Ekaterina Vasilyeva: On the Neva

A River for People: What Makes the Neva Tick?
Ekaterina Vasilyeva
Republic
November 29, 2019

All my photo projects are somehow connected with nature, with long walks and studying the environment. I think that without a clear understanding of nature’s role in our lives, we to some extent deprive ourselves of support.

My project The Neva: A River for People, People for the River is an attempt to find a balance between harmony and destruction in the relationship between humans and nature. The role of nature is played by the Neva River, thanks to which my hometown of St. Petersburg was built over three hundred years ago.

Nature has always only been raw material for the builders of cities, and the Neva’s resources were used at the expense of its gradual destruction. In accounts of the city’s history, the Neva has served as an inert backdrop for heroic conquest. For ordinary people, however, the river has always symbolized the individual’s path in life, her destiny. In my project, the Neva is a metaphorical life line for St. Petersburg and the three towns situated along its 74-kilometer course—Shlisselburg, Kirovsk, and Otradnoye.

The importance of rivers and canals for the city used to be strongly underscored. Russians were instilled with a love of water. Under Peter the Great, every householder was obliged to have a boat, and every home on the waterfront had to have a pier. Even the scanty trade by which many boatsmen in old Petersburg supported themselves—the extraction of firewood, logs, and boards for subsequent sale or use—was practiced with gratitude to the Neva as a benefactress. In old Petersburg, these accidental finds had their own name: “gifts of the Neva.”

People nowadays have an ever more aggressive and consumerist attitude to the Neva. On the other hand, there is no doubt the people who live in the Neva basin love their river. This contradiction is one of the subjects of my project.

neva-1An incident occurred in the skies over Leningrad on August 21, 1963, resulting in the emergency landing of a Tu-124 passenger plane on the Neva near the Finland Railroad Bridge. The river is around 400 meters wide at this point. A passing steam tugboat towed the plane to the Neva’s right bank. The windshield in the nose of the plane was broken to secure the tow cable. The passengers were evacuated and sent to Moscow.

neva-2Peter the Great was a big fan of the national pastime. During his reign, hockey matches on the ice of the frozen Neva could attract as many as several thousand spectators.

neva-3Shlisselburg. In 1912, the Finnish archaeologist Julius Ailio recorded the following tale in the village of Mikulainen on the shore of Lake Ladoga: “The Neva River used to be tiny. If a tree fell, it would lodge between one bank and the other, and you could cross the river by walking over it. Then fifty or sixty years later, the river widened. Shepherds would toss burning brands across the river to each other to make campfires. But then the river eroded the land at its source and became quite broad.”

neva-4In 1716, by decree of Peter the Great, fishermen from Russia’s northern provinces were settled on the left bank of the Neva between its tributaries, the Murzinka and the Slavyanka, to supply residents of the capital with fish. Originally, the settlement was called just that—the Fishery Settlement [Rybnaya sloboda]. The name was later changed to Fishermen’s Village [Rybatskoye]. The locals still call the ravine in modern Rybatskoye Pike Harbor.

The Visyachka [“The Hanger”] is a ruined pedestrian bridge on a man-made embankment in the backwater of the Nevsky Shipyard in Shlisselburg.

neva-5The Neva smelt [koryushka] has long been considered a symbol of Petersburg. In 1705, Peter the Great issued a decree to support fishermen who caught smelt. According to legend, Peter called the smelt the “tsar fish,” since it could feed the growing population of his new capital city as it was built.

neva-6St. Petersburg ranks among the top per-capita consumers of water in Russia. Every twenty-four hours, the city “drinks” the equivalent of a lake one square kilometer in size and three meters deep. Despite the official ban, industrial waste continues to be poured into the river.

neva-7The origin of the name Neva is not completely clear. Some historians think it comes from the Finnish word neva, which translates as “bog” or “fen.”

Thanks to Ekaterina Vasilyeva for her permission to reproduce excerpts from her project here. You can look at her entire photo essay about the Neva on her website or on Republic. Translated by the Russian Reader

 

Uncle Misha Is Back (He Was Never Gone)

Vadim F. Lurie
Facebook
May 7, 2016

I have run into Uncle Misha around town two days in a row.  Yesterday, I said hello to him, asked him whether he knew what people had been writing about him (if you recall, they had been writing he had died), and wished him a long life. Uncle Misha said he knew about all of it, and everything was cool. Today, he rocked Ploshchad Vosstaniya. People reacted very positively.

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Street trumpeter Uncle Misha outside the Ploshchad Vosstaniya subway station in Petersburg. All photos by Vadim F. Lurie

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Uncle Misha playing outside the Nevsky Prospekt subway station in downtown Petersburg. Photo by Vadim F. Lurie
Uncle Misha playing outside the Nevsky Prospekt subway station in downtown Petersburg. Photo by Vadim F. Lurie

Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Vadim Lurie for permission to reproduce parts of his photo reportage here.

Tyoply Stan: Russian Truckers’ Strike Continues

Striking Dagestani trucker. Photo by and courtesy of anatrrra
Striking Dagestani trucker. Photo by and courtesy of anatrrra

Since February 20, Russian truckers have been carrying out a nationwide strike against the newly introduced Plato mileage tolls system, a strike scheduled to end tomorrow, March 1.

Yet another truckers’ protest camp has been set up, this time in the Tyoply Stan district of southwest Moscow.

More than forty regions of the country have been involved in the strike, but Dagestan has been leading the way. The wave of protests started there, and this was no coincidence. Conditions in Dagestan are very difficult for truckers. There are too many taxes, the shipping rates are too low, corrupt officials at different levels demand tribute payments, and so the strike is simply a matter of survival for Dagestani truckers.

The media blackout that has affected all the striking truckers has taken on more rigid forms in Dagestan than in other regions of Russia. As far back as this past autumn, a local TV channel was forced off the air for two weeks after it broadcast a story about the protesting drivers.

Truckers were working themselves ragged as it was, but the Plato tolls system will completely ravage the incomes of their families.

As one trucker remarked, “It’s not our trucks that ruin the roads, but the roads that ruin our trucks.”

And in fact, a good part of the money truckers earn is spent on spare parts and repair.

The truckers need support, and they are open to dialogue. Would you like to ask them a question? Don’t be shy! There are big rigs parked outside the MEGA Centers in Khimki and Tyoply Stan, and you can go there and talk with the truckers any time of day. It is certainly a hundred times more informative and pleasant than watching TV.

P.S. A telltale incident occurred on the subway yesterday as a friend and I were traveling to Tyoply Stan to meet with the striking Dagestani truckers. I was telling my friend about them, and I was not whispering, of course. We were standing next to the doors. Suddenly, we heard the disgruntled shout of an irritated lady, around fifty-five years in age, sitting next to us. She demanded I shut up. I was talking loudly, sure. So noise can be tolerated but not conversation?

anatrrra

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Striking truckers' camp in Tyoply Stan, Moscow. Photo by and courtesy of anatrra
Striking truckers’ camp in Tyoply Stan, Moscow. Photo by and courtesy of anatrra
Striking Dagestani trucker  in front of his rig. The placard on the windshield reads, "Plato, put it into reverse before it kicks off." Photo by and courtesy of anatrrra
Striking Dagestani trucker in front of his rig. The placard on the windshield reads, “Plato, put it into reverse before it kicks off.” Photo by and courtesy of anatrrra
Striking truckers chatting with a visitor to their camp in Tyoply Stan. Photo by and courtesy of anatrrra
Striking truckers chatting with a visitor to their camp in Tyoply Stan. Photo by and courtesy of anatrrra

 

An Auchan hypermarket, visible from striking truckers' camp in Tyoply Stan. Photo by and courtesy of anatrrra
An Auchan hypermarket, visible from striking truckers’ camp in Tyoply Stan. Photo by and courtesy of anatrrra

My thanks to anatrrra for letting me translate the preface to their photo reportage and permitting me to reprint several of the photos on this website. The rest of anatrrra’s visit to the striking truckers’ camp in Tyoply Stan can be viewed here. You should also read all my previous posts on the draconian Plato haulage tolls system and Russian truckers’ protests against it. TRR

Nemtsov: One Year Later

Boris Nemtsov was murdered exactly a year ago. Some of the men who organized and carried out his murder have been caught, but the name of the person who ordered the killing remains a mystery.

On February 27, at least 20,000 people in Moscow took part in a march in memory of the opposition politician, who was murdered right outside the walls of the Kremlin. Apparently, the march’s organizers did not expect such a large number of attendees, counting, apparently, on a more intimate event for Nemtsov’s friends and supporters. There was, accordingly, almost no political rhetoric on display except for ritualistic slogans such as “We remember,” “Russia will be free,” and “Free the political prisoners” (inescapable in the current circumstances).

However, the anti-crisis march Nemtsov himself had planned for March 1, 2015, consequently did not take place, and no one from his entourage contemplated doing anything like it during the year that followed his death.

For the second year in a row, the event was a memorial. The slogan on one placard, “I’m speechless,” was the apotheosis of this helplessness. The crowd was mostly silent. Only here and there did marchers sing the Marseillaise or shout anti-Putin slogans, but almost no one among their fellow marchers repeated the slogans. The homemade placards were even fewer than usual, although the sunny pre-spring weather clearly lifted people’s spirits.

The demonstrators, however, had not come to downtown Moscow just for a stroll but to express their mutual disagreement with something that, alas, no one bothered to articulate. Today’s Nemtsov memorial march resembled a political rally without a political agenda.

—anatrrra

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“Fight Back.” In Russian, the phrase (Boris’) is a play on Nemtsov’s first name (Boris). Photo by and courtesy of anatrra

Continue reading “Nemtsov: One Year Later”

The Ninth of May

anatrrra
May 9, 2015
LiveJournal

The Ninth of May
Seventy years of victory. An even more years of sorrow. But sorrow has no place on the ninth of May. People rejoice. This is a holiday. The veterans, to whose stories the younger participants in today’s festivities listened with curiosity, were the same age back then as some of the young women in these pictures are now. I wonder what kind of victory they will tell youngsters about in seventy years?

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anatrrra’s photographs are reprinted here with their kind permission. Their complete poignant photo reportage of grassroots Victory Day festivities in Moscow can be viewed here.

The Bolotnaya Square Case: The Third Anniversary

Here are a few photographs, from a longer, excellent photo reportage by David Frenkel, of pickets in Petersburg held this past Wednesday, May 6, in support of the political prisoners now serving time in prison as part of the Bolotnaya Square case.

Three years ago, on May 6, 2012, a peaceful, permitted anti-Putin demonstration in Moscow was blocked and partly kettled by police, resulting in a scuffle between some marchers and police, hundreds of arrests and, in the years after the “riot,” dozens of convictions of people who were there that day.

Some of the defendants have been recognized by prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International, and many observers have argued that the police attack on the peaceful march was Putin’s deliberate revenge on those freethinking Russians who had the temerity to protest his “electoral victory” on the eve of his re-inauguration.

Bizarrely, three years later, the investigation and the arrests continue. Less than a month ago, for example, civil rights activist Natalya Pelevina was questioned as a suspect in the case and had her apartment searched.

frenkel-2“Renat Fatkhutdinov was a [Kazan] policeman who threatened to rape and torture arrestees. He got a three-year suspended sentence. Denis Lutskevich was a student who was beaten by the riot police for trying to defend a young woman. He got three years and six months in prison.”

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“Ten people are still serving prison terms for the fact that on May 6,  2012, they went to a peaceful demonstration that had been permitted by the authorities.”

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Anatoly Serdyukov, the defense minister, embezzled 3 billion rubles and was amnestied. Maxim Luzyanin, an businessman, scratched the enamel on a policeman’s tooth an was sentenced to four and a half years in prison. Release the Bolotnaya Square prisoners!”

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Igor Aranson, head of the local council of deputies [in the Moscow Region town of Uvarovka] [and member of the ruling United Russia party] severally beat up two men he did not know [because they had crossed in front of his car on a crosswalk], but the court declared that Aranson had been the victim of the crime. Sergei Krivov, a Ph.D. in Mathematics and Physics, grabbed a police officer’s truncheon. He was sentenced to three years and nine months in prison. Release the prisoners of May 6!”

Thanks to David Frenkel for permission to reproduce these photographs here.