We won’t be here in the spring, so we tackled Victory Park on Saturday, where the view of Dushanbe is supposed to be terrific from the hill. It’s only a few blocks from our apartment on Bekhzod. When we get there, the funicular was closed for the season, so rather than walking all the way around and take the main road up into the park, we headed straight up the jalan tikus (an Indonesian word meaning “mouse roads” for neighborhood small streets and alleys), through a poor residential section clinging to the side of the steep hill. I was surprised we ran into so few people. Since the larger streets in Dushanbe are full of potholes and in this weather, snow and mud, I was not at all surprised to see these pathways not paved and covered in slush and mud and gravel.
We made it to the park itself and the top of the funicular, where during another season, one can grab a beer or coffee or soda pop and admire the city and the mountains that surround it. Best photos would be in the morning, but it was afternoon and although sunny and warming, hazy. But David took some photos for us to remember what we saw that day.
Now that we are on the park’s main road, we climbed higher to the Victory Monument itself. It is practically an arena – a space for rallies and May Day celebrations. I climbed the stairs to the red star, and as I was sitting, looking over the monument from above and the city, it dawned on me.
I am in the Soviet Union.
I’ve been referring to Tajikistan as being in Central Asia, one of the former Soviet Union soviets. But on Saturday it struck me hard – I am actually in the Soviet Union. The boogey man of all the propaganda I was fed growing up deep in the Cold War. The country that I learned about in the mid ‘60s and realized in seventh grade that I was being fed propaganda, and my nascent skepticism of official teaching lead me to a life of doubting official stories and histories. (Although I probably didn’t then have in my vocabulary words like “nascent” and “propaganda.”)
So, here I am, in the (former) Soviet Union.