The Russian Far East through the Eyes of Two American Students | Дальний восток россии глазами двух американских студентов
by John Simeone and Taylor Zajicek
In its 150 year history, Vladivostok has undergone substantial transformations. Chosen for its warm water bays, and erected on former Chinese land, the city has been Russia’s historic connection to the Pacific world. Vladivostok was a closed city and fortress during much of the Soviet period and continues to house Russia’s Pacific Fleet. Now, Vladivostok is at the center of Russia’s political and economic re-orientation toward East Asia. Our stay in the city coincided with the approach of the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit held in September 2012. To attract foreign investment during the Summit and establish Russia’s economic presence on the Pacific Rim, Vladivostok has received a major facelift — nearly $21 billion in infrastructure and renovation. Vladivostok remains a diverse and multicultural city, drawing labor and residents from China, Central Asia and North Korea.
Orthodoxy’s easternmost corner
http://depts.washington.edu/jsishelp/ellison/sites/default/files/photo1.jpgAlthough Vladivostok is roughly 5,000 miles away from Moscow, the Russian spirit still characterizes the Far East. Russia's borders with North Korea and China lie directly to the south west.
http://depts.washington.edu/jsishelp/ellison/sites/default/files/Photo2.jpgEvery weekend, the strong summer sun draws people out to Fokina, the main pedestrian center adjacent to the waterfront, which was given given a face-lift in preparation for the APEC Summit in September 2012.
There are sharks in the water (really)
http://depts.washington.edu/jsishelp/ellison/sites/default/files/Photo3.jpgThe Naberzhnaya (waterfront): where any choice of clothing is acceptable and encouraged.
http://depts.washington.edu/jsishelp/ellison/sites/default/files/Photo4.jpgThe city center functions as a regular hub for Vladivostok's multi-cultural and entertainment events, such as a Latin-American dance festival, a kids' break-dancing competition, Navy Day and Korean pop performances.
Life’s early lessons
http://depts.washington.edu/jsishelp/ellison/sites/default/files/Photo5.jpgAll ages are welcome!
http://depts.washington.edu/jsishelp/ellison/sites/default/files/Photo6.jpgOn the last Sunday of every July, all of Russia celebrates Navy Day. This day has particular significance in Vladivostok, the home of Russia's Pacific Fleet since 1860.
http://depts.washington.edu/jsishelp/ellison/sites/default/files/Photo7.jpgAcquired from China in the mid-19th century, Vladivostok was, and continues to be, a multi-national city. It was constructed by Germans, Chinese and Americans, among others. This heritage is exemplified by its current population demographics and architecture, such as this Catholic church.
From Vladivostok, with love
http://depts.washington.edu/jsishelp/ellison/sites/default/files/Photo8.jpgA young couple enjoys the view over Vladivostok. The beach features a variety of parks, soccer fields, and gym equipment.
http://depts.washington.edu/jsishelp/ellison/sites/default/files/Photo9.jpgVladivostok remains, however, uniquely Russian. Pyramid, or Russian Billiards, has a steep learning curve.
One nation, under football
http://depts.washington.edu/jsishelp/ellison/sites/default/files/Photo10.jpgTo play soccer on aged rubber fields costs 50 rubles if the field attendant is on duty — though hopping the fence is always an option. The nicer astro-turf field in the background costs 100 rubles per person. Pick-up games were a weekly occurrence throughout our summer.
Queens, Steeds, and Elephants
http://depts.washington.edu/jsishelp/ellison/sites/default/files/Photo11.jpgChess players are liable to throw-down in any location.
http://depts.washington.edu/jsishelp/ellison/sites/default/files/Photo12.jpgVladivostok is the endpoint of the famous Trans-Siberian railway. Stretching 5,700 miles from Moscow, it is the longest railway in the world and takes six days to travel.
http://depts.washington.edu/jsishelp/ellison/sites/default/files/Photo13.jpgThe last four years have witnessed the rapid erection of two cable stayed bridges in Vladivostok and one just outside of the city. With the goal of completing the bridges prior to the APEC Summit, construction took place 24/7 to barely make the deadline. The bridges now define the city skyline.
A day of celebration
http://depts.washington.edu/jsishelp/ellison/sites/default/files/Photo14.jpgOn August 11th, with less than one month to go before the start of the Summit, the first bridge was completed. This bridge spanned Golden Horn Bay to connect the downtown area with the district known as Churkin.
Pondering the new skyline
http://depts.washington.edu/jsishelp/ellison/sites/default/files/Photo15.jpgThe second of the new cable stayed bridges connects the mainland with Russky Island, the location of the APEC Summit. It was completed less than one month before the start of the September 2012 Summit.
Bridge to nowhere?
http://depts.washington.edu/jsishelp/ellison/sites/default/files/Photo16.jpgSome have wondered if the $1 billion bridge to Russky Island is a bridge to nowhere. While a new academic campus was built directly on the other side of the bridge to host APEC Summit events, Russky Island is still very much a 'wild' place. Pictured here is the southeasten part of Russky Island, which overlooks the Sea of Japan.
Connection to history
http://depts.washington.edu/jsishelp/ellison/sites/default/files/Photo17.jpgMany old forts from the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905 are now accessible to anyone with a car good enough to navigate the deeply rutted dirt roads. From the waterfront side, Fort No. 10 appears no more significant than a small bunker.
http://depts.washington.edu/jsishelp/ellison/sites/default/files/Photo18.jpgHowever, from the backside of Fort No. 10, there is an entrance to a maze of tunnels that goes three stories underground. Now that the Island is accessible by car, tunnel exploration has become popular among Vladivostok's intrepid youth and visiting international students.
Welcome to the taiga!
http://depts.washington.edu/jsishelp/ellison/sites/default/files/Photo19.jpgTraveling north from Vladivostok, one is greeted quickly with the taiga — the northern temperate and boreal forest. These forests are home to the Amur leopard and Siberian tiger — whose populations are dwindling quickly. As of 2007, an estimated 350 tigers and no more than 26 leopards existed. The area in this photo is no more than four miles from the Chinese border.
The magnificent Amur River
http://depts.washington.edu/jsishelp/ellison/sites/default/files/Photo20.jpgThe other major city of the Russian Far East, Khabarovsk, overlooks the Amur River and is home to most of the regional company headquarters for forestry operations.
The importance of Russia's forests
http://depts.washington.edu/jsishelp/ellison/sites/default/files/Photo21.jpgBetween 2000-2010, Russia has supplied China with 84 percent of its total coniferous log imports, on average. Most of these logs come from forests in the Russian Far East and Eastern Siberia. China processes the logs into furniture and consumes some domestically, but also sends many wood products to the United States.
International trade gateway
http://depts.washington.edu/jsishelp/ellison/sites/default/files/Photo22.jpgVladivostok is the center of Russia's trade interests in East Asia, a connection maintained primarily by rail.
During their time in Vladivosktok, John Simeone (REECAS and Forestry 2013) and Taylor Zajicek (REECAS 2014) lived with host families and studied Russian at the Vladivostok State University of Economics and Service. After the program, Taylor flew to China and John conducted research and interviews pertaining to his Master’s thesis in Vladivostok, Dalnerechensk, and Khabarovsk.