove to the location of a section of the first medieval earthen rampart started in 1152. It is still impressive, even though now overgrown with large trees and bushes. In the 12th century it was 15 meters high with a 9 meter deep ditch in front of it and a wooden palisade and block houses on top. There were three gates. There were fortifications both for the Gorodetz (ruler's fortress) and the posad (artisan and merchant town). That defense of course was no match for the Mongols, who captured and fired the town in 1238 and 1408.
We rushed through a rain storm to a local store specializing in crafts. The prices for embroidered linen goods (clothes and bed and table linen) were exceptionally good. Returning to the ship we found the local gingerbread factory had delivered a truck load of the special locally produced cakes. They were doing a great business off the back, taking 10 ruble notes as fast as they could. No wonder, as gingerbread pies and cakes is another famous speciality of the town. We re-boarded the ship at 6 PM.

 
 

28 June - Awoke at 6 AM with the ship cruising north on a very cold and overcast day. It passed Kostroma between 7:30 and 8 AM. Sailing is slow due to the shallow depth of the Volga. We arrived at Yaroslavl late, at 12 noon versus scheduled 10 AM. Again, the bank south of the main part of town is lined with cranes for unloading aggregates and sand and cement. But not much activity was in evidence, it being Sunday. There is also a large area for unloading oil barges. Yaroslavl is a major refinery town. It extends for 35 km along the Volga.
We took a bus from the landing to the center of town, only a few blocks actually. From there we left the tour group and spent the day walking around the city from 1215 until 6:30. The first stop was a magnificent church in which we were allowed to make photographs. These have turned out exceptionally well. Next we visited the fortified -- monastery which is right on the main city square. Yaroslavl was not reached by the Germans during World War II and was relatively unaffected also by the Communist destruction campaign that wrecked the medieval and early modern buildings in so many other cities. The city is well known for the fine churches that were built by wealthy merchants in rivalry with Moscow during the 16-18th centuries.
We stopped at a deli to buy some cheese and bread and cokes for lunch. Outside at the awning covered tables we met five young Russian men who insisted in buying vodka and engaging us in conversation limited by our language difficulties. Taking even a sip of this potent liquid proved to be a major disaster later.
We walked through very busy and well stocked markets, both indoor and outdoor. The two story department store was divided into a maze of small stalls, each with its special product from tennis shoes to bras to music CD's and independent clerk. Western style clothes were much in evidence. We priced a nice-looking men's suit at $35.00.
Continuing around the town we visited a number of the churches. In 1993 I bought one of the finest lacquer boxes from Mystora in my collection from the factory representative in the local craft sales shop. I was looking forward to buying another and had refrained from purchases all trip for this reason. The gentleman was still there this year and recalled which box I had purchased previously. After a lot of discussion and evaluation of value versus price, I settled on his recommendation of an original box by a well known artist whose work is in many museums. When a new design for a lacquer box is created at the factory the single, original box by the master designer artist goes for a much higher price, if it is even sold, than do the numerous copies that are then made by apprentices. So now I have a "Ruslan and Ludmilla" to add to my "Sviatogor".
Then we walked along the high embankment above the Volga and visited more churches located in the small area of the original kremlin. Unfortunately the most important cathedral that enhanced this locale did NOT escape the Communists. Nothing remains but a small park. But four other fine churches have been returned to service and are being restored. We entered the Cathedral of the Archangel Michael to listen to part of the glorious singing (chanting) of the 5 PM service. We discovered from the display in the lobby that this church was rededicated by the Patriarch, Alexis II, in an impressive military ceremony and is now the "Garrison Church" of the Yaroslavl military garrison.
We arrived back at the ship early, around 6:15 and then made a few short forays to local food stores and two churches nearby until sailing time at 8:30 PM. Whenever a cruise ship is at any of these river towns the local sellers and many children flock to the dock. This day they were treated because not only was our ship 'in port' but also there was another cruise ship on the Moscow- St. Petersburg run filled with German and English tourists there for half a day. Obviously these folk were more eager buyers of souvenirs than our by then somewhat jaded group.
During dinner around 9 PM we passed the -- convent that Micha had driven to during the day. He alerted us to its significance with stories about its current abbess. The photos turned out well. We expected then to pass the larger monastery and town at Tutayev in another hour or so. The distance and speed of the ship on the Volga were deceptive. We stayed on deck watching eagerly until around 11 PM, when the spires and cupolas of the monastery churches on the left bank and the larger cathedral on the right bank came in view just as the sun had set. Amazingly, the wait proved not in vain as the photos taken with telephoto lens at a very slow speed with ASA400 film turned out reasonably well. The weather was cold and windy but the sunset above the river, that in that section flows east and a little south, was quite lovely. (At that latitude and time of year the sun sets well north of due west and rises likewise well north of due east).

 
 

29 June - We continued cruising up the Volga having passed Rybinsk and its large lock during the night. We passed this interesting town sometime between 1 and 4 AM in both directions, so I never did see it. We were now back on the upper Volga, above the immense Rybinsk reservoir. We passed Uglich and its lock at 9 AM, during breakfast.
One of the Russian river cruise favorite pastimes is to anchor the ship at some secluded spot in the middle of nowhere along the river just to have a "green stop" and picnic ashore. We did this at a seemingly deserted forest area. But it was obviously a well frequented location because on hand were locals with horses for the kids to ride and fishermen selling what appeared to be inedible fish. The usual 'craft' sellers were in force to, with items found everywhere, such as nested dolls and wooden toys. The menu was a barbecue shashlik (shishkibob) and salad. It was quite good as was all the food prepared by the ship's chef during the cruise. The hyperactive social director insured that the children had many games to play. We departed at 6:15. Then we stopped to unload garbage at a special point before entering the Moscow canal. Here on a decrepit dock not even in a regular town there were Russian children, looking rather poorer than those seen on the docks in most towns. They were delighted to receive whatever small items the American singers gave them.

 
 

30 June - We arrived at Tver before 8 AM. This city, founded in 1182, is on the upper Volga rather than on the Moscow-Volga canal. It was renamed Kalinin in 1931 after the Communist chairman of the parliament, who died in 1946. It was renamed Tver in 1990. It was the major political and economic rival of Moscow between 1300 and 1500. Adjacent to the dock we found the 18th century Voskresennia (Assumption) church. After breakfast we had a quick bus tour of the river front including a fine craft store and a marvelous small museum. At the embankment we found a monument to Nikitin Afanasi, a favorite son who was a merchant explorer during the 15th century. On a voyage from 1469 to 1472 he reached India.
Despite two weeks of buying in many river towns we found some new items to purchase in the store. The museum housed a special exhibition of toys, dolls and puppets made by children. These were wonderful in their conception and execution. Clearly the children have better imaginations than the professionals who design toys. The museum also has a fine painting covering one wall that depicts a winter battle between Prince Michael of Tver and Prince Yuri of Moscow. The photos of this and the puppets turned out to be excellent.
After lunch on board we bid adieu to the good ship Feodor Chaliapin, its attentive and excellent crew, and the other passengers who were to continue overnight and into the next day on the ship back up the canal to Moscow. We had to go directly into the city in order to make it to the night train to St. Petersburg.
The bus ride afforded a good opportunity to see rural Russia away from the river as well as some of the towns between Tver and Moscow. All along the road there were stands at which an entrepreneur had strung a clothesline from which he hung the day's catch of fish. Obviously these would be bought by some Russian or the sellers would not continue in this activity. In addition there were all the usual stands selling all manner of soft drinks and garden produce. But conspicuous by their absence were the previously (1992-93) much seen fuel tanker trucks dispensing gasoline or diesel. In their place now there are ultra-modern looking gas service stations built or being built at all strategic corners. Building construction and renovation was much in evidence in most towns. There were whole sections of new and expensive looking two story homes. Nevertheless, in the smaller villages along the road the wells (including those operated by a Russian version of a shaduf) and outhouses were ubiquitous. In some cases the 1960's groups of standard Soviet high-rise apartments on the edge of towns could be identified by the large, insulated steam lines running to them above ground for miles from some central city power plant.

No doubt about it, the gap between urban and rural living is wider than ever. In the cities, however, one does not find as many destitute people as in 1993 selling a pitiful amount of whatever in front of the metro stations.
Near Moscow the road became choked with heavy traffic. Just before reaching the northern part of the outer Moscow ring road what should appear but a bright, new McDonald next to one of the new gas stations. Also in evidence along the Leningrad highway over which we were traveling were large new department and speciality stores. I especially noted several stores with signs indicating that they contained "everything for home repair". They won't reach Home Depot standards for years, but this is one of the major categories of business that I most noticed in absence in 1991 and predicted should be a early money maker.
In Moscow the traffic was practically at a standstill. We arrived at the Izmailovo Hotel about 6 PM, too late to do any further sight-seeing before dinner and departure for St. Petersburg. We managed to divide our luggage into items needed in St. Pete and those not and then check the latter in hotel security to pick up when we returned. After dinner and a further wait we boarded buses at 9 PM for the trip to the St. Petersburg station. We made it for the 10:40 departure. I had a very heavy bag to lug since it was full of books to deliver to individuals in two museums. We had a 4 to a compartment arrangement, not the 2 per room that I always specified on previous trips. Evidently this company was saving money. With the reduced amount of luggage it wasn't too crowded for an 8 hour trip. The train personnel actually served a decent box lunch.

 
 

1 July - We arrived at the Moscow station on Nevski Prospect in St. Petersburg at 7:30 AM. There on the platform were Valentine and Natasha Navarra, the best guides in the city. I never will forget how Valentine quickly volunteered to take the overnight trains to Moscow and right back to deliver to me my passport, that I had foolishly forgotten at the hotel in December 1991.
A short bus ride brought us to the Hotel Rus, right in downtown St. Petersburg. It is not a fancy new hotel, but its location is ideal, within walking distance of all important places. After a quick cleanup we had breakfast. My friend, Slava, called Valeri Kudashkin, who immediately agreed to meet me at the Artillery Museum. While the group took a bus tour of the city, I took a taxi to the museum, cost 50 rubles. I quickly found Alexander Kulinski, the premier curator of the cold weapons and small arms division of the museum and author of important books on these topics. I delivered some of the books he had ordered. My fractured Russian was not getting me too far until Valeri showed up on time to interpret. Then we took the computer disks I had brought and showed the museum staff how to view the photos of the collections from the 1992 and 93 visits. Then we had a meeting with Colonel Krylov, the museum director. He was gracious as always, getting right to the main point, as is his style, and wanting to know exactly what the museum could do for me. I asked permission to make more photos of not only the open but also the closed sections of the museum. This was agreed to, but required time over the following days, because to open a section it is necessary to call in the specific curators responsible for that department. So much of the museum is closed due to the limited budget. Thus I did manage to photograph much of the artillery section, the engineer section, a lot of the small arms, and especially the fine Kutuzov rooms, but not the signal section, since its curators were absent on vacation. I would have loved to photograph some samples from the archives and library of books and the uniform section, but there was no time.
Colonel Krylov also asked me to find a publisher for a special book he has prepared on the history of the cadet corps in Imperial Russia. This should be a book of great interest to many historians and those interested in the Russian army. He also agreed, in fact expressed his great desire, to host any future historical minded tour groups I might bring, especially any interested in the 1812 campaign.
It was soon after 1 PM and time for Alexander's lunch. I had to get lunch at the hotel, so Valeri and I started walking. In a few blocks we realized we would not make it in time. So he hailed a cab. Cost only 10 rubles, which he paid. I had time to outline to him the nature of special research projects I and associates in the US are interested in. He agreed to accomplish them. Since he had to leave shortly for Moscow, we weren't able to do more.
After lunch the group was to have its tour of the Hermitage. I rode the bus over and then went to the administrative entrance in order to see Dr. George Vilenbakhov, the deputy director. He was expecting me. We had a nice, short meeting and he invited me back for Friday when he could spend more time. I left some books I had brought for him and received some in return.
Back outside I walked on Nevski Prospect, shopped in some excellent book stores, and visited inside the Cathedral of our Lady of Kazan, while waiting for the group to finish their museum tour. St. Petersburg always was full of western goods, at least along Nevski Prospect, so the contrast from 1993 was not so noticeable. But there were quite a few buildings undergoing renovation or painting. On the way back to the hotel Valentine made sure we would stop to admire the renovated Cathedral of the Savior on the Spilled Blood. This was built on the spot where Alexander II was assassinated. Most of the group spent their time in the large flea market for crafts and souvenirs across the street.
After dinner Sergei Koval arrived to spend the evening. I had met him in 1991 and he acted as a fine interpreter then and in 1992. He is now mostly self-employed doing translation work from and to French as well as English via the INTERNET. We took Micha and Richard and walked for several hours through the downtown. First stop was at the Catholic Church of our Lady of Lourdes. We met a bright, very young Franciscan monk, preparing to be a priest. He formerly was an officer from Sevastopol serving on nuclear submarines. He proudly showed us through the inside of the church, saying such a visit as ours was not "an every day occurrence."
Then we walked to Nevski Prospect and back up the streets by the canals past the Sheremetov Palace to the Engineer castle, former palace of Tsar Paul, in which he was murdered in 1801. On the way back to the hotel we discovered that the church, former cathedral of the Preobrazhenski Regiment, was right in the middle of a traffic circle only two blocks from the hotel. Thanks to one of my Russian INTERNET correspondent's alert I was looking for this. One can immediately guess it had a special past because the circular fence around the small garden surrounding the church is composed of many large cannon stuck with their muzzles in the ground and entwined by long heavy chains. However, the young fellow on duty at the sales desk inside denied any knowledge of the former role of the church even though it is still named the Preobrazhenski church.

 
 

2 July - Micha kindly gave up the opportunity to go with the tour group to see Peterhof in order to accompany me on my return to the Artillery Museum. We walked to a metro station on Nevski Prospect and took two metro trains to reach the museum more quickly than by cab. On the way we were delayed, however, waiting for a very fancy audio-electronics store to open so we could buy more tape cassettes. This store had all the latest in cell phones, TV's recording equipment and other electronics.
As always Micha's action as interpreter was vital. Alexander muttered "Slava Bogo" when he found I had an interpreter with me. Not only did Micha interpret, he also recorded on tape both the conversations and the text of most of the information plaques on the walls. First order of business was to photograph the special, closed Kutuzov exhibit. This has been greatly expanded and enhanced since 1993. Then we visited the special, open exhibition of small arms and cold weapons. Since most of the displays were under glass, It didn't to photograph them. Then it was time to wait for Richard and Jim to arrive, but they didn't show up until after we had given up on them. The reason was that the group had delayed during the morning tour and didn't arrive back in town. We spent some of the time while waiting by walking through the Peter and Paul fortress. And we had a tasty giro at a new fast food, deli set up next to the museums. So we went back in the museum and took more photos. The museum now has a very fine, small store selling military models, miniatures and other related items. They were doing a brisk business with eager young Russians. The proprietor recalled our visit in 1993 during which I had urged him to open just such a store.
Then we walked to the Peter and Paul fortress again and found Richard. He agreed to leave the tour group to accompany us around the city. We went shopping again and found more interesting books to buy than there was space to carry them. Especially interesting was the entire section of one of the major book stores devoted to Orthodox religious books, icons, and related religious articles.

 
 

3 July - I had to skip the group tour to the Catherine Palace at Tsarskoye Selo, which I most wanted to see, in order to spend another day at the Artillery museum. This time Slava kindly agreed to act as interpreter. We went by metro again. These Russian subways are a real marvel. At the museum I photographed the engineer department, much of the cold weapons and small arms department, and more of the artillery section. At lunch time I had a snack in the court yard of the museum and then walked over to the Naval Museum. I was disappointed that they didn't have any naval flags. I continued to the Hermitage and waited until 3 PM for my appointment with George Vilenbakhov. He gave me more books and offered to help me buy military miniatures. We had a very good discussion and he offered to let me see anything I wanted in the museum. Naturally my immediate response was to see the very special Scythian Gold collection. This was arranged. Then I thought I might be even more interested in seeing the medieval armor collection. So George called the curator of that department to come and escort me. The most gracious curator of arms escorted me through three cipher locks and armed guards with the special pass Dr. Vilenbakhov had written. At the Scythian collection its curator was waiting for us. What followed can't be described in words. None of the printed articles and books containing color illustrations that I have seen can convey the wonder of this exhibition either. Room after room have walls lined with illuminated glass cases filled with exquisite jewelry made of gold and precious stones. On the one hand some of the more often illustrated examples of the earliest Scythian gold, rather primitive in design, are much much larger than can be imagined from the printed page. On the other hand the examples of later work, often of Greek masters on Scythian commission, are more intricate and elaborate but in microscopic detail, so they can't show to effect on the printed page either. To view these the museum places them behind powerful magnifying glasses.
Unfortunately the tour of this priceless collection took longer than the available time, so I had to forgo the medieval armor collection. Its curator most generously agreed to show it to me at a later date. At his office Dr. Vilenbakhov also expressed interest in future historical tour groups. He asked for assistance in obtaining an invitation to come to the U.S. again to conduct more research on heraldry.
Outside the Hermitage I found Micha, Jim and Richard waiting for me. They had managed at least a short visit to the Artillery Museum after returning from Tsarskoye Selo. We took a cab back to the hotel. After dinner we had to pack for the return train trip to Moscow. I found that my bag was as heavy as when I brought it to St. Petersburg, due to the weight of the many books I had been given or had bought. The train ride was similar to the first one.

 
 

4 July - We were met at the station by our military historians once more with a different and better van. While the tour group returned to the hotel to pick up their bags and head for the airport and flight to the USA, we were going on a special excursion to Borodino battlefield. It was pouring rain, but that didn't dampen our spirits. The guides gave a running commentary on the sights in the city, the history, current events, and especially such a multitude of jokes and stories that we were approaching Borodino before we knew it, even though it is a long drive west of town.
Suddenly one pointed out the window and noted that at this point we were entering onto the French line of march on the day before the battle. As is their custom, the Russian officers had planned to give us a 'staff ride' and had purposely circled west of Borodino in order to enter the battlefield from the French army line of march. Soon we passed the monastery at which the Russian rear guard had held up the French for a few hours and in which the Grand Army had established its field hospital. Then we turned right to follow the French columns as they veered right to attack the Russian forward position at the Shevardino redoubt. Despite the rain, we clamored out of the van and climbed the hill to stand on the redoubt. From there one quickly gains an appreciation for its importance, as the fields of fire are excellent. It is very clear that Napoleon had to divert his advance guard to eliminate this position before considering deployment against the main Russian position. Back in the van they drew out maps and discussed fully the first evening's action around the redoubt. Then we went the short distance to the location where Napoleon had established his command post during the main battle.
After that we spent several hours going from place to place, to the three important Bagration fleches, to the fine museum located at the foot of the Rayevski redoubt, and up the hill to the redoubt. To do this last action the officers ordered the van driver to drive right up the narrow road to the monument at the redoubt, despite the traffic sign showing no vehicle entrance. Well we weren't through studying the terrain from the top of the redoubt, when two local police showed up to cite the driver for his violation. The Army officer historians managed to pull rank and talk them out of this. At the museum we had a fine talk from one of the curators and managed to get some good photographs inside. The photos of the battlefield, however, aren't as good as those from 1992 due to the heavy rain and overcast. I bought some books but didn't properly price some others that I should have purchased (thinking they were more expensive than they were).
We then drove to Mozhaisk for a fine lunch in a local pub. In town we took a few minutes also to look at the remaining church from what was once an important monastery. Unfortunately all our peregrinations took longer than expected, so we arrived too late at the gate to the Museum of armored forces at Kubinka. It was already closed and the curator had given up waiting for us.
A bottle of vodka and many toasts kept our spirits up as we continued on the road to make our appointment at the monastery in Zvenigorod. This was a favorite of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich and was well endowed by him and his wife. In 1993 there wasn't much to see but the 17th century fortress walls. Now the renovation is proceeding well. Among the first buildings to be repaired and reopened is the cloister in which the tsar's wife and court ladies stayed when visiting the monastery. It is now an excellent museum depicting life there in the 17th century. The small chapel in which the ladies worshiped also is now mostly restored. The very high bell tower is open for visitors to climb. Unfortunately the giant bell that once sounded from its height and could be heard in Moscow was destroyed. The main cathedral is also open and now has active services. The bell announcing this was pealing as we were about to leave around 5:30.
On the way back to the Izmailovo hotel the driver wanted us to stop at the factory that produces the vodka, which we did. Fortunately Slava was waiting for us at the hotel to insure that we were registered properly. We managed to get our rooms and prepare for dinner, this time with a different musical group just beginning their tour in Russia. What a change had occurred in the hotel during our absence. Whereas the hotel lobby was patrolled by a few police carrying sub-machine guns, when we were there before, now there were whole squads of militia officers, first lieutenants and captains, manning security check points, metal detectors and x-ray machines. The whole hotel complex was surrounded by a high metal fence and there was no admittance to the grounds without special pass. The local casino was closed as were most of the small kiosks between the hotel and the metro station. All of this was in precaution for the 1998 Moscow World Youth Games that were to start in a few days. Being bored with nothing constructive to do, the militia officers were exerting their maximum effort to check what few people came their way. That included of course, us. Since we were to have dinner in a different part of the hotel than our rooms, this meant passing through a special check point complete with metal detectors. For some reason the hotel staff had neglected to inform the militia that we were an authorized part of the musical group, so they flatly refused to let us through. It took half an hour at least plus the direct intervention of the interpreter assigned to the musical group and the hotel staff to open the way. By that time Jim and Micha had given up so only Richard and I had dinner.
For breakfast and the rest of the meals the hotel arranged to circumvent the militia by opening a cafe in the same part of the hotel in which we stayed, so we didn't have to pass through that check point. We learned from the militia that only 'athletes' were allowed in that side of the hotel.

 
 

5 July - We were by then too tired to venture out in the light rain before breakfast, as we had on our first day in country. After breakfast we took the metro downtown to the Kiev train station and then walked up Kutuzov Prospect to the Borodino Panorama Museum. The reason we walked this long distance was so we could see Micha's elementary school and the housing in which he lived while his family was in Moscow. Sure enough both were still there and looking much like they did in the 1970's. But the fallen trees in the neighborhood showed us the results of the very severe tornado that had hit Moscow during our river cruise.
Slava met us at the Panorama museum. The staff was very interested in our visit and one of the department heads gave us her card and asked us to bring more people in the future. The museum also will be eager to support a Napoleonic history study group. In 1992 the museum was closed for repairs and we were given special permission to see the great panorama canvas itself, but otherwise the premises were empty. Now everything is back in place and looking great. The many displays of Russian and French uniforms and equipment tell the story very well. There are many portraits and personal items from participants. There are maps showing the campaign. The museum could easily conduct a very educational program featuring these items. The canvas itself is as magnificent as ever, but now that it is open with the public in attendance it can't be photographed during a normal, public visit.
From the museum we walked further on Kutuzov Prospect to photograph the triumphal arch and then visit the new memorial museum to World War II. This too is beyond descriptions. In the grounds there are Orthodox church, Muslim mosque, and Jewish synagogue. The huge park also has many displays of military equipment. But the center piece is the large circular museum itself. It is composed of the finest building materials. Clearly no expense was too much to complete it. On the lower floor there are a series of 180 degree dioramas depicting specific battles and episodes in the war, such as, siege of Leningrad, Battle of Stalingrad, Kursk, Moscow, and crossing of Dnieper. On the upper floor there is a very large circular hall in which are displayed many items from the war in chronological order from the eve of the war to the Manchurian campaign. A major section is devoted to a favorable display of the role of American Lend-Lease. There are also memorials to the dead and many symbolic sculptures and other devices designed to evoke maximum heart wrenching over the ferocity and destruction of the war.
From the museum we took the metro via three changes of train to the rebuilt Cathedral of Christ the Savior. We noted the militia deployed at every station, checking cars and harassing anyone who looked Middle Eastern or central Asian or from the Caucuses. We managed to walk through the magnificent museum of religious art in the basement of the cathedral before it closed. This contains religious art from the earliest Russian icons down to remarkable works in a variety of mediums done at the present time. We learned that the substructure that held up the former swimming pool was so deep that the architects for the rebuilt cathedral decided to incorporate it and build not only underground garages but also monks' quarters and offices for the Patriarch under the new cathedral. The mayor of Moscow is paying a billion dollars to build this magnificent edifice. No one knows where he is getting the money.
We returned to the hotel in time for a final dinner.

 
 

6 July - After breakfast Slava arrived to accompany us to the airport. Our guide was there with yet another van to take us. As usual the militia were milling about trying to look busy. Although the flight wasn't scheduled to depart until 3PM, we were advised to leave the hotel by 10 AM to insure we made it through the grid locked Moscow traffic. On the way we stopped briefly at Slava's apartment to meet his mother and father. We managed to arrive at the airport at noon. So we had 3 hours to kill standing around. Surprisingly the Russian customs again was quite quick and didn't bother us with a baggage check. Finally we were on the airplane. We arrived back at Dulles around 6 PM.