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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

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:

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)

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.  

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:

15Sep/100

Contemporary art in Yekaterinburg

With 50 museums, 15 theatres and 20 institutions of higher education Yekaterinburg is sure to have busy cultural life. Recently it has attracted many contemporary artists as the first Ural Biennale of Contemporary Art is now open in the city until middle October.

The exhibitions are set in 6 factories of Yekaterinburg. The most interesting and worth visiting is in Urlamsh - the Ural heavy Machine Building Plant. You can get there by metro. The one and only metro line in Yekaterinburg goes directly to the northern district of Uralmsh. Uralmsh is a large industrial and residential area, back in the 90s it was known as the criminal capital of Russia. It is still a dare to walk in Uralmash after midnight but it's OK during a day. Take my word as I lived in Uralmash for 5 years.

Normally it's impossible to get to the territory of the huge Uralmash factory unless you work there. Thanks to the art you have a unique opportunity to see this top secret place. Getting inside can be quite adventurous. The whole process of entering the factory is a good example of a never-dying Russian bureaucracy. It can be annoying especially if you've already had difficulties getting a visa. But if you have sense of humour the experience is remarkable.

First of all, you have to show your passport everywhere. Then you will be told not to take any photos as if it's not a contemporary exhibition but a KGB office. At the entrance to one of the buildings our group of visitors was greeted by a typically Soviet big shrewish woman in grey uniform with a stern face and a coquettish purple lipsticked mouth. She was a factory security guard and a perfect prototype of a Russian woman of the Cold War era. You know the one that was later fortunately replaced by a new image of slender tennis players.  I was tempted to take a picture of that woman but was afraid that she might easily throw me away to the factory shaft for this. The woman said that she wouldn't let us in because we had to have the detailed plan of our excursion in the factory with the copies of our passports, signatures of some important people and probably sealed by Putin at that. We didn't have all those papers. To my reply that we came not to spy but to see the art exhibit she answered in triumph - Bureaucracy is not yet cancelled in Russia! I now have no doubts that it will never be cancelled in Uralmash factory No matter how hard our president is trying to eliminate red tape in the country he simply won't be able to get inside because he hasn't got a detailed plan of his visit.

Anyway, we did get inside after we wrote our full names on a sheet of paper for our lovely lady-guard and promised her not to take any pictures there. Well, I came to see contemporary art so I took a few...

Ural Biennale of Contemporary Art takes place in September-October every second year. The next one is in 2014