Photographs of Russia (Moscow and Saint Petersburg)

Woman leads child on pony ride outside the zoo in Saint Petersburg (Санкт-Петербург).

Outside the Kremlin Wall in Moscow, armed guards watch over the eternal flame at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a memorial to the 20 million or so Russian soldiers who died fighting Hitler during the Great Patriotic War, which is what Russians call the Eastern Front of World War II.

The same memorial viewed from the side, although most of the courtyard is not visible behind the the plaque numbers noting the dates of the war with some Russian text in between: 1941 to 1945. If you look closely you can see the flame peeking out above the "1" in 1941.

This is also near the Kremlin and Red Square. These two men are walking toward the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which is about 100 meters straight ahead on their left, your right.

The McDonald's in Kitay-gorod (Китай-город), which in the past was known as Great Posad (Великий Посад) but in modern-day Russian it translates to Chinatown, even though the area has nothing to do with China. It is the oldest part of Moscow, a traditional merchant neighborhood.

This is outside the McDonald's near Red Square, and these gentlemen are members of a special unit of the Russian police force, Отряд милиции особого назначения (OMOH). The acronym OMOH is transliterated to English as OMON. OMOH was founded in 1979 in preparation for security at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow. Their motto is, "We know no mercy and do not ask for any," which I'm glad I didn't know when I surreptitiously snapped this photo.

OMOH continues to exist in Belarus and other former Soviet countries. This is my friend Sasha at the Napoleon Hostel in Moscow. He is from Belarus, immediately west of Russia. Last night there was a major terrorist attack in the Belarusian capital city of Minsk, Sasha's hometown.

The quintessential Russian cathedral, bookending Red Square in Moscow: Saint Basil's Cathedral, more formerly known as the Cathedral of the Protection of Most Holy Theotokos on the Moat (Собор Покрова пресвятой Богородицы, что на Рву). It rolls right off the tongue.