The avenue is dotted with vendors, along with buses and outdoor toilets. All the conveniences are available.
“I’m here to appeal to St. Nicholas on behalf of Alexei Navalny,” says Mikhail, a middle-aged Muscovite, referring to the leader of the political opposition.
“I know that Navalny is a believer. I follow his blog. He probably doesn’t have the time to come and stand in this line himself — he has to open new campaign offices. So I decided to come and ask for a miracle: that he will win next year’s presidential election.
Along the line volunteers—mostly women—in bright “Orthodox volunteer” vests speak with the pilgrims and answer their questions. In the areas along the riverbank between
the groups of line-standers, they call out, “Christ is risen!” to which the people nearest them eagerly respond, “Truly he is risen!”
Those waiting closer to the cathedral mostly sigh set and the air to cool, others for the rain not to start, and still others in hopes that the line will move faster.
From time to time, the Orthodox volunteers ask people to allow people in wheelchairs, on crutches, or young children to move to the front of the line. “I have bad legs,” shouts out one elderly woman as she trots past the crowd, another dozen or so people trailing in her wake.
“They don’t look so bad to me,” one woman says in protest, tripping the offender with her cane. An altercation ensues. The police step in. They implore people not to swear, push or shove. Now both women, having yelled and made up, pass everyone on their way to the front of the line.
Olga has traveled from a town in the Tver region. She will pray to the sacred remains for her friend who wants a child. “She has been trying to get pregnant for two years. I came to make this request for her.” Olga later admits that neither she nor her friend believe in God. “But you never know.”
Two young women in tights pucker their lips, narrow their eyes, and hold out a selfie stick. “Which hashtag should we post this to?” one asks the other.