Russia = terrorist state
This post is about an exhibition of Russia as a terrorist state in Vienna. It’s also about a coffee house and the Plague Column.
We started out by going to the Sunday High Mass in St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and it was awesome. They didn’t just do some sermons and some singing and a little bit of organ music. No. They had a total of three (3!) organs, a choir, and a string orchestra. It seemed like they had understood how to get people to come to church.
Russia = terrorist state
Outside of the cathedral, some Ukrainian activists had set up an informational exhibition about the Russian invasion of their country. It was arranged like a small maze with photos and graphics on both sides, and with music. It was tough to look at, especially so for Brad.
She had seen her own country, Georgia, invaded by Russia fifteen years earlier, and she had teary eyes when she came out of the maze. The bullet holes I had seen in the walls of Gori came to mind. Or that one time in Uzbekistan when a tennis player from Crimea had told me she could never return to her home because it had been taken by Russia. Or that morning in February 2022 when that motherfucker Putin had invaded the rest of Ukraine.
Georgians had been living with the reality of the Russian occupation of parts of their country for one and a half decades, and they cared about what was happening in Ukraine, while to many people in Western Europe it all seemed to be pretty far away.
We took some flyers and promised to tell people about it. Russia wasn’t just a dying empire, it was a terror state, and more people needed to know.
We went to a Kaffeehaus after that. Vienna was famous for its coffee house culture, and all of the famous cafés seemed to be permanently overcrowded. We managed to find a table in the Café Hawelka, though. The interior design had apparently been left unchanged since before World War I, and they gave funny names to their coffee.
There was no expresso and no cafay lattay. I ordered something called melange, trying my best to pronounce it mah-long-ah, and I liked it.
Brad was going to do some exploring on her own, so I went home. On the way I stopped at the Plague Column. Vienna had gone through a major plague outbreak in 1679, just a few years before the last Ottoman siege of the city. So in 1683, after the Ottomans had been defeated, Emperor Leopold I commissioned a monument to celebrate and give thanks to God.
The Plague Column was inaugurated a decade later, and it was quite a sight. Everything was baroque exuberance and shiny gold. The Holy Trinity stood at the top, the angels were in the middle, and the people were at the bottom. Emperor Leopold had his own space on top of the people, and at the very bottom of the monument a witch-like figure was being brutally slain by an angel.
I wondered how many of those who bought into conspiracy theories about Covid-19 were aware of the historical similarities: a pandemic had come, seemingly out of nowhere, and it had ravaged the land. Societies had tried to react to it as best as they could. Then, when all possible hosts had either died or gained some sort of immunity, the nightmarish scenario had ended, leaving many people confused and traumatized.
Russia = terrorist state.