||[Jul. 1st, 2006|11:25 am]
In the year+ of my absense, Petersburg has grown trash cans. They are everywhere on the streets now, whereas previously they were an incredibly rare find. And people are using them, I've witnessed it myself. I know this should be a good thing, it's great that there is less litter around, but I am not sure whether it is happening as an initiative for the city or as cosmetic preparation for the summit. I suppose that either way it is beneficial, but I want to know what prompted it, and how it is regarded. |
I shouldn't say that they are everywhere, because I haven't yet ventured at all on all my old routes. I want to see them, but I'm nervous a bit at the prospect of how much they have changed. In general the city looks good, and people seem to be more relaxed (maybe sunlight improves even the stereotypically dour disposition of Russians), but it's almost like it is returning to its facade-filled past. The streets are cleaner yes, and buildings are being renovated left and right, but the homeless have been "relocated" and the stray dogs "removed." I wonder where all the money for repair is coming from and whether the improvement is all cosmetic or if it is actually reaching people's standard of life, non-oligarch, non-novyi ruskkie, people that is. I will see Natasha in a couple of hours, so maybe I'll have a better idea of that soon.
When my parents visited me here two Christmases ago, I remember being turned off a bit by how my mother would say about a building "It's so beautiful, but it really needs to be cleaned, to have a good coat of paint." For me, it was beautiful no matter what, and maybe because it was so dirty. The city seemed so real to me, it was not the city of Russian Imperialism but a city that had survived terror and trauma greater than anything imaginable. The dirt was a testimony to that, it seemed to me. I worry if my attitude fetishsizes (spell check is set up in Russian on this computer so I have no help with that word) the dirt, the ill repair, if it turns the city into a kitschy Soviet souvenir: "Look, it's dirty, isn't that quaint in a meaningful way?!"
I don't mean to do that. The buildings are the most magnificent I've seen, and of course deserve good care. But the beauty of the city, that which affects моя душа and has drawn me back here, is in part because the city, its people, its traditions, have survived as they have, living through so much. I want people to see that, to feel that heart beat, regardless of paint or dirt.