MOSCOW: ‘’When you live on the streets, when you have a tent and there is no chance of bathing, people don’t understand you and its tough to get a job,’’ said Kolya, 22. He was sitting near a popular pedestrian street in Moscow trying to collect money for a sleeping bag, he said. Born in a village in western Russia, Kolya said his mom put him into an orphanage when he was eight. At the time, the collective farm was falling apart and his mother had a third child. He said things are still difficult for his family. His mother, step-father and two brothers live in a room and his mom earns about $100 a month. ‘’So as not to be a burden," he said he left for Moscow a few months ago to look for work. He sleeps at night in the forests near the railroad tracks in the Moscow suburbs. I asked him what his plans were. ‘’If I raise money for a sleeping bag, I will hitchhike to Crimea. There is a lot of infrastructure to build in Crimea and an extra hand doesn’t hurt. Plus, it is a lot warmer there."
MOSCOW: These days I see a lot more girls and women dressed in black from head to two. Dasha, left, wants to be a musician and her friend Valeria an architect. They are 15.
ARKHANGELSK: ''My twin sister and I are planning right now to move to Moscow because of the job market here. People of my age are leaving, but they are choosing St Petersburg, not Moscow," said Daria, 25, who works in real estate. "There isn't much work and the salaries are disappointing. I was working as an engineer, but left because I was earning a very small salary. I now earn three times more." According to local people, the median salary is around 15,000-20,000 rubles ($250-$300 based on the current ruble-dollar rate).
BISHKEK: There two friends from Osh were returning to university in Bishkek. They were carrying a heavy bag toward their housing block. I found their shirts ironic. One is studying law, the other architecture.
MOSCOW: "I am learning to create websites and applications...simply for myself," said Anna, 19, when I asked what she was doing. Anna was sitting in a Moscow park focused on her computer screen while people all around were having fun. A student of business information, Anna was using Fat Free Framework to build sites.
MOSCOW: ''I came here to make money and build my future without any help from my parents,'' said Shakh, 22, who was born in Kazan and raised in Samarkand. He moved to Moscow 4 years ago. ''I always dreamed of achieving things on my own and the time has come to do that.'' Shakh, who lives with his 2o year-old brother, has worked at various jobs over the four years, including Burger King. He currently works as a barman, but dreams of being a rapper. ''It is impossible [to become a rapper] - I don't have any sponsors or such acquaintances,'' said Shakh, who likes 50-cent and Russian rapper Timati.
MOSCOW: Mikhail, 24 and Natasha, 21, were relaxing in a Moscow park on a late weekday afternoon. Mikhail, a thrash metal guitarist, said he moved a year ago to Moscow from Omsk and found work as an electrical mechanic. Natasha, a designer by education, just moved from Omsk to join Mikhail in Moscow after finishing her university degree. The couple said they prefer Moscow to Omsk in part because there are greater job opportunities and more cultural events. The difficulties of living in Moscow are finding an affordable apartment and getting registration - a key to getting good employment - they said.
MOSCOW: Ismail, 26, said he grew up in a village in Uzbekistan, but has been working in Russia for nearly five years. He worked 1.5 years in Khabarovsk in the Far East and the last 3 years in Moscow, where he first looked after courtyards. Now he is looking after a large Moscow park along with other migrants from Central Asia. A husband and father, Ismail said he is saving to build a house in his native village.
MOSCOW: The number of people skateboarding in Moscow really seems to have surged. Some say its just a temporary 'fashion.' Part of the growth is driven by the expanding pedestrian zones and skateparks around the city that make it easier for people to take up the sport. Usually, you just see people skating at parks and other designated spots, but I recently saw three skating from one end of a metro platform to the other. This is a photo of Muscovite Katya, 14. She was in the metro with her longboard. Unlike many skateboarders I have met recently, Katya said has been skateboarding for several years.
MOSCOW: Stas, 69, was slowly riding his bike along the Moscow River at sunset. Born in Baku and living 35 years in Moscow, Stas said he exercises along the river twice a day: in the morning and evening. Stas, who has four grandchildren, said it was impossible to bike here 10 years ago. Bottles, cigarettes and condoms were tossed here. Not only has the riverside become nicer, but people are exercising and smiling more, there are more children and men are smoking less, said the retired Muscovite. Girls seem to be smoking more. More people are leading a healthy lifestyle today because 10 years ago, sporting goods "were expensive and you couldn't find them in stores." Plus people realize they need to exercise now to live well in retirement.