Preface

From: Dacha Idylls

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

xiii In fall 1998, as I was concluding a year of fieldwork in Moscow, my parents came for a visit. My apartment was located in a small Khrushchev-era apartment block in Fili, a leafy and quiet residential district on the western edge of the city center. Just a few minutes’ walk from my apartment was Filevskii Park, one of the largest forested parks in Moscow. During my parents’ visit we often spent our afternoons and evenings walking through the peaceful park, joined by many other residents from the neighborhood. Despite its location near the center of a sprawling postindustrial megalopolis of approximately twelve million residents, Filevskii Park is a surprisingly quiet and cool oasis. Like many of the forested parks and nature reserves in the Moscow area, Filevskii Park is heavily wooded with thick vegetation covering the ground. Visibility is so limited on the narrow paths that twist and turn through the trees that it is frequently impossible to see more than twenty feet ahead. Even on the sunniest and hottest days, the forest is dark and cool. There is a peculiar Brigadoon-like quality to Filevskii Park, as people, dogs, sounds, and smells suddenly appear and disappear out of the leafy thickets, even in winter. Pedestrians stroll through the serpentine maze of the forest, confronted at random turns by the emergence out of nothPreface Finally we tired [of walking along the river], and we decided to depart from the river along the path to the right. Near to the right on a rounded hillock, thicketed with oaks, led a little path. We walked along it and in half an hour we were surrounded by an old-growth pine forest. It was silent and quiet in the forest. There, so very high, where the bright green of the pine crowns were stretching out to the bright whiteness of the clouds, perhaps , and where the breezes roamed, it was absolutely quiet. —Vladimir Soloukhin, “Vladimirovskii By-Ways” (Soloukhin 2006:15) xiv | Preface ingness of the unexpected: a bus depot, slides and swings at a children’s playground, a Ferris wheel and merry-go-round in a small carnival venue, a bandstand, picnic tables, summer cafés, people sprawled on blankets and benches to take a nap or read, small groups of families and friends gathered around a campfire and singing to the accompaniment of a guitar, and mothers and grandmothers aimlessly pushing baby strollers through the woods. As soon as one turns another corner or goes behind another tree, the signs of human habitation and entertainment quickly disappear into the greenness of the forest. Above all, the forest of Filevskii Park is marked by a feeling of aloneness among the trees. The sounds of the nearby streets and apartment blocks fade away, and a profound stillness emerges. All that can be heard are twittering birds, an occasional dog bark, and, once in a while, disembodied laughter floating through the trees. On this particular occasion, a late Sunday afternoon in early September, my parents and I were strolling slowly and enjoying the calm. Suddenly we emerged in a small clearing in the woods, and, without any warning, we found ourselves face to face with three other forest wanderers: an elderly man playing an accordion and two elderly women dancing merrily on either side of him. The musicians greeted us, laughing, and then continued past us, dancing down the path until they were swallowed up by the forest and disappeared from view. My parents and I continued our meandering walk and eventually returned to the park’s main entrance, where we discovered that the accordion player and his companions had attracted a small crowd. Both the young and the old had gathered to listen to the music and to dance, singly, in couples, and in small groups. Men with women, women with women, grandparents with grandchildren—all were singing, dancing, talking, and laughing in this festive, seemingly spontaneous social gathering. Young adults hovered on the fringes, enjoying a beer or ice cream while they watched and participated in their own way. Small children chased each other around the baby carriages and their elders. Other individuals wandered through, stopping for a few moments to enjoy the festivities before continuing on their way. We, too, were drawn into the magic of the moment, taking pleasure in the music and one another’s company and delighting in the festive warmth of the early autumn evening. We stayed there for a while—how long, I no...


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