Bruce Lawson’s personal site

Doesn’t time fly when you’re not in a Russian prison?

me in red square, moscow

On 4 June 1993, I flew into Moscow from Malaysia for a 3 day explore (I was flying to London on Aeroflot, so had to change planes in Moscow anyway). Here’s a discoloured Polaroid taken by a local entrepreneur of me looking rather camp in front of St Basils’s, Red Square. Little did I know that, as Boris Yeltsin had just called conference to discuss the new Russian constitution, there was going to be an anti-government demo, and I was unable to resist the chance to take photos of communists demonstrating against the Russian government.

Everything was going swimmingly; I had my Russian hat that I’d bought earlier with a CCCP design (the one in the picture, bought for camouflage rather than devotion to the Pet Shop Boys), so people assumed I was a leftie too and let me take pictures.

red flag

cops and placard of Stalin

russian police

And then .. disaster! I pointed my camera at Mr Big Russian military big nob (guy on the left) who came over and tried to take my camera off me. I protested in English, and presented my passport causing him consternation and panic in me when I was led to the back of an army lorry. "Film!", General Boris demanded. I opened up my wallet and produced a fake BBC press photographer’s card that I’d had made 3 months earlier for £3 in Bangkok.

You could see the General’s mental cogs going round; a couple of years ago, and he could’ve had me in a saltmine for spying, but now (curse that glasnost!) Russia was a democracy and Western journalists were to be respected. Seeing him looking from the press card, to my camera, to my passport and back again, I thought this might be the right time to produce a packet of decadent capitalist Marlboro Lights, and offer him one. He took the whole packet, and said "You go back to Hotel now". I went straight back, stopping only for a big bottle of vodka.

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