Wednesday, November 23, 2005

City tour

On Sunday we went on a tour of the city of Semey. The city was founded by the army of Peter the great in 1718 as a fortress. The army that defended the fort were the Cossacks from west Russia. Semey was a walled in city with a gate facing the river. The river is the Irtish, it flows from China in the east to Russia to the north. A replica gate has been built to show where the original city wall was. Near the gate the Semey people had a magnificent bridge built connecting the industrial West or left bank to the residential/business right bank. It is the only suspension bridge in the former soviet union countries. The called it the Golden Gate Bridge of the Steppes. I looks like it might be as big as the Golden Gate. Tricia I let you know if I get to walk over it.
We are told that the Japanese built the bridge. People are very proud of the bridge.
The river itself is pretty big. We were told it was much wider and deeper in the past. It has a park along the right bank. It looks like a great place to be in the summer. There are gazebos and paths and trees. It is nice. At one point we went to the Semey University right along the river and in the court yard they have these statues. About 20-25 of them. All dominated by a 4 story tall statue of Lenin. All of the other statues are people from the Soviet times. Plus one of Marx. At the time of the fall of Russia the Mayor of Semey decided to gather all of the Soviet era Statues. He did not want to destroy them just keep them for historical purposes in one area. Many older people were not happy about this. They wanted them to remain in the center of the city. The older folks are still not thrilled that the Soviets life is gone. I’ll talk economics at another time.
Another park we went to was a memorial to the local victims of nuclear testing done by the Soviets. It was dedicated in 1999; 50 years after the 1st test explosion. The soviets did all of there testing right outside of Semey. The above ground testing were stopped after the people of the area held “Nevada” rallies to protest the tests. From 1963 to 1987 the tests were under ground. The monument is 20 stories tall with black marble shell representing the belief that the testing was justified to protect the soviet union. The inner part is rough stone in the shape of a mushroom cloud. At the base within the hollow cloud is a statue of a mother protecting her child. It is a very moving memorial. Next to it is a Traditional Kazakh wish tree. Where you place a piece of cloth on the tree and make a wish. There are 100s of thousands pieces of cloth on the tree. We added ours and gave the wish to our kids.
The last stop was to the Abay (sp?) statue. He is the Shakespeare of the Kazakh people. He died in 1904. He wrote great wisdom and tolerance at a time when there was cultural unrest. He is recognized by UNESCO as an important world literary figure. More if we have time.

No comments: