Zoe Ruter is the PR director at the Living City Foundation for the Support of Contemporary Art, a playwright, author of the play Meg's Tales, and columnist at Afisha London. She returned to Tatarstan from London, where she lived and worked for a year.
Zoe Ruter is the PR director at the Living City Foundation for the Support of Contemporary Art, a playwright, author of the play Meg's Tales, and columnist at Afisha London. She returned to Tatarstan from London, where she lived and worked for a year.
I was born in Surgut, but all my relatives are from Kazan. It gets down to –40Cۜ° in Surgut; life isn't that great there, so we live here.

Whenever someone comes to Kazan, I take them from Kaban through Universitetskaya along Kremlyovskaya, then through the Kremlin and down to Baumanskaya. Then I show them Ostrovskogo and Profsoyuznaya. There are places that I really like in Kazan. The Kremlin, Lake Chernoye, Karla Marksa. I'm in love with the campus, the main building of the university, and the courtyard behind it.

I consider Suvar Plaza and, further on, Planet Fitness examples of ugly architecture.
THESE kinds of THINGS DESTROY THE MAGIC OF THE CITY, WHEN chain businesses JUST keep throwing good money after bad building AWFUL buildings one after another.
I have friends who are architects, and my friend Natasha Sablina (a great architectural blogger) says that they cut corners a lot here: make the windows smaller and the cladding simpler, and that can make a building ugly. It's a crime to design those kinds of buildings; I just don't get it.

I do like the quality of some renovations. For example, the former Shamov hospital, which is now Kazan Palace by Tasigo. That place was pretty grim. To be honest, it scared me as a child, made me think of ghosts and the criminally insane. Now it's great. The brick building has been preserved; how it looks from the outside, the windows ... I'm very impressed by it. And for me (especially after London), architecture is really important.

At the same time, London taught me to take things in stride. I used to get really mad and indignant if someone was rude, ignorant, or offensive (it would irritate me and ruin my mood before). Now I've really started taking things easier.

In that respect, my preference is doing things on a small scale. Even when it comes to Meg's Tales [the play written by Zoe Ruter and performed at the Ugol creative laboratory], people came and had a good time. Something inside them changed and they got the references. I didn't want to talk about politics in a children's fairy tale, of course; it's just our life. From the perspective of a child, what would it be like if snow was banned in the city? You'd have some questions about that. At the same time, you start to think more, and more positively. The conditions that people are left to live in, that's my real pursuit, my contribution. And in the end, London taught me how to try. In Russia that's not really possible:

IF want to attempt something, IN BRITAIN they SAY: "AWESOME, give it a shot. it might not work out, BUT it's worth a TRY." IN RUSSIA they just say: "why bother?"
Like, that's not your specialty or you're not a professional, you have no right to do that. Or somebody is already doing that, why would you? But I just stopped paying attention to them, and living in Britain taught me that. As trite as it sounds, it says more about the people who say that than it does about you.

Like, I don't really like popular Tatar music; it's just pop music. At the same time, some people like it; so just let people have things.

What kind of music do you like?

There's good music out there, I think. I adore Kamalova; I'm a big fan. I met her ten years ago at the first Krutushka [Festival of Traditional Culture and Creativity] while I was working there. When I saw her I was so happy. I thought "Is this possible? So cool."
And of course, Mubai. Suddenly all these indie bands were popping up that I would meet at festivals. I can't name them all; I just know them by sight. I love being inside this community. I like listening to them; their melody really touches me, but there's just one thing:
It started bothering me when I was studying at university and going to archeological camps. And you know, when I couldn't buy bread like a normal person from an old Tatar lady ... That pissed me off: did I waste ten years at school for nothing? Was I just supposed to to tell her the cases I knew and draw her a tablet conjugating verbs? All I had was completely useless knowledge, just a fragmentary understanding of Tatar. When I go to the Kamala theater, I understand 30% by intonation and the scattered collection of words that I know. But I can't speak clearly. Recently, when I couldn't express myself in Tatar at the postperformance discussion, it hurt me.
I've lived in Tatarstan all my life, for the most part. My mother and I (she's a single mother) moved to Kazan, where my grandmother, grandfather, and two of my mother's younger sisters, twins, lived. That's the family.

When I was eight, my mother remarried, and I have a sister that's almost nine years younger; twelve years later my mother divorced, so we have a female brood.
I graduated from Preparatory School no. 6. It's a cool school; everyone learns separately at first, then suddenly they get mixed together. It's in the Dubravnaya area, which is a forest. It's a great school, I learned a lot from it, because it has a good director, a wonderful woman named Olga Nikolaevna. I participated a lot in different scientific works; I've always been a humanist's humanist.

I studied at music school for six years. It was obvious that I wasn't going to become a great musician. I learned to play the violin, piano, and sang in the choir and played in band. I learned the basics of music notation, and I still use it.

Then I went to the architectural school that we know as DASHKa. That was during a very successful time when the well-known architect Ilnar Akhtyamov (and his ex-wife) taught there. There was a studio in the school called Inokhod' [ambling]. Like, how a horse walks backwards—we were also architectural rebels.

I was fourteen when the Tretyakov Gallery on Krymsky Val announced (the Tretyakov Gallery is the one where the Malevich hangs; it's with the white coffin-shaped building) that they were holding an open competition for a reconstruction project. Almost the whole school took part. I was younger than my classmates, but we all defended our diploma equally. All on one subject. Mine was called "Trees of Art on the Soil of Knowledge of the Landscape of Creation," which sounds like it could be something you'd say if you stubbed your toe [laughs], or like a hex or something.
I was a pretty boring child, very diligent. I read everything ... I ended up in a library for the first time where there was not only fiction, but also specialized literature. I found foreign-language architecture magazines there. For a fourteen-year-old, that was a wild discovery. It was the first time I'd ever seen anything like that! I drove the poor librarian crazy.

I got to know Zaha Hadid and Libeskind very well. I really liked modern architects. Then I found out about Richard Rogers. I am still a big fan of architecture and I'm pretty sensitive to it. It's important for me that the city be intelligible, that modern architecture be for the people, with high-quality materials, a lot of light.
WHY DIDN'T I BECOME AN ARCHITECT? it seemed obvious at the time: THEY HAd TALENT, AND I just DidN'T.
It took my classmates twenty minutes to create a great abstract composition, and I needed an hour. Now, all these years later, I see that that's not really a problem. But it seemed obvious at the time: they had talent, and I just didn't. Okay, no problem, I'll find myself by doing something else.

After a couple of years I started doing research work, studying a subject, bringing up issues, and conducting research. We studied sociology and subcultures in the 8th grade.

Then I started researching terrorism. Back then, any sort of terrorism was widely discussed in the media. It had not yet been stigmatized internally and was openly discussed as a problem.

There were recruiters who recruited female suicide bombers, and there was a wave of discussions of explosives, and that was what I investigated. First, as a phenomenon in general, and then the specific phenomenon of female terrorism.

I was working on political science and conflict management. And I could tell that I was doing well, and thought that I would like to go to study something like that.
I enrolled at the Faculty of International Relations and Political Science at Kazan State University and graduated from the Faculty of Philosophy Kazan at Federal University. During my studies, they changed everything like thirty-five times. I'm an expert in political science with a focus on ethnic conflict.

I focused on Central Asia towards the end of my studies, ethnic politics, and, in general, conflicts in the Central Asian region. It was very intriguing. I hardly remember how I defended my thesis. I drove back then, and that day I got into an accident.
I SAID "OH, i'm SORRY, PLEASE, I'm on my way to defend my thesis, CAN YOU GO TO THE traffic police? I'LL just SIGN EVERYTHING, BYE."
Then I got the idea to go to graduate school, because all that research work was beginning. This was in 2012, during the protests at Bolotnaya Square, revolts ... And when you're a political-science major, it feels like you should be inside a story like that ... I felt wildly alienated by the absolute innocence of our teaching staff. They didn't analyze it at all; it just wasn't discussed, as if there was a parallel reality, like, we'll study it in ten years, when everything will make sense.
In my fifth year, I received additional education in mediation (pretrial conflict settlements) and I worked there, in that department. I still use it, it's very useful.

While doing all of that, I made a living as a photographer, commercial photography; I shot a lot of weddings.

While I studied at the university, I was working as a teacher in a school: I taught various courses for children, worked with them as a scientific advisor for research, and history as well. For six months I actually taught 7th-grade history and social studies.
IT was A very POSITIVE EXPERIENCE. however traumatizing IN may have been at first, it has GIVEN ME A LOT. In GENERAL, I'm OF THOSE PEOPLE WHO ARE like "MMM ... WELL, it's EXPERIENCE."
I was also running a traveling planetarium at that time. It's something that my friend and I got involved in. Well, she set it up. I was twenty, and she was older. Her name is Nastya Yurina; she's amazing, a natural-born businesswoman, unlike me, because I'm more of a content creator, and she's great at coming up with ideas, a business plan, so that everything works out.

She was the first one in Kazan to sell and rent out life-size puppets. She ran a Smeshariki store in the Tandem mall. Then then was the mobile planetarium. We probably existed for three years. We worked with kindergartens a lot and that started to wear off on us; like, one time I remember Nastya was driving, and as we passed by my house she was like: "And there's Zoooooe's house, wave hi to it!"

When you're constantly in immersed in something, you start running on autopilot. But it was a cool job, a great example of how I took part in promotion, a group, made contacts, and subsequently a job in PR opened up. That was the first time I worked in a business that I ran.

It's amazing, we even traveled to Almetyevsk and Naberezhnye chelny [other cities in Tatarstan]. And they even showed it to the President [of Tatarstan] once.

Everything was fine until it fizzled out.

And at the same time that summer, we held archeological camps for children. We took the kids out and joined in on excavations. We went to the Laishevsky district, the village of Rozhdestveno, a unique archaeological site. Several archaeological cultures are superimposed there: the Imenkovites, early Iron Age, the Bulgars, the 5th to 7th centuries, and the Golden Horde too. The coast is constantly eroding and the cultural layer is now exposed, so there's something to explore there.
Plus, we went to Bogatye Saby, but that was more of an ethnographic trip than an archeological trip. And Kamaevo, which is an amazingly powerful place, 40 km from Kazan. Now there's the Iske-Kazan museum complex there. When we started, there was just one museum. Iske-Kazan is from the period of the Kazan Khanate, and it's believed to be one of its last strongholds. There are a lot of legends connected with it, that supposedly Baghatur Kamai [a legendary Tatar warrior] chased the Zilant snake [a mythological winged creature] there, and they did battle, and now the water flows from them (there are a lot of holy springs there). The Kazanka River winds its way near two large hills; when you climb them and see the river, the space, the expanse, you just want to fly. In terms of its energy level, it's a unique place!

And we taught the children who went with us. I remember we had a big tent, a projector, and I gave lectures and showed presentations on stratigraphy. There was a quest:
they had TO FIND THE KEYS TO THE TREASURE and, IN THE END, find happiness, OF course. WITHOUT happiness there's nothing.
In 2013, a completely new period started for me. My long-term relationships had ended. I realized that I was a specialist, and started outsourcing myself.

I was determined to go to London. It was my dream, and it's weird how it turned out. I really wanted to go. It was my goal. I spent four months getting ready for that trip. I bought cheap tickets in advance and talked my friend into it. For a week I planned four trips to the theater, a bunch of museums, a cemetery, everything you could think of. All the logistics, including booking hostels, had been thought out by me.

When my friend Lilya and I arrived and got off the plane, I was dragging my suitcase behind me and realized that I already liked it here. I felt good. And Lilya suddenly blurts out that she didn't bring anything with her but a return ticket, she has no idea what we'll be doing there for a week, doesn't know where we'll live, and she has nothing booked. And then she says: "And why are you acting like you've been living here for six months?! I'm sorry if I did something wrong, just don't leave me." It was pretty funny.

We checked in and then we had our first trip to the city.
WE walked out, AND there was BIG BEN.
And I really enjoyed the city. I went out and looked ... Some part of my brain told me that I was on the road and something was approaching (buses drive on the other side there, and it takes a while to get used to). At the last moment I turned around and got out of the way. Although it would probably have swerved to miss me; people drive very carefully there.

It was a night bus (red, of course). In English, one letter makes all the difference between the words night and knight. I remembered the Knight Bus in Harry Potter and thought: "Jesus, J.K. Rowling! You didn't even come up with that yourself! You just stole it from the night bus, which drives around wildly at night in London."
HALF A YEAR LATER I went back to LONDON, to OXFORD. I thought: "WELL jeez, MADAME, do you have any FANTASY of your own whatsoever?"
HALF A YEAR LATER I went back to LONDON, to OXFORD. I thought: "WELL jeez, MADAME, do you have any FANTASY of your own whatsoever?"
Later I realized that Harry Potter is actually a brilliant piece of work: how Rowling handled the story, how much research she did, how many cultural codes and pieces of folklore were included, what an international fairy tale she collected. I was at an exhibition dedicated to Harry Potter's twentieth anniversary, and it had a six-meter-long scroll on how to make a philosopher's stone. The picture morphs into another picture: people, horses, snakes, and everything is mixed up. If you decipher it, you can make a Philosopher's Stone. That was really impressive.

Source: Artchive
In Britain everyone loves to do everything over the phone, it's fantastical. They even pay over phone; they just give out their card number.

When I first went to London, I realized that I love it. I started going two or three times a year. At that time, I worked on outsourcing scripts, social media marketing, and photography. I promoted myself as a photographer, and at one point I realized that I was mainly calling myself a photographer.
I found that I was feeling boxed in. I found that I was uncomfortable in the community. I found that, like with architecture, I didn't feel really talented there. It was the same impostor effect. I wanted something else.

I helped Ziferblat [an anti-café] out when they opened: I was a photographer; I made them a calendar. I could go there any time for free. They didn't pay me; I just did stuff for them. I just liked the community there. They started doing quests and invited me to them (both Shchapova and Spartakovskaya were already working). I shot a promo for them. On the fourth quest, a job opened up in social media marketing. I just said that I was perfect for them and started working there. A month later I was also doing PR and franchise work: I started packing things, writing guides.

Working as part of a franchise is unusual. A lot of ideas come from all around you and you don't know where all the stupid questions are coming from, but, at the same time, nobody's really to blame. It was a very cool experience. We tried to make the project international. I don't regret a single day working there.

Alongside all of this, I liked theater, and went to theaters a lot. I went to London because I felt a certain cultural simpatico with the city. I started going to the theater compulsively (you have many options there). At some point, I began to be able to tell them apart, distinguish commercial from noncommercial, more interesting, theater. It so happens that everyone involved in contemporary theater in Russia shames the poor Britons very much, saying that all they have is their psychological theater and nothing else.
EVERYONE SAYS THAT WE DON'T NEED STORIES, WE NEED THE TRUTH, how children DIE, stuff like that. Sure, we need that kind of stuff, BUT THE WORLD IS big, AND there's a lot of variety.
Immersive theater is great in Britain, and they can make a commercial genre like musicals into something bigger and more profound, and I can give you a lot of examples of when something interesting turned out. I've been through some stuff: fourteen plays in seven days? Pfft please. Would you like to do that? I can make that happen for you.

I traveled around Britain, and I liked it. I made some acquaintances. I became a person who secretly knew a lot about Great Britain and London. London isn't exactly Great Britain after all. It's more like Berlin, multicultural, and you can find everything you need there, and a lot of it.

I worked at Escape Room (a quest), and was an ardent initiator of promenade performances (a performance with headphones).

All performances with headphones grew out of Remote Moscow, which was invented by Rimini Protokoll. There's probably nothing wrong with that. Now the Mobile Art Theater, which is headed by Lyosha Kiselev, leads a beautiful existence. They don't feel any guilt about it as far as I can tell. Knowing Kiselev, it's of high quality, of course.

We started doing promenade performances in Kazan. The first one was called Nonkazan, and I was one of the authors. Then it was transformed into Nonkazan 2.0 and is held in the summer. I'm really proud of the second version. I like the structure itself, the story.
It's a story about a living city. On the other side of the city is the story of Zilant, the beast that guards it. You just have to let it go and it'll do something good for you. It's a story about the fact that the guardians of the city are the people who inhabit it here and now. It's funny and has a lot of pop-culture references, from Spider-Man to Harry Potter. Two more performances have been developed. I took part a little in one by Mikhail Smirnov. The third is also his, but it doesn't really speak to me.

In short, I prefer that in those kinds of performances, when the audio format moves you, the whole story takes place in your head. There are guides that make sure you don't go the wrong way, but you don't need any actors.

This story is very dear to me, it was a universe that I invented from London and brought with me, putting it in Kazan.

Then I was offered a job in London, to develop quests there. I agreed of course. And I designed quests there for a year, from November 2017.

I felt like I was leaving for my favorite city for good, one that would be happy to greet me, and so on. I'm proud of this experience, because what we did there was also my doing.

I created the The Heart of Covent Garden promenade play, a sweet, family story about how the people help a girl guide (her dad is a master of the magical arts). They find a boy who helps them, and he runs into goblins. In the end it turns out that it's not that simple, that the boy and the girl are brother and sister. I played the girl.

I love the Covent Garden area. If I take someone along that route once, they won't be able to repeat it. It's so cool and confusing! We walked for about an hour, even though it only takes eight minutes if you go in a straight line. The route passes through curious gateways and places.

I don't know if they still do it.

I LEARNED EVERYTHING during that YEAR IN LONDON. they would yell at me: "YOU damn RUSSIANs!"
Then I got electrocuted there. I was reprogramming the boards. The door fell once. Oh God, there's a whole story about how it fell. In short, the door fell and they told me: "Zoe, what's the problem? Just lift up the damn door." The door weighed 25 kg. I propped it up with a book (I had a book of spells that I bought on vacation), and I attached that door with eight screws and one spell, instructing it to fall off the day after I left. And that's what happened!

I had a problem there: I didn't feel appreciated, needed, or free. Those are the three reasons. My visa was running out and I had to leave. I left in a state of depression. Because I didn't know what to do next.
WHEN YOU'RE IN AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP WITH the people in charge, IT makes you think: why aren't I moving forward?
I mean, a voice inside you starts to ask: "What am I going to leave behind me?" I couldn't answer it.

I made the decision to quit right before I left: because the company and I had outgrown each other. Because I felt good without them, and they're fine without me. There will be other people with a different kind of energy who will ask fewer questions. I just tend to ask a lot of questions myself. I'm the kind of person who thinks ahead. I consider the possible consequences and give out information. But that approach wasn't always what was needed.

I realized that I really wanted to take a breather and not do anything for at least two weeks, so I arrived in Kazan and figured out two things. (1) If you feel like a free person, it doesn't matter where you live; you can go wherever you want and choose any place for a while. (2) It's important to feel your self-worth, that you know that you're doing the right thing.

I just wanted to lie around at home and hug my cats, but whenever I met someone in Kazan, they offered me a job. It made me so panicky that I stopped meeting people.

In November I went to see Anna Karenina, and I didn't really like it. I had three complaints about Karenina: the artistic solutions seem tattered (but now that I know from the inside how it was created, now I have worked with the light, it has become more subdued, and some of the artistic solutions have been fixed). I still don't quite agree with the ending, but now that I've seen it from a different angle, I understood the reasons. The third thing is Lydia Ivanovna's costume [laughing].
I wrote a review for Anna Karenina and received a personal reply. This was my first contact with Inna Yarkova.
I THOUGHT: "They're going to kill me!"
But we had a pretty funny conversation. She said that it was a good review; she thanked me, and said that if I have anything else to say, I can write her. She said "When I read it, I felt like I wrote it myself. Because I agree with some of your opinions." We talked and went our separate ways.

Then I got the option to move to Moscow, another place. My friend (we don't talk anymore) said: "How do you not want to go to Moscow? You were made for this city! You'd be comfortable here."
I CAN'T live someWHERE where just getting around TAKES so LONG. IT'S hard to EVEN FIND A PLACE WHERE you can cross THE street.
For me, Moscow is too big. It's not the rhythm of life that scares me, but the size. When I lived in London, I didn't live downtown, but in a hip area. It took forty minutes to get to work. I left, got on the light metro, got to the interchange, and walked about seven minutes.

In Moscow, I started thinking about where would be a cool place to live. And I never found one. I either needed an apartment with glass windows and a view or one in a cozy quiet courtyard, so that I had somewhere to go.
So, I fled to Kaluga. I wanted to reboot.

I decided I wanted to do theater, and the only person who I ever talked about that with was Alexey Kiselev: he taught courses at the Kamala theater. I thought that if I go, then maybe I'll meet people who work in theater, and that would inspire me and set me in the right direction.

And I would ask him, like, "Is it possible to be a theater critic without an education? Can you do theater journalism?"

I'm not doing either now, but I realized that it is possible. It's not a problem.

I went to Kaluga for four performances in two days, including SMILE OFF, and that was important: it's one part of a trilogy from Ontroerend Goed (Belgians produced by our local impresario Fyodor Elyutin, a wonderful man from Moscow). I loved it. It gave me the push I needed.

Then I returned to Moscow just in time for Kiselev and Elyutin's book presentation. I thought that was my chance, and I went to the presentation at Respublika.

Only Fyodor was there, because Alexey was in Kaluga, so he alone experienced my fervor. It's a great book, Remote Moscow: How to Make Money on Impressions—a very interesting work, nicely proofed and published. It feels good to hold in your hands. A year later, Fyodor and I met at the Vakhtangov festival. I told him about that day, and he was like: "There were only five people there, too." I was like, "Yeah, I was the one who asked all the questions." And then I calmed down. Fyodor gave me a book, probably as thanks for all the energy that I expended at our meeting. I still have it, with the inspiring inscription "You will succeed."

It was important for me to listen to someone that I respect so much, first of all; second, he's just so lively and into modern spectator theater. What they do is loved by 85% of the audience. That's important.

While riding the subway it seemed like everything was just withing reach, and that might be what I should do, get a job in the theater, because I really love it.

By that time, the number of performances I had watched in a year in London alone was about 200. I never missed an opportunity to go to the theater. And I went about fifteen times a month. I always kept an eye out for any promotions. I didn't spend my entire salary on it, of course, but about a third, sure. Sometimes I went to a preview for free, through an acquaintance.
With Living City in Kazan, I tried to push that out of my mind three times. I felt like it had a very closed structure. I thought that they were doing their thing and that I had not yet grown enough for them. But at the same time, I knew all their projects. I was putting together the last version of the book recently, and going through all the old photos, and I was in a lot of them. I recognized my coat, flashing everywhere.

It began with a woman direct messaging me out of nowhere. I'm friends with Lena Kalaganova, and she was a mutual friend. At some point I had met her at dinner. Lena is a world-class cook, and she has such dinner parties! And one time she had me and these two interesting women over. One of them wrote to tell me what they needed and how I could be useful. I first wrote to Albina Zakirullina a direct message, then I wrote them a beautiful letter.

And I had this great resume, just wonderful, and a very funny cover letter, and Inna Yarkova didn't even look at it, she just said: "That's the girl who wrote that review of Karenina." There was this chaotic meeting, at first with Albina, then with Nargis, then with Inna. When it was over, we agreed the next step would be to decide if I would work at Ugol or Karenina. I didn't sleep that night thinking about it. In the end I chose Ugol. Then we met and realized that I would be doing both. There were others too, and they didn't end up working there because they didn't really fit in in that structure.
my FIRST MONTH there i spent adapting before I UNDERSTOOD THAT I was exactly where I was supposed to be. THEN I realized THAT was really where I was supposed to be.
Then I started to feel like I was getting tied down in Kazan, and I really didn't like that. I mean how could that happen? There are so many other cool cities. And about six months later, I was able to rebuild my life and attitude according to the fact that we're all free, how we travel, how we move. The dream of moving to London did not end at all, though.

I went back with some friends. I thought that I would get there and I would have like, flashbacks from Vietnam. I thought it would be traumatic. But I left Heathrow, got on the subway, and I felt so free. At first the subway is still aboveground there, and I took out my cosmetic bag and put on makeup. I used to put on makeup all the time on the London underground. I never wasted time at home doing that. And somehow this freedom, it felt so good ... It was a fantastic week. It's still my favorite city.

But at the same time, I understand that now I'm in Kazan, and it's exactly where I should be. I can fly anywhere from here, so choosing it was deliberate.
BECAUSE I could've moved TO MOSCOW, BUT WOULD that MAKE ME HAPPY? I REALLY DOUBT it. it's like, OK, I don't mind EARNing A LITTLE LESS BUT STAYing HERE.
I'll be happier here and I feel needed, because I do stuff like creating something new that I am proud of. A little less than a year passed, and the Mag's Tales children's play was put on based on my play at the Ugol creative laboratory.

As Oleg Loevsky says: "Chill out. It's no long your text." And that's important. Yeah, chill out. There are great directors and great actors who bring the text alive for you. Mag's Tales is a story about me, a psychological thriller that became a fairy tale, me as an adult talking to my younger self.
What are your favorite places in Kazan?

I always tell everyone that we have an amazing city to walk around in. Just walk along Karla Marksa, Bolshaya Krasnaya; there's a building there with a stucco molding that turns into a toad that's worth seeing. There are buildings that held balls during Tolstoy's time. And it has kept the feeling of a merchant's Kazan; that's still there. I really like to walk from there through the Lyadskoy Garden along Shchapov and down towards Volkov, because it's such an old, quiet, and peaceful part of Kazan.

I always recommend the patio in the University and the Astronomic observatory to everyone. There's a secret: sometimes you can enter without a student ID, if there's no one around and everyone is in class. I do that sometimes with visitors. It's very cozy there, an auditorium, and instead of a wall it has a semicircular bookcase. It really feels like you're in a college town.

Kabana Embankment, on both sides: I really like to go for walks there, read a book.

I used to like the River Port, and I'm waiting for it to be properly redone.

I love the Gorkinsko-Ometyevsky forest. I live just across from it. It's far from downtown, but it's thrilling, the location, the forest. A friend came to visit me, and we decided to have a photo session. I came up with an idea for it; there are these mirrored panels in the forest, and we walked around for a while but never found any panels; it's just so enormous. In the end we climbed onto the cube, where I took her picture, and then we drank tea. It was really nice to go for a walk with a close friend in that forest. I really love walking there in the evenings and just going around in circles, and it's a really amazing place. It has become one.
I notice the changes in Kazan. Even from the moment I left, Kazan changed a lot that year. I'd like to think the city is becoming quieter. I just see the very rhythm of the city and the mood of its inhabitants. People move less chaotically. Delicious, hip places have popped up, nice to visit, with great breakfasts.

I love how our bar culture is developing, even considering that I don't drink alcohol right now. But sometimes I like to have a cocktail, once every two weeks or so. I'm going to a science slam in February—my friend is speaking there—and I can see that there are a lot of opportunities to go out now.

There's also a feeling of security here. I don't remember the last time I've been downright scared in Kazan. I'm not really afraid of anything in general. I know that I can go anywhere and I never get the feeling that something bad will happen to me. The one thing I'd really like is glass doors in the entrances to our buildings and bright entrance lobbies. I'd that to become a thing. My building is twenty-five years old, and all it has is an iron door with an intercom, it's very ... Well, I don't understand what the person who invented it was thinking. And it's not very easy to open when you're going somewhere with a suitcase. It seems like you could make it better, more logical, if you used some common sense. In any work I do, I'm guided by the principle that you need common sense.