Excess and its own particular variant of eccentricity has always colored the somber Russian landscape. Perhaps part can be blamed on the inhospitable weather and maybe there is something in the water…
The Empress Elizabeth’s fifteen thousand dresses show an equal extravagance, while her havit of cutting out the tongue of anyone who lied to her contradicted her absolute refusal, on humanitarian grounds, to sign a single death warrant. Just as the great Russian houses were staffed by an excessive number of servants, – Countess Orlov , with eight hundred , complained she could never get a glass of tea when she wanted one, so prodigious numbers of house guests were forever arriving, but seldom leaving.
Time and distance were differently computed in Russia; yet, in a sense , they were interdependent. If, to visit friends,it was necessary to travel a thousand or more miles by carriage or sleigh, people were apt to pack up and move in for a whole season. Time seemed as measureless as the land. Some visitors came for the summer and stayed ten years. Some lived in a remote wing of the house and, we are told, never found their way to the dining room or met their host, but just settled down among other guests.: poor relations, tutors, “dames de compagnie” , and French governesses whose stay had outlived their usefulness.
There they remained, embalmed in this universe of emptiness,the vacuum of their daysoccasionally broken by the sound of carriage wheels or bells: a sudden stir of life, telling of the arrival or departure of the family that had forgotten their existence or-carrying even vagueness to excess- had never remarked their presence.
The Russian army, too reflected this quality of excess. During the reign of Paul I, perhaps the most extreme of all Russians, men were marched off the parade ground and headed north, in chains, for the matter of a missing button. The officers took to stuffing their pockets with all their available bank notes; thus, if victimized without warning, they would at least have some ready cash to aid them in their exile.
That Mr. Putin is playing hockey three nights before a historic election probably says two things about him.
First, he presumes he’s going to win on Sunday and avoid a runoff. His main opponents – a frightening nationalist, a three-times-defeated Communist and a
critical oligarch whose business interests depend on the Kremlin – barely register in opinion polls. Even if they did, the democratic process is so flawed that it would shock even the opposition for the sitting Prime Minister, a man with sway over every aspect of Russian life, not to win.
Second, he has unflinching resolve – in life as in politics.
Mr. Putin couldn’t skate until two years ago, when he decided the future of Russia depended in part on the future of hockey, and he should lead the way. At the age of 58, he felt he had to skate the skate. He asked his friends to help.
This was not known to many Russians, but Mr. Putin had balance problems. He has long favoured the right side of his body – his uneven gait is one giveaway – and Kremlinologists believe he suffers a permanent ailment, perhaps caused by a stroke in vitro.
During the drive to the rink, he explains that he was never able to keep his balance on blades, even as a child; he does not know the reason.
Mr. Putin disappears into a private dressing room, and then graces the ice, his 5-foot-7 frame marked by a Sports Club Army jersey with “V.V. Putin” on the back and the number 11. …
…“You know how many rinks we had in Soviet times?” Mr. Fetisov asks me on the bench, where players drink tea between periods. “Thirty – and we kicked your ass!”
He jabs my shoulder, as the Prime Minister laughs inside his caged helmet. The great Canadian-soviet hockey series of the 1970s are seared in their minds, moments that reassured them of their supremacy.
Mr. Putin hands his teacup to an aide, and returns to the ice to practise more turns before the next period begins. (He clearly prefers offence to defence, whether it’s the fact that he takes every face-off when on the ice or hovers around centre when the play is in his own end, waiting for a stretch pass.) Read More:http://www.pressdisplay.com/pressdisplay/viewer.aspx