By Reid Nagurka
This summer I participated in William and Mary’s study abroad program in Russia. The College organized language class with Russian faculty, a history course taught by a William and Mary professor and multiple cultural and historical excursions per week. We spent five weeks in St. Petersburg and one week in Moscow and it was an absolutely fabulous and transformative experience. To the chagrin of many of my fellow classmates, I found Moscow to be a much more dynamic, diverse, and interesting city than St. Petersburg. The professors we worked with at Moscow State University were more adamant in sharing their favorite aspects of Moscow, so we were able to better experience the city through Russian eyes. One such example is when our professors took us to see Lenin’s Mausoleum, after reading about and discussing its history in class. While it was certainly nice to have locals help us navigate such a sprawling city in only a week, exploring Moscow on our own was equally as valuable.
On the recommendation of our William and Mary and Moscow professors, I visited Park Muzeon, or the Park of Fallen Monuments, on a gloomy Saturday morning. I first walked through the beautiful Gorky Park and then passed through an arts fair along the Moscow River. When I arrived, it truly looked as if I had gone back in time. Sprawled across the grass lawn were busts of Vladimir Lenin, Josef Stalin, Leonid Brezhnev, founder of the Soviet secret police Felix Dzerzhinskii, and countless hammers and sickles and other Soviet iconography. It was quite strange to be standing in a family-friendly park among so many formerly venerated individuals, whose images have been strewn about in an attempt to discard and discredit them. These statues were prominently displayed across the country just a few decades ago and are now abandoned in an attempt to separate modern Russia from its Soviet past. Much like the rest of Moscow, the park encapsulates a long, fascinating and ever-changing history, which I am so grateful to have experienced through such an amazing program.