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19Jun/170

Museum of Soviet Household in Yekaterinburg

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In 2017 Yekaterinburg has got a new museum – the Museum of the Soviet Household.

Irina Svetonosova, a former journalist was inspired by the idea of the similar museum in Kazan and decided to open a similar nostalgic exhibition of the Soviet memorabilia in her home town.

Irina, the owner of the museum photo by E1.ru

Irina, the owner of the museum
photo by E1.ru

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She rented a 100 years  old house in the city center and started collecting old stuff from the attics of her friends and relatives. The citizens of Yekaterinburg who have already been to the museum now bring their own items for the museum, so the collection continues growing.

The building of the Museum photo by E1.ru

The building of the Museum
photo by E1.ru

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Of course, for Russian visitors it’s a reason to feel nostalgic about their childhood days. I believe, it’ll also  be interesting for foreign visitors of Yekaterinburg to understand how people lived in the USSR and may be to compare the life style with their own.

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Address: ul. Sakko I Vanzetti, 40

Opened daily 11.00 – 20.00

Admission: Adults – 200rub \ School children – 100rub

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24Sep/150

Urals through the eyes of an Italian photographer

This month I met several tourists who deal with photography. In early September 3 Italian tourists asked me to organize two tours in the Urals. One of them was a professional photgrapher Diego Fiorovanti. His blog on photgraphy:  http://diegofioravantifotografia.wordpress.com/

On the first day we went to the village of Nizhnyaya Sinyachikha, an open air museum of wooden architecture

In Nizhnyaya Sinyachikha. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

In Nizhnyaya Sinyachikha. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

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In Nizhnyaya Sinyachikha. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

It was the 1st of September - 1st day of the new school year. We met many kids and Diego came up with an idea to make a photo report about the generation without communism. See all photos here https://diegofioravantifotografia.wordpress.com/portfolio-2/a-generation-without-comunism/

Children in Nizhnyaya Sinyachikha. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

Children in Nizhnyaya Sinyachikha. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

Children in the restaurant of Alapayevsk. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

Children in the restaurant of Alapayevsk. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

On the second day we went to the Military Museum in Verkhnyaya Pyshma and met schoolchildren there too.

Military Museum of Verkhnyaya Pyshma. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

Military Museum of Verkhnyaya Pyshma. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

Military Museum of Verkhnyaya Pyshma. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

Military Museum of Verkhnyaya Pyshma. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

In the museum we had an interesting encounter. One of the Italians Giuseppe from Rome  found out that his grandfather and the grandfather of Roman, the museum worker, had been stationed on the opposite banks of the same river in the Crimea during the Second World War. Of course, they had been fighting against each other those days. Today Roman teaches schoolchildren about how to prevent wars. Giuseppe received a present from Roman and promised to send the photos of his grand father for the school archive.

Roman, a teacher at the Military Museum. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

Roman, a teacher at the Military Museum. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

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Military Museum of Verkhnyaya Pyshma. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

Our next stop was in Nizhni Tagil, the town known as TagilLag during the Second World War. From 1941 to 1945 over 63 thousands of political prisoners and German prisoners of war were brought to the Labout Camps of Tagil to build factories and work at quarries. About 40% of them died. All the cemeteries of TagilLag were destroyed after Stalin's death. We visited the site of  a former cemetery in Nizhni Tagil. Today is just a field in the city.

Nizhni Tagil, a place of a former cemetery for the political prisoners of Gulag. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

Nizhni Tagil, a place of a former cemetery for the political prisoners of Gulag. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

Half of the city of Nizhni Tagil was build by prisoners. Today it's the second largest city in the middle Urals with many metallurgical plants. Tagil is also the largest tank producer in Russia. Maximum security prisons are still there.

In Nizhni Tagil. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

In Nizhni Tagil. Photo by Diego Fioravanti

Check out other great photos of the Urals by Diego at his blog https://diegofioravantifotografia.wordpress.com/portfolio-2/a-generation-without-comunism/

17Feb/140

Museum about This… Sex culture of Yekaterinburg

Not long ago I received an invitation to the Museum “About this”. I guess young Russians wouldn’t understand the meaning of “this” as they talk about sex freely these days but being born in the USSR I immediately understood the encryption. To be honest, I hadn’t heard of the Erotic Museum in Yekaterinburg before. The Museum “About This” (let’s stick to the official name here) opened in 2010 in the sexshop on 8, Kraulya St. According to their website it’s the second museum of the kind in Russia. The first one is in Moscow, of course.

photo from www.kazanova.su/our_projects/sexmuzey

photo from www.kazanova.su/our_projects/sexmuzey

The area of the museum is not large, however there are enough exhibits of different ages from different countries to satisfy your curiosity and to learn something new. I like to learn new things and I liked the idea that you can touch most of the objects and look through the old books and albums, for example, an album of the pre-revolution era. It doesn’t look erotic at all, more like porn.

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The exhibition is divided into different sections starting from ancient Egyptian and Greek civilizations then it proceeds to the Romans and Medieval times and so on. The Soviet display does have some interesting artefacts as well, for instance an envelope stamped by the KGB as top secret with porn photos. Nobody knows what happened to the owner of the photos. Perhaps, he disappeared in the basements of the Chekist Town (KGB headquarters in Yekaterinburg). Another display shows contemporary BDSM and gay culture (in case you wondered if it’s allowed in Russia).

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I’d expected the excursion in the museum would be more like a promotional introduction to the nearby sexshop but the guide was more focused on the history of sex telling stories in a very tactful manner so despite the small size of the museum you get a huge amount of information. Many of the exhibits are gifts of the museum’s friends. Some people bring unique things from their travelling expeditions, others find something on the attics of their grannies’ houses. Apart from excursions the museum organizes various events: exhibitions of Russian artists, cinema nights, workshops on drawing and pottery. Surely, every event expresses ideas of “this” as you get the terminology by now.

photo from www.kazanova.su/our_projects/sexmuzey

photo from www.kazanova.su/our_projects/sexmuzey

The mission of the museum is education for strengthening family ties. The education starts from the age of 18. The Museum “Abouth This” is opened daily 10.00 -21.00. Free admission. To book a guided tour in the museum call beforehand +7 343 231-57-17 Website: http://www.kazanova.su/our_projects/sexmuzey

24Oct/130

Dead Mountain by Donnie Eicher. New book on Dyatlov Pass Incident

deadm In March 2012 I wrote about a mysterious Dyatlov Pass incident in Northern Urals and about Donnie Eichar, a writer from L.A. who was here to investigate the incident on his own and to write a book.

See the post: http://askural.com/2012/03/dyatlov-pass/

Since that I’ve got many questions about the book and when it’s realized. I’m happy to say that the book Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident by Donnie Eichar  was released on October 22 and is now available on Amazon!

 And here’s the first review by Booklist: "The Dyatlov Pass incident is virtually unknown outside Russia, but in that country, it’s been a much-discussed mystery for decades. In 1959, nine Russian university students disappeared on a hiking expedition in the Ural Mountains. A rescue team found their bodies weeks later, nearly a mile from their campsite, partially clothed, shoeless, three of them having died from injuries that indicated a physical confrontation. What happened here? There have been a lot of theories, ranging from misadventure to government conspiracy to freak weather to extraterrestrials, but no one has managed to get to the truth. Drawing on interviews with people who knew the hikers (and with the lone survivor of the expedition, who’d had to turn back due to illness), Russian case documents, and the hikers’ own diaries, Eichar, an American documentarian, re-creates the ill-fated expedition and the investigation that followed. The author’s explanation of what happened on Dead Mountain is necessarily speculative, but it has the advantage of answering most of the long-standing questions while being intuitively plausible. A gripping book, at least as dramatic as Krakauer’s Into Thin Air (1997).”

— David Pitt

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Author Donnie Eichar with Yuri Yudin, the 10th survived hiker and me

You can also check the official website http://deadmountainbook.com/ to read more facts, see the photos and to watch the book trailer.

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Hikers on the way to the Dead Mountain

P.S. Some time ago 9 students - the friends of mine went hiking to Northern Urals. They went on the same dates as the Dyatlov team in the same number and pitched their tent in the same place of the Dead Mointain. That evening they were trying to keep cool but were trembling with fear. Finally, they went to sleep and woke up in the morning safe and sound.

As you can guess the place is not dangerous anymore and it attracts more and more tourists both in summer and in winter. Come to visit it but first read the book!

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By the way, the Hollywood movie on the Dyatlov Pass was a bit of a flop because zombie is the last thing the students might encounter there. What will be your explanation then?

all the photos from http://deadmountainbook.com/

29Mar/120

Dyatlov Pass. Hollywood interested in the Urals’ mystery

Every Yekaterinburg citizen knows about a mysterious Dyatlov Pass incident and everyone has his or her own version of what could happen to 9 students in Northern Urals in February 1959. Now it looks like Hollywood got its version as well. Local Mass Media wrote that  Renny Harlin, director of films like “Die Hard 2”,“Cliffhanger” and “5 Days of War” about the Russian-Georgian war in 2008 is going to shoot a thrilling movie on Dyatlov Pass. So far he has only revealed that the plot is going to be set in the contemporary world: a young group of American students travel to the Ural Mountains in order to solve the mystery of the Dyatlov Pass incident and get into trouble there.

Meanwhile, Donnie Eichar, a writer and director from L.A. arrived in Yekaterinburg in February 2012 to gather the facts and documents in order to write a book based on facts and possibly to find the truth. Ironically, the Dyatlov Foundation led by Yuri Kuntsevich hopes that an American can do more than the Russians. The foundation has been trying  to convince Russian officials to reopen the investigation of the case for years but to no avail. Donnie became the first American who trekked in extreme conditions (minus 30c degree) to top of mountain where hikers tent and bodies were discovered. I was lucky to assist him in interviewing the relatives and witnesses which was an incredible experience. But I must say that having heard all the terrifying details, I could barely sleep the following nights.

Oder the book Dead Mountain by Donnie Eichar http://deadmountainbook.com/

Four members of Dyatlov's team

Dyatlov Pass in Spring

In the mean time the facts that we know are as follows: It is February 1959 and nine experienced hikers, mostly students, break off on an expedition to the Ural Mountains on skis. Their goal: The Mountain “Otorten”, which in the local Mansi language means “Do not go there!” In fact, they will never arrive there. The “Dyatlov Pass incident“, named after the leader of the expedition Igor Dyatlov, is one of the biggest unsolved mysteries of the Soviet Union.

Two weeks after their disappearance, local search teams find five of the corpses close to the mountain Kholat Syakhl, the “Mountain of the Dead”, barefoot and dressed only in their underwear.

The empty tent found by investigators

Kholat Syakhl, the “Mountain of the Dead”

Investigations reveal that the hikers must have fled their tent for an unknown reason, tearing it open, leaving in a heavy snowstorm and temperatures of -25 decreasing to -30. The officials explain that they died of hypothermia. The real mystery only begins after the thaw when the remaining four corpses are found. All of them are discovered in utterly strange conditions. Two of the corpses have fractures on the skull, a woman is lacking her tongue and the clothes of two corpses contain a high level of radiation. Further, the corpses show signs of aging like grey hair and a deep orange-colored tan.

A plaque on the rock to commemorate the students

The suspicion that the local Mansi, Finno-Ugric people, had killed the hikers for entering their holy lands and mountain, which play a big role in many of their traditional legends, was refuted. No hand-to-hand struggle could be proved. The fractures of the skulls indeed seemed to be caused by a force much stronger than a human being, as if the bodies had exploded from the inside without any harm to the outer organs. Another group of hikers, camping 50 km away from the Mountain of the Dead, later testified that they noticed strange orange spheres at the sky that night. Northern lights, UFOs or the Soviet military? The conspiracy theories vary. Soviet investigators, unable to solve the mysterious circumstances of the deaths, claimed the hikers were killed by an “unknown compelling force”.

For this post I used the photos provided by Nashural.com and the text from the English newspaper Your Yekaterinburg.

29Nov/110

Germans in the Urals

Russian Germans (Russkie Nemtzy) is a generalized term used in the Russian language to name the people whose forefathers moved to Russia before the Revolution or were sent to labour camps during the Great Patriotic War in the USSR. Many of them migrated to Germany in 1990s but some decided to stay. For instance, my elderly neighbor babushka Anna said she was too old to integrate into the western society. Assuming that she lived in the industrial town of Nizhni Tagil, she had probably been a victim of Stalin repressions but she never spoke about it.

There are about 600 000 Russian Germans living in Russia today, over 20 000 of them live in Middle Urals. The Festival of German Culture in Russia was held for the first time in November in Yekaterinburg. About 200 of Russian Germans came from different parts of the Urals to share what they have preserved: folk songs and dances, national costumes and German quisine. By the way, the first Governer of Sverdlovskaya Oblast , Eduard Rossel is Russian German too. Other famous Russian Germans in the Urals are fellow artists Lew Weiber and Michail Distergeft.

Both were sent to Gulag and spent their youth working in coal mines in Karpinsk (Northern Urals). They were released After the Second World War. Weiber studied at the college of Arts in Sverdlovsk (now Yekaterinburg). Distergeft did the same in Nizhni Tagil. Of course, they were ‘ne vyezdnie’ (not permitted to travel abroad). There was a term Inner Emigration in Soviet artists’ lexicon in 1960s. It meant that looking for harmony the artists preferred to retreat to nature in order to create something for themselves and for a close circle of friends.

Yekaterinburg Gallery of Modern Art  (www.uralgallery.ru) exhibited the paintings of Weiber and Distergeft  as a part of the Festival of German Culture. The exhibition was called “The nature of memory. The memory of nature” It had Weiber’s landscapes of the Urals and graphic works by Gistergeft who portrayed the life of the Germans in labour camps. The graphic works were made in 1990s when Distergeft lived in Oranienburg, Germany.

30Oct/111

What museums to visit in Yekaterinburg?

Sverdlovsk Regional Museum of Local Lore (Kraevedcheski Muzey) is probably the largest Yekaterinburg. It has four halls which tell the history of the Urals from the ancient tribes to the Romanovs and Second World War. A new photo exhibition ‘Les Voyages in URSS’ tells about the so-called “Zastoy” era – years of stagnation in the USSR.

Red Square, Moscow 1956

Jacques Dupaquier is a French photographer who visited the USSR during the times of Khruschev and Brezhnev. Dupaquier first came to the USSR in 1956 as a member of the Society of French-Soviet Friendship.

Park Pobedy and a kiosk in Moscow, 1956

He took part in a car rally Paris-Tashkent with a stop in Sochi in 1964.

A beach in Sochi, 1964

Those days Sochi could hardly believe it would host the Olympics in 2014..Winter Olympics!

Finally, the French photographer travelled by Trans-Siberian railway from Vladivostok to Moscow in 1975. Has Russia changed since those days? You decide...

Sverdlovsk Train Station in 1975

Taiga, a town in Siberia

Chita, 1975

The exhibition ‘Les Voyages in URSS’ is open till 21st December 2011

Sverdlovsk Regional Museum of Local Lore is located in the centre next to the Iset Hotel. The museum has a hall of ancient history of the Urals with the Big Shigir Idol, the oldest wooden cult statue known in the world history (9.5 thousand years old).

Make sure you get to the Hall of the Romanovs on the top floor. It contains an interesting collection of letters, documents and personal belongings of the last Russian Tsar. The collection gives a better understanding of the unhappy events than a visit to Church on Blood or Ganina Yama Monastery

The hall of the Romanovs

Address: Prospect Lenina 69\10

Tel: +7 (343)376-47-78

26Oct/110

Novourask, a treasure of a closed town

Every sun rise is beautiful and it’s similarly beautiful in any part of the world. I spotted my October sun rise in a strange place near Novouralsk, a closed town behind the wall 90 km north of Yekaterinburg.

The town was known as Sverdlovsk-44 in the Soviet times and it was absolutely unknown to the rest of the world until 1994. Since that year it’s not a secret town but a closed town due to the Ural Electro Chemical Plant built there during World War II.  Novouralsk had the first mountain ski track in the Urals but very few people from the outside world could go skiing there (population of the town is 85.519)

Another treasure of Novouralsk is Verkhneyvenski pond with beaches and a yacht club.

Verkhneyvenski pond

The pond is outside the town thus you don’t have to go through the control post which you won’t be able to do anyway. Boat and yacht rentals are available in summer.

Getting there: by car from Novo-Moskovsky trakt drive through Pervouralsk. By any local train bound for Nizhni Tagil. Get off at Verkh-Neyvinsk Station. Novouralsk is on the left side, you will see it behind the barbed wire. The pond is on the right side. And the sun rise is for every one!

watch the sunrise by clicking here:

26Sep/111

Why drivers of Volga cars feel superior?

I noticed that unlike Russians foreigners like Russian cars, Volga in particular. So this post may be interesting for you!

 

This year Volga celebrates its 65th Anniversary. The owners of old Volgas in Yekaterinburg organized a rally and an exhibition of antique automobiles behind the Cosmos cinema last weekend.

The first Volga manufactured by GAZ was a symbol of higher status in the USSR. Very few people could afford it and those who could have chauffeurs. Usually they were people from the government or the KGBs.

The Soviet comedy film of 1966 ‘Beware of the Car’ (US title: Watch out for the Automobile) tells a story of a Soviet Robin Hood – a humble insurance agent who stole Volgas from crooks, sold them and transferred money to orphanages.

 

Later upgraded Volgas were used as taxi cabs and ambulances.

Today the drivers of Volga have a negative reputation on Russian roads. They are stereotyped as arrogant drivers who never yield to others. Probably, it is so as many Volga drivers are people over 50 and the feeling of superiority from the Soviet past stuck in their minds.

However, on the day of the rally all cars gave way to antique Volgas, honking in respect. GAZ-21 Volgas look really amazing on Russian roads. Happy Birthday, Volga!

12Sep/110

Russian Expo Arms. Nizhni Tagil 2011

 

A farewell to arms? Well, certainly not in the Urals. The region has always been a large industrial centre and it’s due to many defence plants that the Urals had been closed to foreigners until 1991.

Russian Expo Arms is held every year in Staratel tank training field in Nizhni Tagil, Sverdlovskaya oblast

VII International Exhibition of Armament, Military Equipment and Ammunition ‘Russian Expo Arms’ was traditionally held in Nizhni Tagil in 8-11 September.  Nizhni Tagil (140 north of Yekaterinburg) is known in Russia as a homeland for tanks. UralVagonZavod is the factory that started producing T-34 tanks in 1941. The latest model T-90C was shown in action on the training field. It was impressive and very loud, just what the public likes.

Highlight this year: T-90C aka 'flying tank'

Prime Minister Putin, who visited Expo Arms and checked out the T-90 tank, said that the exhibition should draw attention of international specialists and promote development of the international  military-technical cooperation. The countries especially drawn to big machines were Vietnam, India, Zambia and Uganda. There were also producers from Ukraine, Belarus, France and Italy this year.

There's something sexy about military machines especially if they are from Ukraine

Russian Expo Arms is an open event – no passport controls for foreigners. Tickets cost 300-500R and it was easy to get free VIP tickets especially if you know someone in Nizhni Tagil. As I was leaving the premises, a TV reporter was interviewing visitors asking what they thought about event.  A local man’s reply was obvious yet very absurd: “I feel so proud of my country, I’m proud of how strong Russia is”. Surely, there is nothing wrong about being proud of the country that can make a big toy able to destroy hundreds of people at a time. But it was said on September, 11, that’s why his comment sounded bizarre to me…

However, there was something for pacifists too – KAMAZ and Ural trucks were my favourite: they can work at -50 and +55C, climb steep hills and swim in lakes. This car is worth buying for those who dream of traveling from Moscow to Vladivostok and back!

Ural truck

Unlike Mr. Putin I visited Russian Expo Arms on the last day and missed a demonstration of air weapons – launches and bombing from helicopters and planes (not that I really regret it). The weather on that day was gloomy so my photos are a bit dark but it adds to the ambience of Russian military pride. There are also sunny photos by Benjamin Gaillard, a French expat in Yekaterinburg. Enjoy!

p.s. ExpoArms is held in early September every second year. The next one is in 2013