immigration authorities whenever they arrive somewhere new. The most aggravating part
is, it is never clear when you actually have to register—like so much in Russia, the law is
ambiguous, often changing, and never available to read anywhere.
“Sergei, I guess my only worry is if we give them some lame excuse to come after me.
We should make sure to have every hotel from here on out register me.”
“I agree,” Sergei says.
After an hour we are in Izhevsk, a pleasant city of just over a half million people. The
city center has a vast promenade, with a waterfall and food stands, that slopes down a hill
to a picturesque lake. I always had a fond feeling for this city, having seen it the first time
in the summer when families were taking afternoon walks, teenagers were eating ice cream
while walking their bikes along, and bar hoppers were dancing. It all makes it so easy to
forget that the place is best known for producing a killing machine.
One heavily industrial section of the city is home to a weapons factory that has produced
more Kalashnikovs than any other factory in the country.
Marina has a well-planned itinerary that involves a very quick stop at the city's Kalash-
nikov museum. We enter, pay for tickets and are confronted by a museum employee. “You
must put these on,” she says, pointing to a box full of something resembling purple shower
“They're for your feet,” Marina says. I am aware of this—every museum in Russia at-
tempts to keep floors clean by making visitors wear shower caps on their feet—but I was
hoping to avoid the things just this once.
“We simply don't have time to see everything,” Marina says, rushing us into the mu-
This is one of those moments where we are all rushing—for no apparent reason. Our
train is not until 11:00 p.m. But Marina has a plan. Sergei and I may not be abreast of
the plan, but we are inexplicably held hostage to it. We spend about five minutes moving
briskly though exhibits dedicated to the history of the Kalashnikov. Marina's high heels
have pierced her shower caps. I have nearly slipped and killed myself about a dozen times.
Sergei, repeating his gymnastic performance from the train, seems to be floating through
the museum unencumbered.
“You know, there is a special room where you can shoot,” Marina says. Shoot?
She rushes us to the basement of the museum, where there is a high-tech shooting range.
A woman is behind glass, aiming a deadly Kalashnikov semiautomatic weapon at a tar-
get—and firing. Multiple shots.
I can think of no museum like this at home.
Off to the side, there is a small gift shop selling T-shirts and model Kalashnikovs, which
resemble the real thing to the naked eye but are presumably less lethal.