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Yelabuga in Tatarstan – One of the Hidden Gems of Russia



Most visitors to the Russian republic of Tatarstan just go to the republic’s beautiful capital of Kazan, with its interesting mix of East and West and Muslim and Orthodox cultures. However the republic has a lot more to offer than just its capital – as wonderful as it is. One such destination is the Historical City of Yelabuga in the east of the republic.

As with many Historical Cities of Russia, Yelabuga has managed to retain its charm due to it being overlooked when the plans for the railway lines were drawn up. We therefore opted to travel to Yelabuga by bus from Kazan which takes five hours, but we flew back to Moscow via the Begishevo Airport which is about a 30-minute taxi ride from Yelabuga. This airport also serves Yelabuga’s larger neighbouring cities of Nizhnekamsk and Naberezhnye Chelny (where KamAZ trucks are manufactured). Of these three cities, Yelabuga is without a doubt the gem in the triangle and the only one which can truly be described as a tourist destination; in fact it is hard to be more different from its industrial neighbours

The city is divided into two parts – the upper part is more industrial (one of the first special economic zones in Russia was established here), whereas the lower part is where most of the historical sites, restaurants and museums are found. However we started our visit in the upper part where the bus station is located. Despite being the less touristic part, it is here that you will find one of the most famous landmarks of Yelabuga: the stone tower of the Chyortovo Ancient Settlement. It is also appropriate in terms of chronology to start your visit here as this is where the first settlement in the area is believed to have been located next to the River Toyma (a tributary of the Kama).

Yelabuga is one of the oldest cities in Tatarstan and it celebrated its millennium in 2007, although the city’s official adoption of 1007 as the year of foundation is debated among some historians. Supporters of the 1007 theory suggest that Yelabuga was founded by Emir Ibragim I ben Mukhamad of the Volga Bulgars – a nomadic Turkic people who settled here in the 10th century and whose lands were incorporated into the Mongols’ Golden Horde in 1236. It was the Bulgars who built the fortification whose tower, which was restored in the mid-19th century, now once again stands overlooking the River Toyma as it flows into the Kama. From this vantage point you can enjoy great views of the river and the city below.

After looking around the settlement’s recent additions of a recreation of a wooden fortress and a statue of Emir Ibragim, we descended the staircase and headed for the lower part of the city. It is this part of the city which has earned Yelabuga the status of a historical city as it practically only consists of buildings from the 19th century arranged according to a town plan which was developed during the reign of Catherine the Great.

The main street in the historical part of the city is Ulitsa Kazanskaya which runs horizontally across the city. The street has completely retained its original appearance, albeit with the addition of Soviet or more modern monuments. One of the strangest monuments is an unusual statue of Lenin. It consists of a small bust of Lenin placed on top of a large pedestal in front of an small-scale imitation of the Moscow Kremlin’s walls. All in all it creates a rather out of proportion and comical picture.

From visiting the City History Museum on Ulitsa Kazanskaya is it immediately obvious that a great deal of investment has been made in Yelabuga’s tourist infrastructure. Normally provincial history museums are rather stuffy places with your standard displays of stuffed animals and old photos of the city. However this museum has been recently completely revamped and interactive elements have been added, which is still rather rare for Russian museums, even in cities much larger than Yelabuga.

Just off Ulitsa Kazanskaya is the city’s main cathedral – the Saviour Cathedral. We took the opportunity to go up the cathedral’s bell tower to again enjoy views of the city, this time looking from the historical centre to the River Kama and the Chyortovo Ancient Settlement.

A major benefit to Yelabuga’s tourism potential is its connection with significant figures from Russian culture and history. These connections have been made the most of and museums have been opened in the houses where these people once lived. The famous Russian landscape painter Ivan Shishkin, who is especially celebrated for his realistic forest scenes, was born in Yelabuga in 1832 (in fact, the restoration of the tower at Chyortovo Ancient Settlement was largely down to his father). The museum dedicated to him is located in what was once his family’s beautiful estate house. It is easy to image that the picturesque views of the Kama enjoyed from the house’s balcony must have helped inspire the young painter.

Marina Tsvetaeva, a leading figure of Russia’s Silver Age of poetry also has a link with Yelabuga, although her connection is much more tragic. She was evacuated here in 1941 during the Second World War but was deeply unhappy here and wished to be transferred to Chistopol where other authors had been evacuated. Her application was rejected and a few days later she hanged herself. We visited the museum located in the small house where Tsvetaeva spent the last weeks of her life and then crossed the road to another museum consisting of a recreation of a 19th-century laundry which the poet is known to have visited.

Shishkin and Tsvetaeva are well-known Russian cultural figures, but by visiting two more of Yelabuga’s museums we also learned about two lesser known figures. One is Nadezhda Durova who in 1806 left her husband and son, disguised herself as a man and ran off to join the army. She later became the first female officer in the Russian army and fought against Napoleon at the Battle of Borodino. After the war she settled in Yelabuga and spent the last 50 years of her life here.

Finally, we visited a museum connected with Mikhail Bekhterev – a leading neurologist and psychologist and rival to Ivan Pavlov (who admittedly we had never heard of before visiting Yelabuga). Bekhterev died in 1927 shortly after examining Stalin and it is believed he may have been murdered on Stalin’s orders for diagnosing the dictator’s paranoia.

The museum is not just dedicated to Bekhterev but to the standard and practice of medicine in Yelabuga from the 18th century onwards, including recreations of a healer’s house, a chemist’s, a consultancy room, a modern operating theatre and a herbal tearoom. Some of the items on display make you appreciate the progress made in medicine during the last century!

We had by now had our fill of museums, as modern and interesting as they were, and decided to walk more around the city. We ended up at the Old Cemetery located on the very outskirts. In keeping with our chronological order of exploring the city, the cemetery’s war graves brings you to the 20th century, however you will find here not just Soviet war graves but also the graves of German, Hungarian and Japanese POWs who were imprisoned at a POW camp in Yelabuga and died here.

The Japanese script certainly makes an unusual additional to a Russian cemetery. Also buried here is Marina Tsvetaeva and her grave can be found on the edge of a cemetery. However the memorial which stands on the grave today just marks the approximate place of burial as no tombstone was erected during the war and the exact location was subsequently forgotten.

All in all Yelabuga makes a great place to visit. It may not be the easiest place to visit from Moscow or St Peterbsurg, but it is certainly worth the journey as the city has all you could want for a nice weekend break: beautiful natural surroundings on the Kama, a quaint, unspoiled historical centre, unusual and quirky monuments, ancient historical sites and interesting museums connected with fascinating personalities. To top it all, you should also have no problem in finding a comfortable hotel or a good restaurant, which isn’t always the case with provincial cities off the beaten track!

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International Institute of Social History: Why Amsterdam is home to a trove of archives on Spanish anarchism and the anti-Franco resistance | Culture



Spanish historian Almudena Rubio, one of the researchers at the International Institute of Social History, working last May on documents from the Spanish Civil War.
Spanish historian Almudena Rubio, one of the researchers at the International Institute of Social History, working last May on documents from the Spanish Civil War.Marc Driessen

A significant part of historical memory regarding Spain’s anarchist movement and the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) can be found at the International Institute of Social History (IISH) in Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

Founded in 1935, the IISH is home to the historical archive of the National Confederation of Labor (CNT), an anarchist labor union, and the Iberian Anarchist Federation (FAI) – documents known in Spain as the so-called “Amsterdam boxes” – along with an extensive collection on workers’ activism and social movements across the world.

Sneaked out of the country to preclude confiscation by the regime of dictator Francisco Franco, these 47 boxes take up a stretch of the institute’s 20 kilometers of shelves and include the CNT-FAI’s order to the León-born anarchist leader Buenaventura Durruti to travel to Madrid in 1936, where he would meet his end in uncertain circumstances. The IISH also houses the archives from the anti-Franco resistance and the Ruedo Ibérico publishing house founded in Paris in 1961 by five exiles from the Spanish Civil War with the aim of producing anti-fascist material to counter the dictatorship’s propaganda. Adding to the cache are archives relating to the libertarian trade unionists and feminists, original letters from writer Pío Baroja, a member of the Generation of ’98, and thousands of photos of the Civil War that were thought to have been lost, including images captured by Polish photographer, Margaret Michaelis and Hungarian photographer, Kati Horna. Altogether, it amounts to the legacy of a polarized period of history that is a mine of information for researchers.

The unsealed document containing the order to Durruti, signed by the regional committees of the CNT-FAI, was dated November 9, 1936, and stipulated that “comrade Durruti, without further delay, leave for Madrid […] to intervene decisively in the defense of the capital of Spain.” According to Almudena Rubio, responsible for recovering the document, it is proof that “the leadership of the National Confederation of Labor and the Iberian Anarchist Federation was behind that decision, while Durruti himself wanted to take Zaragoza.”

Letters from writer Pío Baroja to Ada Martí Vall.
Letters from writer Pío Baroja to Ada Martí Vall.Marc Driessen

Rubio adds that it was not uncommon for orders from the CNT-FAI to be unsealed, and that, though there was a rift between the union and its rank and file, “it seems that Durruti was considered essential to the anti-fascist struggle in the capital.” By ordering a change of plans for the anarchist, “the communists, who were already taking positions in Madrid, benefitted as did [Russian leader Joseph] Stalin, who was against the social revolution pursued by Durruti,” she says.

Those signing the document mention “the enormous possibilities of success [of our comrades] if our help reaches them,” and “the pleas of the people of Madrid, who are calling on us.” The reality, however, was quite different. Durruti was shot dead days after arriving with no conclusive explanation for his death. His driver, Clemente Cuyás, said in 1993 that he had been the victim of an accidental shot from his own rifle and that the CNT-FAI demanded any witnesses remain silent. Other versions speak of his death in combat or from a traitor’s bullet.

The arrival in the Netherlands of the CNT-FAI archive was not without its share of drama. “When it became clear in 1939 that the Republican side would not win the Civil War, union representatives took it to the Paris branch of the IISH,” says Leo Lucassen, IISH research director. “They did it as private individuals, to avoid the new fascist state being able to claim it later as belonging to a Spanish organization.”

The document from the CNT-FAI ordering Durruti to depart for Madrid.
The document from the CNT-FAI ordering Durruti to depart for Madrid.Marc Driessen

Shortly before the outbreak of World War II, the archive was transferred from Paris to the United Kingdom and was taken to Amsterdam in 1947. Closed for three decades, until Franco’s death, an inventory wasn’t taken until the 1980s. Lucassen stresses that the Spanish Civil War generated ideas on an international scale that had an indisputable impact. “Proof of this is that among the International Brigades there were hundreds of Dutch people committed to what was presented as the ultimate struggle: the fight between good and evil,” he says, adding that it was, however, difficult for them to return to the Netherlands. “Their passports were taken from them as they had fought with a foreign army. They were seen as traitors to their homeland, but also as liberating icons.” The nationality of Dutch members of the International Brigades was reinstated in 1970, and Amsterdam dedicated a monument to them in 1986 in a square called Spanje (Spain) 1936-1939.

Baroja’s letters

Among the Spanish correspondence preserved in the Archive of the Spanish Resistance, which collected documents up to 1974, are three original letters by the writer Pío Baroja. They are addressed to Concepción Martí Vall or Ada Martí, an anarchist writer and journalist who was an admirer of Baroja though she later distanced herself from him, feeling he had betrayed the social nature of his early works. Dated 1936, when Martí was 21 and Baroja 64, the letters’ tone suggests an exchange between an idealized professor and his pupil. For example, Baroja confesses his passion to “live to write, write to live;” while also telling Martí things such as, “I no longer need a compass because I am anchored in the harbor. You are the one who should be attentive to the marking needle.” The cultural center Ateneu Enciclopèdic de Barcelona has a photocopy of these missives and was unaware of the presence of the originals in Amsterdam until now.

Meanwhile, the archive of the Ruedo Ibérico publishing house contains the manuscript of Viaje al Sur (or, The Trip South) – a book the publishers commissioned Juan Marsé to write but which was assumed to have gone missing until it was realized that it has been renamed Andalucía, perdido amor (or, Andalusia, lost love) with Marsé writing under the pseudonym Manolo Reyes; it was published after the writer’s death, in 2020, by Lumen publishing house.

An archive of archives

Founded in 1935 by Dutch professor of social and economic history, Nicolaas Posthumus (1880-1960), the IISH has become an archive of archives. Its treasures include papers by Karl Marx, Freidrich Engels, Mikhail Bakunin and the anarchist Emma Goldman, which are among one million books and publications, 5,400 collections and 1.5 million audiovisuals. “Posthumus was interested in the intellectual roots of ideas from anarchists, socialists, liberals and Christian democrats,” says Lucassen. “Around 1930, when left-wing movements were threatened by fascism and National Socialism in Europe, he began to receive documents from social organizations, often taken under the radar from their countries of origin which enabled him to maintain the independence of the new center. Entire collections of left-wing publications from Latin American countries such as Argentina and Bolivia have been entrusted to us. It is a heritage that continues to be sent to the center from areas where similar conflicts persist.”

Rubio hopes to present an exhibition in 2022 with the Civil War images taken by Kati Horna, and her colleague, Margaret Michaelis, recovered from 2015. They were commissioned by the CNT-FAI to provide a graphic testimony of the social revolution it intended; the photos were in the photographic archive of the CNT-FAI’s foreign propaganda offices, included in the Amsterdam boxes.

English version by Heather Galloway.

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US Anti-Immigration Website Raises $40K in 1 Day in Year-End Fund Drive



“Tuesday’s kickoff of’s year end fundraiser started with what I thought was a challenging goal: to bring in $5,000 in one day to meet a matching donation pledged by one of our standout donors. Little did I know what an enormous groundswell of support we would receive, ultimately breaking’s 20 year record for donations in 24 hours.

We promoted the initial challenge in the usual ways across all social media platforms and via email. But I’m always on pins and needles in anticipation of a fundraiser. On Tuesday morning the donations started coming in early and generous – what was encouraging quickly became astonishing, and by noon eastern time we were mere dollars from meeting our $5,000 goal. It was still mid-morning on the west coast! So I started calling around to some of our most generous friends.

My first call was to South Carolina, to the donor who gave us the initial $5k, to see if he, like me, was high on the turnout and inspired to increase his gift. He was, indeed, delighted by the money coming in but was tapped out. Too many obligations to the tax man and a nagging lawsuit.

Next call was to Washington state, to a donor who first donated last December after finding us on Twitter. He’s frequently in the wilderness, so I wasn’t surprised to have to leave a voicemail.

Then I rang Oklahoma, to one of our most engaged donors, a man who has been funding – and other dissident right organizations — for more than twelve years. But he’s already doubled his giving to this year and cheered me on to call upon someone else.

Finally, I called another Washington state donor (we have a very generous pocket of readers in the Pacific Northwest) who has been generously supporting for close to fifteen years. I hit voicemail with him, too.

Meanwhile the tally kept rising. As did the mood in the office, I can assure you! Noah on video support began putting together the intro and graphics for the evening’s livestream while my assistant and I called out each time a new donation came in. It was wild, and at times wacky.

“$55 from Pennsylvania!”

“OH! $200 from Idaho!”

Suddenly the phone rang. Our friend had emerged from the wilderness. “This matching grant has really inspired people today, and I think a stretch goal would keep the momentum up,” I told him, “we might even set a record for giving. What do you think about pledging $2,000?”

Without missing a beat, he said “I was thinking about $10,000.”

And just like that, we had a stretch goal twice the size of our original. Even more amazing: it was met by individual small donations within two hours.

I ordered Chinese takeout for the team – John Derbyshire, Noah the video tech, my assistant, Peter and myself – as we switched gears heading into the livestream slated for my living room. My kids were all excited to have so many guests for dinner, and it turns out John never has Chinese takeout, presumably because he has a Chinese wife, so I like to think it was exciting for him too! As we negotiated with the children about their appearance on camera to say “Merry Christmas,” the phone rang again.

As soon as I picked up the phone, almost without saying hello, my fifteen-years-loyal donor announced, “I’m pledging $5,000, how much do you have in so far?”

At this point, we had only barely met the first stretch goal and the night was closing in on the east coast. Sure, we had the livestream coming up, but I worried that maybe we had captured everything there was to capture. But why not give it a try? We’d already broken the record for one day of mass giving – but we may as well SHATTER IT! As Buzz Lightyear said, to infinite and beyond!

I shouldn’t have doubted. This community always comes through when we need you.

Two hours later, as we closed out the livestream, we were only $387 short of the super stretch goal. That amount – and more – came in within minutes of turning off the mics. By midnight we surpassed the super stretch matching by over $1,000, bringing our 24 hour total, including the fully matched pledges, to $42, 574!

That’s almost a quarter of the way to our final goal of $200,000 that we need to reach by January 1.

In one day.

Thank you. Thank youTHANK YOU!

We have a lot more in store for you during this Year End Appeal, and I’m so looking forward to amplifying different voices from our staff and supporters as they ruminate on’s 20 years of patriotic immigration reform. But ultimately, this is about you, our readers, America’s patriots. may be the voice of the historic American nation, but we are only the voice. The community is the body. And we’re getting stronger every day.

Help us reach our final goal – let’s keep up this incredible momentum. Please, give your most generous donation now!

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Domestic air routes to be restored by mid July, says Minister



Regional flights to Donegal and Kerry should resume by the middle of July, Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan has said.

The Green Party leader said the Government has been in contact with a number of different airlines about restoring routes linking the counties with Dublin after the collapse of Stobart Air.

Both routes are subsidised by the State under Public Service Obligation (PSO) contracts.

Under EU rules, the Government is allowed to make arrangements to continue axed services for seven months before renegotiating a four year PSO contract, Mr Ryan told RTÉ radio.

Airlines interested in taking over the two routes are to be approached next week before a “judgment call” is made on the most suitable operators.

Mr Ryan said he expects them to be in place by “mid-July”.

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