Archive for the ‘Russia’ Category
10 February 2014 Last updated at 20:21 ET
The urban explorers of the ex-USSR
Exploring the grandiose buildings and industrial infrastructure left over from the USSR is a popular pastime for some young people – but not the faint-hearted.
Known as urban exploration, the hobby involves climbing high-rise buildings, towers and bridges, or going deep underground. Russia’s vast territory is dotted with industrial sites, some of which are unused and empty. But Vadim Makhorov was commissioned to take these pictures inside a water pipe by the owners of this functioning power plant in the east of the country.
Many urban explorers are skilled photographers who take striking images. “Who needs words when you’ve got stars in the sky?” asks Vitaly Raskalov, who took this picture of Kirill Vselensky clinging to a Soviet-era red star which adorns a building in Moscow. But the dangers are obvious. It’s not a hobby that should be encouraged. Many of the explorers do not even take the precaution of wearing a helmet. At least one is reported to have died.
General Kosmosa’s picture shows an urban explorer taking a break on top of Kiev’s South Bridge over the River Dnieper, which is the tallest in Ukraine at 135m (443ft).
Taking this picture was dangerous in more ways than one. The clock that Kirill Vselensky’s face is emerging from is located across the street from the main KGB building in Minsk, Belarus.
Under Russian law, trespassing on private property is punishable by a small fine, but entering abandoned and unguarded buildings is usually legal.
“What appeals to me the most is the ambience of lost places,” says Sam Namos, who took the picture below of an explorer known as Vanh1to, atop a huge satellite dish. “The process of looking for them is breathtaking, too. If you’re serious about it, there is so much you can learn about your own country, so many mysteries you can discover.”
“Some say if you see one power station, you’ve seen them all, but I disagree,” says Vadim Makhorov. “I’ve done photo-shoots at many power plants, and I manage to find something new and interesting every time.”
“Urban exploration photography shows our cities from the inside,” says Olena Zinchenko, who helped to organise an exhibition in Kiev last year. “These pictures are alive because they reveal the city from a completely different perspective which few have the privilege of seeing.” They’re important, she says, because they tell the story of industrial decline in the the former Soviet Union.
“This is probably my best find, a gypsum mine in eastern Ukraine. An inconspicuous door led to an underground city with its own traffic, street signs and 20-metre-tall caves,” says Yaroslav Segeda.
Yelena Bonner , wife of Andrei Sakharov , both human rights activists … a human life lived on watch.
“She was also among the founders of the Moscow Helsinki Group, led by physicist Yury Orlov, which recently celebrated its 35th anniversary and has served as an inspiration for scores of similar groups in the former Soviet bloc and, of course, the U.S. Helsinki Watch (later named Human Rights Watch, or HRW), with offices all over the world. Characteristically, Bonner later joined the board of Advancing Human Rights, an organization critical of HRW that was founded by her longtime friend and publisher, Robert Bernstein. Bonner also served as adviser to the International League for Human Rights and was among the founders of Common Action. Her manifestos — whether against Russian President Boris Yeltsin for the war in Chechnya or Vladimir Putin for “managed democracy,” or in support of Israel — shaped the post-Soviet political and moral landscape.”
The purpose of many dissident movements around the world seems to be to come to power. While some of the Soviet rights advocates became parliamentarians, many kept a justified wariness of the Russian government. Bonner served for a time on Yeltsin’s human rights commission but quit in protest over the Chechen war. She was always taking up causes, gathering signatures, and most of all, gaining glasnost — publicity — for them. She and Sakharov used that term ages before Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev ever did. Among her last statements this year was a message to an Article 31 demonstration about the right to demonstrate.”
“A new wave of privatization is getting under way in Russia. Property that until now had been in the hands of the state is being put up for sale. The list of companies that the government plans to sell in full or in part is impressive. This year, state holdings in Sovcomflot and Sberbank are slated to be sold. Sovcomflot owns 132 vessels and is among the five largest ocean-going tanker operations in the world. Sberbank is one of the leading financial companies in all of Eastern Europe.
State holdings in RusHydro, the Federal Grid Company and VTB are also being prepared for sale in 2012. The remaining major state holdings will be sold in 2013, including another stake in VTB and shares in Rosneft, Russian Agricultural Bank, Rosagroleasing and Russian Railways.”