Tag Archives: Communism

A to Z of Statues – L is for Lenin in Moscow

When Lenin died in January 1924 he was acclaimed as ‘the greatest genius of mankind’ and ‘the leader and teacher of the people’s of the whole world’.  Time Magazine named him one of the one hundred most important people of the twentieth century (Albert Einstein was first and Mahatma Ghandi and Theodore Roosevelt close runners-up).

According to the article in Encyclopaedia Britannica: ‘If the Bolshevik Revolution is, as some people have called it, the most significant political event of the twentieth century, then Lenin must for good or ill be considered the century’s most significant political leader… he has been regarded as both the greatest revolutionary leader and revolutionary statesman in history, as well as the greatest revolutionary thinker since Marx’.

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On This Day – The Anonymous Pedestrians

On 8th January 2014 I was spending a second day in the Polish city of Wroclaw. The first day was spent sightseeing and dwarf hunting and today I was determined to find another piece of street art.

I was looking for a sculpture called ‘The Anonymous Pedestrians’…

There is an interesting piece of trivia about this picture. It is mine, I know that because I edited it to take out street clutter. A Google image search reveals that it has been used almost two thousand, five hundred times in other people’s websites and blogs. One or two have had the courtesy to give me a photo credit but only a handful. It has appeared in Pintrest galleries and several times on Instagram. I am not complaining, just saying.

Read The Full Story Here…

European Capital of Culture 2000 – Krakow

On the second day of our visit to Krakow there were two groups with very different plans.  Micky, Sue and Christine were going to visit Auschwitz but as we had been before Kim and I chose Mike’s Crazy Communist Tour instead.

We had seen this on a Michael Palin travel programme and it looked like fun so we were keen to give it a try.

To be honest, we were all a bit surprised that Christine wanted to go to Auschwitz because when we had visited Seville the previous year she refused to visit a bull ring because animals had been killed there but she didn’t seem to mind visiting a Nazi concentration camp where over a million and a half people were abused, tortured and murdered.

Auschwitz

After an early breakfast the Auschwitz group set off in their taxi and with an hour to spare before our trip we walked around the streets of Kazimierz, through buildings that were little more than empty shells with rapidly deteriorating structures, through the grounds of a grand church and into the main square that used to be even more important than the market square in Krakow itself.

Without a street map we inevitably became confused and ever so slightly lost and only made it back just in time for our scheduled nine-thirty pick up.

The feature of the tour is that the transport is in an original ‘communist’ Trabant car with the promise of a ‘crazy’ driver and sure enough outside our hotel was the vehicle and the driver who presented himself as Eric and who immediately introduced us to the features of the car.

The Trabant (which in medieval German was a foot soldier or personal guard) was an automobile that was produced in former East Germany and was the most common vehicle in that country but was also exported to neighbours inside the communist bloc and sometimes even to the west.

It was called the People’s Car and was so popular and production was so inefficient, that it could take up to fifteen years to deliver after placing the order.  The main selling point was that it had room for four adults and luggage in a compact, light and durable shell, which western critics mocked and suggested was made of cardboard but was in fact a sort of fibreglass/plastic.

There were four principal variants of the Trabant, ours was the 601 Station Wagon model, hand painted in black with socialist red trim and finishes.  Eric explained that the engine was a small 600cc two-stroke power unit with only two cylinders which gave the vehicle a modest performance with a top speed of seventy miles per hour and zero to sixty taking twenty-one seconds at full throttle ( for a rather pointless comparison a modern formula one car will achieve 0 to 60 in under two seconds).

There were two main problems with the engine, the smoky exhaust and the pollution because the car was responsible for producing nine times the amount of hydrocarbons and five times the carbon monoxide emissions of the average modern European car.

Eric explained that the car had no fuel gauge so even though there was a small reserve tank getting to a destination could be a bit of a guessing game and require a large stroke of luck.  Because there was no fuel pump in the car the petrol tank was placed high up in the engine compartment so that fuel could be fed directly to the carburetor by way of gravity.  As the engine does not have an oil injection system two-stroke oil has to be added to the fuel tank every time it is filled up, which I imagine is a bit of a chore.

This all sounded rather dangerous to me because you have to open the bonnet to refuel and after a run to the petrol station it would be almost certain that the engine will be hot so I imagine it takes a great deal of concentration and Indiana Jones type nerves of steel to visit the filling station!

Nowa Huta Krakow Poland

Keeping a car like this roadworthy probably requires divine intervention but once on board Eric carefully negotiated his way out of Kazimierz and towards the main road that would take us to our destination, the communist model new town of Nowa Huta, to the east of Krakow.

Inside, the car was basic with rudimentary controls and dashboard.  The four speed gear box was operated by a column mounted gear change which looked quite tricky to me but Eric seemed to know his way around the gears well enough and he guided us effortlessly through the early morning traffic.  One of the problems he pointed out was that other drivers didn’t often show a lot of respect to the little Trabant and this sometimes made progress slow and difficult.

I was moderately relaxed even though I knew that if the inefficient drum brakes ever failed and there was an accident that my legs were effectively the crumple zone and just a few centimetres in front of my face was the fragile little petrol tank ready to burst into flames and there was a couple of occasions when I found myself operating an imaginary foot brake and Kim admitted later that even though she was in the back seat that she was doing the same.

It took about twenty minutes to drive to our destination and in between dodging the gaping potholes and keeping an eye out for discourteous fellow road users, in preparation for the tour and over the clatter of the engine and the creaking of the chassis, Eric kept up an informative narrative about the history of communism in Poland.

It was great fun especially as we rattled over tramlines and Eric fought with the steering controls to negotiate some tight bends but eventually we arrived at our destination, left the car and began our visit to Nowa Huta.

http://www.crazyguides.com/

Weekly Photo Challenge: New – Nowa Huta, Krakow

Nova Huta Krakow Rose Avenue

Nowa Huta (literally new smelter or steel mill) was built for two hundred thousand Polish steel workers in just ten years between 1949 and 1959 and was designed to rebalance Krakow society in favour of the proletariat to overwhelm the largely conservative and bourgeois city that was a focus of opposition and an irritation to the communist government.  The authorities built, what was at the time, the biggest steel works in the World and created a model communist town and society to support it.

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To Copyright or Not to Copyright

Wroclaw Poland Anonymous Pedestrians

“In comparing various authors with one another, I have discovered that some of the gravest and latest writers have transcribed, word for word, from former works, without making acknowledgement.”                                                                 Gaius Plinius Secundus (Pliny the Elder)

I have noticed that some bloggers add a little copyright status to their home page or add the copyright symbol (©) to their photographs.  I never do.  I think if someone wants to use a part of my work or repost one of my pictures then this is acknowledgement rather than theft.  I am flattered rather than offended.

I have come across some of pictures in other postings and used in travel websites.  I really don’t mind.  If someone asks I just say yes, mostly people don’t ask.

I first posted the above picture on March 14th 2014.  The statue is called the Anonymous Pedestrians and is in Wroclaw in Poland.  Recently a website used the image (un-credited) in a top ten list of creative urban art.  Since then, according to Google, it has been used over four hundred times in different websites and blogs, none of which link back to my original post.

I am interested in what fellow bloggers think.

Do you copyright your work?

Do you mind if other people copy or use it?

Would you complain about it if they do?

What makes me sad is that people have used my image but don’t tell the story of the Anonymous Pedestrians…

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Weekly Photo Challenge : Cover Art

Anonymous Pedestrians Wroclaw Poland

At a busy road junction there are fourteen statues of ordinary people going about their daily business but on one side of the road they are sinking into grey obscurity into the pavement and on the other they are rising back out into the sunshine in a form of social resurrection.  It is a wonderful piece of street art and I am prepared to say that for me it was one of the highlights of Wroclaw.

The statues are a memorial to the introduction of martial law in Poland on December 13th 1981 and the thousands of people who disappeared (‘went underground’) in the middle of the night courtesy of the militia. In a symbolic statement the fourteen statues were erected in the middle of the night in 2005 on the twenty-fourth anniversary of the introduction of martial law.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Containers

Lenin Mausoleum

Queuing up like this to spend a few seconds looking at a mummified corpse might seem like a strange thing to do but I was fascinated to be able to do this and to be able to see for myself one of the men who shaped the twentieth century and the cold war world of my childhood – a world of spies and espionage, nuclear weapons, underground fallout shelters for the great and the good and the constant nagging fear of Armageddon.  Of course I wanted to see him, I’d go and see the preserved body of Adolf Hitler if someone hadn’t poured petrol on it and set it alight!

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Poland (Wroclaw), The Anonymous Pedestrians

Wroclaw Poland Postcard

“When Pope John Paul II kissed the ground at the Warsaw airport he began the process by which Communism in Poland – and ultimately elsewhere in Europe – would come to an end.”  – John Lewis Gaddis, U.S. Cold War Historian

It was going to be a long day today as our return flight to the UK wasn’t until ten o’clock in the evening and we had to check out of the hotel at midday so we had a leisurely breakfast and stayed in our room as long as we could before checking out and returning to the streets.

In the Market Place the musical event had already started and there were some choirs and bands lining up and preparing to take their turn on the stage.  It turned out that this was a charity event and there were dozens of tin rattlers shaking collection boxes under the noses of the people in the square.  Luckily a contribution was exchanged for a red heart sticker which successfully prevented any subsequent pestering. Unfortunately they weren’t especially sticky so it was important to be careful they didn’t fall off and the pestering would start all over again.*

I asked a bar owner who was busy arranging pavement tables what it was all about and was told that it was a national fund raising day for sick people without state health care provision and all around there were people representing their particular disablement or ailment and some of them looked rather uncomfortable which made me wonder why they didn’t have this event in the spring or the summer when sick people wouldn’t catch their death of cold. Fortunately the sun was shining!

So now we went looking for more dwarfs and walked to the river and then walked east but there was a chill wind blowing down the river valley so we abandoned the route almost as soon as we had started and headed back to the centre and along the way came across ‘Jatki’ which is the only preserved medieval street in Wroclaw.  ‘Jatki’ was the street of the butchers and this is where we found my favourite of all the dwarfs that we managed to track down, the butcher hanging his meat.

There were also some bronze sculptures of animals, a pig, piglet, goose, duck, rooster and a rabbit at the entrance to the street.  These sculptures figure prominently in the guidebooks of the city and on numerous postcards but the statues that I wanted to see seemed difficult to find, didn’t get a section in the guidebook or appear on any postcard that I could find so eventually I had to admit defeat and go to the Tourist Information Office to ask for directions.

Anonymous Pedestrians Wroclaw Poland

I was looking for a sculpture called ‘The Anonymous Pedestrians’ and I knew about it thanks to fellow bloggers Terri and James who wrote about them in a post called ‘Wroclaw’s Anonymous Pedestrians: Memories of Martial Law’. Without this post I am fairly certain that I wouldn’t have come across this collection of statues because they are a little way out of the city centre.

At a busy road junction there are fourteen statues of ordinary people going about their daily business but on one side of the road they are sinking into grey obscurity into the pavement and on the other they are rising back out into the sunshine in a form of social resurrection.  It is a wonderful piece of street art and I am prepared to say that for me it was one of the highlights of Wroclaw.

The statues are a memorial to the introduction of martial law in Poland on December 13th 1981 and the thousands of people who disappeared (‘went underground’) in the middle of the night courtesy of the militia. In a symbolic statement the fourteen statues were erected in the middle of the night in 2005 on the twenty-fourth anniversary of the introduction of martial law.

Wroclaw Anonymous Pedestrians Poland

In 1981 the Polish Communist Government was having a hard time, there was a troublesome Polish Pope who had visited the country two years earlier and given people hope of liberation, there was a severe economic crisis, workers were striking and there was the growing influence of the workers movement Solidarity, and under pressure from the USSR, General Jaruzelski decided on a brutal and violent solution.

Early in the morning Martial Law was declared, several thousand opposition campaigners were interned, it is estimated that approximately one hundred people were murdered and strikes were crushed with the help of the army and special riot police units. Many members of the opposition and underground trade-unionists were sentenced to prison terms, others were forced to emigrate.  Normal life was severely restricted with curfews and rationing, the independent trade union Solidarity was banned and its leader Lech Walesa was imprisoned.

Although martial law was lifted in 1983, many of the political prisoners were not released until the general amnesty in 1986.

Jaruzelski and the other instigators of the martial law argued that the army crackdown rescued Poland from a possibly disastrous military intervention of the Soviet Union, East Germany, and other Warsaw Pact countries similar to the earlier ‘fraternal aid’ interventions in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968 but history generally disagrees with this defensive interpretation and even today some of the leaders of the action await formal trial and punishment.

This is probably the most striking and powerful memorial depicting ordinary people that I have ever seen that perfectly captures the moment and visually records the suffering and the inhumanity, the desperation and the the hope of the time and the military regime.

We crossed the road back and forth several times and I could have stayed longer if only to watch the reaction of other people who were seeing it for the first time but eventually it was time to move on because we had plans to visit the city museum.

Wroclaw Poland Anonymous Pedestrians

Click on an image to scroll through the gallery…

* Begging and tin rattling is something that really irritates me especially as these days it is impossible to go to the supermarket without being accosted by somebody collecting for something that I really have no interest in contributing to!

More Garibaldi – Giuseppe v Lenin

Lenin

Fellow Blogger, Richard Tulloch said:                                                                                  “I’ve still seen more statues of Lenin than of anybody else, though not all of them so proudly displayed as Garibaldi is.”

Is he right?

If this were a boxing match then they would both be in the red corner of course.

During the Soviet period, many statues of Lenin were erected across Eastern Europe but many of the statues have subsequently been removed.  Russian lawmakers from the ruling United Russia party and the opposition Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) have agreed a proposal to remove all statues of Lenin from Russian cities, citing high maintenance costs and vandalism concerns as some of the main reasons. Not surprisingly the proposal is being strongly opposed by the Communist Party of the Russian Federation.

Another one bites the dust… Kiev, December 2013:

Lenin Deposed

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And when (if) you come back be sure to drop by this post by Richard …

http://richardtullochwriter.com/2010/06/12/cesis-latvia-where-lenin-is-lying-in-crate/

Weekly Photo Challenge: The Sign Says

 

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No 57 CTOΛOBAЯ

On the first day in Moscow at lunchtime we went to a shopping mall to find a restaurant.  Not just any shopping mall however but ‘Glavnyi Universalnyi Magazin’ or GUM, the most famous department store in Moscow.  The once grim and dingy store filled with the endless queues that epitomised the Soviet era is now a fashionable, airy building full of fountains, flowers, bars and restaurants that stretches along one side of Red Square.  It was built in the late nineteenth century to replace a covered market and originally contained over a thousand stores.  It is built on three levels with a vaulted glass roof and even today resembles a modern cathedral.

On this first visit, thirsty and hungry we ignored the rows of designer shops and made for No 57 CTOΛOBAЯ, the recommended restaurant on the third floor with a noble history of providing good quality, reasonably priced food for the proletariat.

We picked up a tray, waited in line, selected our food and took it to our chosen table and it turned out to be really, really good, probably the best meal we had had so far in Russia and it amused me to think that we were sitting here in the historic centre of Moscow, of Soviet era Russia, in a westernised shopping mall that represented everything that communism stood against: ‘From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs’, a laudable but ultimately unachievable state of Utopia that could naturally be delivered without shops.

Lenin closed the mall and Stalin converted it into State administrative offices.  They must be spinning in their graves – well, not Lenin of course because he is still laid out in his mausoleum on permanent public display patiently waiting for a spinning opportunity!

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