Letter from Yoshkar-Ola (Republic of Mari El, Russia) – for The Calvert Journal

At 7am the streets of Yoshkar-Ola were dark and empty. As I shuffled over dirty snow and treacherous black ice, the only sound was the bickering of ravens overhead. The shops on ulitsa Kremlyovskaya – Apteka No. 67; Evroset; Moda 21 vek – told me that I had arrived in provincial Russia. Except that ul. Kremlyovskaya is also Kreml urem: street signs and building plaques are written in Russian and Meadow Mari, the most widely spoken of the four Mari dialects.

I made a beeline for the peculiar buildings in the distance. … More Letter from Yoshkar-Ola (Republic of Mari El, Russia) – for The Calvert Journal

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Escape from Moscow: A night with the Russian militsiya

“The adrenaline fizzing in my blood dulls my judgement. I am not as scared of the man in the ugly green uniform as I should be. But I don’t bother him: it’s pointless to look for thieves after dark in a labyrinth of creepy housing blocks like Kryukovo. … More Escape from Moscow: A night with the Russian militsiya

A travel guide to Kazan (Tatarstan, Russia) for The Calvert Journal

Created by Tatars, evolved by khans, tsars and Russians, and invigorated by cosmopolitan leaders over the last ten years to attract visitors from near and far; it would be passé to describe the centre of Tatarstan as a “melting pot”, were that not the meaning of Qazan, the word the Tatars chose for their town. Distant and accessible, Russian and Muslim, with spotless avenues and open spaces to complement its cultural credentials, Kazan is a treat to explore. … More A travel guide to Kazan (Tatarstan, Russia) for The Calvert Journal

FROM RUSSIA WITH STUMPS

I had a month to teach three Russians, a Ukrainian, a Bulgarian, a Slovenian and a Vietnamese – four lads and three ladies, none of whom had ever played before – how to bat, bowl and field. Finding time to practice together was difficult (I am surely the first captain to cancel a net because my best bowler was in Magnitogorsk), but three lunchtimes a week I took a Kwik Cricket set to London’s Regent’s Park, and made everyone try each of the skills. My teammates’ enthusiasm never wilted: anglophiles all, they threw themselves into the challenge of a complicated English game. … More FROM RUSSIA WITH STUMPS