Friday, 14 August 2015

Yekaterinburg gangster cemetery

It is hard to imagine the chaos that ensued with the end of the Soviet Union. To rapidly move a centralised economy into the free market without proper regulatory controls in place and a population who were used to being told what to do by the government was asking for trouble. It explains, in part, what did and is still happening in Russia.

Following on from my last post, I am once again, in Yekaterinburg. This city endured a violent gangland war during the 1990s and 2000s. A group calling itself the Uralmash gang, after a district around the Uralmash heavy machinery factory, fought vicious internal wars and also clashed with the rival Central Gang.

So numerous were the casualties that many gang members found themselves in graves, most notably in the Shirokorechenskoe Cemetery. Here they still strut in their leather jackets on elaborate tombstones, their girlfriends sometimes nearby.

 Things have settled down in Yekateringburg. The gangs appear to have realised that it was to their long-term advantage to develop a veneer of respectability via legitimate business, though there are still reports of racketeering.

Elaborate monuments. But, in the end, they are still just graves, and do their occupants no more good than a simple wooden cross would have done.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015


In English, Yekaterinburg is often also spelt Ekaterinburg. Written Екатеринбург in Russian, the E symbol in the Cyrillic alphabet is pronounced 'ye'. This, I think, is the reason for the alternate English spellings - some people transcribe the word as it looks, others as it sounds.

The Ural Mountains (which for the most part are more like rolling hills) mark the boundary between Europe and Asia. Yekaterinburg, being a few kilometres to the east of the Urals, is therefore just inside Asia and Siberia. Moscow is a mere 1800 kilometres to the west.

Yekaterinburg CBD viewed across Gorodskoy Lake. The lake is a dominant landscape feature in the city centre.
Vaynera Street. A pedestrian mall in the commercial centre of the city. I was quite surprised to find such a vibrant mall with its many quirky statues at the gateway to Siberia.
 The city was founded in 1723 and is now home to over 1 million people. The city centre is quite modern and prosperous. However, as usual with Russian towns and cities, you don't have to walk far to encounter broken pavement and shabby apartment blocks.

The Iset River cuts north-south across the city, widening at Gorodsky Lake pictured above. It could use some TLC
  The city is perhaps most infamous to the world outside Russia as the site of the execution of Tsar Nicholas and his family in 1918. The location is now marked by a memorial and cathderal. Russia being ever the land of extremes, the Romanovs have gone from being demonised under the Soviet government to canonised in more recent times (they became saints in 2000).

The Church of All Saints, which marks the spot where the Romanovs were executed.

There are statues and busts of Lenin here and there around Russia. He has fared better than Stalin, whose likeness is almost nowhere to be seen.

Cafe in the Urals at the border between Europe and Asia. I have no idea why a chicken has been chosen as the symbol of Europe. While a rooster is the unofficial national symbol of France, the English tend to see them as a symbol of dinner.
Right foot in Asia - left foot in Europe.