Other Blogger users will know that your Blogger account page tells you how many posts are in your blog and when the last one was published. Mine? 167, last published June 2.
I'm not really neurotic about round numbers, but wouldn't it be nice to get to 200 before I leave Russia? I doubt I can do it, but I'm going to try. I'm generally a fan of blogs that update frequently anyway, and would like my blog to be That Kind of Blog.
Without further ado, let us whisk ourselves away to the far-off village of Sambek, the pearl of Rostov Oblast. (Well, far-off for you. It's probably five to eight kilometers away from me.)
This backlit beauty is "Родина–Мать/Rodina–Mat'/Homeland-Mother", and I'll give you three guesses as to which war she's a monument to. She stands in all her Socialist-Realist glory in Sambek, accompanied by an eternal flame that doesn't burn and concrete tablets listing all the soldiers from the village who died in the war. There were a lot, as the Sambek heights were the site of the battle that (I believe) pushed the Germans out of the peninsula Taganrog sits on. My friend Sasha, who lives in Sambek, has a whole collection of mortar shells and even a bayonet and a helmet he's found over the years in and around his family's yard.
I went to Sambek on Saturday to go v shashliki (yet again) with Sasha and some of his friends. After our meat-grilling adventures were over, we wandered around the village for a bit. After a very rustic bathroom stop at one of our party's homesteads (indoor plumbing? what for?), they took me to Rodina–Mat', because it's the only interesting place to go in the whole village (pop. 3000). Sasha remarked that it's sad that there's nowhere for young people to go to hang out or anything. "Isn't there a cafe or anything?" I asked. Sasha explained that no, there's no cafe, and no shops besides little mini-mart grocery stores here and there. I then asked, rather foolishly, if everyone in the village either works in Taganrog or Rostov like his friends (computer programmers) do. "Some do," he answered, "but most work on the collective farm."
The collective farm? Seriously?
In theory, I knew that there are still collective farms in Rostov Oblast, but I was still somehow surprised to encounter face-to-face the "collective farm and attached village" socioeconomic plan. How does it work? Who owns the farm? How did the transition from socialism to capitalism affect it? I wish I knew the answers to those questions.
It's tempting to look at the sleepy little village and say that nothing's changed there in a half a century. But that's not true, and I think it's more interesting to think about what has changed. (Hmm, I sense another trip to the library coming on.)