Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Spy who came in from the cold.

The Russian (or Soviet) winter is a common explanation for military failures of invaders in Russia. According to an American military study, the main body of Napoleon's Grand Army, initially at least 378,000 strong, lost 50% of its men to the harsh winter. Arctic Russia is cold, harsh, strange and vast—it stretches nearly halfway round the world, from Finland to Alaska.

The Russian winter tends to be romanticized, due to Dr.Zhivago a novel by Boris Pasternak, which depicts Mysticism and Ideologies being destroyed by communism. In the shadow of all this grand political change we see that everything is governed by the basic human longing for companionship. Dr. Zhivago and Pasha, madly in love with the same woman, both traverse Russia in those volatile times in search of such stability, high up into the Ural Mountains in search of a steady life.

Though winter landscapes looks evocative on a Christmas postcard its astringent beauty is a letdown when you actually visit the place. During the winter months, it’s perpetual dusk and by 4 o’clock it’s pitch black, with temperatures of minus 25 to minus 40, which left little time to enjoy the stark beauty as it was difficult to expose oneself for long.
The snowy fields around Monchegorsk, Murmansk region disguise the fact that it is one of the most polluted towns in Russia, a church was built just a year ago and is surrounded by dachas (traditional Russian country homes), a retreat for the rich and poor alike. Since the demise of communism, the church has enjoyed a revival of sorts. Simon Roberts, a British photographer who braved the blizzards to take some beautiful and breathtaking snaps of the landscape, had frostbite when he took the pictures during the coldest winter.
Though the cold war ended years ago the mystery and intrigue of the spy wars continue in earnest. Taking a leaf from Ian Fleming’s “From Russia with love” the Russian spy ring is active in the USA. Anna Chapman was the honey trap bait used to lure the high powered lawyer John Altorelli. Not having the legendary skills or training of 007 aka James Bond, John introduced her as the woman in his life and boasted that she was the most adventurous woman in bed, shortly before she was arrested. Sometimes life is stranger than fiction.

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