no recipe · on USSR / Russia · travel

Rough and Tough Chelyabinsk – Legend or Truth?

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So let’s see… Here are some photos and we’ll figure out whether Chelyabinsk, this industrial heavy-metal city in the Urals, is so rough and tough as the legend goes. My first impressions – the Soviet airport with other uglier parts being hidden by ‘Chelyabinsk welcomes its Judo Championship guests’ posters and then this enormous puddle – if you can call this sea a puddle – in front of the exhibition center.

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And then I turned right and saw this hm park called Garden of Stones. I later discovered that the garden was moved to the territory of the Local History Museum. But I didn’t know it then – and this was what I thought was Garden of Stones:

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And when I was crossing the river Miass I felt that whatever that guy was trying to fish out of the waters full of bottles and smelling badly, well, even the most desperate cat would not eat.

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You wondering what’s that weird tower-like object in the background? Me too! Cause the gates have this M sign which can only make you think of Moscow metro. Still don’t know what it is.

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And just after this tower thing as I was going to my hotel, I came across this very old building made with such skill that I wanted to take pictures of every detail and told myself to try to find more of this.

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The door sign said there was a not that hospitable dog guarding the premises so there was only this wall along the street that you can get access to. Also, when I looked what’s behind the corner, I found this tree growing right in the middle of the stone wall:

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Each time I go to a new (or the same) place, I try to find there several essential – for me – things like a market, a post office, an ethnographic or local history museum. And of course I’m looking for the market the most =)

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Look at the face of the guy who is the owner of this bric-a-brac eeehm kiosk and you will get the idea that I was not welcome in that market with my camera.

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Yes, this is a general view of the city (as well as many more cities in Russia these days too) -something old planted right in the middle of something new and ugly. Actually it is vice versa – all these new additions grew around the old things. The church as far as I understood used to house the local history museum during the Soviet times. And now it’s just side by side with the Green Market. Obviously everything is painted in green.

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There were more curious things in that market which I will not publish here. After the market (where I failed to find the things I usually try in every new place – dairy products and baked goods) I went back to the lovely river and found out this Pink Floyd wall. How pretty I thought but then read the title of the song and understood that ‘Goodbye Blue Sky’ (misspelled as Godbay) from the Wall album is not there just for fun. They mean it…

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I was moving to the city center in my search of more things left from the pre- and early industrial past of the city with merchant houses and wooden houses. But first I passed along this wall skillfully painted with Russian fairy tales and cartoons.

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This is the guy who always wins over rich and stupid. He also drives a Russian stove perfectly and a magical pike makes his wishes come true. And here’s a super-Soviet-man:

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And the stereotypical bear wearing shapka and playing on balalayka. Where’s his bottle of vodka I wonder? I yes, he doesn’t need it as vodka trickles down from the tap here in Russia.

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As I thought I was moving towards the pedestrian street they call ΄local Arbat‘ (after the famous pedestrian street in the heart of Moscow), I actually came to this place called Aloye pole (Scarlet Field). No idea of the name but it had this:

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And also this…

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And this – pioner‘s house. Where your babushka sees you off every other evening for your piano or young naturalist lessons. A huge building with all the Soviet symbols really well preserved. This is how a child was to get used to all things great and grand and better than in that rotten world of the West.

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In the middle of the park there’s this unknown artifact:

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hmmm… Right next to this circle is a church.

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You’re in the city of ore, mining and metal so do expect everything to be a little bit too black and too metal:

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And even Communist heroes (all were boys and girls) are all made of metal:

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A veeery sinister looking circle of boys and girls, the pionery. There’s one who betrayed his own father because he was not a communist… One of the most famous figures in the USSR history – that’s what the children were learning at school, their role model, khm.

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And this whole circle of young Communist heroes is crowned or presided by Lenin of course. Although his eehhh grotto looks so very new, I mean, it doesn’t even look that old… I wonder if that was one of the later Soviet additions. And guess what he’s looking at? The church built in Nicolas II times!

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After that I came across the local State Pedagogical Institute. With the tallest Stalinist columns I have ever seem. There’s an ATM built-in the wall, a total anachronism.

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And after seeing the rain pipe I was sort of puzzled what kind of RAIN they do get here from time to time… Serious rain. Heavy heavy rain.

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Some Soviet decorative art in a yard:

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The next day I did get to the local Arbat-like street called Kirova Street (ex-Ufa Street), obviously called after the communist Kirov. There I finally got the chance to see what I was looking for – the old buildings and a tiny bit of that old Chelyabinsk, a town that lay on the Silk Road.

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The biggest matreshka kiosk you have ever seen against red-brick houses that survived the Soviet era – namely Drug Store (Pharmacy) #1 which has a tiny museum inside. It’s a pity this kiosk was closed, I wonder what they sell there.

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Some more preserved wooden decorations with an ugly looking club. The street could have been much better if the owners of the shops and clubs could really see what damage they cause with their lack of any taste.

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Old school tram near Kirova Street. Very creaking.

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Walking across the bridge along the same Kirova street I walk past the Philharmonic hall and then I also spotted this – which is not at all rare in Chelyabinsk and in most of our cities with heavy Soviet heritage.

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I bet this is the best shot of all my Chelyabinsk albums. Seriously!

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But don’t think that these weird Russians can make only ugly things. Look what they decorate their beloved women with!

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I finally went to the Local History museum to try to understand the region better. There were several rooms dedicated to the local craftsmanship – precious and semi-precious stones are found in the Urals all over the place!

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Remember Chelyabinsk meteorite back in February 2013? Here’s a piece of it with the medals issued all over the globe to commemorate the event. I really do not wonder now why it fell in Chelyabinsk of all the cities.

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But the most warm and cozy room of the museum attracted much more of my attention – that was a room telling us about the peoples of the region and their traditional houses and clothes.

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The sewing machine was made by hand by some local peasant in the beginning of the 2oth century. We had and still have these marvels, these naturally gifted people – samorodok, as we call them in Russia (literally giving birth to itself). The problem is that they mostly remain in shadow.

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Kitchen – my favourite spot anywhere! This one recreates a traditional wooden house called izba. Wood just transmits warmth and comfort to you. See the brass samovar and this thing on the left to cut the cabbage and the pottery and of course the traditional white stove with the peel and the hook to get the pots out of the oven.

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I guess I’ve told you before that the traditional Russian pech (stove) was the first thing built in a house (hence the saying ‘dance from the stove’, begin from the very beginning, ab ovo) and the central piece in all times. People made food there, stored things there, washed themselves in there, gave birth to babies and slept on the upper warm part.

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I really liked this women’s traditional dress from Ryazan region, which is not in the Urals though but closer to Moscow. If I remember correctly these are from Oryol and some other places in Russia. These were worn in some villages up until mid 20th century, I guess. Love the embroidered blouse!

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Chelyabinsk footware industry going from this pair of metal-shod lapti (traditional peasant shoes made from birch tree bark usually)…

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…to these Soviet monsters. It’s up to you to decide whether the local shoe industry progressed or regressed. The same shoes were worn by many many many Soviet people living in all corners of our huge rodina (mother land) cause the same shoes were made everywhere.

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This one goes to my father, an active collector of mugs. Not everyone of us would love to take our morning tea in a mug with LENIN written in gold letters. And I’m sure my father would prefer something less chic.)

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Yes, we’ve moved to the USSR room which – since this time is too recent to evoke only positive nostalgic feelings – is rather like a reminder, hey, it’s just yesterday that these were a part of our lives and now what, they are in a museum?!

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Like this kitchen which you can still see in very many households all across Russia. I guess some people would just NOT understand why on earth this thing is considered and exhibit.

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Or this school things and the girls’ uniform (black apron for every day and a white apron plus white lace collar for holidays) – I remember them so vividly, although I never had to wear this dress or this bag…

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I don’t necessarily recall similar assaults of the vodka shops during the Soviet prohibition times (that was during Perestroyka) but I do remember standing in line to get some food. Lines are the things Russian people VOLUNTARILY and very eagerly start, join and skip and make a hassle about…

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Walking back from the museum to my hotel I came across some walls, one of which had this written: ‘Smile or I will bite your nose off’. And then there was this green something. God, I love Chelyabinsk! =)

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It’s definitely a very Soviet city and at the same time there’s a lot from the 90s – or rather ‘like in the 90s’. It seems to me that some of the most recent stuff in Chelyabinsk look as if it was built during the rough & tough 90s. And some objects did remind me of the early 2000s too 🙂

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And guess what? I was really glad to see the cloudy sky above St Pete. Yes, better clouds above your home town than Chelyabinsk =)

So… Do you think rough & tough Chelyabinsk is a myth after all?

G.

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