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A “Cultural Shock” With Signs Plus and Minus by One Siberian Travelling Lady

Siberianpoppies“They say, Tatiana, you were born in Urals, lived there most of your life. Is it the truth?, so I addressed my inquisitive questions to Tatiana Kotenko, a Russian lady who recently traveled from Canada to Russia.

Tatiana: Yes, Russia is my native land, Urals is my love. I visited city of Chelyabinsk, my mother’s village of Potanino and then Novosibirsk. On my way back to Canada I stopped by my friend’s  at the cities of Cologne and Dresden, Germany.

V: What are your impressions of modern Russia, and what can you say about Urals and Siberia nowadays?

T: ” The Urals is the stronghold of the state” and “The future of Russia will always be increased by Siberia”. Those two sayings were constantly staying in my mind while I was travelling there. The two regions are connected by the Trans-Siberian Railway network, and when I was taking the train I witnessed to myself endless snowy spaces of the Eastern Urals and Western Siberia. Socializing with the people in that train who traveled from the different parts of Russia I grasped again how enormous our Motherland is.

V:You’re right, Tatiana. What about Novosibirsk, it’s a fairly new city, built in 1893 compared to the oldest ones: Tomsk-in 1604, Novokuznetsk-in 1617 in Siberia and Chelyabinsk – in 1736, and Ufa – even earlier in 1574, in the Urals.  Watch video :  Trans-Siberian Orchestra-Beethoven-Requiem

T: I love my Chelyabinsk which meets you with a fine Terminal square where is situated the huge granite Urals monument, modern trade complex in the shape of blue pyramids which is the symbol of the Urals mountains, a new-built Orthodox Church and the jewel of the square itself is the three dome structure of the Terminal building.

V; Why is it the jewel?

T: Because it is fulfilled in the form of modern design outside but from inside one can see the decorations in style of the old Urals masters. When you happen to be inside the Terminal you feel as if you are invited to the Chambers of the legendary Hostess of the Copper Mountain who arrived from the local fairy tales by Bazhov. I consider it the most beautiful Terminal I have ever met in my life.

V: What interesting can you say, Tatiana, about Novosibirsk?

T: Novosibirsk is the biggest scientific and cultural centre of Siberia. Many people know about the Academic town near Novosibirsk but this city also has one of the biggest Opera Theaters in the world which was built up during the most difficult WWII years and opened in 1945 by Glinka’s “Ivan Susanin”. See to the left the photo of Siberian nature. Below it will be the photo expose of Flora and Fauna of Siberia.

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V: Tatiana, how do you manage to cope with the Siberian cold up to -38 degrees C(-60 degrees F) as you’ve been there before Christmas and returned to Calgary in January,  at winter time?

Tatiana laughed.

T: This is why I emigrated to the warm Canada. The river Ob, over 3,200 km (2,000 miles) long, at its valley traps cold Arctic air, producing winters of astonishing severity. In summer, by contrast, the temperature often rises more than 100 degrees C (180 degrees F) to over 30 degrees C (86 degrees F). This is the greatest variation in temperature anywhere in the world, equivalent to the difference between the freezing and boiling points of water.

V: Oh, really?! It’s interesting.

T:In spite of the cold weather before Christmas in Novosibirsk I attended 5 performances at the Opera House because that was the house which gave the warmth to my heart and I had a real “cultural shock” with the sign “plus” (positive).

V: What do you mean by that “cultural shock”, Tanya? I know here what Canadians do understand by this word expression: “the transition period for new immigrants from their own country to the new country,  in our case, Canada.” But you were in your motherland and you’ve got a “cultural shock”, you said. What is it?

T: It was a pleasure from the shows to the fullest. Such classical ballets as  “Sleeping Beauty”, “Bayaderka” were as always fine, the two others like  “Cinderella” and “Yunona and Avos’ were staged in a modern style, at the end the concert of opera singers got its bravo applause. Watch the slide show from the Novosibirsk Theatre.

V: It’s wonderful, Tatiana. What about the social life, in general. in Russian cities and villages?

T: Travelling by a Siberian train from Novosibirsk to Chelyabinsk I met a variety of people in the car, socializing with them. They told me different kind of stories, and mainly sad: how many people died without the reason in their own villages and towns, how many were imprisoned for theft, among them were very, very many young people at the age of under 30.

V: Did you meet your mother?

T: Yes. Near Chelyabinsk there is a small village of Potanino. Mom also told me grievous stories about her neighbors where I used to spend my childhood.

V: “Sad, sad, sad”, Tatiana, those words always accompany Russian thoughts.

T: To change the subject, I saw also a lot of positive changes for better in Russia. Spiritually, many Russians go openly to churches, many faiths are united to make good for people.

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V: It is good to hear that. For better or for worse a Russian great spirit of survival helps people to withstand difficulties.

T: In the train I met one couple: he was a retired military man, she was his wife. With big pride for Russia she said that her husband was given a voucher on the solemn day of the retirement, with enough money to buy an apartment or a house at any place of the Russian Federation. Many retirees are heading to stay in Belarus: a nice environment, a safe place and a good pension which allows them to live well there.

V: It’s interesting to know that. Later you have visited Germany, what’s new there?

T: Dresden Museums and Opera was my next destination. I have listened to two operas there: “Russalka” by Dvorzak and the concert version of “Iolanta” by Chaikovsky. By the way, I need to mention that Dresden is full of Russians, they are everywhere: in the streets, at theatres, at malls, one can hear the Russian speech.

V: What are your impressions about “Russalka” by Dvorzak who uses a variety of sources for his tale, including “The Little Mermaid” by Hans Christian Anderson.

T: I experienced a “cultural shock” but this time with the sign “minus” (negative).

V: Why?

T: In Russian traditions we used to see the Mermaids as beautiful young maids who attract men by their beauty and then drown them. But in German production all females were portrayed as half naked, vulgar women with disproportional bodies. In the second act they started to simulate the sexual acts with the males of the choir, after that I was insulted and quit the opera. I was very disgusted by the extreme exaggeration of the sexual topic by the artistic directors of Dresden opera.

V: Russia and Germany were always rivals and not far away neighbors. What is your feeling about the contemporary, every day relationship between them?

T: Pretty good, pretty good. Noone can complain. The co-operation, business moods are in the realms of both countries now. That is why many a Russian live there, so does my friend in Cologne.

V: Thanks, Tatiana for your sharing insights about life and travelling.

The ethnic project “Bugotak” aims to play true Siberian folklore combining traditional instruments and modern technique. Listen and watch video:  Bugotak-Min Chuguruk (“Highway Star Joke” D.P.)

2 Comments

  1. Tatiana Kotenko Tatiana Zouenko
    To valpat21@hotmail.com
    Dear Valia,
    Thank you very much that you found some time to put our conversation about my traveling into the interview form. It was interesting for me to work together with you and find the best way to express my feelings and thoughts. I appreciate your dedication to the Russian-Canadian friendship. You are doing a great job!!!

    Tatiana Kotenko

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