You're not the real muscovite

— Those Muscovites! — my colleague spills the angry word.

I raise the eyebrow.

— Not you, — he corrects himself. — You're not the real muscovite. You're like us.

"Us" and "them", this everlasting confrontation in every Russian soul who have been born in USSR.

This time it’s about the cultural differences in two major cities. I’ve lived in both.

Moscow folk: uber-efficient, fast-responsive, overworking and loud in self-presentation.
The driver is excellence. And money, of course.

St.Pete folk: quiet, intelligent, thoughtful, snobbish, respectful, intellectual.
The driver is connection. Not the money. You can get along without high income here (never in Moscow).

I’m riding the city bus in St. Pete.

— Have you ever been to Moscow?

I turn off my pink iPod to enter the conversation. Ticket-collector lady is waiting for my answer.

— Yes, I did.

— They do not speak on the bus! Never.

— Maybe they don’t have time. They are always in hurry, — I offer the common reason.

She nods. I smile.

Could she guess I was born in Moscow? Probably not. I’m living here for nine years already.

St. Pete was built by the powerful man, Peter the Great (he also loved the titles, as any tzar should).

I mean, St. Pete was built by the people of his country. Peter ruled feverishly, installing new (European-like) rules and changing the whole game play.

He moved the capital from Moscow to St.Pete in 1712. He borrowed many ideas from the Netherlands. He was thinking strategically. He used a lot of human resources to build a city «on their bones» (as history books say). It was all the swampiness and nothing else here before Peter came.

He founded the city on the swamp, he named it after himself, he «cut the window to Europe», promoted secular education, he sent youngsters to study abroad, insisted on translating books and founded the modern newspaper. It’s amazing how good deeds go along with brutal, even butcher actions. You cannot like or dislike a power of this sort, you’re just amazed by it. It’s really impressive, how much have been done — and how many have suffered in the process.

Then he died. Even the most powerful ones are just humans in the end.

In 1728 the capital status was returned to Moscow alongside with all the government moving back (and many Peter’s initiatives sweeping under the rug).

What was that? A glimpse of the parallel universe, a star from the unknown future, a missed opportunity, a wrongful direction?

All that we are left with is St.Pete.

Italian-like (it was built in stone with Italian architects), breezy (wind lives here all the year round), grey and cold, romantic and intellectual city. The cultural capital. The Northern Venice. The city I now live in.

— I’ve been thinking and I still can’t get why do you live here, — a friend recently said to me. This conversation happens all the time but with different people.

— I cannot explain. I like it here. Moscow is so crowded, so hurried-up, so loud.

— But the weather… the winters are so long… the sky is dark...

— We call it «nine months of winter».

— The white nights in the summer are so disturbing! It’s impossible to sleep when there’s light outside!

— But then we have «dark days» in the winter if you miss the darkness. It’s daytime only from 12 noon to 3 pm.

— I don’t understand.

— I just love it.

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