What’s there at Norilsk, Russia

No, I did not get to go. I did not get an invitation to visit this most Northern industrial city in the world. But I saw this , by Elena Chernyshova. And now I am so moved, I’d decided I had to share this – in part due to my personal fascination for the country’s history, and also for those who would read this space for the same reasons. I work at whatever I’m at, unsure if I’ll ever get there. But honestly, I doubt I could do that, ever.

Most of us probably wouldn’t have a chance to visit, much less to make a positive impact to many of these places in the world. I am thankful the the Internet, despite having complained about our over reliance on it briefly a few posts back.

So for those of you who are interested, watch the short interview with Elena Chernyshova. And hear her out, you almost never get the daylight there. The narrow corridors between buildings – that which we would avoid usually – were the very things that kept them away from the strong winds.

It’s amazing. It’s simply too amazing for words.

that strange connection with a country

Did you ever feel an intense inclination towards a country that you were not born in or have lived in? I have; I often do. And it must have become prevalent in my posts all about Russia. It must be the obsession with its past that has brought me to try to pick up the language, read and feel for all its history.

I chanced upon this article about Alapayevsk and the end of the Romanov dynasty. I know of the dangers, hardships and restrictions of travelling to Russia. What is it about this vast empire that captivates me regardless of occasion – architecture, nature, culture or purely its mysterious past? And for those who believe in a previous life – maybe that strange connection?

The answer doesn’t matter, really. Idealistically, I would love to visit and explore all of the country that I have yet to see, once more. Take a few thousand photos; write a few million words, and some day document it in a film…

XIV: Kazan Cathedral, St Petersburg

I found an old photo in the pile of Russian trip snaps and decided to share a brief post today. This is the Kazan Cathedral of St Petersburg, which caught my eye for plain simple reason that it so closely resembles St Peter’s Basilica in Rome! Imagine what I felt when I saw a Catholic-influenced building in a country known for its Russian Orthodox Church?!

Religion and politics aside, this building is impressive to look at and was ironically used in 1932 as a pro-Marxist museum that highlights the history of atheism. It has thereafter been returned to the Orthodox Church.

Kazan Cathedral 14

XIII: Russian Cruisor Aurora

A visit to St Petersburg warrants a trip to the Russian Cruisor Aurora. It might not sound like an exciting journey, but for those interested in military history, the Aurora is a protected/preserved cruisor moored at St Petersburg, now acting as a museum ship.Cruisor Aurora 10

This ship was one of the Pallada class of cruisors to serve in the Pacific Far East; its main foray was in the Russo-Japanese War in 1905 and the Baltic Seas during WWI, The Aurora was used as a training ship thereafter and had even suffered damage and sunk during WWII. After extensive repairs, it was harboured at Leningrad and still is today (what we know of as St Petersburg). OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Russian Cruisor Aurora is the oldest commissioned ship of the Russian Navy and is still manned by an active service crew. The little bits of history that sustains til today deserve a lot more focus and respect than we bother to give today. If you do make a trip to St Petersburg, remember to board and explore this cruisor!

Russia XII: Lenin’s Statue in St Petersburg

A recent read of Lenin, Stalin and Hitler: The Age of Social Catastrophe (Vintage), by Robert Gellately, brought my interest back to a statue I’d once seen years back during my stay in Russia.

I took residence in The Park Inn Pulkovskaya at St Petersburg, which stood behind the great Ploshchad Pobedy (known more to the West as Victory Square). The Monument to the Heroic Defenders of Leningrad features a sleek obelisk that reaches into the sky, surrounded by a sculptural ensemble at the pedestal of the obelisk.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASculptures representing soldiers, sailors and civilians who did not surrender despite hunger, cold and constant bombardment were featured. Beneath the elaborate Soviet monumental art dedicated to WWII housed a museum which held maps of Leningrad defense plans beneath. My fascination of the details in each sculpture and wild imaginations of them springing into action, as if the past still lingered, cannot be better expressed than by the two pictures below.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

What stood high above the rest was the vast statue of Lenin as he “directs” the crowds in a dominating stance. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It has been a long time since my visit to Russia; at times I wonder how much has changed in this country so rich in its history…

Russia XI: Moscow Metro Part 3

Today we discuss a grand metro station that boasts heavy Baroque influence, elaborate chandeliers and intricate political medallions decorating its yellow ceilings – Komsomolskaya metro. Komsomolskaya lies on the Koltsevaya Line; this line is dedicated to the record of victory over Nazi Germany and post-war labour efforts. Yet Komsomolskaya stands out from the overarching themes with its main focus as a speech conducted by Lenin. Regardless of political views, one will be able to feel strongly for the struggle for independence portrayed in this station that looks more like a museum than a subway (or more like a museum than a museum does!) There’s more to the station than I can share here – you might want to walk through a passage (much like a bunker!) to an adjacent station (on Sokolnicheskaya line), and emerge in a modern-looking station starkly different from Komsomolskaya station! Make sure you’ll spend some time visiting the museum stations of Russia on your visit!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Note: Some other stations of interest are:
– 
Novoslobodskaya Metro Station (stained glass decorations)
– Mayakovskaya Metro Station (strong pre-WWII influence, brightly lit and wide)
– Elektrozavodskaya Metro Station (homage to pioneers of electricity and ceilings are lined with millions of lights)
– Prospekt Mira Metro Station (agricultural theme and situated near the Botanical Gardens)

Russia X: Moscow Metro Part 2

As a natural progression from the last mention of Arbat Street, I guess it wouldn’t come as a surprise for my discussion of Arbatskaya – the second largest (and deepest) metro station in Moscow, initially built as a bunker. Arbatskaya station almost has no corners – not literally – the walkways feature ornate white ceilings and arches with simple “Stalinist baroque” designs. Interestingly there are two stations of the same name on different lines. These ones in the photos are of the newer Arbatskaya on the Arbatsko-Pokrovskaya Line (the other is on Filyovskaya Line). If anyone knows the history behind this dual-naming situation, please share it with us!!

Another station worthy of mention would be the Ploshchad Revolyutsii Metro Station. The name would translate to “Revolution Square”, and this station is one not to be missed. Starkly different in style from Arbatskaya and Kievskaya that appear more like a heritage tour in a castle, Ploshchad Revolyutsii station looks like a modern museum. It is decorated with colourful marble and 76 bronze statues, depicting the people of Russia, flanking the arches. Some say that rubbing the nose of the bronze dog statue would bring good luck. I guess this gives me good reason to head back to Moscow!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Next post – a station with yellow ceilings, intricate mosaics of military and history, one that is regarded as the most beautiful of Moscow …

Russia IX: Moscow Metro Part 1

It all seems mysterious and it doesn’t sound like the most luxurious way to travel. But when in Moscow – take the Metro. The luxury isn’t in the comfort of the seats or transport system – it’s in what you see. There’s so much cultural influence and history in each station I’ll almost like to write a book about it. Isn’t it amazing how each stop you make will bring different flavours of Russia’s history to life?

With insufficient knowledge of every station, history and art at this stage, allow me to share some pictures I took at the various stations. Let’s start with Kievskaya Metro Station. (The first picture isn’t Kievskaya, FYI.)
Kievskaya, with a strong baroque style, boasts colourful mosaics that line the ceilings and a grand mural at the end of the subway depicting civil scenes from Soviet history. Each mosaic portrays scenes of daily life in the USSR. This station was the first Moscow subway station to be completed after Stalin’s reign and was named after the capital of Ukraine.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

More to come in the next posts soon!

Russia VIII: More Peter the Great

As if unsatisfied by the previous comparison of Peter the Great vs Peter the Great, I decided to come back with more. Heading south of the Kremlin on the Moscow River, a prominent statue sits on the river bank – one with a great sailor on a tiny ship – standing as one of the tallest outdoor statues in the world.

Strange stories surround this statue created by Zurab Tserateli.
Many have complained about the inappropriateness of this statue in proximity to the architecture around it. Others have identified a lack of relation between the Moscow Fleet to the River. Even more (in fact a common story told when you visit the Moscow River) claimed that the statue was meant to be one of Christopher Columbus! That didn’t quite come as a surprise to me – looking at the composition of attire and action, one would indeed suspect so. So the story goes that Tserateli removed the head of Columbus’ and replaced it with that of Peter’s, leaving the original construct as it was! It may well look a little odd and despite attempts to blow up the statue, it is still worth the visit. Remember to check it out on your next trip to Moscow!

Russia VII – Peter the Great vs Peter the Great

The Bronze Horseman, which I love to use in my pictures, is an equestrian statue of Peter the Great in St Petersburg, gaining its name from Pushkin’s poem in 1833. The bronze statue sits on a pedestal also known as the Thunder Stone (aka ‘largest stone ever moved by man’) from the Gulf of Finland. The pedestal is made of a single piece of red granite shaped like a cliff where Peter rules Russia; his horse steps on a snake, representing the crushing of enemies. It seemed appropriate that a popularly-known ruler stood as the symbol of the country, having expanded the Tsardom of Russia extensively. The statue, created by French sculptor Etienne Maurice Falconet, showed the outstanding reformer as a hero.

Yet with a turn of the head in a new century, Mikhail Shemiakin created another statue of Peter the Great sitting in a chair, exhibiting no resemblance to what we know of as Peter the Great. This statue contradicted the heroic figure, now presented as a tall, seated figure with a strange sense of serenity. Some have supposedly called it the “Stay-at-home” statue of Peter the Great. While the former was revered, the latter became a good-luck charm – visitors noticed the bright hands and legs of the statue and began to touch it for good luck.

Interesting, isn’t it? Share some stories with me if you know more about this! 🙂