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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

14Jul/111

Innoprom 2011- Yekaterinburg goes innovative

Innoprom 2011 is an international Ural exhibition and forum of industry and innovations held in July 14-17 in a newly built Yekaterinburg Expo near Koltsovo Airport

Total area of Expo is more than 200 thousand sq.m.

President Medvedev stated in May at the Skolkovo innovation centre that innovative infrastructure should be applied in other regions. Sverdlovskaya oblast is one of these regions. The list of participants includes Russian Railways, Ltd. "Gazprom Transgaz Ekaterinburg" and the Swiss Association of Mechanical Engineers Swissmem, as well as collective expositions of Germany, Israel, China, Poland, Canada, Austria and Vietnam.

Russian RZD and Siemens signed an agreement to produce high-speed trains Desiro in the Urals

Apart from industrial objects there is an interesting exhibition of Contepmporary Art

and a must-see for families with kids TechnoDrom - a project of a scientific museum for children which, I really hope, will be opened in the Urals one day...

Innoprom is opened daily 9-19. There are free shuttle buses running every 20 min from the main train station and from the metro station Ploschad 1905

p.s. Innoprom is now held every year in middle July

5Jul/110

Charity Sand Festival in the centre of Yekaterinburg

You might have wondered why the area in front of Kosmos Cinema is enclosed by walls this summer, obstructing the view of the city pond. It doesn’t look like a café and the entrance fee is 120 roubles. Actually, I got there accidentally - because Mr. Putin was in the city many central streets were closed even for pedestrians. A lady at the entrance promised me uplifting experience like back in childhood, meanwhile my money will go to the local charity for children with cancer. That was enough to convince me to buy a ticket to the sand world.

The project is called Sand Festival (www.sand-festival.ru). It was created by professors and students of the Ural Academy of Architecture in Yekaterinburg. They made 14 sand sculptures of popular Russian and foreign cartoon characters.

 

The sand box is opened until August 31 daily from 10 to 23 and there are workshops for children at weekends. Entrance fee: 120R for adults, 90R for students, 50R for school children, free for children under seven.

28Jun/110

Best of Russia – Moscow photo project exhibited in Yekaterinburg

This summer you don't need to go far in order to explore Russia. Just pay a visit to Yekaterinburg Museum of Fine Arts on Vainera st. 11

Ice Breath of Siberia by Vitaly Tumanuv, 25y.o., Lobnya

All Russian annual photo project ‘Best of Russia ‘10’ arrived at Yekaterinburg. The photo exhibition with 365 best photos of the year was brought from Winzavod Centre for Contemporary Art, Moscow.

Physical Jerks by Sergey Voronin, 54y.o. Podolsk

Small portrait by Alexander Alpatkin, 46y.o. Kurgan (Urals)

The idea is to show the life of the whole country during one year viewed by Russian citizens and to discover most talented photographers. The organizers received 26 000 photos from 570 Russian settlements created by professional and amateur photographers.

That ‘Locked Out’ Feeling by Ilya Nodiya, 21 y.o. Omsk

Children are the flowers of life by Dmitry Ternovsky, 29y.o. Moscow

365 project’s best photos were chosen by the authoritative jury committee. The exhibition is divided into five sections: architecture, nature, style, people, events and everyday life. There is only one rule – photos have to be created in Russia.  

The exhibition is held in Yekaterinburg Museum of Fine Art on Vainera 11 until September, 4. Entrance fee 150 R

Hypno-Cat by Pavel Kuleshin, 26y.o. Moscow

12Apr/110

Happy Cosmonauts Day!

Yekaterinburg is celebrating 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s flight into outer space. On April, 12th at 12 there were 12 salvos of paper rockets in the historical center by the dam.

Among 108 Russian cosmonauts there was only one from the Urals – Vitaly Sevastyanov. But probably one of those children will travel to space in the future too!

Let's not forget that the first travellers into space were two Russian dogs Belka and Strelka!

There were former pilots and all types of aliens at the fest:

... and dancing girls from the police academy.

Who said that Russian policemen are rude and angry?

The highlight of the fest - a gallery of children's paintings about life in outter space

 

21Feb/110

Open air museum in Nizhnyaya Sinyachikha

There is a village in the Urals that can be called an open-air museum-village. Nizhnyaya Sinyachikha (yep, it's a tricky tongue twister)  is 180 km from Yekaterinburg on the way to Siberia. The settlement is 330 years old. There along the Siberian road you can see the examples of wooden architecture of the previous centuries. It’s always a good idea to park your car and to walk around. You can also buy a ticket to get inside the wooden chapels and houses to see more of the local naïve art, so characteristic for the Urals.

I got to Nizhnyaya Sinyachikha in August with a group of my fellow architects and designers. They chose the trip to celebrate Builder’s Day (it has been celebrated in Russia since the Soviet times by everyone involved in construction works)

The highlight of the village is Saviour Transfiguration Church. The locals say it was built by an Italian architect and it does look very Italian. Historians are skeptical about it and believe the architect was Russian as the church is typical for Siberian Baroque style. The church was largely destroyed by the Bolsheviks. The building was used as a social club and a library the Soviet era. It is now a part of the museum and that’s where you buy the entrance ticket for something like 200 roubles (7$).

 The church-museum has an interesting collection of bells from post cabs. There is an interesting exhibition of interior and exterior design on the second floor of the building. Rich villagers would hire a designer to paint the walls of their houses. Bright and happy colors were very popular with the Ural dwellers.It is probably because the natural scenery was not colorful at all. These days the scenery is the same - gloomily grey-and-white for at least 6 months a year. Local designers did their best to please the clients. They painted exotic animals or things they had heard about but never seen. Take a look at how people imagined elephants or locomotives – those are priceless images.

Book a tour to Nizhnyaya Sinyachikha here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/nizhnyaya-sinyachikha

Sinyachikha river

a house of 18th century

There is only one man behind the whole project - Ivan Samoylov. He was a local activist who loved his village and dedicated 40 years of his life to create the open-air museum. With a few fellow-carpenters he started to restore the Savior Church in 1967. It took them 11 years to complete the restoration but that was only the beginning. Samoylov then started to collect old neglected houses from the nearby villages. He brought them log by log to Nizhnyaya Sinyachikha and built them anew. It was easy to do as wooden houses in Russia used to be made without a single nail. So he only had to pile the logs in the correct order.

Chappels in the Urals had brightly painted iron roofs and golden crosses

Samoylov preserved 20 buildings including the unique wooden chapels of 18th century. As he worked in the Soviet era, he was many times confronted by the local communist leaders who didn’t like the idea of saving churches. Samoylov didn’t concede and kept on working for his Motherland. He was never paid a rouble for what he had done but was awarded a medal by Yeltsin in 1990s. Sadly, after Samoylov’s death there are no volunteers to continue his work though there are still many historical objects in the decaying villages all over the Urals.

Today houses haven't changed much

A local wedding

Nizhnyaya Sinyachikha is worth visiting during the first week of March when Maslenitza (a pancake carnival) is celebrated. The museum workers arrange a special program with pancake tasting. There is also a nice cafe in front of the church but sometimes it is closed in the afternoon for wedding parties

The museum is open daily 9a.m.-4p.m., Wed 9a.m-8p.m; telephone: (34346) 75-1-18, 75-2-37

Book a tour to Nizhnyaya Sinyachikha here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/nizhnyaya-sinyachikha

Getting there

by car: take Yekaterinburg - Rezh highway until Alapayevsk then down Ul. Lenina follow the directions to Nizhnyaya Sinyachikha. The main road leads exactly to the Church.

public transport: there are buses and marshrutkas to Alapaevsk from Yekaterinburg Severny Avtovokzal (near the train station). Busses run daily 3-4 times a day and take 3 hours. Alternatively go by electrichka (local train) to Alapaevsk. It takes 4 hours. In Alapaevsk take bus 103 from the bus station or hitchhike (about 2 km)

4Feb/110

Boris Yeltsin in marble

This week Yekaterinburg is celebrating the 80th anniversary of Boris Yeltsin’s birth. A big man from the Urals started his political career in Sverdlovsk, then was promoted to Moscow in 1985 and became the first president of Russia. Now his statue is the first monument since the Soviet era erected to a political leader.

The monument is made of 15 ton marble pieces. It’s 10 metres tall - Boris’s height was 1.87m., much taller than his followers Putin and Medvedev (1.70 and 1.62 respectively). No wonder, the monument was erected on the Street named after Yeltsin. In the Soviet times the central street used to be a neglected area with shabby barracks. It was thanks to Yeltsin that the ugly barracks were demolished and people were moved to the new apartment buildings. Yeltsin also ordered to build a Drama theatre on this street. In the future there will be a presidential centre on Yeltsin Street too with a library and a museum. The museum will have an exact replica of Yeltsin’s office in the Kremlin.

The building of the future presidential centre of B.Yeltsin

2011 is also the 20th anniversary of the failed coup arranged by the Communists in August 1991 when Yeltsin climbed up onto a tank outside the Russian parliament and called for a general strike. On 23 August Yeltsin banned the Communist party in Russia. The photo exhibition of those events is now held in the Museum of History in Yekaterinburg. The exhibition is called ‘Yeltsin – Yes!’

There are very different opinions in Russia of Yeltsin’s presidency. The 90s are remembered as years when few men became billionaires while pensioners lived in poverty. Gangsters and mafia controlled the cities, it was especially characteristic for Yeltsin’s home city Yekaterinburg. The president was famous for his drunken speeches. I heard a lady from Moscow saying on the radio about Yekaterinburg: “Everything is wrong in your city – you killed the Tsar and failed to raise a president.”

By the way, it was Yeltsin who ordered to demolish Ipatyev House – the place of the Tsar’s murder in 1978. Though later he would say the order arrived from the Kremlin and he couldn’t disobey. However, Boris always had a huge support in Yekaterinburg. 95% of the Yekaterinburgers supported him in 1991 and the recent celebration events show that most of the Ural citizens don’t have a grudge against him.

Another interesting exhibition took place on Lenin Avenue. Local contemporary artists erected a carton monument to letter E. It is the most important letter for the city as both Yekaterinburg and Yeltsin start with ‘E’ in Russian. The citizens could bring the photos of the prominent people whose names start with E. The photos were then glued to the monument.

7Jan/110

Christmas in Church on the Blood

January 7 is a Christmas Day in Orthodox Russia. The main celebrations in Yekaterinburg are held in and around Church on Blood in Honor of Tsar Martyr Saints' murder. Every year the best Russian ice sculptors come to create breathtaking symbols of Christmas and Mother Russia's saints all made of ice.

Tsar Martyr Saints

 This year the most prominent sculpture is no doubt the ice icon of the Romanovs family with young Tsarevich Alexey in front.  Wish you all Merry Christmas! 

Here are some more pictures, Iv'e taken today:

5Nov/100

Culinary adventures in the Soviet Urals

A new delicious exposition is opened now in the Museum of History of Yekaterinburg. It's called The Journey of Sverdlovsk Gourmet: culinary adventures in the Soviet Urals. The word gourmet sounded somewhat ironic in the Soviet times of food shortages. Still Soviet cafes and restaurants were interesting and exotic places in terms of ideology and red propaganda.

Factories in the Urals had no canteens until 1930s. Workers went home for a dinner break.      - A good communist must spend all his day working for Mother Russia! - the government said and established a new institution - a canteen where a worker spent 2 minutes of his working time instead of 2 hours. If you think it's impossible to finish a borsch, chicken Kiev and a glass of juice within 2 minutes, you'd better believe it. There was special person who timed you break. At the beginning the factory canteens in Yekaterinburg (Sverdlovsk those days) were very fancy. They had fountains and even libraries with endless volumes of Marx and Lenin works. After Nikita Khrushchev visited the Uralmash factory, all the canteens lost their glamorous touch - Khrushchev was very stingy with government money and despised luxury. Thus canteens were turned into regular fast food cafes in an American self-service manner with typically unfriendly Soviet service.

Dishes in a canteen neither looked nor smelled delicious but tasted good

Everyone who lived in the USSR remembers that Thursday was a fish day. Fish was cooked in all canteens, cafes and restaurants all over the country. This way the government tried to support and develop fish industry. Thursday was not randomly chosen. Factory workers who never opted for dieting  weren't at all happy about fish days and preferred more substantial meat. Thursday (and that was proved by a careful scientific anlysis) was the least irritating day for serving fish - one day until Friday and the weekend mood was already there.   

Caviar wasn't included into Thursday fish menue but it was easier to buy than today. At the moment Russia doesn't produce black caviar. Black caviar can only be bought from black market

Soviet children enjoyed visiting ice-cream cafes, again thanks to the USA. The first equipment for making ice-cream was bought by the Bolsheviks in America in 1932. Since that time the USSR has been the major ice-cream producer making 25 tons a day!

Ice-cream is tasty and healthy in summer and in winter! - the advertisment says

A restaurant was a dream place for many Soviet citizens. Ordinary people couldn't afford it, but once in a life time a relative of a high rank would invite you to a wedding or birthday celebration. Getting there you got into a different world. Yekaterinburg restaurants like Big Ural or Cosmos were known for a special Unsoviet atmosphere, i.e. no self-service, waitresses in shamelessly short skirts were ready to serve you, a music band could play your favourite song for 3 rubles, more than that some male customers paid a certain some of money to certain people and all of a sudden beautiful women came in and joined their table! 

The exhibition of culinary adventures to the Soviet past is opened until 3d April 2011. Every visitor gets a free icecream - the most popular and delicious plombir! The Museum of History of Yekaterinburg 0n Karla Libknekhta st. 26 open daily from 10:00 to 18:00 except Mondays.  

26Oct/1016

The Demidoff family – from the Urals to Italy

A portrait of Nikita Demidoff who started the famous dynasty. In fact, his name was Nikita Demidovich Altufyev but Peter the Great would call him Demidov or Demidoff in a European way.

The Demidoff family was the richest clan not only in the Urals but in the whole Russian Empire. The history of Middle Urals is mostly the history of the Demidoffs who owned dozens of factories mostly in nevyansk and Nizhni Tagil. Ural metals with Demidoff's trademark Old Sable can be found in St.Petersburg (Peterhof), in London (the Palace of Westminster) and even in new York. The Statue of Liberty was a gift of France, as you know. But first the French had to buy copper from Demidoff's factories.

Akinfy Demidoff was the most influential in the dynasty. With the discovery of gold in the Urals, Akinfy became the second wealthy person in Russia after the Tsar. The legend says that he also counterfeited ruble coins in the secret factory in the basement of his mysterious Leaning Tower in Nevyansk. The Leaning Tower is still a secret to scientists and historians. We don't know the name of the architect, why the tower has the inclination and what purpose it had. It was a laboratory, a prison, a watch tower and a clock tower at the same time. The English clock that still plays music every 15 min. cost Demidoff more than the tower itself. In addition the Leaning Tower had a lightning rod the first ever used in the world.

Akinfy Demodoff's grandson Nikolay had enjoyed his life in the Urals until once he went on holiday to Italy, fell in love with it and never went back to his residence in Nizhni Tagil. You can't really blame him for lack of patriotism. Compared to the Ural severe climate and plain food, of course Italy seemed to be a paradise to Nikolay. He lived in Florence in Villa San Donato also known as Villa Demidoff and bought a feudal title of Count of San Donato. Although Russian aristocrats refused to call Demidoff by his title, the name of San Donato is well known in the Urals. There is a small train station San Donato not far from Nizhni Tagil. The name sounds so exotic that many people believe San is short for Sanatorium, however there is no sanatorium in the neighborhood. Meanwhile the Demidoffs set even stronger bonds with the Europeans when Nikolay's son Anatole Demidoff married Princess Mathilde, a niece of Napoleon.

In the present time the Demidoffs live in France. They own neither palaces nor noble titles. The head of the family hardly speaks Russian. He is aware of his famous ancestors but prefers a modest life style. What's interesting, the last Demidoff has been to Russia only once in early 90s. He didn't go to the Urals, instead he chose to visit the Red Square in Moscow. In the interview for the Russian TV he said that he wasn't much impressed..

Unlike Demidoff, tourists from Russia and abroad like to visit Demidoff's places and the Leaning Tower in particular. Nevyansk is 90 km north to Yekaterinburg. You can get there by bus or by train. The Tower is opened every day except Mondays from 9a.m. to 6 p.m. Because of many tourist groups on weekends, it's wise to book an excursion beforehand by phone +7-34356-2-20-56 or e-mail: muzei@nevmus.ru. Note that excursions are in Russian only.

Book the tour to Nevyansk here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/nevyansk-leaning-tower

Take a look at the photos of Nevyansk by Fredrik Forsberg  (for more photos visit my page Yekaterinburg for You on Facebook)