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The Importance of Russian Culture and the Russian Church: A Personal Testimony

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Suzanne Massie is a 40 year phenomenon in the field of US-Russia relations. A brilliant and passionate writer, she is author of some of the greatest classics about Russia. She became a close friend of Ronald and Nancy Reagan in the course of advising them about Russian culture and psychology. Her life story, and how it became intertwined with Russia reads like an adventure novel. See RI’s profile here. A resident of Maine, she keeps an apartment in St. Petersburg. Raised Episcopalian she converted to Russian Orthodoxy. She is an outspoken critic of how dishonest the media are about Russia and is brilliant in explaining to Americans why Russian culture is one of the most exciting phenomenona ever. Archive of Massie’s articles on RI.

This brilliant speech was given in New York in 1981. In it Massie recounts the remarkable story of how she became connected to Russia, how Russian culture and Christianity are inseparable from each other, what she learned about suffering from her Russian friends and caring for her hemophiliac son, and how the Russian Orthodox faith taught her to accept what life sends us. Given 8 years before the collapse of Communism, it is as relevant today as it was then.


Commencement Address
June 7, 1981
Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary
Jordanville, New York

I come to you today to testify to the importance of Russian culture and the Russian church in one life – my own. People whom I meet — whether they are Russians or Americans — always seem to ask me the same question. How is it, they ask, that I an American, have become so interested in Russia and Russian culture when it is not my native background? Always there is not only curiosity, in this question, but even incredulity. Each time I answer the question in the same way. Yes, I say, there are some facts and reasons I can give you, but essentially there remains something mysterious, unexplained and wonderful, in the true sense of that word. It is finally, simply a question of love. Love is always a mystery. No one can define it exactly, but when it happens it is the most real and important thing in one’s existence.

In the beginning there was nothing in my life that would have lead anyone to believe that I would devote my career and the major part of my life to date to searching out and learning about Russian culture. I am Swiss by background, descended on both sides of my family from sturdy Bernese farmers we trace back to the 13th century.

A remarkable set of coincidences is responsible for leading me to you, and I once heard a Bishop of the Orthodox Church say that God comes to us in coincidences.

Even before I was born, the coincidences began.

My Swiss grandfather was, at the turn of the century, the representative of watch making industries of Neufchatel. Grandfather traveled to Russia once a year for many years. He made friends and they were forever urging him to send one of his children to visit. He always refused, until one year when my mother was 15, she fell ill. The doctor said that a change of climate was indicated and that Russia would be perfect. So she was sent off on a train to Moscow to visit a Russian family, friends of my grandfather’s, for the summer; a normal enough occurrence in those days when travel and visiting Russia was a natural thing. But it happened to be the summer of 1914. War began. There was no question of sending a young girl back in those times and everyone thought the troubles would be over soon. But this was not to be the case, and my mother lived with this family through the Revolution and finally escaped with them through the south, and Sevastopol.

For over two years her family heard not a word from her. She vanished; they did not know whether she was alive or dead. Suddenly, at age 21, she reappeared in Athens in 1921. This dramatic family story was the background of my childhood existence. Although I can only dimly remember it, I know now that my mother filled my childhood with Russian tales — I recently came across an old book with a tale of Baba Yaga that was given to me on my fifth birthday. I cut my teeth on a small enamel Easter egg which Mother often wore on a chain around her neck, given to her by a famous ballerina of the Bolshoi Theater. Sometimes, when I was a child, I would be taken to meet Russian friends of my mother. They would look at me and say, “You have a Russian soul,” but of course I did not know what they meant.

Many years went by and I did not pursue or learn anything more about Russia, although my mother taught me to love the ballet and I studied dance for ten years. It was not until much later, when I was a young married woman, that I was confronted with a far more disturbing mystery. When our first child, a son, was born, my husband and I rejoiced, but joy soon turned to fear and sorrow when, at the age of five months, as a result of a routine blood examination, we learned that our beautiful child had hemophilia. It was a stroke of lightning. There was no hemophilia in our family. We searched carefully through those Swiss archives back over a hundred years. Nothing. Mystery. We were one of those 40 percent of the cases called “spontaneous” for which even today there is no medical explanation.

It was a catastrophe that seemed to shatter all our hopes and dreams. Yet, unknown to me in those dark moments within this sorrow was contained the seed of our future creativity. But then, bewildered and grieved, I struggled against my fate. I attacked it with all the rationality and work ethic which was my background and with which I had been raised. I thought that if I worked harder, learned more, somehow, by my own will alone, I could conquer. But no matter what I did, or how hard I struggled, my son suffered. I could not control my fate. No matter how much I tried to guard him, bleeding would strike. I spent hours and nights in hospitals. He often suffered terrible pain. I was told that he would never walk (this did not in the end prove to be true, but for many years, it was).

Yet of all the difficult things I had to face in those dark hours of my beginning, the hardest was a sense of great isolation. I had not realized so immediately until then that contemporary American society demands that we remain forever beautiful, healthy and young. Grief and suffering are something to be hidden from view so that they do not intrude and disturb the relentlessly happy picture that we have imposed on our American society. Although I was the same person, it seemed as if a wall of glass had descended between me and the rest of the world. It was a bewildering and frightening experience. I felt totally alone and cut off from all the people I knew. When Bobby was two years old, he had a completely unexpected, and to this day unexplained, cerebral hemorrhage. He did recover, but in my night of despair, I decided that I had to do something very hard to save my sanity.

And it was Russia to which I turned. Why? To this day I do not know, nor do I remember the name of the neighbor who told me that at the local high school there were adult education classes for eight dollars a semester in the Russian language. I went. And the teacher looked at me and said, “You have a Russian soul.” We became friends. Through her, and other Russian neighbors living in nearby Nyack, I began to learn to look at my experience in a different way. These friends taught me to look into my soul, to hope that perhaps my suffering contained if not the probability, then at least the possibility of new knowledge and creativity — that I had been given a great challenge rather that a curse and punishment. They invited me to Easter services where I found joy and hope. They accepted Bobby when others were afraid to risk having him in their homes. From my son’s illness I finally learned to accept that there was nothing I could do to predict or control my destiny, that all was in God’s hands. From my Russian friends I was given a human support and comfort that I think, saved me.

It was because of the new perceptions of the world brought by our son’s illness that we embarked on the book which became – Nicholas and Alexandra. I worked very closely with my husband and the book became a family project into which we both poured all our energies. In the course of helping with research and editing, I was, was for the first time, able to pour my interest and love for the old Russia my mother had taught me to love as a child. It was at the end of the writing of the book that we decided to go to visit the Soviet Union to see the city of St. Petersburg where so much of the drama which had so interested us had happened. I have always thought it symbolically appropriate that the only way we were able to finance this trip was to borrow on our life insurance.

For there, my story took another strange and intense turn. Quite inexplicably, from the first moment I arrived in St. Petersburg I felt that I had always known it. I knew no one, but I felt that someone would find me. I waited. And again, quite accidentally in the palace of Pavlovsk, I met a poet. With him I went through the looking glass that separates foreigners from Russians. After that first trip I went every six months for five years and met many Russians of varied backgrounds and experiences. The strange thing was that my eleven years of living with hemophilia had somehow prepared me to meet them. I had learned to live with fear, with constant anxiety and helplessness, with never knowing what the next day would bring. Although our experiences had been different, somehow they recognized me and I recognized them. It was like finding a family that I had never known existed.

It was they who took me by the hand, and with great love and respect showed me every detail of their beloved “Piter,” pointing out architectural details of buildings that were shabby and in disrepair, who spoke with love of their splendid churches destroyed and desecrated, who quoted their writers and poets of the past from memory. It was they who told me sadly, “We used to have such beautiful holidays, but now we are forgetting how to celebrate them.” (I add in parenthesis that it was to try to help answer this question for them that I wrote the chapter in Land of the Firebird that is titled, “Ice Slides and Easter Eggs.”) The remarkable thing about all this was that it came from a young generation which had had no contact with the past. And from the first moment in the Soviet Union what I saw, and what touched me deeply, was suffering mirrored in eyes that I shall never forget.

I knew that there was something miraculous in all these meetings and that they could not last long. So while it was possible, I walked into every door that opened and was never afraid. One thing that is quite amazing, in a society which rewards informers, is not that there are so many – but that there are so few. Out of these trips grew my first book, The Living Mirror: Five Young Poets from Leningrad, and of course inevitably, the time came when I was no longer granted a visa. No reasons were given. There were none, simply, I suppose, I knew too many people. Once again I struggled against fate, but to no avail. It had been my hope to write a book on the magnificent restoration of Pavlovsk Palace; a work that had been accomplished with great love and devotion to the beauties of the past. But I was not permitted to return.

And again, through a strange set of circumstances, just at the time that I sorrowfully concluded that my work was conclusively barred, another door opened. I was asked to prepare a lecture for the Metropolitan Museum that would evoke the glories of the culture of old Russia. It was the work I did for this, that my book, Land of the Firebird, began to grow. As I worked, I found that all study of Russian culture lead inevitably to the Russian church. Therefore I decided to begin my book with the coming of the Orthodox faith to Russia, because this faith and the church, was the rock on which the great and beautiful Russian culture was founded.

During the course of working on my book, I was, in effect, removed from the world for the better part of three years. I spent those days in a small room reading books. In such an isolated atmosphere, ideas and perceptions appeared to me. I found myself wondering what was Russia like 60 years after the Mongol invasions? — those invasions which were of such destructive intensity that they can be called the atom bomb of their day. After the cataclysm, Russia was a depressed, corrupted, destroyed land. The promising civilization of Kiev, the great palaces, the churches, the books, the great men, all were gone, the population dispersed and terrified. Yet, despite everything, wrote the historian George Fedotov, “The Christianity of Kiev remained a living memory in the hearts of the people.” Monks traveled the land, comforting and gathering the survivors. It was the church that led Russia out of the darkness. In those days the church was Russia, and Russia was the church. I believe that in a very real way, this is still true today. The church has always represented the finest aspirations of the Russian people and provided them with inspiration and strength in the darkest hours of their history. There have been no darker days than those of the past 60 years.

The Russian people have absorbed the brunt of the greatest shock of modern times — Communism — an idea which came clothed in the robes and the words of idealism, but in fact concealed only tyranny and death. All Russians, wherever they are, have suffered from this cataclysm in physical and moral ways which are beyond the understanding of any Westerner. They have been dispersed all over the world, forced into new paths, new lives, while those who remained behind have been terrorized, tortured, silenced. By absorbing this terrible historical shock of the 20th century, I believe that Russia may well have saved us in the West, as the Russians in the 13th century once saved European civilization from the Mongols. The price paid by them was very high. The destruction of the nation and the spirit is today perhaps even more profound. Yet sixty years is but a moment in historical terms and the final story is far from told.

It is not an accident that the Soviet government has always considered religion and the Orthodox faith its greatest enemy … that they have tried in every way to destroy allegiance to the church among the people, to lead them astray by false promises of material benefits, to terrify them, besot them with alcohol, isolate them from the world and envelop them in lies. But the fact that they have tried for sixty years with all the might at their command to destroy faith and have failed, is a tribute to the indomitable human spirit which yearns for the nourishment of its Creator and cannot and will not allow the divine flame to be extinguished.

It is also a tribute to the extraordinary strength and endurance of the Russian people. I sometimes think that only Russians could have absorbed such a shock to the soul and survived it all. And survive they have: beleaguered, weakened, dispirited, but alive … and searching for the spirit. Among the most moving church services I have ever attended are those in the Soviet Union where I have seen strong men singing the service with tears pouring unashamedly down their faces. I know a poet in the Soviet Union who is of deep Orthodox Faith. As a child every day he was beaten for his beliefs, and yet he maintained such integrity that he said that from his early years he knew that if he read the newspapers he would never learn to be a poet, so he studied and took his language from the Church alone.

I heard this phrase from a young man who was searching for faith, “We have learned that man cannot live without beauty, without spirituality, and without religion.” To me, this is the essential message of our part of the twentieth century. The mystery, the miracle, is that this message is coming in its purest form from Russia. Solzhenitsyn once wrote that when culture is taken away from a people, it is like committing a lobotomy on them. Milos Kundera, in his brilliant Book of Laughter and Forgetting, treats this same terrible phenomenon in Czechoslovakia. Yet we have seen the power of belief in Poland, where despite everything, religion has conquered, and without violence. I believe that as it once did long ago, only the Orthodox Church can lead Russia out of her darkness. Only the Church can restore to her the roots of culture, identity, strength.

Today the Soviet Union is the spiritual battleground of the world and on the outcome of this battle the fate of the entire world may depend. You are the shepherds. Your brothers in the Soviet Union are searching in the darkness for their lost faith and culture. Many are like sad and ignorant children, but there are heroes among them: men and women who are not only prepared, but who, every day, even as we are here, are suffering and dying for the principles of the human spirit. The West is in great part deaf and even blind to this reality. We who know and love Russia must unceasingly remind them of this suffering. For although the West is often blind, nevertheless it senses that something is lacking in our society, that we are lonely, alienated, hungering for spiritual nourishment.

Russia can help to provide us with that nourishment that we so much need. Dostoevsky once wrote that the West was the body and Russia the spirit and that the body could not exist without the spirit. You in the Orthodox faith are, for Russia, the living link between the past and the future, and for us in America, an essential connection between East and West. As a Westerner, step by step, I have been led closer to you.

Thanks to my contact with Russian culture and the Russian church, my life has been enriched so greatly that I cannot imagine it without you. Thanks to you, I have learned to think differently, to accept my life as it unfolds in all of its variety. I have learned to trust mystery.

From my contact with Russia I have begun to learn how to take a long view, something difficult for us in the West – and greater patience.

A poet in the Soviet Union wrote me, “Perhaps we are all nothing but witnesses in a gigantic trial whose outcome is as yet unknown, but whose outlines we can somehow perceive, as behind a driving rain we can sometimes glimpse the silhouettes of angels.”

I do not know the purpose of having been given my love for the Russian land, but I do know that I feel that I have a mission to share my feeling as widely as I can and this I have been trying to do, in lectures and in books.

You are witnesses to the great Russian culture and faith. And, when you are serving in your various ways with your various talents, you may one day see someone who is looking and listening with great attention … a stranger, as I once was, who is searching and needs to find that which you alone can give. Then I hope that you will remember me and reach to that stranger, for one never knows what may happen by this contact.


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Prehistoric art in Spain: The 27,000-year-old cave art found under graffiti in Spain’s Basque Country | Culture

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Diego Garate, doctor of prehistory at the University of Cantabria and a specialist in Paleolithic art, was surprised when he came across a 27,000-year-old painting of a bison a meter and a half long, hidden under graffiti, in one of the Aizpitarte caves in the Basque Country. The discovery of the artwork, obscured by the word “exit” and an arrow indicating the way out of the cave, took place in September 2015. Now, following years of research, investigators claim it indicates the existence of a shared artistic culture in ancient Europe.

According to Garate, the bison painting was found when he and a team of speleologists explored the cave in search of cave art. “We went through a small, very low arch about 50 centimeters high, that led into a passageway and when I raised my head I saw an impressive bison covered by graffiti on the rock,” he says. “Its characteristics were similar to those of other bison found in at least 17 caves in different parts of the Iberian Peninsula and Central Europe.” Garate and his team’s research, which was published last week in the journal PLOS One, also includes studies of paintings found in three caves in the area of bison, horses and a bird in an artistic style previously unseen in the Iberian peninsula.

Garate began searching for Paleolithic paintings in Spain’s Basque Country a decade ago. “Very little was known about the cave art in this region compared with neighboring areas such as Cantabria, which has the Altamira cave; or the central Pyrenees, which is full of decorated caves; or the French Dordogne, which is famous for its paintings of bison and mammoths,” says Garate.

These bison paintings date back 27,000 years.
These bison paintings date back 27,000 years.

In the center of that geographical triangle is Basque Country, which then – like now – was a transit area for people crossing between the Iberian Peninsula and the rest of Europe. “It was paradoxical that there was so little cave art considering it was the only pass available to the men and women of that period,” says Garate. In 2011, when he began his research, only six caves with artwork were recorded in the entire Basque Country. Now that number has risen to 28.

Manuel González Morales, a researcher at the International Institute of Prehistoric Research in Cantabria, says that Garate’s work is “extraordinarily” significant both archaeologically and historically as it has revealed more locations containing Paleolithic art in an area that, until several years ago, appeared relatively empty of this kind of historical evidence. Beyond purely aesthetic considerations, González says these paintings represent “new examples of how underground spaces, including some difficult to access, were used for the development of artistic activity.”

Garate claims that the discovery of the bison paintings in that region of Spain proves that its inhabitants exchanged ideas, shared graphic expressions and had similar and recurring motifs. “We have discovered that human groups in the area communicated with each other,” says Garate. “For example, they used the same tools fashioned from bone to sculpt the stone. We found the remains of those tools in the same caves where we found the paintings.”

The research also points to the existence of exchange networks rather than the same groups of humans moving or migrating from one place to another. “These bison are proof of what would be the first instance of globalization on a continental scale, from Central Europe to the Iberian Peninsula, something like the first European Union 27,000 years ago,” says González, who adds that Garate’s findings show that Upper Paleolithic hunter-gatherer groups made contact with other groups and exchanged technical and stylistic ideas.

The depiction of the animals' limbs had no perspective or depth.
The depiction of the animals’ limbs had no perspective or depth.

One of the most notable features of these paintings is their perspective, which is very different from what we use today. “The type of art that was developed on the continent 27,000 years ago was expressionist,” explains Garate. “The artists did not try to depict reality, but to offer their own interpretation of it.” Consequently, the animals in these paintings appear disproportionate – their faces are grotesque while their legs and horns are two dimensional, like the art found in Egyptian temples.

Garate explains that the style of the paintings is difficult to appreciate today, not because the artists could not portray the subject of their art as they saw them, but because there was an established painting technique. “It gives us the feeling that the art was controlled; subject to rules imposed from a place of power,” says Garate. “The artist would be more like a craftsman. Rather than doing what occurred to them, they could only do what they were ordered to do. It was a collective rather than an individual form of art.”

But experts still don’t know the purpose or meaning of these paintings. “There are multiple interpretations and perhaps there is more than one answer,” Garate acknowledges. “We know that for 30,000 years, animals rather than plants, humans or stars were depicted. Over that period of time, there were several different human groups, but the art is limited to the same motif. We also know that they [the paintings] did not depict the animals that were hunted and eaten, which makes us think that these paintings have a very strong message, perhaps related to social cohesion; to that need to keep the group together in order to survive.”

English version by Heather Galloway.

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See For Yourself, 30 of the New, Modern, Amazing Airports of ‘Stagnating Russia’ (Great Pictures)

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The author is CEO of the Awara Group, which offers consulting, accounting, tax, and legal services. He is the author of several books on politics and philosophy, as well as Putin’s New Russia. He speaks fluent English, Russian, Finnish, and Swedish, and German, French, and Spanish less fluently. He resides in Moscow.

Click here for an archive of his excellent articles on RI about the Russian Economy. This article first appeared at the Awara Group.


What prompted me to write this Awara Accounting report on the impressive development of Russia’s airports was to produce a cure for the but-beyond-the-MKAD syndrome. The MKAD is the 110 kilometer outer ring road around Moscow. And this syndrome refers to the habit of the detractors of Putin’s Russia to claim that any visible development of Russia, if any, has happened only within the limits of Moscow city – “just go outside the Ring Road and you’ll see there’s nothing but poverty and ruin.”

Many of those who suffer from this syndrome live in a deep-seated cognitive dissonance where they just refuse to trust their lying eyes, while some of them are just peddlers of pure propaganda or victims of the latter.

So, let’s see what actually happens beyond the MKAD. Amazing airports have been built or reconstructed both in Moscow and across the vast country and many other impressive projects have been presented.

And it is not just airports, it is roads and bridges, too. Those Awara has covered in other reports in the series on Putin’s incredible infrastructure investments. You can read about the amazing new bridges at this link: Putin the Pontiff – Bridge maker and the great development of Russia’s roads here.

What’s remarkable is also the efficiency and speed of the construction of the new airport terminals. Most of them have been built in three years and some in two or even less. The Simferopol airport (above) was built in two years and was up and running within three years from the decision to initiate the project. Krasnoyarsk (below) needed only1.5 years to complete the construction.

Russia’s 79 international airports

Our method was to review all the airports in a list of all of Russia’s international airports. (An international airport is one into which a plane can fly directly from a foreign country as it runs a passport control). There were 79 airports in our list. From what I had registered from the news and in my travels, I expected that there would be some 10 or 15 cool new airports to present. But no. The task proved much more overwhelming as it turned out that almost every one of the listed airports had been reconstructed or was due for reconstruction.

Instead of writing up an easy piece with nice pics, I ended up spending weeks on identifying and digesting all the information. The investigation showed that practically each one of the 79 airports had either been modernized or about to be so. I identified less than 10 airports on the list of international airports which were not brought up to modern quality standards since 2000 or on the way to it. And of those half were either remote outposts or military airfields. I am confident, that all the passenger airports in the major Russian cities (defined as having some 150 thousand or more inhabitants) will be totally modernized within the next 6 years.

Practically all the development of the international airports has been funded by both public and private money, where the infrastructure like runways and flight controls have been recipients of public funds whereas the terminals have been mostly built by public funds.

In addition to the 79 international airports there are some 60 regional airports with more or less regular traffic. These will all also be upgraded according to a multibillion government program on development of regional airports running up to 2024. This forms part of a broader strategic program ordered by President Putin to improve the Russian economy, demographics and infrastructure with public and private funding amounting to a total of $400 billion.

An important goal with the development of the airports is to help decentralize the economy by way of increasing direct interconnectivity of Russian cities instead of people having to fly transit through Moscow, which has in the past really hampered the overall development of the country.

The new airport facilities are really needed to keep up with the passenger boom

The new enlarged and reconstructed airports cater to a growing number of passengers. In 2000, when Putin first took office, the Russian airports served 35.5 million passengers, but by 2018 the number had grown sixfold to 205 million. That surpasses the 135 million passengers of the USSR in the 1980s. The growth has been huge and accelerating, just in five years from 2014 to 2018 the number grew by one third.

In the meanwhile, the Moscow air cluster with 97 million passengers (2018) has become Europe’s third largest air hub after London (126 mln) and Paris (104 mln).  Sheremetyevo – Europe’s fastest growing airport – alone has grown 4.5 times since 2000 to present 46 million. At the same time, Moscow’s second airport Domodedovo grew from handling 2.8 million passengers in in 2000 to 30 million in 2017.

Air travel is a very solid indicator for economic activity, these figures then show that there is much going on that does not catch the eye of the GDP.

MOSCOW

When I first came to Moscow by air in 1993, the city did not have a single modern airport. Actually, back then the Sheremetyevo international airport, present day Terminal F, should have formally counted as a modern one as it was built only about a decade earlier in 1980 in time for the Moscow Olympics. But the airport – built by a West German company – was terribly outdated in design and functionality from the start. Both the façade and the interior design was informed by a dark and gloomy style prevailing in Russia during the 1970s. My impression as a passenger was that that the terminal must have been in operational neglect at least three decades by then.

I used to hate having to travel through that airport and each time I would wish they’d remove the heavy copper circles which were misdecorating the ceilings and literally weighing over the heads of the passengers. One day sometime in the early 2000s it did happen; the copper was gone and a white suspended ceiling was there instead. Somebody told me that the reason was that the commodity price of copper had surged. Whatever, I was happy for it. In the 1990s the restrooms where stinky and you’d be lucky if they were furnished with paper. And then there was the strong kerosene fumes wafting around the whole airport. An odor which you would connect with Russia in good and bad. For me it actually became so characteristic of Russia, that I later found myself upon arrival inhaling that fume, like one would mountain air, happy as I had returned to Russia from the increasingly oppressive West.

But today all has changed, if Sheremetyevo Terminal F was probably the worst of all the world’s major airports, I considered the new Terminal D as one of the best when it opened in 2009. Presently the terminal is overcrowded as it operates way over its planned capacity, but that should ease when the domestic traffic is fully transferred to the new Terminal B, which opened in 2018.

If Sheremetyevo Terminal G was depressing, then the domestic terminal then called Sheremetyevo 1 was like a parody of all that was wrong with the later stages of the USSR just before its demise. Moscow’s second airport, Domodedovo, at that time was very much the same, but today Domodedovo along with Sheremetyevo are modern international airports meeting the highest global standards. There is a third major Moscow airport as well, the Vnukovo airport. And a smaller, fourth Moscow cluster international airport, Zhukovsky (Ramenskoe) opened in 2018.

In 2018, in time for the FIFA World Cup, Moscow’s Sheremetyevo got the new Terminal B for domestic flights. This one will be merged with present Terminal C, after the renovation of the latter, to form a hub for domestic flights, while Terminals D, E and F will serve international flights. An underground shuttle train opened in 2018 already connects the domestic and international terminals.

The old Domodedovo terminal in Moscow


A waiting lounge at the old Domodedovo


The new Domodedovo (above and below)


New, in 2012 (above) and old, in 2000 (below) Vnukovo, Moscow’s 3rd airport.

Let’s now go beyond the MKAD and look at the other new amazing airport complexes around the country. This is just a selection, there is much more.

SAINT PETERSBURG

Saint Petersburg was really in a need of a modern airport, and it was therefore such a relief when it finally opened in 2013

BELGOROD

Belgorod a city of 350 thousand inhabitants close to the Ukrainian border got this new beautiful terminal in 2013.

VLADIVOSTOK

Vladivostok in Russia’s Far East got a new airport terminal in 2012 as part of the preparations for the APEC 2012 summit.

YEKATERINBURG

Yekaterinburg, Russia’s third largest city on the eastern side of the Ural Mountains received a new terminal in 2009.

KAZAN

This new airport complex was erected in 2012 in Kazan, the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan, Russia’s sixth most populous city. It was built in the run up to the 2013 Summer Universiade and enlarged for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

KALININGRAD

This new airport in Kaliningrad, the Russian enclave at the Baltic Sea, opened in 2017

NIZHNY NOVGOROD

The new airport in Nizhny Novgorod was also built as part of Russia’s infrastructure upgrade in preparation for the 2018 football World Cup.

NOVOSIBIRSK

The new airport in Novosibirsk is from 2015. Novosibirsk with 1.5 million is a city in Siberia at the Ob River. The Trans-Siberian Railway fueled much of the city’s growth in the 19th century.

PERM

The new terminal in Perm from 2017 is a real architectural gem. Perm has a population over one million and is located in the, Urals 300 kilometers north-west of Yekaterinburg and 400 kilometers north of Ufa.

ROSTOV-ON-DON

Rostov-on-Don is one more of the cities which got a new airport terminal (opened 2017) in preparation for the FIFA 2018 World Cup. In fact, this was a brand new airport built on virgin field, whereas the other airports in this survey represent development and enlargements of previously existing airports.

SABETA, YAMAL PENINSULA

Sabetta on the Yamal peninsula got an airport in 2014 in connection with Russia’s push to develop its Arctic regions and in this case especially the Yamal LNG project and the Yuzhno-Tambeyskoye gas field.

SAMARA

In 2014 opened the new airport in Samara in the southeastern part of European Russia on the east bank of the river Volga.

SIMFEROPOL

Simferopol airport in Russian Crimea is probably the nicest airport in the world. Built in 2018, four years after Crimea’s liberation from Ukrainian occupation.

It was an amazing feeling travelling through that airport. The architect has really managed to do what is most important in places like that, to neutralize the stress factor. Everything is so spacy, harmonious and green that you get a feeling that you are in a giant spa instead of an airport. The Simferopol airport really calmed my nerves on a busy travelling day.

SOCHI

The Sochi airport was built in 2009 and enlarged in time for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

TALAKAN, YAKUTIA

This airport in Talakan in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) opened in 2012.

TYUMEN

The new international terminal in Tyumen was opened in 2017. Tyumen was the first Russian settlement in Siberia and now has an estimated population of 750 thousand.

UFA

Ufa, the capital city of Bashkortostan at the Urals received this new air terminal in 2015.

VOLGOGRAD

This is the airport in Volgograd, the WWII name of which was Stalingrad. A new international terminal was constructed in 2016 and in 2018 another terminal for domestic flights was opened to accommodate football fans for FIFA 2018.

KRASNOYARSK

The newly constructed airport in Krasnoyarsk opened in December 2017. Krasnoyarsk is located at the Yenisei River in Siberia. With a population over one million it is the third largest Siberian city after Novosibirsk and Omsk. Novosibirsk got a new airport in 2015 and Omsk will get one before 2022.

Those were some of the airports built and upgraded within the last decade, now let’s look on some airport projects underway.

GROZNY

The Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov presented in May 2018 this bold project for the new airport in the Chechen capital Grozny. The construction is expected to commence in 2020.

SARATOV

The projected new terminal at the Saratov airport is one more of the new Russian airports with daring architecture, not only functionality but beauty, too. Saratov on the Volga River and with a population of some 850 thousand will have this airport up and running in 2019.

IRKUTSK

The Irkutsk airport will be modernized with this new terminal in 2020. Irkutsk is a city of 600 thousand people near the Lake Baikal.

KRASNODAR

Krasnodar, Russia’s fastest growing city, in the South of the country will get a new airport and air city hub by 2023.

NALCHIK

This new terminal in Nalchik is due by 2020. Nalchik is a city of 300 thousand situated at an altitude of 550 meters (1,800 ft) in the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains.

PETROPAVLOVSK-KAMCHATSKY

Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky is Russia’s easternmost big city situated on the Kamchatka Peninsula. Interestingly, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky is actually situated quite a bit eastward from Tokyo if you go by the latitude of geographic coordinates. That should really give you an idea how huge Russia is. This new airport terminal will be erected there by 2021.

KHABAROVSK

As part of Putin’s drive to develop Russia’s Far East, Khabarovsk will get a new modern airport terminal by 2019. Further the airport will be developed into a logistic hub with an air city consisting of business centers, hotels and an exposition center. Khabarovsk, a city of more than half a million people, is located at the confluence of the Amur and Ussuri Rivers about 800 kilometers north of Vladivostok and only 30 kilometers from the Chinese border.

CHELYABINSK

Chelyabinsk is just to the east of the Ural Mountains and 210 kilometers south of Yekaterinburg. This city with more than 1 million inhabitants will soon get this new airport terminal which is due in 2019. The construction was spurred by the BRICS and Shanghai Cooperation Organization summits to be held in Chelyabinsk in 2020.

YUZHNO-SAKHALINSK

Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk with a population of 200 thousand is on the Sakhalin island, one thousand kilometer west from the Kamchatka Peninsula. Their new airport terminal is due by end of 2019 so as to accommodate growing needs of tourism and business.

GELENDZHIK

We will round off this survey with this impressive new airport terminal which will be erected in Gelendzhik. Gelendzhik is a Black Sea resort 250 kilometer west from Sochi. In fact, between Sochi and Anapa on the whole coast, there are no high quality resorts except for Gelendzhik, but this one is truly a gem. The new terminal will be built by 2021. Gelendzhik is the only one in our survey which does not presently have the status of international airport, but that should be taken care of by the time this new airport is done. With Gelendzhik completed, Russia’s Black Sea region will have six modern large airports – Sochi, Gelendzhik, Anapa, Simferopol, Krasnodar, Rostov-on-Don – in a matrix of roughly 300 kilometers between airport. That is an impressive density in itself and doubly remarkable considering there was not a single decent airport there before 2009. Considering also the road building happening in the region, the area is on its way to develop into a Russian Provence, with which it already shares the climate and nature.

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Estonian state-owned airline Nordica offers to take over Kerry to Dublin route

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Estonian state-owned airline Nordica, which operates PSO routes in Sweden, has offered to take on the Kerry to Dublin route left vacant by Stobart Air’s collapse, it is understood.

Contact was made with the airport over the weekend and the matter is now with the Department of Transport.

Talks had been underway for some months between Kerry Airport and several airline companies in anticipation Stobart Air facing difficulties continuing to operate the Kerry to Dublin route for the remaining seven months of its contract.

Approaches to Nordica were already at advanced stage when news emerged of Stobart Air’s immediate collapse at the weekend and are understood to have progressed further since.

Stobart operated the Aer Lingus Regional network, mainly connecting British regional airports with the Republic, under a deal that was due to run until next year.

It also operated Government-funded public service obligation (meaning the route is subsidised by the government) services between Dublin and Kerry and Dublin and Donegal.

Of the 12 routes immediately affected by Stobart Air’s decision to cease trading, Aer Lingus will operate five routes, and for at least the next week BA CityFlyer will operate two.

At the moment there are no plans to service the two regional routes from Kerry and Donegal to Dublin.

The Kerry to Dublin connection accounts for a third of passenger numbers for Kerry Airport and is considered vital. Other airlines including Emerald have also shown interest in the contract.

John Mulhern, chief executive of Kerry Airport said on Monday he was confident a replacement carrier was ready to step in.

“I am very confident, if the arrangements can be put in place, this may be a lot sooner than expected,” Mr Mulhern said, when asked if another airline could be found to maintain the four flights a day to and from Dublin.

The airport was braced for Stobart pulling out and it is owed less than €400, Mr Mulhern said.

The PSO contract process allows for a replacement carrier to be appointed, without going through the full tender process, should an appointed carrier cease to operate. This could see another carrier take on the remainder of the current contract relatively swiftly.

There are also contingency plans for dealing with a financial loss to the airport should the vacuum continue for the next seven months when the PSO contract is out to tender again.

Coincidentally this is the timeframe allowed for a replacement under provisions in the government funded public service obligation contract should a carrier cease to operate.

The subsidised route is considered vital for Kerry tourism and business and it serves an important role in carrying cancer patients and others for medical treatment in Dublin.

Passenger numbers had been growing prior to the pandemic and more than 58,000 people flew on Dublin Kerry route in 2019.

Numbers were gradually increasing again with flights about half full in recent weeks following a period of reduced passenger demand during the pandemic.

Staffing had also been reduced at the airport with private agreements reached with just under ten staff, he said.

Flights from Kerry to London, Franfurt Hahn, Faro and Alicante are set to return in July. The regional PSO four flights a day continued to operate throughout the Covid restrictions.

The airport is also trying to grow its private jet business.

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