Both Vitali and Alexei are from Novosibirsk, the so-called capital of Siberia. Both attend Moscow State University, where I ran into them. Both are studying oil and gas engineering....and both are wearing NYC-themed shirts. Alexei, on the right, said he bought the shirt in Thailand, which is one of the top five foreign destinations for Russian tourists, attracting more than 1mln a year. It takes roughly the same time to fly to Thailand from Novosibirsk as it does to Italy (7hrs).
Zhenya, a loan officer for Russia's largest bank Sberbank, was walking in the southern city Stavropol this summer in his Brooklyn shirt. It reminded me of t-shirts made by Brooklyn Industries. I just happened to meet Zhenya on a street that had a huge advertisement by the clothing store New Yorker. With Russia's economic growth coming in much lower than expected, Zhenya just may be busier these days trying to recover loans rather than dispense new ones.
I was exploring the back streets of Sochi one night this summer when I ran into Kristina and her dog Torik. Kristina, who was wearing a NYC shirt, moved with her family from Omsk, an oil town in Siberia, to the Black Sea town of Sochi because of the better climate. Kristina said she is into music, including rap, and was proud to have recently met one of her favorite DJs. Kristina said she wants to be a DJ in New York or Miami.
Yana waa strolling near the boardwalk in Sochi near sunset time on day in August. She said she grew up in the Caspian Sea town of Aktau in Kazakhstan, and comes to Sochi every year as her grandmother lives there. Of the nearly 20 Russians I photographed in Sochi, three were raised in Central Asia. Yana said she will be attending university in Prague to study international business.
When people in Russia bring up Harlem in conversation with me, it is almost always in the context of "a very dangerous place," as if they are picturing a scene from the 1970s film "The Warriors." So, I found it curious when Anna walked by me in Sochi wearing a shirt with Harlem written across it. I didn't get a chance to speak in detail with her and her boyfriend - they were tired from a near 7 hour car trip they made to Sochi for the weekend. Anna said she came from Krimsk, a town that was terribly damaged by flooding a few years ago, a tragic event that dominated headlines for several days.
Moscow has a reputation of being a cold city both literally and figuratively. I have heard people say on a few occasions something along the lines: 'Moscow is a place for earning money, not living.' But you will see many 'warm' moments that will convince you otherwise if you stroll through the city's parks on nearly any given day. This photo of a young guy in a Brooklyn shirt and his girlfriend was taken at the Moscow 'Color Festival' this summer ... though it may actually be a bit above a 'warm' moment on the temperture scale.
As we exited the metro, I asked Roman if I could take his photo with the Bronx hat and he agreed. On the escalator ride up to the street, I asked him what kind of work he was involved in. He leaned toward my ear and whispered "I'm an artist."
Roma, who lives in Moscow region, was wearing his Brooklyn Bridge shirt as he visited the Olympic Ski Resort Roza Khutor in Sochi with his family. His dad said Roma may want to serve in the armed forced when he is older, adding it has become "prestigious" again to do so. His father's words reminded me of an interview I had more than a decade ago with a former Russian officer, who said he left to work in business exactly because it was no longer "prestigious" to serve and moral low. Indeed, since that interview in early 2000s, salaries for the Russian armed forces have risen significantly and equipment/living conditions updated.
I learned something new about Russian sports from my chance encounter with Mikhail, whom I saw standing next to Lenin's Tomb on Red Square in his New York hat and USA-flag shirt with Mickey Mouse. Mikhail, who lives about 200km from Moscow, was in town to visit his sister. He said he is a member of a stuntbike team, which is soccer (football) on motorbikes with the exception that the ball is much bigger. He said Russia as several stuntbike teams around the country. As for his t-shirt... It jokingly calls Mickey Mouse "America's version of Cheburashka," a Russia's cartoon character. Cheburashka was created in mid 1960s, whereas Mickey Mouse was created in 1920s.