I ALMOST LIKE EVERYTHING / Glavstroy stories

Interview: Masha Komarova

Photo: Sasha Mademoiselle


Controversial film critic Zinaida Pronchenko, who every day writes a post about how she doesn’t like Moscow restaurants and performances, admits that deep inside she loves the city and makes an imaginary stroll from Chistye Prudy to Gorynich restaurant through Mayakovskaya. Along the way, she describes everything that comes into her head: from insights about the soul of the capital to remarks about mortgage loans and countless references to cinema and literature.

Actually, I like it in Moscow. Of course, I criticize it from day to day and at night too, and I have been doing it for 15 years now, but there is no city in Russia better than Moscow. Forgive me, my fellow soldiers from Saint Petersburg. I moved to the capital in 2005 - to study to become a director. At least a director of my own life. I won’t say my life could win a Golden Palm, but Moscow would. It hasn’t become better. It’s a lie. It just flows and changes every day, opposed to other world’s capitals. I like Paris and Rome, but Paris is a dead metropolis, and Rome is living a postmortem life.

In Moscow, I lived almost everywhere within the third transport ring and once even on Profsoyuznaya. For the last few years, my place of residence is Chistye Prudy. It’s quite a dicey neighborhood, and the lakes themselves are dirty puddles. Windows of my rented apartment overlook the boulevard. Every morning I say hello to the faded Sovremennik Theatre, every evening I say goodbye to unfortunately still existing office of the Federal Migration Service, which has finally replaced the Rolan Bykov’s Fund and Cinema. In the afternoon I usually drink my first cappuccino at the Black Milk - one of the best and, importantly, democratic coffeeshops. I drink, smoke and watch the snow covering the city that is not native to the procurator. And I, again, almost like everything.

In Moscow, everything is big and wide. Moscow is spacious, there is enough tile pavement for everyone. And for the newcomers, like me, and for the native nobles, like the Dziazdko family. I consider Triumphalnaya Square to be the entrance to Moscow. There, from the back of the monument to Mayakovsky frozen in his wide trousers, is an impressive panorama of the funnel, which has sucked so many Russian hearts, then mixed and crushed them to the point of physical annihilation. In New York, the yellow river runs on the main streets, in Moscow, it has all the colors of the rainbow, although the rainbow flag, for some reason, is still prohibited. Somewhere at one level with the disobedient head of Vladimir Vladimirovich (the poet, not the president), the spires of the Soviet ziggurats, lined up in the Garden Ring, flicker. The Peking Hotel, the high-rise building on Barricadnaya that sheltered Alentova in Menshov's blockbuster, the Foreign Ministry and further around the circle up to the Krasnye Gate. Into this cargo - universe the boorish urbanism of the Luzhkov period sometimes interposes. Music by E. Baturina, wrong words. In general, the initiation into the Moscow way of life, surrealism, paradise, hell, should happen near the person who chanted the praises of Moscow more convincingly than others, and not the monument.

Also, in Moscow I like to walk from the Pokrovsky Gate to the Nikitsky Gate. It is impossible to wander in Moscow because of its fragility and innate misanthropy. Moscow is not for people, but for opinions: if you can't win in Russia, go to Moscow and lead the post-meta space that stretches from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok and is stuck between Andropov and Chernenko. But this route is full of humanism: the small business offers coziness and comfort, everything that is not gentrified is erased from the seven hills, the remnants are sweet; on the way, you can see numerous flower beds - the pride of Sobyanin, and the endless sculpture - our despair, and the Gorynich restaurant - the mecca of the middle class, and monasteries, and the FSB, and markets, and Orthodoxy, and autocracy, and mongrelism.

I did not want to buy real estate, to get my own corner in Moscow for a long time. Prices in Moscow are high, the “corners” are cramped and unattractive. It’s a pleasure to return to Moscow, but it's even more fun to leave it. This is what I'd been doing for decades, turning my rented apartment into a shipping point, a stockroom of unnecessary things and lost illusions. But during the 2020 quarantine, I had to change my priorities. The world has collapsed, but Moscow is standing. Therefore, last fall I deliberately sold myself into slavery, into mortgage bondage, and now I can legally call myself a Muscovite. Although it's still a bit nerve-wracking. It hurts too much. It is too scary to live in Moscow today, to love it with all my heart and at the same time to understand that plans for our shared future and the future, in general, are most likely self-deception and utopia.