Ippolitov-Ivanov / Procession of the Sardar

One of the things I did this week was fill out a tourist visa application the length and detail of which I found fairly startling. I mean, I can see the point of questions like “what is your address” or “do you have any experience with military-grade weaponry” but it’s far less clear to me that the Russians really need a list of every foreign country I have been to since 2002 with the dates of visit for each. And also all the universities I have ever attended (ever) and the last two jobs I have had before my current one.

But I found that for whatever reason this piece by Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov — it is a staple of youth orchestras everywhere, which is where I first encountered it — is good music by which to fill out visa applications.

It starts out fairly simply. (What is your name? What is your passport number?) It seems easy enough. (Purpose of visit? dates of visit?) We’re plodding along in fine style here. But then complications arise. (That form you had to get from your hotel? There are numbers on it which need to go into certain little boxes on the application form. But all indications of which numbers are which are in Russian, in which language you are illiterate! Time to match up little rows of symbols!) The woodwinds seem skeptical and the brass almost menacing there for a moment. But things soon brighten. (Yes! Success! A climax of box-completion! We’re feeling very pleased and expansive at this point. We can coast along for a while very nicely, filling in the names of our parents and whether we’ve ever been married and all that. There are a few tricky bits, like the question about health insurance, but the interior logic of chord progression and a quick call to the HR office will see us through.) But what is this? (Have I ever been arrested?) It’s getting louder! We’re almost there! (Which consulate are we submitting this form to? Washington, DC!) Sign . . .date . . . ALL DONE.

7 thoughts on “Ippolitov-Ivanov / Procession of the Sardar

    1. Are you going for work or as a tourist? I’ve never been to Russia before – I think it’ll be terrific fun, but I don’t speak the language at all, so I need to get a phrase book and do some studying.

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      1. for work this time, but i was once in moscow as a “tourist”, a friend’s family hosted me for 2 wks, took me to red square, countryside, museums, st. petersburg, even went to a re-staging of battle b/t russians and Napoleon in one of the deadliest battle i was told (something about Napoleon’s troops froze to death after being trapped….) –> look what i found: reenactment photos, wiki . Not sure how i would survive without knowing anyone in the country… but i think you’d just have to do it as a true tourist then :-), and follow some tour-book guide. be warned that the russians love to “keep” your passport (in hotel for example), very annoying. Also, within a couple of days upon arrival, you have to report to some formal russian office to present your visa and get some stamps… but i think it would be a fabulous experience for you.

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        1. Yes! Historical reenactors! Those photos are great.

          I’m going with a friend of mine who has a friend (another American) who specializes in Russian history and speaks the language and utterly loves all things Russian. We’re staying with him for a few days and with luck he’ll be able to get us oriented and tell us how to stay out of trouble. I’ve heard about hotels keeping your passport and the rigmarole with the visa and stamps – it sounds like a pain. But agreed: this is probably going to be fantastic, and things like dealing with bureaucracy are just part of the game.

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          1. @Eyes: wow, how did you guess??

            @Charlotte: that sounds really cool, someone who knows Russian history (although sorry to be an ass, but i am always wary of westerners giving views about / providing history of easterners…). Anywho, it’d be very nice if you could blog about the trip. One key thing i felt while being there was how proud russians are, and the bitterness (perhaps too strong of a word) of russians about how history is written in the west. For example, during WWII, the russians were always in the middle of fighting when almost the rest of europe folded under, and yet what we heard more of is the British Navy or American flew in in the end and rescued everyone to end the war (isn’t it true 1/2 of WWII casualties were Russians?) Though… this might be only the view of my Russian friend, but i love the various museum trips there, soo much different that what i learned in the US high school books… ok, i’ll stop, given that that was also the last time i “learned” history 🙂
            ps- hopefully the visa/passport thing won’t be too much. being surrounded at work by 90% foreigners, i can tell you their experience here in the US is MUCH worse.

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            1. You’re not being an ass to question westerners writing the history of easterners – historically, our track record on that has not been good. (Do not get me started about US high school history texts – the extent to which the material gets politicized or misrepresented and/or oversimplified is a real problem.) Most modern professional historians (of any nationality) do their best to write about whatever they’re writing about without imposing their views on others or misrepresenting the people or events they’re talking about.

              I fully intend to blog about the trip 🙂 My friend and I have a few concerts lined up already, so in addition to the usual tourist stuff there will be music to write about too!

              And re: paperwork – definitely. A long form to fill out is nothing compared to the hassle that foreigners working in or visiting the US often have to deal with.

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