Wednesday, 26 June 2013

The Russia House Scene Locations: Barley Makes Contact with Katya

I am continuing to make slow progress in describing the locations used in all of the scenes from the Russia House - I document these in my other blog:

The Russia House Scene Locations: Barley Makes Contact with Katya: Making Contact Location: Red Square & GUM Moscow Russia Details: Katya and Barley get a taxi to Red Square.

This post includes some photos of GUM which I took in 2002, which I have included here:

Gosudarstveny Universalny Magazin - State Universal Store.  These photos were taken in May - a few days before the May 9 Victory Day celebrations.  As you can see, the side of GUM facing Red Square was adorned with huge banners depicting war medals commemorating victory in the Great Patriotic War.  There were similar banners hanging from the ceiling inside GUM as well.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Polish Shops in the North East of England

Friday again, and another trip to my favourite Polish Shop - Malgosia's in Newcastle for my Friday treat - a couple of bottles of Baltika No 4, some smetana and a bag of frozen pelmeni.

Following the demise of Newcastle's only Russian shop - The Samovar  - a couple of years ago (which was also located in Newgate Shopping Centre, Newcastle), I had no opportunity to purchase some of the Russian delicacies I had previously enjoyed at The Samovar.  Malgosia's Polish shop fills that gap - it has a large selection of Polish and Lithuanian food, but it also stocks a range of Russian products too.

Polish Families in the North East of England: Polish Shops in the North East of England

Polish shops Małgosia's and European Foods: Coś dla ochłody!

Polish shops Małgosia's and European Foods: Coś dla ochłody!: Wygląda na to, że do North East przyszło lato, a wraz z nim - wysokie temperatury! W końcu! Zapraszamy po orzeźwiające napoje prosto...

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Can Soviet hotels halt the destruction of Moscow?

A recent report in the Moscow Times suggested that there was now a preference for renovating Soviet era hotels rather than demolish and reconstruct them.

Is this a sign that the tide is turning against the trend of the last twenty years of demolishing buildings- irrespective of their architectural merits or historical value? I certainly hope so. There has been vandalism on a grand scale over recent years - especially in the capital, Moscow, and Muscovites have mourned the loss of their architectural heritage - even despite the fact that some of these buildings, Soviet-era ones, were themselves erected on the spot where similar level of destruction had previously taken place - ancient buildings destroyed and historic neighbourhoods cleared to make way for Soviet modernist thoroughfares (eg Novy Arbat), monumentalism, socialist realist buildings and Stalinist wedding cakes etc.
Much of this modern destruction has taken place for spurious reasons often under corrupt or questionable practices of awarding construction contracts, building permits. Some have had damage inflicted upon them deliberately eg arson in order to leave no alternative to demolition, others have been destroyed only have a replica (often a pale imitation of the original) built in its place - derided as "mock heritage" or "sham replicas" (The Hotel Moscow springs to mind here).
Pressure groups have arisen to call a halt to what appears to be wanton destruction and irreversible changes to the character of streets and neighbourhoods.  Moscow Preservation Society is one such group

While it is often cheaper build from scratch than to renovate an old building and equip it to modern standards and conveniences, it seems that in the hotel industry at least, the desire for a quick turn around and short lead time to revenue generation is driving developers to renovate soviet era hotels rather than demolish and rebuild.  New construction can take 15 to 20 months, whereas renovation could take as little as nine months, according to statistics from the St. Petersburg-based construction company STEP.   In addition, the old hotels can even continue operating on some floors while other parts are undergoing renovations.  
But in some cases renovation is not the best option - the carcases of Soviet-era hotels , with their relatively small rooms and low ceilings, places a physical restriction on developers; it is difficult to incorporate modern features into an existing structure while meeting the space and convenience needs of the modern traveller.

I would hope that the  trend to renovate rather than destroy continues and expands beyond the hotel industry.  Perhaps these commercial pressures facing developers will help to avoid a repeat of the destruction of old buildings that took place under Stalin, and will be encouraging for the growing conservation movement in Moscow.  There are grounds for optimism. The Moscow Preservation Society made up of locals and foreigners, admits that the Russian government is not used to listening to pressure groups, but says consciousness, via newspapers and blogs, is growing.