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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

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)

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:

5Jan/110

Ice Town 2011 in Yekaterinburg

Every winter right before New Year holidays the main square of Yekaterinburg turns into an ice town with a tall Christmas Tree and a skating rink in the middle. Little Yekaterinburgers go riding, skating, taboganning  while adults take photos of magnificent ice sculptures.

This year the theme of the ice town is Cosmos as 2011 is 5oth anniversary of the first flight into outer space.

On April 12, 1961 Yuri Gagarin, a citizen of the Soviet Union piloted a successful flight into outter space that lasted 108 min. Gagarin and his famous smile (above picture) became the simbol of all that was good about the USSR. The other symbol is an apple tree from the popular Soviet song on cosmos invasion: 'Apple trees will soon bloom even on Mars' Many apple trees are already blooming in the Ice Town of Yekaterinburg.

The bitter Ural weather doesn't scare anyone (it was -20 when the photos were taken). Just put on a warm parka and a thick woolen scarf to make sort of a balaclava like these little tiwns below. By the way, look at the glistening things on the snow sculpture behind them - those are coins!

It's a new tradition - people stick  five or ten copeck for good luck and wish to have a prosperous new year. You can stick one too! There's plenty of time as the ice town is open until mid. February.

 Here are more photos and more ice sculptures created by sculptors from all over Russia. Welcome to outer space!

 

 

 

21Dec/100

The most popular Russian drink

Yekaterinburg Museum of Local Folklore on Lenina 69 opened new exhibition dedicated to the most popular drink in Russia. On a cold December day when it’s -30 outside this drink keeps you warm and the drink is chai (tea). You could have thought it would be vodka. Well, vodka is certainly the most famous Russian brand but as for popularity here’s simple statistics: I haven’t got vodka at home (I’ve got a bottle of tequila, yes, but no vodka), my brother has only some beer in the fridge, my neighbors don’t drink alcohol at all. But I bet you’ll find at least two or three sorts of tea in every Russian home!

'Merchant's wife drinking tea' by B. Kustodiev, 1923

Tea came from China that is why the Russian name of the drink was derived from cha – a common pronunciation in Northern China. Chai traveled via Irkutsk, Krasnoyarsk, Tobolsk and Tyumen finally to the Ural town of Irbit (204 km from Yekaterinburg). The annual Irbit Winter Fair was the second largest in Russia with fur and tea brought from Siberia and Asia. It took a year and a half to deliver tea to the Ural Region on camels’ and horses’ backs then by ships. Here in the Urals tea would be packaged in finely decorated boxes and sent further to Moskovia Region. Ministry of Tourism of Sverdlovskaya oblast is now developing a new route: Great Tea Road, which will be a good opportunity to visit some off the beaten track places in the Urals and Siberia.

The symbol of the Russian tea ceremony is a big iron samovar. The whole family would gather around a hot shining samovar in winter, thus a samovar in Russia played a similar role as a fireplace in the English houses. The Russians like it piping hot that’s why they would sip tea from saucers. Gold-rimmed saucers cool down tea very quickly. Russian noblemen however found this way vulgar and inappropriate. They copied the English tea ceremonies and had their morning tea with cream.  

Samovar was invented by the Cossacks as a portable kettle during their exploration of in the Urals. Russian tea from samovar is accompanied by jam and baranki - ring-shaped dry biscuits

In the Soviet times tea was delivered mainly from India when Khrushchev made friends with Indira Ghandi. Tea industry was booming especially under dry law. Young people celebrated dry weddings drinking tea. But let’s not idealize those days – vodka was often poured to the boiled water in a tea cattle, disgusting but at least alcoholic.  

Before tea got to the Russian Empire people had brewed herbs and made zbiten. This traditional Russian drink is becoming more and more popular nowadays and you can find it in some cafes of Yekaterinburg or can make it yourself: for 1 big cup take 3 tbsp of honey,  3 tbsp of sugar, 2 bay leaves, 2 cloves, some ginger. Boil 10 min. Drink piping hot and -30 outside will not bother you anymore.

Note! If you want to tip a waiter in Russia, you leave na chai (it means small money for tea)

6Dec/101

Animated Yekaterinburg

On the first day of winter Russian director Rinat Timerkaev presented his new animated film I Love You. The film shows his native city Yekaterinburg in spring and based on Marina Chengikmakher's poetry.

More info about the film on Rinat's blog (in Russian) http://timerkaev.livejournal.com/

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.  

17Oct/100

Opera and Ballet Theatre in Yekaterinburg

This month Yekaterinburg Opera and Ballet Theatre celebrates its 98th anniversary. The theatre is located in the city center on Lenin Avenue. It has been restored lately and looks just as in 1912 when its first season started with A Life for the Tsar - an opera by Glinka also known as Ivan Susanin. The history of Russian Ballet began in Yekaterinburg in 1914. The first ballet staged in the Urals was The Magic Flute. The ballet is on in Yekaterinburg this season.

The local theatre received international acclaim. It's especially popular in Thailand now. Every winter the theatre performs in Bangkok. The Royal Family of Thailand are huge fans of Russian culture and ballet in particular. My good friends - the violinists of Yekaterinburg Opera and Ballet Theatre like to tell a story how they received a present from the King of Thailand - a vase that they nearly lost in a platskartny train during excessive drinking on their way home (musicians are human too, you know). The parcel kept on falling from the top bunk onto their heads and a provodnitsa in the train nearly threw it away. Only in Yekaterinburg they realised what kind of a present they had got. The jewelers failed to assess the vase stating it was priceless.

Despite the priceless gift from the King of Thailand, the life of Russian ballerinas hasn't changed much since the Soviet times when many of the dancers attempted to fleet to Europe or to the USA. The local ballerinas enjoy very modest salaries of 700 US$, saying however that the sensation of dancing on stage can't be compared to anything else. So they keep on tiptoeing and that is why Opera and Ballet Theatre in Yekaterinburg is always packed. Book your tickets in advance!

A few words about Russian traditions of going to the theatre: a night in an Opera is a festive occasion for the Russians. Theatre goers are dressed up so the foreigners are easily spotted by the jeans and sneakers. During an intermission people rush to the cafe to buy pastry and drinks. Beer is not common in the theatres but vodka and brandy is always available.

12Oct/100

Ural Inventions – rewriting world history

Monument to a radio inventor Popov

When foreign tourists get to Russia they may be surprised to learn that the historical events they studied at school were absolutely wrong especially concerning inventions. The Russians will eagerly give you a lesson of history in case you still don't know who invented the first steam locomotive, the first bicycle, radio, lightning rod or periodic table. Well, as for the periodic table, even wikipedia agrees that it was invented by Russian professor Mendeleev. As for the others, guess where they all occured according to the Russians? By a staggering coincidence all the above objects were invented in the Urals and that's what I learnt at school and had firmly believed until I met the first foreign tourists in Yekaterinburg.

The monument to Alexander Popov in Yekaterinburg is right in the center on Lenin Avenue. It's next to the main post office. Every school child knows that Alexander Popov invented radio. Nevermind that the rest of the world believes that Italian inventor Marconi did this. We know for sure, Popov invented his device and tested it in 1896 three month before Marconi. He only didn't apply for a patent - too much fuss and paper work, you know. Meanwhile Marconi introduced his apparatus to the public in London and patented it. All in all 7 May (the date when Popov demonstrated his radio) is known in Russia as Radio Day. Students of Ural Technical University have a tradition. On Radio Day they march 3 km from the University down Lenin Avenue to the monument of Popov and wash it - pigeons like to rest on Popov's head so students have to deal with consequences, then at night an open-air party begins.

The Britons would be surprised to learn that steam locomotive was invented in Russia. The Ural city of Nizhni Tagil has a monument to the Cherepanovs father and son who built the first locomotive. It should be added - that was the first locomotive built in Russia, not in the world but not many people in Russia pay attention to such trifles.
The same story was with the invention of bicycle. A sculpture of local craftsman Aratamonov on his high-wheel bicycle can be found in Yekaterinburg on Vainera st. The legend says he built his iron bicycle and rode to St. Petersburg to see the coronation of the Russian Tsar. It sounds fishy considering the state of Russian roads or better to say the lack of any roads in 18th century. Then again, those crazy Russians are known for diving naked in winter so why not riding a bicycle to St. Petersburg.

Finally, how about the lightning rod invented by Benjamin Franklin in 1749. If you still believe it, visit Nevyansk - a town 90 km from Yekaterinburg. The famous leaning tower of Nevyansk keeps many secrets. We still don't know the name of an architect and the purpose of the tower. But we do know that the top of the tower was crowned with a metal lightning rod. The tower was built somewhere in 1725-1732. It's a historical fact which means the locals created it 25 years before Franklin.

Leaning Tower in Nevyansk

Whether it's the Russian tendency to think we are the first in the world, a lack of communication in the past centuries, Soviet propaganda or sheer genius, it's up to you to decide. But after visiting the Urals you might rewrite history of world inentions.

8Oct/100

Russian presidents in Yekaterinburg art gallery

Yekaterinburg Gallery of Modern Art as usual holds an interesting photo exhibition Our Shots this October. The most curious photos of the famous Russian newspaper Kommersant present top Russian personalities in a very peculiar way.

If you happen to stay in Yekaterinburg do visit it on Krasnoarmeyskaya 32. More information about the gallery is here (the web-site is in English) http://www.uralgallery.ru/en-index.php

And some photos from the exhibition are here: