The beginning of March is a time of hope in the country. Source: Lori/Legion Media
As I write this, one of my colleagues is back in the office after being subdued by a late-winter flu and another is now on sick leave for the very same reason. Moscow, which occasionally gets spared from the severe winter that the distant Russian regions live with every single year, immensely hates a prolonged winter.
With the snow piling on into March, Muscovites wonder when this long winter will end. A doctor friend of mine who is busy treating flu patients insists that the latest outbreak of influenza, which seems to spare very few people in the Russian capital, is more a result of people’s general depression about the weather than anything else. This is precisely that point of the year when the rest of Europe starts to warm up, but Russia usually stays cold for another few weeks, although the worst part of the season is over. The days are slowly getting longer in Moscow and mornings start feeling like mornings with the sunrise (when the sun shows up) moving closer to 8 am.
The beginning of March is a time of hope in the country. Despite the surroudings and weathermen suggesting otherwise, warmer days are just around the corner. The first few days of this month are special for quite a few reasons, including the upcoming International Women’s Day festivities. The day when praises and gifts are generously showered upon women is probably Russia’s biggest celebration after the New Year festivities. Once the excitement over Women’s Day passes, it’s sometimes a case of depression as normal as the cold spells continue.
For my friends in Moscow who complain about the weather, I call for some sort of introspection. I am someone who lived in the Far East of the country and bore those “real Russian winters.” Those were winters that lasted from the last week of October all the way until the end of April, with a painful return to single digit weather and cold rain in June. I was even once a witness to snow in June, a so-called summer month! Spring on Sakhalin Island is a small sideshow that turns up sometime in May before a quick transition to summer. While Muscovites can wear sweaters and relatively light clothing from the end of March, many parts of Russia continue to battle snowfall for a month or longer.
For those who can’t even take another few weeks of the cold, Moscow is just a short flight away to many warmer destinations in southern Russia, North Africa and of course Turkey and Goa. Many airlines still offer discounted fares as it’s not the tourist season. What happens to those who are more than 6 hours away by flight from central Russia and Moscow in particular? Or worse as in the case of Sakhalin or Vladivostok, from where the capital is a 9-hour flight away?
Before those in central Russia know it, it will be time for the annual Saturday cleaning (subbotnik) when all the beer cans, vodka bottles, candy wrappers and random articles of junk that get buried under mounds of beautiful winter snow “turn up” and need to be cleared en masse. Then comes the green grass and non-slippery pavements. The skis can be put away and the bicycles and sports shoes taken out and put to good use.
So, lighten up Moscow! Symbolically burn the straw-stuffed effigy of winter and welcome the spring by preparing a plate of blini (pancakes). Better weather is on the way and it will be summer soon.
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