I got a taste of Russian hooliganism last night at my first professional Russian hockey game. Спартак (Spartak) played host to ЦСКА (the Red Army Team) in a match of cross-town rivals. These are two of the Moscow hockey triumvirate, the third being the esteemed (and so far in the season better) Динамо squad (Dynamo). After two lead changes, a penalty shot goal (see image below), and some really intense cheering, the game ended in 3-2 victory for the home team--my new favorite team (I bought a hat!)
While the КХЛ (Continental Hockey League of Russia and various former Soviet Republics) is the second-best in the world, there are obvious differences between the level of play here and that of the NHL. Surprisingly, it seems as though penalties are much more wont to be given over here, and therefore there is little checking. The extent of the physicality on the ice comes in the form of light shoves and swatting at each other's sticks. The real physicality, however, can be found in the bleachers.
I attended the game with my suitemate from Middlebury and fellow Fulbrighter, Thaddeus--an avid hockey player and fan from Wisconsin--and his friend Jenny (who studied with him at Midd's Russian School this past summer) and Jenny's friend Lily (studying abroad in Moscow from Tufts). We got what we thought were going to be GREAT seats--front row, rink-side just to the right of one of the goals. The presence of the opponents' bench and the low height of the glass, however, provided a little bit of an obstruction...no wonder the seats were left when we bought our tickets. We also happened to be one seating-section over from the 'Spartak fan' section---a riotous group with non-stop cheers, ranging from the benign "RED, WHITE!" (Spartak's colors) to more pointed chants involving insults to ЦСКА's pride (and perhaps mothers, too). We were even graced with a splendid rendition of "WE WILL, WE WILL, F*** YOU!" sung in poor English accents to the tune of Queen while flipping the bird to the opposite side of the rink where the ЦСКА fans were positioned. I was all for doing The Wave, but I don't think it would have gotten very far.
Here are a couple more shots from the game.
Even the young ones get into it.
On a completely unrelated note, I neglected to write of an earlier excursion I took to the small village of Aleksandrovskaya located about 2 hours outside of Moscow. Here is situated Aleksandrovskaya Sloboda--a small walled-in complex, that, as far as I can understand, was the capital of Ivan the Terrible's oprichnaya--his private security forces. In Russian history, the oprichnaya are feared and infamous for wearing black robes from head to toe, traveling by black horses, and sporting the symbols of a broom and a dog--one for 'cleaning' and one for 'aggression' (thanks to Prof. Corney for his unforgettable lectures). Inside the walls stand several whitewashed churches, tall spires, a nunnery that is still in use, and even a building featuring the rooms where Ivan the Terrible would sleep, eat, and torture his subjects during his stays in the Sloboda. Although I had a really hard time understanding our guide, I was nonetheless impressed by the village. It provided a great small-scale example of an old Russian medieval village--something I am sure to see much more of as I make my way around the Golden Ring in the near future.
Here are some photos from that trip:
I should note that this trip to Aleksandrovskaya Sloboda also brought good fortune. It was the first day I had seen the sun in three weeks.
And finally, I'm sure some of you may be wondering how I spent my Thanksgiving in Moscow? Well, the answer is simple: in style. I received an invitation to attend a feast at the Ambassador's House with other Americans who are currently here on study-programs, and some Russians who either studied abroad in the US or who are employed by the Fulbright office in Moscow. I think it goes without saying: the house is gorgeous. The food was spectacular. The company was lovely. The ambassador is a great guy. But I still missed home. Again, some photos:
P.S. At last, I got around to uploading almost all of the photos I have taken so far during my stay in Russia to my Picassa site. The URL is http://picasaweb.google.com/bryan.terrill
Here you can see more from all of these events I described.