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I was in Saint-Petersburg this November 18-25, and I thought I would round off the trip by stopping by the historic towns of Tver and Torzhok on the way. Thanks to the new High-Speed Rail infrastructure, this is pretty easy, and this along with the urban beautification campaign launched by its new, HSE-educator mayor Alexander Menshchikov (see this Bloomberg article), has made the city more liveable and even helped it start drawing back population away from the overcrowded metropolis of Moscow. The city had multiple information boards with local lore and maps alerting visitors to nearby places of historical and cultural interest. The local administration is obviously seeking to develop tourism.

Like many middling Russian cities, the population plummeted after the Soviet collapse, falling from 455,000 in the early 1990s to a minimum of 404,000 by 2010; since then, though, it has sprang back up to 421,000 (for comparison, Bryansk, which I reviewed last year, fell from a very comparable 461,000 in the early 1990s to 405,000 by 2019, in a decline which has slowed down but shows no signs of stopping or reversing).

While I was only there for one full day, I got the impression that culturally, it was in the middle between Veliky Novgorod and Moscow. This makes sense. After all, though it was founded by Novgorod merchants as a trading post around 1335, it would become its own principality in 1246 before becoming absorbed into Muscovy in 1485 after an ill-fated alliance with Poland-Lithuania.

Today, it is a rather typical industrial-historical city of the Russian North-West, with average salaries by the standards of the region (similar to Veliky Novgorod) and, along with Pskov and Novgorod, the lowest life expectancy in European Russia (along with elevated alcoholism, suicide, and murder rates – all of which are correlated). One interesting coincidence is that these are also three of the five regions to have had the most drastic population declines in the 20th century; whereas Russia’s population as a whole increased by 55% between 1926 and 2010, it declined by more than 50% in Tver oblast, a legacy of out-migration and the German occupation.

***

Tver Streets

“Welcome to Tver.”

Constructed in 1845-48, along the Moscow-SPB route – Russia’s very first railway – it was also one of the Empire’s first railway stations.

Tver was called “Kalinin” between 1931 and 1990. The monument to this Soviet functionary, who primarily served as the early Soviet government’s token peasant representative, occupies pride of place on the station.

This is the subway connecting the railway station to the city proper. Clean, looks new, with illustrations of the area’s points of interest to whet tourist appetites.

Railway station is in front, shopping mall to the left, and the Church of Saint Alexander Nevsky on the right.

It is a story that you are no doubt already used to if you read my Russia travel reports. Originally constructed in the late 19C, it was converted into a bakery in 1929 and demolished in 1983 to make way for an expansion to the railway station. It was reconstructed in 2009-13.

The view from my budget “Turist” hotel. This commieblock scenery is typical of the prole outskirts of Tver, or indeed of the vast majority of Russian cities.

This is an unfortunately disused tram track outside my hotel.

Monument to Saints Cyril and Methodius outside the Philological Department of Tver State University.

I notice that the lampposts here are very similar to those used in areas of Moscow recently renovated. Wonder if it’s the same company.

The central thoroughfare from the train station to the center could do with some more renovation.

Once you get to the mall – that ultimate symbol of the Putin era – there begins the nice, historic area of Tver.

***

This is central Tver. As one might see, it has been transformed into a pedestrian zone, and there are signs of SWPLification.

***

Chicken House

Always amusing to compare local adaptations of fast food chains. The Chicken House (lit. Чикен Хауз) chain is based in Tver, and obviously competes with the Colonel’s joint.

The only two Blacks in Tver are, of course, to be found in the Chicken House. (And there are still big brained nibbas who deny the reality of HBD).

Fries much better than at KFC, though a bit short of McDonald’s. Chicken sandwich better than at KFC, juicier. Ice cream is basically a copy of the McDonald’s offering.

Here it is directly competing with KFC.

This chain has branches through the region, here is one from Torzhok.

***

Goat Museum

One of the most fascinating “sights” is the Goat Museum (Музей Козла) in central Tver, which has an average rating of 4.8/5 on Google Maps. Definitely check it out.

If your name is somehow goat-themed (e.g. Kozlov), then you get free entrance.

The people of Tver have traditionally been proud of their goats and the city’s unofficial emblem features the ruminant animal. The museum’s director Vladimir Lavrenov has made it his life’s work to accumulate all the most exotic artifacts linked to goats. According to him, the term “Tver goat” dates to the 14th century and used to have positive connotations, such as stubbornness and independence (as opposed to sheep, which are a conformist herd animal). It was only in the USSR that the term goat (козел) came to have negative connotations, largely on account of the Soviet zek (criminal) subculture. However, as Lavrenov pointed out, only people who believe that the country is 30 years old or 70 years old could be expected to honor that redesignation.

You get a prize for counting the number of goats in this display correctly. I am not going to “spoil” this beyond saying that it’s between 100 and 200.

The two goats stirring the pot is Tver’s unofficial emblem.

The museum features a few “surprises” and practical jokes that I won’t spoil either.

The variety of the artifacts is astounding. There are even authentic coins and other items from ancient civilizations dating to before the birth of Christ. (Copies of originals are clearly labeled as such).

Goat smelling a rose (China 1970s).

Large list of sayings and quotes relating to goats on goatskin.

***

Tver Central

Walking past the pedestrian SWPL area, we are now going to make our way to the waterfront, which features the bulk of Tver’s state institutions and monumental architecture.

The obligatory monument to the Great Bald One.

***

Looks like the New Year decorations are already being set up.

This is the main central city park, which leads to the waterfront.

***

The Tver State Museum was closed for renovations.

***

The Transfiguration Cathedral of Tver… no points for guessing by now that the original late 17C construction (though older churches had stood here back to 1285) was dynamited by the Soviets in 1935.

Reconstruction started in 2014 and is currently in its final stages.

***

The Tver Oblast Art Gallery is on the site of an 18th century palace constructed for its central location between Moscow and Saint-Petersburg. It was renovated in the mid-2010s.

I decided not to visit it, because ultimately this is just a regional picture gallery and I was only in Tver for one day.

The Grand Lobby. Some of the columns still bear scars from Nazi shelling.

***

The Tver State Medical University.

***

The Monument to the Victims of Political Repression, installed in 1997, when such things were in vogue.

***

The Island of Memory

The vast majority of Russian cities, especially those that were occupied and/or were on the frontlines during World War II, feature an assemblage of monuments dedicated to it. Tver is obviously no exception.

This is the Obelisk of Victory. Behind the Obelisk is a Suvorov Military School, a boarding school for war orphans formed in 1943 on the suggestion of aristocrat turned pro-Soviet Alexey Ignatiev

***

Church of Saint Michael of Tver.

Monument to Vasily Margelov.

War monument to local Soviet soldiers killed in conflicts after World War II.

***

Tver Waterfront

Apologize for, perhaps, the excess of photos here… but I really like these icy cityscapes.

Monument to the Fisherman.

***

View from the Old Bridge (originally the Volga Bridge), constructed in 1905.

***

Monument to the Submariners.

***

Parus Boathouse Cafe.

Must be really nice here in the summer.

***

Many people seem to enjoy feeding the ducks.

***

Afanasy Nikitin is a 15th century Russian explorer from Tver who left a very readable account of his travels to the Middle East and India during 1469-72. Contains many funny un-PC observations.

Amusingly, this 1955 monument emphasizes that his visit to India carried a “friendly aim”.

Here is a very readable text about it from RBTH.

Link to the original text, as well as a 1950s Soviet movie about it.

***

Museum of Tver Life

The house belonged to the Arefyev merchant family during the late 19C-early 20C and gives an insight into the life of the late Imperial bourgeoisie in Tver. It’s hard to track down what happened to them after the Revolution, but the patriarch of the family Mikhail (1862-1930s?) seems to have been repressed.

The study of Mikhail Arefyev.

Piano.

Singer sewing machines virtually always appear in these reconstructions of the fin de siècle era. They dominated the market during the time and even today one can come across many of them that survived as family heirlooms.

Incidentally, the Singers owned a famous house in Saint-Petersburg, which now hosts a prominent book market and VK’s offices.

The wife Elizaveta bought this chair on a trip to India.

School records of Anastasia, their daughter, from the Tver Women’s Gymnasium. They seem to have been mostly 5’s (top marks), with a few 4s.

***

If you have any interest in the institution of the Russian samovar, then Tver is the place for you. The exposition in the basement covers the history of the samovar from its origins as a sbitennik in the 18th century to the electric samovars of the 20th century.

19th century kettle and sbitennik for making sbiten, an old East Slavic sweet drink (recipe in picture).

Traveling samovar kits c.1900 for picnics.

Russia’s major center of samovar production was in Tula, which was also the Empire’s main center of munitions production. There were 120,000 samovars produced there in 1850, rising to 660,000 by 1913.

They were mainly sold at large village fairs outside the towns. They also enjoyed some degree of export success.

Teahouses started opening up in the mid-19th century, with the very first one apparently appearing in Tver guberniya. They did not serve alcohol, so they enjoyed support from sobriety societies. Some teahouses doubled as restaurants and notarial offices.

This unique samovar trundled across the table when the water started to steam.

Russia didn’t market its tea-drinking traditions to Westerners searching for the exotic like the Japanese successfully did, but that did not mean it didn’t exist. “The tea was poured by the mistress of the house or her oldest daughter… The samovar was put at the center of a special samovar table. It was forbidden to blow on the tea or to pour it onto a plate. An overturned glass or cup meant the end of the tea-drinking.

***

Unfortunately, apart from the Arefyev house and the samovar exposition in the basement, the great bulk of the museum was closed for the winter. It is much more active during the summer.

***

Tver Night

The view from Tver Bridge.

I assume that this gated area is for the local well-to do.

The electric cabling could do with some work.

Monument to the Firefighters (dated to 1649 when the first such institution was set up by Alexey Mikhailovich in Moscow).

Saint Catherine’s Convent.

Martin’s House (1910).

Mildly known for its unusual architecture, though it is behind a fence so getting a good glimpse of it requires scaling some walls, which I passed on given that it was night-time and probably requires trespassing.

***

***

Monument to Mikhail Krug, a famous local singer of criminal chanson. Like any self-respecting representative of this genre, he was murdered in a mafia scuffle in 2002.

***

 
• Category: Culture/Society • Tags: Russia, The AK, Travel 
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  1. Please keep off topic posts to the current Open Thread.

    If you are new to my work, start here.

  2. It was only in the USSR that the term goat (козел) came to have negative connotations, largely on account of the Soviet zek (criminal) subculture.

    I’d like to imagine that it had something to do with Georgians because that strikes me as a fun theory, but I can only find slight references to “goat” relating to traditional Georgian cuisine, mostly in cheeses. But there are a lot of vague references to “meat.”

  3. An Australian town planned to open the world’s first goat museum but I don’t think it ever happened. The town, Barcaldine – which played a significant role in the founding of Australia’s Labor Party – apparently has an annual goat race.

  4. Teahouses started opening up in the mid-19th century, with the very first one apparently appearing in Tver guberniya. They did not serve alcohol, so they enjoyed support from sobriety societies. Some teahouses doubled as restaurants and notarial offices.

    I wonder whether there was some British influence because in England tea drinking was promoted by Methodist temperance movement. Poor Methodists did nor realize that they were unwittingly promoting the opium consumption among Chinese.

    Anyway I thought that Russians got hooked on tea via their own route to China and not via the British route like most Western European countries.

  5. Teahouses started opening up in the mid-19th century, with the very first one apparently appearing in Tver guberniya. They did not serve alcohol, so they enjoyed support from sobriety societies. Some teahouses doubled as restaurants and notarial offices.

    I wonder whether there was some British influence because in England tea drinking was promoted by Methodists and their temperance movement. Poor Methodists did nor realize that they were unwittingly promoting the opium consumption among Chinese.

    Anyway I thought that Russians got hooked on tea via their own route to China and not via the British route like most Western European countries.

    It was forbidden to blow on the tea or to pour it onto a plate

    But what about drinking from the saucer that goes under the teacup rather than the teacup?

  6. I’m periodically also checking out this blog, about a small-town American living with his family in small-town Russia: https://halfreeman.wordpress.com/

    It really looks like at least some portions of small-town Russia are now stable, safe, functioning places where raising a family is actually as pleasant as it was in the American 1950’s.

    So it can be done. Any situation can be turned around, no matter how dire, no matter how many decades of communism or mafia chaos came before.

    …As long as the population has NOT been replaced, that is…

    • Replies: @Korenchkin
    What's Tvers tfr tho
  7. @Rahan
    I'm periodically also checking out this blog, about a small-town American living with his family in small-town Russia: https://halfreeman.wordpress.com/

    It really looks like at least some portions of small-town Russia are now stable, safe, functioning places where raising a family is actually as pleasant as it was in the American 1950's.

    So it can be done. Any situation can be turned around, no matter how dire, no matter how many decades of communism or mafia chaos came before.

    ...As long as the population has NOT been replaced, that is...

    What’s Tvers tfr tho

    • Replies: @Marshall Lentini
    It's going to be 50% waddling babushkas each carrying exactly two bags, arms straight down.
  8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_federal_subjects_of_Russia_by_total_fertility_rate
    Tver Oblast has the fertility rate of Connecticut and Colorado.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_and_territories_by_fertility_rate

    The highest fertility is in Niger, Somalia, and Congo. Dat white folk genocide sure hit them preddy hard. Whitey is da devil.

  9. “founded… around 1335… its own principality in 1246…”

    Some typo here.

  10. Thanks for the tour!

  11. I wonder what the mortality rate would be, Russian submariners compared to US, in the post-war years, if you tried to make the most honest comparison possible.

    US gets the top spot for single sub total: 129 (1963) USS Thresher, nuclear sub

    But I’m guessing with a rough tally, Russia would come out ahead – that is if you include the USSR. Though, the hard part of it is that you would have to work out other factors, like number of subs in operation, days on patrol, etc.

  12. The layout Eastern European cities seems almost universally to be a beautiful historic centre surrounded by commieblocks. It’s a pity. One thing that would make a huge improvement to these middling cities would be to sort out the overhead wiring problems. Moscow did it successfully, so hopefully the <millioniks do the same soon. Similarly simply giving disused historic buildings a clean and a fresh coat of paint can make all the aesthetic difference. One wonders why they don't convert such buildings (as seen on the right in pic 17) into apartments, offices, or something else that would encourage self-maintenance.

    • Replies: @Dmitry

    beautiful historic centre surrounded by commieblocks
     
    A significant proportion - in many cities - of elegant stone buildings in the centre were constructed by the Soviet Union.

    What was lost quite quickly after the revolution, was a tradition of beautiful ornate wooden house building. Construction of elegant buildings continued until around 1960-1970.
  13. @Korenchkin
    What's Tvers tfr tho

    It’s going to be 50% waddling babushkas each carrying exactly two bags, arms straight down.

  14. Clearly the goat museum must have a Trump section, because he is the GOAT President.

    • LOL: Yevardian
  15. I wonder how close the Chicken House is to the state university and if the blacks are there only temporarily, as part of some trade deal.

  16. Thanks for the very interesting tour. Tver looks to be a beautiful city. (I can’t believe McDonald’s was allowed to make their tacky sign taller than anything else around in that sixth picture opposite the newly reconstructed church.)

  17. You included a picture of the restaurant where my wife and I had our first date. Back then I think it was called Puma.

  18. Incidentally, the Krug murder was finally solved this past year, and made headlines in Russia.

    https://tass.com/society/1079406

    Question: Across the river from the ducks, to the left of the ferris wheel, is a red building with an unusual facade. Do you know what it is?

    • Replies: @Dmitry

    you know what it is?
     
    It is an cinema which was built in the 1930s, and apparently still continues today in this function. It's cool constructivist architecture, or just transition point between constructivism and Stalinist Empire.

    https://zvezda-kino.ru/about/
  19. Is there any reason why original name of Офонас Тферитин – Ofonas Tferitin is constantly being replaced and modernized as Afanasy Nikitin?

  20. @JL
    Incidentally, the Krug murder was finally solved this past year, and made headlines in Russia.

    https://tass.com/society/1079406

    Question: Across the river from the ducks, to the left of the ferris wheel, is a red building with an unusual facade. Do you know what it is?

    you know what it is?

    It is an cinema which was built in the 1930s, and apparently still continues today in this function. It’s cool constructivist architecture, or just transition point between constructivism and Stalinist Empire.

    https://zvezda-kino.ru/about/

  21. @AltSerrice
    The layout Eastern European cities seems almost universally to be a beautiful historic centre surrounded by commieblocks. It's a pity. One thing that would make a huge improvement to these middling cities would be to sort out the overhead wiring problems. Moscow did it successfully, so hopefully the <millioniks do the same soon. Similarly simply giving disused historic buildings a clean and a fresh coat of paint can make all the aesthetic difference. One wonders why they don't convert such buildings (as seen on the right in pic 17) into apartments, offices, or something else that would encourage self-maintenance.

    beautiful historic centre surrounded by commieblocks

    A significant proportion – in many cities – of elegant stone buildings in the centre were constructed by the Soviet Union.

    What was lost quite quickly after the revolution, was a tradition of beautiful ornate wooden house building. Construction of elegant buildings continued until around 1960-1970.

    • Replies: @anonymous coward
    True, "commieblocks" weren't invented by communism or communist ideologues. "Commieblocks" were invented by Le Corbusier, the Soviets adopted them because they were cheaper.
  22. @Dmitry

    beautiful historic centre surrounded by commieblocks
     
    A significant proportion - in many cities - of elegant stone buildings in the centre were constructed by the Soviet Union.

    What was lost quite quickly after the revolution, was a tradition of beautiful ornate wooden house building. Construction of elegant buildings continued until around 1960-1970.

    True, “commieblocks” weren’t invented by communism or communist ideologues. “Commieblocks” were invented by Le Corbusier, the Soviets adopted them because they were cheaper.

  23. So you were В твери, which is pronounced “Ftveri”, right? No wonder the Finns, who can’t start a word with two consonants, felt a need to secede. On the other hand, a Georgian like Uncle Joe would look at that and be disappointed– “Is that all you can do, comrade? Gvbrdɣvnis!”

    This is the subway connecting the railway station to the city proper.

    “Underpass” or “tunnel” to North Americans, some of whom will be confused. This is what Petula Clark meant, not a train. Tver does not boast a Metro.

    http://mapa-metro.com/en/Russia/

    Maybe someday!

    …well-to do.

    Saint Petersburg does not carry a hyphen when written in English. It can be redeployed here!

    https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/well-to-do

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