Although the Soviet Union fell nearly 20 years ago, symbols of the regime still remain throughout the former USSR. This hammer and sickle adorns the Russian State Duma (the lower house of the federal legislature) building in Moscow. This building formerly housed Gosplan (State Planning Committee), the agency responsible for economic planning in the Soviet Union, which included the infamous five-year plans.
Apologies for the quality of this photo, but it was taken during my first trip to Russia, when I only had disposable cameras. This is Catherine Palace, the summer residence of the Russian Tsars, and is located 25km southeast of St. Petersburg. It was originally built at the request of Catherine I, the second wife of Peter the Great. The palace was later demolished, however, on the orders of her daughter, Empress Elizabeth, who desired that it be rebuilt to reflect a more modern style. The present palace, completed in 1756, is the result of this construction project. Much of the palace was destroyed during World War II, when the retreating German army set it ablaze. Fortunately, the Soviet and Russian governments have restored much of the palace, including, most recently, the famed Amber Room.
When the Soviet Union fell, the symbols of that regime – the innumerable statues of Marx, Engels, and Lenin – were brought down as well. Many were melted down, demolished, or sold to wealthy Westerners who installed them in American casinos. Some of these statues still survive throughout the former Soviet Union, however, either in the town squares of small towns or places like Fallen Monument Park in Moscow, which houses a large collection of old Soviet statues, including this one of Stalin. I don’t know how Stalin lost his nose here, but I’d like to imagine that it was the result of a large sledgehammer wielded by an average Soviet citizen.
Taken with a film camera (remember film?) back in July 2003, when I was studying in Moscow. In the Russian language, “Kreml” (Kremlin) means “fortress”. All ancient Russian cities had a kremlin at their center. The Moscow Kremlin served as the seat of government for the Tsars of Russia until Peter the Great transferred the capital to St. Petersburg. In March 1918, the Bolsheviks moved the capital back to Moscow, and since then the Kremlin has remained the center of power.
The Kura river, which these cliffhouses are perched precariously over, starts in north-eastern Turkey, flows through Turkey to Georgia, and then to Azerbaijan, where it enters the Caspian Sea. The total length of the river is 1,515 kilometres (941 mi). As Tbilisi’s economy continues to grow following its independence from the USSR, flights to Istanbul and other major regional cities are increasingly available. We flew to Azerbaijan from Georgia since flights to Baku were unavailable in Armenia.