It was a bright, sunny day when I first met Anton, an 18-year-old who was busy deconstructing a skating ramp in Gorky Park.
This summer, a miracle happened in the venue once known for warm beer, aggressive “gopniki” and third world-style attractions. City authorities hired Sergey Kapkov, a former Abramovich employee, to revitalize the park – which basically meant that park administration was handed over to hipsters.
The hipsters in question organized free Wi-Fi, ping-pong tables, cushions for lounge lizards, free yoga lessons and a pretty beach along the embankment. Even the security guards in the park now smile.
Not far from the new beach, Anton and his friends were dismantling a huge BMX cycling ring. “Do you know what they pay us for this?” He asked me. “It’s a full day of hard work under the burning sun. And all we get is 1,000 rubles.”
When I asked if dismantling things for pay was his day job, he laughed. “Of course not! I write hip-hop songs, and I’m about to start university.”
He explained how he wanted to sharpen his business skills and help grow the family retail business his parents have run since he was a small child.
“I’ve been dreaming to go to university for all of my life. I came to Moscow from Samara, and I’m sure that in the next four years I’ll make it here’.
It’s amazing to talk to 18-yearolds in Moscow. They’re of a different generation; they have never witnessed anything Soviet and they hit the ground running.
Two weeks later, I met Anton again in Gorky Park after he took part in the annual Students’ Parade, a 40,000-strong march through the center of Moscow that occurs during City Day festivities. The city splashed out on a massive budget, organized concerts and performances and even projected a 3D-show on the already impressive main building of MGU University.
I asked Anton if his love of studies had remained. “To be honest, not really,” He said. “I can see what they want to teach us there, but in business, I think all the skills you need are just experience. And after helping my parents out for the last couple of years, I think I can manage.”
Before getting properly started, Anton was already considering quitting. “I’m afraid classes will be boring, and I can’t sit in one place anyhow. I mean – earning 1,000 rubles a day isn’t much, but I guess I can find some better jobs in town,” he mused.
His plans now are to record an album, save some money and move to Europe. For now, he’ll stay on at university. “The girls are very pretty, and there’s so many of them,” he grinned. “Problem is, if I focus too much on my studies, I won’t have any money. I’ll try it for a bit, and if it’s nothing in the end, I’ll just go and do some more dismantling. There’s nothing wrong with hard labor – and I’m pretty good at it.”
“Don’t worry,” one of Anton’s friends told. “Anton changes his mind all the time. Today he’s a bright student, tomorrow a regular worker. It’s a generation thing – we change our minds every day.”
Read other articles of the print issue “The Moscow News #69”