history, Russia, traveling

(Not-So-)Urban Exploring in Russia.

This is the story of a quick exploration into the forests somewhere in Russia in order to search for forgotten ruins of a farm that a friend’s family used to own back in the beginning of the 20th century.

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As the old story goes they used to own a farm located nearby where this road nowadays goes.

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This is where we stepped into the wild…

With the help of a map drawn by an elderly relative of my friend (and a couple of more maps in actual books) we were able to locate the exact place where we should stop and park the car in order to hop into the forest.

And indeed – we did found something!

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Could you believe that there used to be a proper cellar in the middle of where this picture was taken? Maybe I just don’t have the eye for archaeology but I probably couldn’t have spotted the place. Luckily my friends were more of an experts than me!

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The farm used to be a small-scale lemonade factory back in the days in the 1930’s. This is the old well where they (and apparently some of their neighbours too in the time of droughts) got their water from.

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No wonder this particular area of the forest was FILLED with mosquitoes which tend to like dark and moist places. In the picture above you may distantly see small ‘canals’ that were used to getting the water where they wanted. The terrain might look quite flat but in reality the bottom of the canals were all deep and muddy – clearly still regularly filled with natural water at a times.

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The last site that we were able to locate was the place where the main house used to be. The old grandpa had a memory of ‘blue flowers’ blossoming right next to where one side of the house was built. My friend was quick to notice the plants (Aconitum napellus) growing in a surprisingly straight line just next to the spruce trees.

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After this trip, I was left to wonder about all the forgotten historical places where people might have one day lived before having to flee because of war or move to a better place; perhaps a bigger city with better working possibilities. Sometimes the species of plants once gardened by humans may be the only remains marking the settlement after the man-made structures have collapsed, rotted and taken over by wild plants.

With the help of my friend, the harebell plant (Campanula rotundifolia) above, I wish you a mysterious and most inspiring day!

Yours,

Miah

architecture, history, Russia, traveling

Lenin of Vyborg.

Hi guys!

Today I am here with a short post about my relatively short trip to one of the neighbouring Russian cities close to Finland, Vyborg.

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Unfortunately, at this trip I wasn’t able to explore and photograph the city for you guys but I did manage to take a couple of pics of the Lenin statue, built in 1957, that is located in the main square of Vyborg called ‘the Red Square’. Previously the same place was known as Punaisenlähteentori in Finnish when the town actually was a part of our country before the wars that took place in the 1940’s. (Up to this day some old people choose to believe that Vyborg or Viipuri in Finnish should ‘belong’ to us, but that is a story about ignorance to be saved for another time.)

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If you thought a historical monument like this could only be found in a capital city like Moscow, you’re wrong. What I’ve learned about the history of Soviet Union, is that the party liked to implant symbols of the communist power regime basically in every Soviet city (or town) despite of the location. It could be statues or names of the streets but up to this day many Russian towns still have their own Lenins. I mean, if modern day Russia is a HUGE country, Soviet Union was even bigger with multiple ‘member states’ composing it. Of course you had to remind the people about the story of the one great nation, right?

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Mister Lenin-the-Statue was undergoing a series of restorations around him. Apparently the reddish building you can see behind the statue represents the style of ‘art nouveau’; designed by Finnish architect Jalmari Arvi Lankinen in 1929.

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I just have to end this post with a pic of a random sweet Russian old lady running errands on a ordinary weekday in Russia. Despite of all the cultural differences, people are still pretty much the same everywhere you go…

Yours,

Miah

Finland, music, popular culture, Russia, traveling, vlog

Russian Punk in My Home Town.

A small disclaimer in the beginning… This post was originally scheduled to be published right after my small adventure in my home town. If you haven’t read that, you can find it from here. However, as I ended up doing a small flaneur in Porvoo, the picture material just seemed to be too juicy not to be published immediately. Hence the Porvoo trilogy mixing up the timelines. (Any other science fiction fans out there?)

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Anyway, the story goes like this: I decided, on a very spontaneous base as usual, to pay a visit to my home town’s independent music and event scene after I learned that there’s going to be some Russian punk performed! I’ve been volunteering in the venue before at the small vegan cafe corner but this time I was a bit more focused on photographing the event for you, guys. (Not to say that I would’ve in any way neglected the sacred coffee-making responsibilities.) I was even more astonished to hear that the band was actually from the same small Russian town I used to live as an exchange student for a while!

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Here are the Scrap Monsters!

I also took some video footage that I sent to the band as well. Such a sweet Russian punk boys they were – even reusing each other’s plastic cutlery because they didn’t want to make any extra costs or waste! I also enjoyed the chance to practise my Russian even though my abilities kinda declined as I got more tired throughout the night. Sorry about that, guys…

Here’s also some video footage of the venue called ‘Kulttuuritallit’ (direct translation would be ‘Cultural Stables’). I think I will do a more in-depth post about the place and its rather significant history later… Anyway, I absolutely love love love the place with its free anarchistic community-oriented spirit!

Sorry for the inconvenient video files: I only took the raw material straight out of my phone so it is what it is. At least it gives you some perspective of the experience! What did you think about the post; would you be interested in visiting ‘Cultural Stables’ or even perform there yourself? We are welcoming all kinds of alternative bands (as long as you’re not a Neo-nazi of any sort). Please let me also know if you liked me to do more music posts about the upcoming events in ‘Cultural Stables’! It’s always a pleasure for me to visit there and help them out so you guys being interested would only give me a good reason to plan some more trips…

Yours,

Miah

popular culture, Russia, traveling

Traditional Russian Dance

Here’s another visual post of the first ‘traditional’ Russian dance show I went to see with my high school field trip back in 2012. (Apparently I have managed to capsule my pictures from that particular era since all of these ‘throwback’ posts are from those years.)

After that, I’ve seen many similarly talented and spectacular performances as well – though they have all played with the same type of visual and theatrical elements of what has chosen to negotiate the representations of authentic Russian cultural heritage.

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The venue of the dance show was located in an old historical palace. Obviously marketed for tourists – but definitely worth experiencing, especially for first-timers in Russia!

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The ‘traditional’ costumes were mostly made in the colours of dark blue and red.

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Especially the colourful costumes of the ladies were really pleasing to the eye. The traditional Russian scarves (the small white ones as well as the bigger ones with the famous floral pattern) were a part of the actual movement of the dancers.

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The show was all about strong expressions of (heteronormative) love between men and women.

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This one-piece-costume is actually something I’ve come up with quite often in Russian performances! Again, we can see two figures in dark blue and red – hugging or fighting in winter clothes.

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Especially the male dancers were quite the acrobats, performing huge stunts in order to impress!

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Once again, beautiful traditional costumes; making the visual realm an essential part of the choreography and performance as a whole.

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I will end this post with perhaps my favourite picture of the show! Hopefully I will be able to provide you with more up-to-date pics of other kinds of Russian dance performances (more alternative ones, as well).

Yours,

Miah

popular culture, Russia

Why Russia?

I’ve been fascinated by the Russian cultural heritage, or the myths and narratives surrounding it to be exact, since early childhood. The representations of Russia indicated (often from a very orientalist stand point) that it was to be considered as something mystical, exciting and a bit unknown, in the East. If Russia isn’t accepted as a part of Europe (but it is still something else than Asia), what is it then? A bizarre but intriguing mystery with an eventful history and debatable politics?

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Finland is one of the neighbouring countries, located in the West from the Russian perspective. Historically speaking, we’ve also been a part of the kingdom in the 19th century before becoming independent in 1917.

I personally grew up in the South Eastern corner of Finland, and we’ve always had a lot of connection with Russian people. My mother’s best friends from work were originally from Russia, and she used to tell funny stories of their times together. Even though the centre of my home town was small, Russian tourist buses often made stops in order for the passengers to shop there. Also some of my bilingual school friends had a parent or two that had moved here from Russia. Even I have some Russian blood from my father’s side. Amongst the relatives, it’s indeed rumoured that there would still be some relatives dwelling around the Lake Ladoga area near St. Petersburg.

What it comes to cultural products, I think that the 1997 animated film ‘Anastasia’ linked below has been a huge generational experience for people my age. I can still quite vividly remember gathering around the television as a child while the nurses at the kindergarten would set up the video cassette. I remember crawling next to my best friend since I was genuinely terrified of the evil Rasputin character trying to kill the beautiful young princess who had just discovered her true identity.

Later on the Russian telenovela series ‘Bednaya Nastya’ (which literally means ‘Poor Nastya’) shown on Finnish TV-channel 4 charmed many people into studying the language and culture more. I wasn’t the only one sold by the braided hairdos, extravagant costumes and ‘traditional’ settings since there were at least a couple of other girls in my class who were also motivated by this particular series. Even though I don’t even own a television, I wonder why there hasn’t been more telenovela series bought for Finnish broadcast? In my opinion, there would be a lot of people interested from all ages and walks of life. (MTV hire me, please!)

Anyway, here’s a link to the tune ‘Mne ne zhal’ (my translation would be ‘I don’t regret’) with some clips of the series as well. If you’re not familiar with the Russian Cyrillic letters, here’s a good chance to take a look how they are! Isn’t it exciting how different they are from the letters we use?

I have been listening to perhaps one of the most internationally and commercially successful Russian pop duo since I was a kid (‘All the Things She Said’ was a huge hit back at the time), more actively since high school though. I think that this kind of music somehow represents more accurately my experiences of the contemporary Russian culture. This crazy Russian disco mentality definitely has enhancing impacts in my study motivation (especially combined with three or more cups of coffee)! Try it out, learn the lyrics and see for yourself…

Till this day I’ve been studying Russian language (hence the resemblance to my robot necklace…) since the beginning of high school which means approximately eight years already! It was obvious for me to keep studying Russian at the University language centre which eventually led me to dig the culture a it deeper. I started to enrol myself into courses about Russian cultural history (feminism, for example) and to spend six months as an exchange student in the small town called Izhevsk in the Republic of Udmurtia. After that I’ve regularly had a valid visa for all kinds of trips to Russia, mainly in Vyborg and St. Petersburg that are easily reachable from Finland.

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I bet that this robot knows the Russian grammar by heart. I still don’t – but I am trying!

In the future I will definitely do more posts about my previous and future trips to Russia: how I’ve managed to be vegan in there, for example! I’m also going to get some more tattoos done by my favourite artist located in St. Petersburg so if you have any suggestions for May’s upcoming Russia post, please let me know in the comments section! Maybe I should set up an Instagram account for real time posting? Later on I can also share the story and meaning of my tattoos (after they are all done and healed) if you happen to be interested!

Tvoja (yours),

Miah