To Luhansk, sans culottes

Last week, a senior official of the St. Petersburg city government was seen in the city center with a briefcase, in a business suit but without trousers, muttering “Lugansk, Lugansk”. Within minutes, he was picked up by an ambulance and driven to a hospital, where doctors reportedly detected a strong smell of alcohol and burns on his “front extremities.”

So richly delightful… Although Major Kovalev had once pursued his Nose nearby, I sense Muscovite phantoms: Ivan Bezdomny‘s underworn anabasis and Stepan Likhodeyev‘s magical transport to Yalta (to Crimea, yes indeed).

But best of all perhaps, consider Popov’s Dream, also known as The Dream of Councillor Popov, by one of my favorite poets, A.K. Tolstoy (a count but no relation). The protagonist, a relatively high-ranking civil servant, has a dream in which he appears at a reception hosted by a government minister fully clothed but without pants (“pantaloons”). He is detained, accused of plotting to overthrow the government, and urged to disclose the names of fellow conspirators. He starts blurting out names of innocent people, to his own horror, and does not stop until he wakes up. Leo Tolstoy loved the poem.

Curiously, the trouserless Petersburg bureaucrat’s official rank is “state councilor of the Russian Federation, First Class.”

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