In which we settle in for a full and productive fall, my first in Moscow since 2007.

A Moscow skyscraper peers out between buildings.

A Moscow skyscraper peers out between buildings.

After we returned from Kazakhstan, after a very hectic two weeks (and, more broadly, more like four months) of traveling, we were glad to return to Moscow and really settle in to an ordinary, settled life. Starting the very morning after our return, we were very much in the swing of things. Monday to Friday are booked, morning to night in the archives (or in Maki’s case, often writing in a combination of libraries and cafes), so that by the time we get home and get dinner on the table, we were generally exhausted. There’s not really that much to say about it; although I love my work, I’m not sure anyone else is excited by the details.

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Archives, archives, archives.

Even Babur finds the archives boring sometimes, though he’s been keeping me company all this time.


Perhaps most exciting about this round in Moscow, however, is that we live in a really great apartment in an equally great location in the heart of the city. One of the chief perks of living so centrally is that, rather than spending countless hours a week riding the metro, we actually get to walk a lot of places, past all sorts of lovely buildings in Moscow.

En route to one of the archives, not long after sunrise (which, by December, was after 9 am).

En route to one of the archives, not long after sunrise (which, by December, was after 9 am).

Given my past history in Moscow — particularly my first trip here in 2007, where I lived a good hour-long commute from literally everything — this has been a revelation. Walking by 17th century churches, 19th century estates, and Soviet era construction projects, I am always super cognizant of Moscow’s long and storied history, more or less every day. Not surprisingly, a lot of this history is pretty depressing, which we were reminded of on a walking tour we took of various sites of repression. Among other things, we live only about a 20-minute walk from Lubianka, headquarters formerly of the KGB (and today, the FSB).

Monuments of Moscow's darker history.

Monuments of Moscow’s darker history.

These were far from the only reminders. In early November, I happened on Red Square during a rehearsal run for a parade commemorating the 74th anniversary of the parade held on November 7, 1941, which seemed especially odd, given the lack of reference to why there might have been a parade on that particular day. The erasure of the fact that this parade commemorated the anniversary of the October Revolution stood testament to the fact that in Russia, 20th century history is basically limited to 1941-45. Alas.


Fall was well underway even by the time we arrived, and we were glad to have warmer clothes for the cold, gloomy fall days.

Fall colors near our apartment.

Fall colors near our apartment.

As always, Moscow continues to change dramatically, and one of the most obvious changes I noticed upon arrival was the dramatic increase in street art, which makes the city feel alive with color — a nice addition, given that most of the year, the skies are a depressing gray.

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Over the past few years, I’ve really come to enjoy living in Moscow, in part because there are always historians around. From our very arrival, we found ourselves surrounded by friends and colleagues, some we had met previously either in the US or on previous trips, others who were new. It was quite the busy social schedule.

Poster shopping at Izmailovo. These were sadly out of our price range.

Poster shopping at Izmailovo. These were sadly out of our price range.

Our birthdays also came and went in early November, too. Maki’s fell on a Friday, when they kick us out of the archive a little early, at 4 pm, and since it was a beautiful day, we headed on a nice walk down to the river for some beautiful views over the river.


Obviously a selfie was also in order.


We celebrated our birthdays quite well this year, between a nice meal together for Maki’s birthday, cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery’s Moscow location, a brunch with friends on the midpoint between our birthdays, and even some scotch for my birthday.

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As it turns out, one of my archives also celebrated its birthday around the same time. Happy birthday, RGANI!


As winter creeped inevitably forward, the days got noticeably shorter and colder, which brought us to other adventures. Perhaps most significantly for my future happiness, Maki honed his plov-cooking skills and carefully perfected his recipe so that we can now regularly enjoy some of the best flavors of Central Asia. Which is great, because Moscow’s restaurants here really disappoint.


A few of us also got together to work on our Georgian cooking skills, which came with about equal amounts of success.

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All in all, it was a fall that was equally productive and enjoyable, with plenty of company and lots of good food. And did I mention the craft brew scene? In case you haven’t heard, it’s kind of a big deal here in Moscow, with a new craft beer place opening up seemingly every week.

Snow-covered roofs from one of the archives.

Snow-covered roofs from one of the archives.

But alas, by December, sunrise was pushing steadily closer to 9 am, and sunset pushed closer to 4. Snow flurries swirled regularly, and it was clear that winter was coming…


One thought on “The Moscow Fall

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