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December 6, 2011

POTD: Russian State Duma

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.

June 20, 2011

POTD: The onion domes of Catherine Palace

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.

June 7, 2011

POTD: Noseless Stalin in Moscow

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.

April 28, 2011

POTD: Inside the Kremlin

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.

March 30, 2011

POTD: The Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg

The official residence of the Russian Tsars from 1732 to 1917, the Winter Palace now houses the State Hermitage Museum, one of the greatest art museums in the world. Even if you’re not a lover of art, you can’t visit Saint Petersburg and not visit this place. It really is that incredible.

March 1, 2011

POTD: Church near Oktyabrskaya ploshchad

Yes, located near the Lenin statue in Moscow, Russia.

December 2, 2010

POTD: The last Karl Marx monument in Moscow

In Teatralnaya Square, directly across the street from the Bolshoi Theatre stands Moscow’s last remaining monument to Karl Marx, which was erected in 1961. The inscription reads “Proletariat of all countries, solidarity!” (aka “Workers of the world, unite!”) While the Communist Party still occasionally rallies around the monument, some have suggested replacing the monument with, among other things, a bronze statue of Vladimir Putin.

November 28, 2010

POTD: Nikolskaya Tower at the Kremlin in Moscow

Nikolskaya tower at the Kremlin

Nikolskaya tower at the Kremlin

This is the Nikolskaya Tower (Russian: Никольская башня) which is situated on the eastern wall of the Moscow Kremlin. It was originally built in in 1491, rebuilt in 1806, and restored in 1816 after the top of the tower was blown up by the retreating French army in 1812. The towers were originally topped by gilded two-headed eagles that symbolized Tsarist Russia, however these were replaced by red stars representing the Soviet Union in 1935.

Russia, unfortunately, is not a country that you can jet off to for last minute holidays. Trips there require advance notice, as you must acquire a visa from your nearest Russian embassy or consulate. A trip to Russia is well worth the time and money, however, and remains one of my favorite places that I have visited in my eight years of international travels.

November 12, 2010

POTD: Communists near Red Square

Yes, they still exist, and occasionally hold small rallies. Photo taken in the summer of 2003.

November 6, 2010

POTD: Peter and Paul Fortress on the Neva River

Located in Saint Petersburg, the Peter and Paul Fortress was established by Peter the Great in 1703 on a small island by the north bank of the Neva River. It was originally built to protect the capital from a potential attack by the Swedes, but eventually fell into use as a prison for political prisoners.

This photo was taken while on a river cruise of the Neva. As tourism to Russia has increased, the popularity of river cruises has grown substantially, with many companies offering multi-week packages on ships that traverse several destinations, including the Neva River, Lake Ladoga, the Svir River, Lake Onega, the Baltic canal, White Lake and the Volga River.