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In progress.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

St Petersburg in Autumn

Hi, it's 2 in the morning and here is a post that I will return to and tidy up when the earth has rotated such that the sun is visible once more from my location.

But for now:

I arrived early in St Petersburg and was met by the lovely thoughtful Dima who got up even earlier to greet me, and had his first and traumatic experience of the commuter hour that every capital city suffers from.

We visited the gardens at Peterhof where naturally tame squirrels, great tits and treecreepers (check) come to eat from your hands. It was lovely. And then the fast boat home which was exciting and worth the tourist money we paid. Great skies, blue and dark grey with light shining through. Water reflecting in silver or deep blue.

(And by great tits I mean birds. Not THAT kind of bird. And anyway, it's more bottoms at Peterhof: I reckon Peter the babyface git First was a bottom man because all the half naked rumptious statues are facing out to the river, with their back ends facing his palace windows, where he would stand with his hand down his pants, or rather have a servant do it for him...)

We met up with Dima number 2 for beers in the evening at a trendy little downstairs spot. I gave him his fanzine and after walking towards home he remembered he'd left it on the table and we went back for it. Which I like, because it gives the paper+ink a history: "this was the fanzine that Dima forgot and ... so on" Dima number 1 was touchngly sad at leaving him.

Next day after an urgently needed sleep in Dima's soft bed I managed to get to Kronstadt to honour the rebellion and last attempt to save the revolution. I had an interesting, unplanned and almost-psychogeographical tour.

(After getting a bus to the island via the northern bridge, which still stands while the southern one is an archipelago of ruins:)

Wandering in ever-widening squares to find anchor square. Discovering it indeed full of anchors. And a public commemoration to those members of humanity who died fighting other human beings in the lost cause of freedom in 1921... The monument offers a sense of public anonymity for their struggles and suffering and dream.

Then I wandered over a footbridge through dangling yellow plane trees, bought a massively overpriced pack of purple pringles in a new flavour, saw a sign in russian with a picture of a boat and a time that was just 10 minutes away. So I wandered up and said "one please" in russian at the counter that I found. Followed a woman onto a boat, and so crossed over to, it turned out, the southern bank of the estuary. There I followed the small crowd onto a bus, which took us only 500 metres or so before everyone got off and I followed them again. Lovely golden sunlight the whole time, and the waters in the breeze. There the crowd dispersed and I saw a rather nice and unanticipated railway station in front of me. So I wandered into its half-shut corridors, found a ticket counter and again uttered those magical words: "zdrastvuytye, adin" (hello, one) and paid what i was asked.

Turns out I was at Oranienbaum, where I had a nice can of irn bru (tastes a bit odd in the plastic out here, so I was chuffed to get an aluminium one) and then I went to sit on the good wooden seats of a local train that I hoped, correctly as it turned out, would end up with me in St Petersburg. Read bits of Dostoyevsky (who goes on about nervous exhaustion and drifting back to consciousness too much) and, when on the arrival platform, got a call on my temporarily working phone asking where i was. "I don't know, some station in Petersburg".

Katja came to meet me. I didn't know what she'd look like, so she told me she was wearing black with a brown hat. I of course was wearing regulation black. A woman in black with a brown hat got off the escalator and smiled, I started to raise my hand in greeting, and so did an older man standing at my elbow. The woman greeted him warmly and they exited left, leaving me feeling a little stupid. I somehow knew what had happened, and waited only a minute before the man returned with some embarrassment (must be the place for blind dates - and there was a pleasant charge to the atmosphere when I was scanning possible katjas earlier, and felt they were all about to say hi- actually i SAY 'pleasant', but i find that kind of ambiguity unbearable).

Anyway, correction sorted, I drank coffee and beer with Katja and a Latvian comrade, and it's probably the first time I've ever used the word comrade in earnest. And all my frivolous experiences are just guilt-inducing when I hear the tales, the danger, the arrests, the knives...

Later, I get lost of course in the night of the south of the city. My phone has been used up in the old Russian style "to tell mother that her son is safely arrived" from latvia. So I just circle and retrace until I find the fire station that I know my way from. And back to a friendly flat. And night night.

Tomorrow it's to Finlandsky station where Kropotkin (not Lenin) made a notable return to Russia (and the anarchists refused to meet him, but the government sent a brass band...)
Then to Schlusselburg, another of the prisons that ravaged Bakunin's body but never touched his spirit. And not just Bakunin, of course.
Then I hope to see the spot where a Nihilist bomb knocked out the Tsar, and I have an anarchist tour guide lined up for the evening!

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Last day in Moscow

It rained, and the city was transformed.
I spent my morning coffee checking out locations on the internet and created a big list of places to try and see.
The two prisons and three monasteries on the list were left out (although I have walked past 2 of these accidentally, and so their stories will still appear in the zine.)

I finally found Kropotkin's grave monument, in the really wonderful Novodevichy cemetery (not convent - a different wall surrounds it...), and I re-visited the Palestine Embassy in Kropotkin alley, which is in what remains of his old aristocratic family's palace. I was still unclear how much of the pillared building was original - it was being renovated etc.. as I was there.

Past Tolstoy's house and the monument to the murdered (to which I added flowers) and down Kropotkin metro to get train tickets from the other side of town.

That done, and pretty wet now (both me and the city), I chose as my final destination the 'House of Anarchy'. This grand mansion is now the Lemkom theatre, with posters outside and performances about to start. At the time it was the merchants' club (important enough for the street itself to be called Club-skaya at one time) and the anarchists occupied it during the heyday of the 1917 events. I sat in a cafe over the street and tried to draw it from a funny angle through the windows, not with any particular success but it WAS peeing it down.

I'm so pleased to have finally left the trail of our renegade aristocrats (Bakunin, Tolstoy, Kropotkin with their mansions) and to the sites of the real bloody struggle of Russia. Of course it all ended badly, Trotsky, Lenin and the other political sadists sent in their secret police and armed lackeys. Some anarchists went underground to fight, some joined the new regime, others escaped. But I don't really know what happened to the rank and file real people of anarchism - just the most internationally famous intellectual types.

Also in Russia, especially, there were certainly 'anarchists' engaged in bloody and pretty fruitless pursuits at this time, who I wouldn't have liked to be anywhere near. Emma Goldman makes some pretty accurate comments about them. But even the anarcho-syndicalists who criticised the anarcho-communists' armed wings for bombings and expropriations disconnected to the popular movement, they too had their OWN armed wings. And meanwhile the adherents of 'purposeless' violence, aimed at the enemy class or whoever, especially in Odessa, Bialystok and places. The anarchists' history in Russia is certainly not all pure dreamers.
(it was to dissociate itself from this underground/terrorist side of russian 'wartime' anarchism that the resurrected groups of the 1980s & 1990s proclaimed their pacifism. I would too with the Russian legacy)

But the House of Anarchy rocked! WHAT a location to take over.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Emma Goldman's visits to Dmitrov, & Kropotkin's funeral.

1. The Kropotkin cottage stood back in the garden away from the street. Only a faint ray from a kerosene lamp lit up the path to the house. Kropotkin received us with his characteristic graciousness, evidently glad at our visit. But I was shocked at his altered appearance. The last time I had seen him was in 1907, in Paris, which I visited after the Anarchist Congress in Amsterdam. Kropotkin, barred from France for many years, had just been given the right to return. He was then sixty-five years of age, but still so full of life and energy that he seemed much younger. Now he looked old and worn.

I was eager to get some light from Kropotkin on the problems that were troubling me, particularly on the relation of the Bolsheviki to the Revolution. What was his opinion? Why had he been silent so long?

I took no notes and therefore I can give only the gist of what Kropotkin said. He stated that the Revolution had carried the people to great spiritual heights and had paved the way for profound social changes. If the people had been permitted to apply their released energies, Russia would not be in her present condition of ruin. The Bolsheviki, who had been carried to the top by the revolutionary wave, first caught the popular ear by extreme revolutionary slogans, thereby gaining the confidence of the masses and the support of militant revolutionists.

He continued to narrate that early in the October period the Bolsheviki began to subordinate the interests of the Revolution to the establishment of their dictatorship, which coerced and paralysed every social activity. He stated that the coöperatives were the main medium that could have bridged the interests of the peasants and the workers. The coöperatives were among the first to be crushed. He spoke with much feeling of the oppression, the persecution, the hounding of every shade of opinion, and cited numerous instances of the misery and distress of the people. He emphasized that the Bolsheviki had discredited Socialism and Communism in the eyes of the Russian people.

"Why haven't you raised your voice against these evils, against this machine that is sapping the life blood of the Revolution?" I asked. He gave two reasons. As long as Russia was being attacked by the combined Imperialists, and Russian women and children were dying from the effects of the blockade, he could not join the shrieking chorus of the ex-revolutionists in the cry of "Crucify!" He preferred silence. Secondly, there was no medium of expression in Russia itself. To protest to the Government was useless. Its concern was to maintain itself in power. It could not stop at such "trifles" as human rights or human lives. Then he added: "We have always pointed out the effects of Marxism in action. Why be surprised now?"

I asked Kropotkin whether he was noting down his impressions and observations. Surely he must see the importance of such a record to his comrades and to the workers; in fact, to the whole world. "No," he said; "it is impossible to write when one is in the midst of great human suffering, when every hour brings new tragedies. Then there may be a raid at any moment. The Tcheka comes swooping inside out, and marches off with every scrap of paper. Under such constant stress it is impossible to keep records. But besides these considerations there is my book on Ethics. I can only work a few hours a day, and I must concentrate on that to the exclusion of everything else."

After a tender embrace which Peter never failed to give those he loved, we returned to our car. My heart was heavy, my spirit confused and troubled by what I had heard. I was also distressed by the poor state of health of our comrade: I feared he could not survive till spring. The thought that Peter Kropotkin might go to his grave and that the world might never know what he thought of the Russian Revolution was appalling.

On two occasions were the Kropotkin apartments in Moscow requisitioned and the family forced to seek other quarters. It was after these experiences that the Kropotkins moved to Dmitrov, where old Peter became an involuntary exile. Kropotkin, in whose home in the past had gathered from every land all that was best in thought and ideas, was now forced to lead the life of a recluse. His only visitors were peasants and workers of the village and some members of the intelligentsia, whose wont it was to come to him with their troubles and misfortunes. He had always kept in touch with the world through numerous publications, but in Dmitrov he had no access to these sources. His only channels of information now were the two government papers, Pravda and Izvestia. He was also greatly handicapped in his work on the new Ethics while he lived in the village. He was mentally starved, which to him was greater torture than physical malnutrition. It is true that he was given a better payck than the average person, but even that was insufficient to sustain his waning strength. Fortunately he occasionally received from various sources assistance in the form of provisions. His comrades from abroad, as well as the Anarchists of the Ukraina, often sent him food packages. Once he received some gifts from Makhno, at that time heralded by the Bolsheviki as the terror of counter-revolution in Southern Russia. Especially did the Kropotkins feel the lack of light. When I visited them in 1920 they were considering themselves fortunate to be able to have even one room lit. Most of the time Kropotkin worked by the flicker of a tiny oil lamp that nearly drove him blind. During the short hours of the day he would transcribe his notes on a typewriter, slowly and painfully pounding out every letter.

However, it was not his own discomfort which sapped his strength. It was the thought of the Revolution that had failed, the hardships of Russia, the persecutions, the endless raztrels, which made the last two years of his life a deep tragedy. On two occasions he attempted to bring the rulers of Russia to their senses : once in protest against the suppression of all non-Communist publications ; the other time against the barbaric practice of taking hostages. Ever since the Tcheka had begun its activities, the Bolshevik Government had sanctioned the taking of hostages. Old and young, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, even children, were kept as hostages for the alleged offence of one of their kin, of which they often knew nothing. Kropotkin regarded such methods as inexcusable under any circumstances.

In the fall of 1920, members of the Social Revolutionist Party that had succeeded in getting abroad threatened retaliation if Communist persecution of their comrades continued. The Bolshevik Government announced in its official press that for every Communist victim it would execute ten Social Revolutionists. It was then that the famous revolutionist Vera Figner and Peter Kropotkin sent their protest to the powers that be in Russia. They pointed out that such practices were the worst blot on the Russian Revolution and an evil that had already brought terrible results in its wake : history would never forgive such methods.

The other protest was made in reply to the plan of the Government to "liquidate" all private publishing establishments, including even those of the cooperatives. The protest was addressed to the Presidium of the All-Russian Congress of Soviets, then in session. It is interesting to note that Gorki, himself an official of the Commissariat of Education, had sent a similar protest. In this statement Kropotkin called attention to the danger of such a policy to all progress, in fact, to all thought, and emphasized that such State monopoly would make creative work utterly impossible. But the protests had no effect. Thereafter Kropotkin felt that it was useless to appeal to a government gone mad with power.

During the two days I spent in the Kropotkin household I learned more of his personal life than during all the years that I had known him. Even his closest friends were not aware that Peter Kropotkin was an artist and a musician of much talent. Among h is effects I discovered a collection of drawings of great merit. He loved music passionately and was himself a musician of unusual ability. Much of his leisure he spent at the piano.

And now he lay on his couch, in the little workroom, as if peacefully asleep, his face as kindly in death as it had been in life. Thousands of people made pilgrimages to the Kropotkin cottage to pay homage to this great son of Russia. When his remains were carried to the station to be taken to Moscow, the whole population of the village attended the impressive funeral procession to express their last affectionate greeting to the man who had lived among them as their friend.

Comrades of Kropotkin decided that the Anarchist organizations should have exclusive charge of the funeral, and a Peter Kropotkin Funeral Commission was formed In Moscow, consisting of representatives of the various Anarchist groups. The Committee wired Lenin, asking him to order the release of all Anarchists imprisoned in the capital in order to give them the opportunity to participate in the funeral.

Owing to the nationalization of all public conveyances, printing establishments, etc., the Anarchist Funeral Commission was compelled to ask the Moscow Soviet to enable it to carry out successfully the funeral programme. The Anarchists being deprived of their own press, the Commission had to apply to the authorities for the publication of the matter necessary in connection with the funeral arrangements. After considerable discussion permission was secured to print two leaflets and to issue a four-page bulletin in commemoration of Peter Kropotkin. The Commission requested that the paper be issued without censorship and stated that the reading matter would consist of appreciations of our dead comrade, exclusive of all polemical questions. This request was categorically refused. Having no choice, the Commission was forced to submit and the manuscripts were sent in for censorship. To forestall the possibility of remaining without any memorial issue because of the delaying tactics of the Government, the Funeral Commission resolved to open, on its own responsibility, a certain Anarchist printing office that had been sealed by the Government. The bulletin and the two leaflets were printed in that establishment.

In answer to the wire sent to Lenin the Central Committee of the All-Russian Executive of the Soviets resolved "to propose to the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission (Veh-Tcheka) to release, according to its judgment, the imprisoned Anarchists for participation in the funeral of Peter A. Kropotkin." The delegates sent to the Tcheka were asked whether the Funeral Commission would guarantee the return of the prisoners. They replied that the question had not been discussed. The Tcheka thereupon refused to release the Anarchists. The Funeral Commission, informed of the new development in the situation, immediately guaranteed the return of the prisoners after the funeral. Thereupon the Tcheka replied that "there are no Anarchists in prison who, in the judgment of the Chairman of the Extraordinary Commission, could be released for the funeral."

The remains of the dead lay in state in the Hall of Columns in the Moscow Labour Temple. On the morning of the funeral the Kropotkin Funeral Commission decided to inform the assembled people of the breach of faith on the part of the authorities and demonstratively to withdraw from the Temple all the wreaths presented by official Communist bodies. Fearing public exposure, the representatives of the Moscow Soviet definitely promised that all the Anarchists imprisoned in Moscow would immediately be released to attend the funeral. But this promise was also broken, only seven of the Anarchists being released from the "inner Jail" of the Extraordinary Commission. None of the Anarchists imprisoned in the Butyrki attended the funeral. The official explanation was that the twenty Anarchists incarcerated in that prison refused to accept the offer of the authorities. Later I visited the prisoners to ascertain the facts in the case. They informed me that a representative of the Extraordinary Commission insisted on individual attendance, making exceptions in some cases. The Anarchists, aware that the promise of temporary release was collective, demanded that the stipulations be kept. The Tcheka representative went to the telephone to consult the higher authorities, so he said. He did not return.

The funeral was a most impressive sight. It was a unique demonstration never witnessed in any other country. Long lines of members of Anarchist organizations, labour unions, scientific and literary societies and student bodies marched for over two hour s from the Labour Temple to the burial place, seven versts [nearly five miles] distant. The procession was headed by students and children carrying wreaths presented by various organizations. Anarchist banners of black and scarlet Socialist emblems floated above the multitude. The mile-long procession entirely dispensed with the services of the official guardians of the peace. Perfect order was kept by the multitude itself spontaneously forming in several rows, while students and workers organized a live chain on both sides of the marchers. Passing the Tolstoy Museum the cortege paused, and the banners were lowered in honour of the memory of another great son of Russia. A group of Tolstoyans on the steps of the Museum rendered Chopin's Funeral March as an expression of their love and reverence for Kropotkin.

The brilliant winter sun was sinking behind the horizon when the remains of Kropotkin were lowered into the grave, after speakers of many political tendencies had paid the last tribute to their great teacher and comrade.

Kropotkin's retirement.

Today I got the local train to Dmitrov, where Kropotkin spent his last years back in post-revolution Russia. Due to his prestige, he wasn't arrested or killed or even interfered with when the other anarchists were being rounded up in 1918. So he wrote his book on ethics, criticised the dictatorial methods of the Bolsheviks, but urged workers around the world to support the Russian people as best they can. Because "all armed intervention necessarily strengthens the dictatorial tendencies of the government".
In May 1919 he met Lenin to discuss their differences, and kept it up in letters: from 1920 "Russia has become a Revolutionary Republic only in name ... it is ruled not by soviets but by party committees". And Lenin ran the party committees, so he wasn't about to give up his control for the sake of a revolution....

I got lost trying to find the wooden house Kropotkin lived in at this time, but did find the usual anarchy sign.

And finally!

Apparently there used to be a cat sitting next to Kropotkin on the bench. At some point it disappeared (which is good, because it means a passing stream of locals can now sit next to him and, beaming, get their photos taken). But I think I found the cat.

Dmitrov is full of odd statues. Here are some bears about to eat Kropotkin.

I left a note.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Kropotkin's missing grave and unknown woods

I tried to find where Kropotkin was buried, walked along the route of the funeral procession, arrived at the Novodevichy cemetery where my book and wikipedia agree he was buried.

Apparently Emma Goldman spoke at the graveside, so there must have been a grave.

And flowers were left at the tomb, so there must have been a tomb.

But saying 'Kropotkin' to the attendants and scanning the list of graves did not reveal anything. It may be in part due to the speech implediment I have in Russia but not really at home. I cannot quite say my 'R's and certainly can't role them. In English it's enough to suggest one but in Russia they get confused. Also the books may be wrong, who knows?

Here are some pictures of the funeral, and note what it IS that Emma Goldman says at the grave.

Just after the Kropotkin metro stop, I accidentally came across something that got me quite emotional first thing in the morning. A genuine memorial to dead anarchists, but from this decade, not that. See the previous post.

I also tried and may or may not have succeeded in finding some of the woods where anarchists and SRs argued back in the day (before both groups were rounded up and killed).

I have a circled A for each city but Kazan that I've been through.

But only this city so far has a city centre Metro station named for Kropotkin.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Moscow, after Siberia.

Early morning in Moscow (Kazanskaya station), the light just beginning to appear in the sky.
I will try to write about terrorism and uprisings today, but my mind is on love. Sometimes pursuing a thought-out project goes against what your heart's fixed on that day.

In 20 minutes I will head for the Kropotkin metro stop, and follow the route of his funeral in 1921, when thousands held up the flags of anarchism for one last time. I doubt I'll successfully find his grave/tomb/plaque, but I will then go up onto Sparrow Hills (much talked about in Tolstoy), where anarchists would argue with social revolutionaries (SRs) about parliamentarism and organisation. Before both the anarchists and the SRS were liquidated, that is.

The trigger for their extermination was the bombing of communist party headquarters on Leontiev street, so that is another location to try and find. Also various prisons (Taganka, Butyrki) and a couple more monasteries would be great too (Donskoi, occupied by armed anarchists from 1917; and the Nihilist-linked Monastery of the Trinity and St Sergius, a trip out of town).

But I'm realistic, and I don't promise to reach everywhere. The biggest prize would be the family homes of Bakunin and Kropotkin, and Kropotkin's last home too, but they're all outside Moscow so I'll see how I go with my transport options.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Fanzine pages - plan.

Although it might not appear it from the random tales and photos I've been sticking up here, the main aim of this blog is to help me make a fanzine about the travels taken by Bakunin and Kropotkin. In this post I'm just going to list what I imagine the pages might be - most of these are not yet written/drawn as such, but I do have the information available for them, and usually I have a location drawn. The order and so on still needs to be worked on, and some will most certainly be dropped.


St Petersburg (arrival)
Peter Paul fortress 1 = Bakunin's internment/intro to his midlife imprisonment
Peter Paul fortress 2 = Nechaev & Nihilists' correspondence/continuity
Nevsky Prospekt
Semyonov Square = Decembrists
Winter Palace 1 = Nihilist bomb attempts on the Tsar
Winter Palace 2 = 1905 Bloody Sunday and other convergences on it
Lady of Kazan Square & Remand Prison link to Semyonov Square = Nihilist hunger strike
Kamenny Bridge/Catherine Quay = assassination of Tsar

Nihilist anecdotes

Yekaterinburg (Urals/Crossing W.Siberia)
Western Siberia map 1 revolts/anarchist manifestations
Western Siberia map 2 recent anarchist groups and statements
Volkonsky crossing Siberia paired with my crossing Siberia
Gulag map annotated with anarchist uprisings/statements

Lake Baikal
Polish Revolt = Kropotkin's account
Siberian anarchist fighters in 1920s

Mongolia/border crossings
Kropotkin crossing the border/travails

Kropotkin's first job
Bakunin's escape by ship
Amur and the Far East = things not explored

Explorer = Kropotkin's volcano
Polish church = Polish revolt
Icebreaker = Newcastle link

Bakunin's home = as a young man
Kropotkin's home = as a young man
1918 The 'House of Anarchy'
Anarchist newspapers & repression by Trotsky
1980s+ anarchist groups reappearing

St Petersburg (departure)
Vyborg/Finlandia Station = anarchist district/Kropotkin's return
Shlisselburg Fortress = Bakunin imprisonment plus anarchists taking the explosives from it
Kronstadt = 1917 and the Kronstadt Uprising (2 pages)
Kropotkin funeral
Quayside & Bookshop location = Lenin's expulsion of intelligentsia on 'the philosophy steamer'

Also: Railway double spread (revolutionary history/conditions/civil war)
Also: mindmap links between St.Petersburg/Siberia/Paris/New York etc... eg. with Voline, Mikhailov, Schapiro, Karelin.
Also: account of returns from Siberia, of Decembrist children?

Ilya Borodenko

I've just been looking around the web and have re-realised how close to here the following lethal attempt was, in 2007. An anti-nuclear camp was attacked by armed fascists while people slept. Ilya Borodenko died from his injuries.

Irkutsk anti-fascist demo last year.

7 anarchists imprisoned in Belarus this month.

And from 2008, from Madrid:


Olga Rukosyla was assassinated last October 8th in Irkutsk (Siberia). Two days after Feodor Filatov was killed in Moscow, and thus up to 71 fascist murders have happened along this year in Russia.

Other 268 people were seriously wounded in these brutal attacks, but the Russian authorities do not have any intention to stop these killers and to make them pay their crimes.

Olga was a child. She was 16 years old. Two weeks ago she lost her life because 3 neo-nazis decided to brutally beat her, to what she couldn't be recovered. Feodor was 27 and was stubbed with a knife the 10th of October by 4 neo-nazis who were waiting outside the door of his house to kill him by 7:30 in the morning.

Next November 11th it will be a year from the murder of Carlos Javier Palomino by a neo-nazi soldier. Us, his friends and comrades remember him and support the Russian comrades and their families.

We know they will be going through tough moments, but we want to show them our support and our force so the fight against racism and fascism doesn't decay.


Audio for Siberian punk is available here.

Returning a tent and a rollmat.

Travelling through Autumn.

I didn't realise how early Autumn would appear here. It's going to be fantastic travelling back because now instead of just green against green, there will be reds and golds and all that diversity of autumn.
The larches were already yellow and dropping their needles in Mongolia, but crossing the border and getting to Chita really brought it home. These birch are from just above Chita, where I did some cross-country hiking to escape the city.

There's a chill in the air now in Irkutsk and I won't be going out again in just a T-shirt, perhaps for another 6 months or so ...

Autumn is also the season of good gigs and what I most look forward to in Newcastle. However, I am still dithering over whether or not to delay my ticket a few days in order to see a punk gig here.

Autumn is also mushroom season back home. To honour this, I bought some actually pretty fantastic mushroom-shaped biscuits on the chita-irkutsk train. I don't think I'll be home in time to do the annual mushroom hunts with Gordon Beakes, but I certainly look forward to an autonomous one.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Irkutsk Punk Rock

I was met off the train by Zach from the Baikal camp, which was lovely.
I was wearing my anarchy t-shirt, which I bought from a kiosk at chita station for two pound fifty. It meant I could not stink for a leg of the journey and also adds a cartoon realism to my travels.

We got on a tram up the hill, and a lad in front of me had drawn the anarchy circled A on his knapsack. He'd also written 'pank's not dead' on it. So missing our stop by 2, I made Zach ask him in russian if there was any punk rock gigs in Irkutsk. He had an interesting face, looked american indian or perhaps japanese, so i wondered if he was from one of the older native tribes near-wiped-out by the cossacks and vodka.

He took us to a downstairs basement bar to ask his mate behind the counter. This lad then phoned around, asking for underground and punk rock gigs. Apparently there's something on the 24th, but my ticket out of here is for the 22nd. I'm tempted to delay it, if this gig indeed does exist.

Anyway, thanks random people, and respect for wearing the circled A in country where that's enough to get you knifed. The chinese market here has seen a spate of arson recently - the latest perceived 'invaders' to target for intimidation. The telly's not sure if it's a mafia/protection racket thing or a clear-cut racist thing, but the gangs doing it are organised enough to have lookouts to send anyone with a camera packing when it happens.

And I'm proud to be a 34 year old wearing the kind of t-shirt i would have thought naff already at 14.


Ulan Ude one last time

From a Buddhist medical chart thingy, which I had to photograph covertly. Fantastic cartoons all over the old Mongolian-Buddhist world.

Lindon the archaeologist and Anna the artist, reading my cartoons. I would never have got round Ulan Ude's museum without them - you had to get the lights turned on in each room you wanted to go.

From Ulan Ude to Chita.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Chita Nothing

I'm in Chita now, back on the route of Kropotkin and Bakunin - although it's the Ingolda not the Amur river here which I somehow got confused. Now that I've come this far, I'm realising where all the big gaps are that I'm not going to fill.

If I ever come back this way, I will need to go to that Volcano in July (found a probable reference to it in Kropotkin's writing), and go further down the Amur, to Blagoveschensk and Khabarovsk etc..

But right here, now, is the furthest east and the furthest away from home I will be going. As of midnight, local time, I'll be starting my gradual return home. Plans are still to be fixed, abandoned travel companions to be looked out for, and the possibility of a shamanic island stop is still there. But I have a fixed date to be back in Copenhagen now, so I will have to decide what to skip and where to spend my few free days.

Irkutsk is the next stop (21st Sept), and the obvious main places to visit still are Bakunin and Kropotkins' homes in Moscow; and Kronstadt & Shlisselburg outside St Petersburg. One thing pretty definitely OFF the cards already is the slower, more expensive land route north out of Helsinki and round to Stockholm. The ferry straight across saves too much to be ignored. I could always say I did it and who would check up on me!

Here I am reading Dostoyevsky, looking for Decembrists' street, walking up the hill to leave offerings at the ovoos, and generally being a bit crap. Here are pictures from my walking tour of the centre:

Locations of the pics.

Post Office.

Oh those happy memories of stalingrad.

A feminist carwash.

And my comedy purchase at the station.

Friday, 17 September 2010

The border guards got her.

I've arrived safe and sound back in Russia and Ulan Ude, where I am now cleaning myself and waiting for the new day to dawn in England so I can pay for a train to Chita and the Amur river.

However, my companion did not make it over the border. She was forced to pack up her things, carry them off the train, and sit in a room with a guard while I was left outside on the platform feeling guilty and pretty useless.

For the rest of the journey I had no time for a chatty archaeologist who was probably really interesting, but wasn't someone I've spent the last month with, and so I just sat reading.

As a cartoonist vampire I did of course draw/write the story of Birke being thrown off the train (I will add it to this post when next I'm in an internet cafe), but when I started doing it I didn't realise it would end with her actually being sent back into Mongolia. I assumed that patience, flexibilty and money would get us through. But no, so just best wishes to you Birke and we will see who is first back in Irkutsk. Although I would love to meet you off the train with your tent and sleeping bag, I hope you beat me in the race, because it means your escape from Mongolia will be swifter.

Travis above the Pacific, John crossing northern China, Freya with the horses, and everyone else from the camp who is now dispersed and off, lots of love, and I will still see some of you before western europe gets me back...