Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

22 January, 2006


A co-worker of mine is from Russia and she recently told me that she's going back there next month to visit family and friends. I told her that I was jealous as I'd love to go to Mother Russia so she invited me along! Alas and alack, I don't have the vacation time for such a venture. Instead, I asked that she bring me back some vodka and some Russian chocolate because she's always telling me how good it is. We started talking about Russia generally and the conversation turned to film. She told me that the film which most accurately captures Russian culture and the Russian way of doing things is Sibirskiy tsiryulnik (The Barber of Siberia). It's not available here in the States but she's vowed to get me a copy in Chelyabinsk, her hometown.

Never having heard of the place, I decided to learn more about it. Chelyabinsk's home page says:

Chelyabinsk is the major industrial, scientific, and cultural center of the southern Ural. The city is located on the eastern slope of the Ural Mountains along the banks of the Miass River (the inflow of Iseti) and has geographical coordinates: 61°08'-61°17' east longitude, 55°03'-55°19' north latitude, bordered by pine forest to the west and to the north.

The relief of the city is slightly hilly in the west, gradually descending to the east and sectioned by the Miass River and narrows with lakes, and marshes. The banks of the Miass River are partly covered by woods and shrubs. The Miass flows past the Shershni reservoir, which lies in the southwest of the city. Other ponds surround Chelyabinsk: Pervoye to the northeast, and Smolino and Sineglazovo to the south. Ice bespreads rivers from the beginning of November to the midst of April. Its thickness runs up to 80 centimeter to the end of winter. Forest and groves around the city are mixed, generally piny and birchen.

Chelyabinsk first appeared as a military fortress on the 13th (2) of September in 1736 in the course of Russian colonization of the southern Urals. In 1781 Chelyabinsk gained status as a city, since 1934 it has been the center of Chelyabinsk Oblast.

Nowadays Chelyabinsk is one of major industrial centers of Russia. Metal products made here are well-known in all regions and republics of the former Soviet Union. Many countries throughout the world purchase them. This city produces nearly one-fifth of big-bore pipes, produced in the country, one-third of smelted ferroalloys and ball-bearing steel, over 60 per cent of stainless steel, and about 40 per cent of road-building machines. During World War II, famous Katyusha's and T-34 tanks were produced in Chelyabinsk. Not without reason it was named 'Tankograd' at that time.

So it's kinda like Pittsburgh. In my surfings, I also found this page for a documentary about the city and how it is supposedly "the most contaminated spot on the planet".

For forty-five years, Chelyabinsk province of Russia was closed to all foreigners. Only in January of 1992 did President Boris Yeltsin sign a decree changing that.Shortly afterwards, I made my first trip to this region, which later Western scientists declared to be the most polluted spot on earth.

The people of the area have suffered no less than three nuclear disasters: For over six years, the Mayak complex systematically dumped radioactive waste into the Techa River, the only source of water for the 24 villages which lined its banks.The four largest of those villages were never evacuated, and only recently have the authorities revealed to the population why they strung barbed wire along the banks of the river some 35 years ago. Russian doctors who study radiation sickness in the area estimate that those living along the Techa River received an average of four times more radiation than the Chernobyl victims.

I directed my co-worker to this site and here is her reaction:

That is hilarious!
I would have to show it to my friends :)
Partially it is true, about the closed region, and about the accident... but not as much as they say. Have to give a credit to a writer though - he sure did make a "story"

Perhaps it isn't as bad as the above would lead one to believe. I mean, my co-worker doesn't have two heads or webbed hands or any such malformation. In fact, she's quite pulchritudinous. She went on to tell me about towns in the area which are fenced in and require passes for ingress and egress. Communism may have collapsed but it sure ain't like Kansas over there.
|| Palmer, 1:15 PM


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