"Russia isn't a communist country and never has been," the gray-haired Russian man in the brown fur hat told us. "The Soviet Union, and now Russia, have been building communism for 74 years. We've so far only achieved the first step which is socialism."
February 23 is a national holiday in Russia. The country celebrates "Defender of the Fatherland," or "Men's Day," honoring those who have fought and sacrificed their lives for Mother Russia. In Moscow, the streets are filled with people hovering close to each other to stay warm as the snowflakes fall. Parades march down the street near Bolshoi Theater, and people hold banners and signs at a rally outside of Red Square.
"The first great city in the world was Rome," explained the Russian man. "Then there was Constantinople, current-day Istanbul. Moscow is the third Rome. Our people are proud, and we find our strength in communism."
He went on to point out the signs of communism all around us. The hammer and sickle on the banner waving above our heads; the hammer represents the hard-working industrial class and the sickle signifies the farmers. Together they stand for the unity of the people. The red star which decorates the flags atop the buildings is a five-pointed emblem symbolizing both communism and socialism around the globe, and the wreathes of wheat crafted into the nearby bridge remind the people of their humble roots.
Taking a rest from shouting phrases of support to the communist leader on stage, the man in the fur hat shared, "Most of us here in Russia want to go back to communism. It wasn't a jail like many of you people think. It was our fortress, where we felt safe and protected, and taken care of. Now we are free but no one cares."
Our visit to Moscow was both sobering and enlightening. We were in awe walking through Red Square seeing famed city landmarks like Saint Basil's Cathedral and Lenin's mausoleum. A young girl giggled as she told us that all the Russian women love Leonardo DiCaprio because of his resemblance to Lenin, one of the country's most revered leaders.
We walked the bridge into the Kremlin; the same bridge where Napoleon stood more than 200 years earlier. Inside the walls, as we studied the mustard yellow building which houses the president's office, we saw two black helicopters fly off and into the distance. From the chatter around us, we deducted that it was President Vladimir Putin leaving the city.
Not too far away, we climbed the steps to see the gold domed roof of Cathedral of Christ the Savior where we learned that there was no sitting allowed in Russian churches and therefore no pews; singing was also forbidden during church services as it is believed that music can transform emotions and make people feel things that aren't real.
Although it was a gray winter's day, our visit to Moscow was colorful. Russia and it's people have endured much, though wear their scars proudly and are anxious for what the future may bring. As the man in the brown fur hat told us on the crowded street that day, "Russia lost its place as a super power to the West without a shot being fired. Now, we must view ourselves as a fortress under siege with no one coming to provide relief. So, as we have in the past, we must look to ourselves and harness our strength so that one day we will regain our position in the world and our people will prosper."