Category Archives: On Russia

2018 Xmas: The Terrifying Beauty of Industrialisation


This was the view from my window a few days ago. I wrote once that I had always been presented with a difficult choice between some lovely scenery of my district and the ugly industrial sites overshadowing it.

Looking at this photo that came out rather well made me recall George Orwell’s admitting that industry can, in fact, be designed to look beautiful, in order to conceal everything that is unwholesome about it. And indeed, many plants and factories today are built to be pleasing to the eye. They are no longer those terrifying gigantic blocks of brick or steel; instead, they are often light in both colour and shape to look elegant and inviting. To the younger generations industry has nothing to do with unhealthy vapours, low pay and child labour. 

The picture thus illustrates my favourite topic of what we choose to focus on. Considering this is the view I am most likely to see from my window, the question is: what do I look at? Do I look at the thermal electric station in the distance and pity myself, or do I look at the trees, the vast terrain and the sunset and enjoy the natural beauty? 

I am pretty sure you know my answer.

The Revolutionary Smolny Telephone

In Russia, when you cannot get through a certain number, you say that the number is engaged ‘like at the Smolny’. The Smolny Palace was built by Giacomo Quarenghi in 1806-08 to house the Smolny Institute for Noble Maidens, Russia’s first institution for women’s education. However, in 1917 the Smolny Institute was moved out of Petersburg, and between October 1917 and March 1918 the building served as the headquarters for the Bolshevik Government. Vladimir Lenin resided here, and several revolutionary decrees got passed here in November 1917, including the Decree on Peace and Decree on Land. Naturally, the phone line must have been engaged most of the time, due to a high activity of the Bolshevik government, and so the abovementioned expression originated.

The Museum of Contemporary History in Moscow’s Tverskaya St. has tweeted a picture of the phone that was used by the Military Revolutionary Committee in Vassilevsky Island to keep in touch with the Bolshevik headquarters at the Smolny.

 

Saturday Music: Valeriy Obodzinsky – The Way

The English-speaking world usually believes nobody sang in English in the Soviet Union. Well, sometimes there were made films that required an English soundtrack – like The Silence of Dr. Evans, written and directed by Budimir Metalnikov and released in 1973.  I’ve not seen it myself, but as I’m going through a revival of my life-long love for Valeriy Obodzinsky, I’ve come across the song The Way, composed by a famous Russian composer and pioneer of electronic music Eduard Artemev. Artemev also composed music to Solaris (1972), The Mirror (1975) and Stalker (1979) by Andrei Tarkovsky.

The 1980 Olympic Games Memorabilia

As we know, the first time Russia got to host the Olympic Games was in 1980. Turns out, at home we’ve got quite a collection of the Olympic memorabilia, which I’ve now collated into a PDF document. What awaits you inside are postcards, tourist materials (phrasebooks etc.), advertising materials of the Soviet Railways, perpetual calendars until the year 2000, mascots and badges. Regarding mascots, apart from the famous Mishka there was also a Seal that represented Tallinn, Estonia where the sailing competitions were held. There is also a sleeve for a Russian adaptation of Pablo Neruda’s Xoaquin Murieta’s at the Lencom Theatre. My parents went to see it in early 1980, and bought a vynil disk that had already been adorned with the Olympic symbol. Browse the PDF, ask questions, and I’ll find you the answers.

//www.scribd.com/embeds/205251748/content?start_page=1&view_mode=scroll&access_key=key-1oxl26tjd03q87h591c3&show_recommendations=true