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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

In Praise of All Things Left Unfinished

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There it is: a colossal granite column looming over Kutuzovsky Prospekt. Elegant fountains spray water over its fat base, and a Roman "III" caps its summit. Tiny pedestrians stagger under enormous brass letters on the bottom of the column that identifies it as a monument to Moscow's Third Ring Road.

There is something freakish about erecting a monument to a road in general, but erecting a monument to the Third Ring Road is plain eerie.

Because it is not a ring road. It is a seven-kilometer-long eight-lane stretch between the permanently congested Leninsky Prospekt in the south of downtown Moscow, and Zvenigorodskoye Shosse, a narrow bumpy trail in the city's west. A failed remedy for Moscow's congested streets, the road is a 10-minute drive from one traffic jam to another.

It is possible the monument was erected to satisfy Mayor Yury Luzhkov's need for celebration. After all, the Outer Ring Road (Luzhkov actually finished it and it appears to be a properly ring-shaped ring road) was formally dedicated with great pomp and brass orchestras at least a dozen times.

It may also be that the monument is a symbol of Russia's appetite for celebrating Things Not Done.

Take, for example, the new Magas airport in Ingushetia, a Russian republic in the North Caucasus. This spacious air-conditioned structure of marble, polished granite and sparkling stainless steel was ostentatiously opened last week. Ingushetia's leader Ruslan Aushev personally dedicated the building. Champagne corks in the grass around the airport still smelled of the celebration when I flew out the next day.

Except the airport's toilets didn't work yet, and people had to suffer smelly, corroded metal booths outside. And when the time came to board a plane, passengers had to squeeze into a wobbly antique bus that carried them down a broken dirt road to the old shattered airfield. In the end, they found themselves climbing up the unsteady rear stairs of a decades-old Yak-40 plane as a small crowd of plainclothes airport guards looked on, clutching hunting rifles in their hands in case one of the passengers should turn out to be worth shooting.

And although it is not uncommon for a country to build its airport far from its metropolis, few nations can brag of a capital like Ingushetia's Magas: a two-year-old town that consists of three buildings.

In Chechnya, a dozen kilometers from Magas — both the airport and the town — Russian federal troops are fighting Islamic extremists. When troops re-entered Chechnya in 1999, President Vladimir Putin promised that Russia's second campaign against the rebels would last a few months.

A year ago, Russia congratulated itself with a de facto victory over the ruthless separatists. The Kremlin awarded a few generals medals for their heroism in fighting the rebels. Russian troops paraded across what is left of Chechnya's capital, Grozny, on national holidays.

But a year later, the same Chechen rebels continue to kill Russian servicemen, the same federal troops continue to kill Chechen civilians, and military commanders continue to swear that victory is around the corner.

And I continue to take the Third Ring Road west from my house on Leninsky Prospekt, even though I know that the road can only take me from one traffic jam to another.

Very quietly, I raise a virtual glass of champagne to celebrate the sweet 10 minutes of carefree driving.

Anna Badkhen is a freelance journalist in Moscow.