Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Local Politics: Even the Flies Are Democrats

Getting away from politics isn't easy in this town. It seems that everything, no matter how mundane, has a deeper significance that puts it on one side or the other of the political barricades.


My biggest problem since the rebellion has been an invasion of flies in my apartment. It began on the night Ostankino was stormed. I was glued to the radio, while my friend Robert, who was over to dinner, wandered around the kitchen with a rolled-up newspaper. Robert doesn't speak enough Russian to follow a news broadcast, and was constantly shouting for updates. "What's he saying? " Thwack "Got him! That makes 16. What's going on? "


I tried to point out that between the noise of his guillotine-like executions and jubilant cries of victory I was having a hard time hearing anything at all, but he just gave me a withering "I-thought-you-spoke-Russian" look and climbed back onto the stove to hit some more flies.


The infestation got worse throughout the week. The White House was stormed, a state of emergency was declared, and the curfew kept me in my apartment, with hundreds of buzzing, flying pests.


I though it was just my housekeeping, until a neighbor accosted me in the elevator. "Do you have flies in your apartment, too? " he asked. When I replied in the very vigorous affirmative, he shook his head sadly and said, "You see what they've brought us to, these democrats".


I was a bit taken aback. I had not bothered to ask the flies which political party they belonged to, or what Yeltsin-inspired breakdown in the social system had allowed them to proliferate and invade my apartment. I nodded noncommittally and exited the elevator as fast as I could.


I have since noticed an increasing politicization of daily life. I have been relying on public transport recently, my car having decided to go on strike on Smolenskaya Ploshchad the week before the rebellion. (It narrowly escaped being used in the barricades erected across the Garden Ring. )


I was trying to catch a cab the other day, and steadfastly refusing offers to take me to work for 5, 000 rubles. Suddenly a real taxi drove up, the driver invited me to get in, and turned on the meter. I couldn't believe my good fortune, until I realized I was going to have to sit through a political lecture as we rolled through the center of town.


"It's just terrible, the prices they're asking for taxis now, isn't it", he began. "In the old days we had order. We had discipline". I politely refrained from pointing out that in the old days I used to offer 3 rubles for a similar ride, but that 3 rubles in 1986 were the equivalent of 6, 000 today.


We hit a major traffic jam, and the driver turned to me and said significantly, "See? " I was temporarily at a loss, until I remembered my elevator encounter. I shook my head sympathetically and replied, "Those democrats". I thought I had hit the right note, but he looked at me in disbelief and began to shout. "Why the democrats? I am for Yeltsin 100 percent. He is a strong man. He cares about Russia. This" he gestured wildly at the flood of cars, "this is the work of Rutskoi and Khasbulatov".


Now, if I can only find out who is responsible for the radio station that keeps invading my telephone line . . .