Soviet Chelyabinsk

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You know that old question about traveling backwards or forwards in a time machine? I would pick the future, always. But sometimes walking around in Chelyabinsk is a little bit like traveling back to the past…


мозаика @ Южно-Уральский государственный технический колледж, Yuri Gagarin mosaic at South Ural Technical College

Behold the «Завоевание космоса»“The Conquest of Outer Space”!

According to this interview, the mosaic was created in 1976 to commemorate the 15th anniversary of Gagarin’s spaceflight.



Библиотека башкирской и татарской литературы им. Ш. Бабича, The Babich Library of Bashkir and Tatar Literature

This is one of Chelyabinsk’s oldest libraries and home to almost 73,000 books, including about 41,000 books in Bashkir/Tatar. I’ve never been inside the library but I’m in love with the mosaics that decorate this building!

It started out in 1906 as a free Muslim reading library. In 1979, it became part of the city’s library network. Do you think these mosaics were part of the original library or added during the USSR?



Гербы Советского Союза, Soviet Emblems
At one of the public hospitals.

Across the street from the city’s fanciest shopping mall.



Серп и молот, The Hammer & Sickle

I see this symbol around town occasionally, usually when it seems like it’d be a pain to remove.



Остатки, Odds & Ends

It’s pretty common to see propaganda-style advertisements…

Ударник sign: I think this is a play on an old slogan (От каждого по способностям, каждому по потребностям, From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs), now revamped to sell machinery.


And a few “those were the good old days” flyers appear every now and then.



В заключение, In conclusion

This isn’t to say that ALL Chelyabinsk looks like it hasn’t changed since 1991. For every old building with a Soviet facade…


… there’s a gleaming modern building that looks like it could be found anywhere:

Vidgof Hotel, where a night in the 19th-floor Presidential Suite will set you back $600 USD (38,400 rubles).



You might see still something like this in the middle of the city…

Just around the corner from Lenin Street.



…but you’re just as likely to see something like this:

On Lenin street.



This is something I really like about Chelyabinsk, this mixture of identities.

How much of the city belongs to the past?

How much is being remodeled into something shiny and new?

How long will Gagarin’s mosaic be maintained?

How long until a real Thai restaurant or a Starbucks finally shows up?

It’s a city of two worlds right now and I’m not sure how long it’ll stay that way. Have you ever lived in a place like this?

2 Responses

  1. David Emerling
    | Reply

    In many southern states in the United States, there are many monuments that commemorate (celebrate!) the Confederacy from the Civil War. So, we have some of the same dichotomies.

    • Katherine
      | Reply

      Yes, good point! Always nice to see your comments here, David, thank you 🙂

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