Category Archives: Russia

Expat (Thug) Life: we’re all leaving Moscow.

I had lunch today with Mr. X, a fellow expat who lived in Moscow for the last four years. He had taken a temporary assignment in the US with the company he worked for in Moscow – an international, well-respected company – with the intention to return back to Moscow with his wife and child in August.

This month he came back to Russia to resign his position, and ship all of his things back home. He leaves on Tuesday, and will probably stay in the US until his wife becomes a full US citizen, which he estimates will take four years.

“I’m just tired,” he said, “we’re all tired of the hassle.”

His hassle, in particular, was getting a return visa for his four-month old child. Since he had been born in Moscow but granted an American passport, the Russian Embassy put up all sorts of grief and eventually demanded that the parents provide an HIV test for the child. At four months of age. In two days.

Mr. X was the third American in the last week that has told me he’s ready to pull up stakes and head out of Russia. Before that, I knew a few people in the Alfa Fellowship Program who ended their assignment in late April, and were all ready to head back (previously some had always been able to get a job and stay on).

I don’t really care to write about my own situation here in Moscow, but for the average expat, things are bleaker than they were last year. A rising ruble rate has given many expats an unexpected ‘haircut’ for those whose contacts were originally denominated in rubles. A crackdown on visas and registration for all foreigners increased the level of bureaucracy that expats have to deal with here across the board.

Me? I am hanging tough for the time being, but I have no illusions that it will get any better soon. It will get lonely for the summer, but then a new group of expats will arrive with the next Alfas. And I’ll keep looking, to see what happens next. Because let’s face it, in Moscow something always happens next.

5 Russian Actors who could have played Chekhov in the new Star Trek

OK, I saw Star Trek this weekend. JJ Abrams delivered the goods. I liked it. BUT, I did not like the punk kid who played Pavel Chekhov. He was a 17-year-old brainiac, with no Russian characteristics what-so-ever. At least Harold-without-Kumar Sulu had an ass-kicking sword and got to leave the bridge once in a while. Uhura got to become mega-hot. Bones got to become more in-your-face. Even Scotty got to pal around with an Ewok. But Chekhov? Not even hitting puberty, and with the accent which made all the in-jokes fall flat (NB: You have not seen Trek until you have seen it in Russian).

So, here are five real Russian actors who could pull off a Chekhov in the next series. JJ, if you’re listening, give Chekhov some balls next time and pick one of these actors out of a hat:

1. Konstantin Khabensky: Dark and brooding star of the Night Watch and Day Watch movies, Konstantin has already started to get some traction in Hollywood by starring in Wanted. Check this Russian trailer for Admiral Kolchak to get a feel for his ability.

2. Alexey Chadov: If Kostya looks a little too old, then Chadov can be a fair candidate to serve on the Enterprise in his place. Chadov, who also got his acting chops in Night Watch and has moved on to Russian movies such as Heat or Love in the City, is a young up and comer:

3. Gosha Kutsenko: If you want to go the other way and make Chekhov even more meaner and leaner, you can’t rough him up much more than with Kutsenko. Gosha even has experience with fantasy plots, such as the body-swapping comedy Lyubov-Morkov, as this (slightly NSFW) clip shows:

4. Egor Beroyev: As an actor, Egor has seen his share of action movies, as this trailer from the mystery thriller Turkish Gambit shows:

5. Fedor Bondarchuk: OK, file this last one under ‘crazy’ but producer/director/actor Bondarchuk is a leader in the Russian cinema sceme and has recently gotten into science fiction with the Inhabited Island series of films. Take a look:

Fedor himself is only visible in the last five seconds of the trailer, so here’s another brief comedy clip with him in it
(hyping the Naked-gun-esque The Very Best Film 2):

A nation of prewalkers


Moscow metro, originally uploaded by JasonRogers.

Like most people in the metropolis called Moscow, I commute to work every day. This involves some work and planning on my part to make the trip from point X to point Y as close as possible.

Kottke once posted about prewalking, where you try to game the subway by getting on at the ‘head’ or the ‘tail’ of the train. In Moscow it’s less of a sport and more of a necessity — during the rush hour, the onrush of bodies will wear you down if you get out at the wrong end of the train and have to make your way to the far end of the platform.

Moscow is set up in such a way that 99% of the time the maximum number of lines you have to ride on is 2. This means that you have to be smart about prewalking for transfers too. Consider it a mathematical exercise; with over 100 stations and 10+ lines, where’s a spot where you have to use more than two lines to get to where you’re going? You can review the map here to see what I’m talking about.

Ukraine Electionwatch Day 3: All Over Ukraine

As I write this, it’s eerily quiet on the streets, voting is still taking place, and we won’t get to see if we do this all over again until tomorrow.

Some quick links: