Anatoly Korolev, writer, member of the Russian PEN Club, specially for InfoSCO
I have not been to my native land for 27 years. And now the train “Russia” (Moscow-Vladivostok) starts braking at the platform... I am already standing in the vestibule to be the first to get out of the coach. On the pediment of the station-house there are twelve scarlet neon letters of a man's height: YEKATERINBURG. It’s only five minutes stop. The unfriendly damp night embraces me. For another ten minutes I am running in the rain to the station hotel with a room reserved.
The morning's here, I withdraw the curtain. It shines. Not a cloud in the sky. But what a view! From a height of the tenth floor I see a view of... Hong Kong. Can it really be Sverdlovsk!? High-rise modern buildings. Avenues. Streams of cars. Marble-golden palace of Temple on blood in honor of all saints, in commemoration of the Emperor Nikolai II and his family. Everything is new and shining as if created miraculously...
In front of me – one of the most dynamic cities of the modern Russia,”the heart of Ural”, powerful bundle of urbanist energy on the Euroasian boundary and, finally – the capital of the forthcoming June Summit-2009 of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
I was born here in the distant postwar year, and then my family moved to suburb, in the mining town of Degtyarka, where my father, a mining engineer, obtained a flat. Having lived three years among waste banks and mines, we moved to Molotov. Today these two cities of my childhood, Sverdlovsk and Molotov, do not exist on the map: they were given their original names - Yekaterinburg and Perm. But however the life “twists”, I have always loved both cities, jealously treating each other and perfecting themselves in this competitive passion.
It is clear today that it is just the competitiveness between the two strong centers of Ural that eventually partly gave rise to the phenomenon of Yekaterinburg. Both cities were outlined on the map of Russia for Yekaterina I by the same person – the energetic noble officer and manufacturer, Earl Tatischev. And it happened the same year – in 1723. In Perm and Yekaterinburg there are monuments to Vasily Tatischev as the city's founder.
But if the location of Perm was chosen comparatively easy (the left bank of the mighty Kama where the Yegoshikha river meets the Kama), then to locate a position for Yekaterinburg was much more difficult, there were no outstanding sticking points to do it. A proper respect should be given the founder’s intuition that could see the outline of future megalopolis in the depths of the forest along the forest Iset river.
Here! We will build stronghold walls, set up a dam and... start the course of history. The geographical point on the map was turned into an industrial community by Lieutenant General Villim de Gennin, Ural factories manager, favorite of Peter the First, Dutchman on Russian service. It was he that named the town after Peter’s wife, Empress Yekaterina - Yekaterinburg.
At first Perm gained the lead. A town of Gogol’s bureaucrats grew around the governor with drums beating. But Yekaterinburg showed its own customs at once. If Perm was the last outpost of Russia, then Yekaterinburg became the first Russian city in Asia, some sort of a cowboy capital of Wild West. Yekaterinburg issued a challenge not to Moscow, not to Siberian spaciousness, not to Tatar tents, not to Mongolian tilt carts, but directed its passionaire goals straight to the Chinese Wall of the Celestial Empire, to the faraway golden Beijing.
The young Yekaterinburg strengthened its forces in the Russian expanses in different ways, both legal and illegal ones, up to underground coining money. And eventually savage spirit of the pagan forest, multiplied by immoderate range and grip of manufacturers, became so strong, that it exceeded the limits of a chief town of a district of the Perm province, where it was officially included.
To the beginning of the ÕÕ century Yekaterinburg’s intellectual leadership in the Urals became irrevocable. It is here that Pavel Bazhov’s talent matured. His tales – “Malachite box” – formed the Urals’ spirit. It was a heroic deed, quite comparable with Homer’s exploit, who saw at once the antique world from a height of a galley on the crest of the sea wave.
Bazhov shaped the primitive Ural folklore into epos. Mountains and people received a myth about a willful mistress of a Copper mountain that wears a malachite dress and lives in spacious underground halls. The great racer is obedient to her; copper lizards, bewitched stone cutters and other mountain forces serve her. The Mistress’ suite became blue snakes, goats with golden hoofs, old women and other many-colored miracles. A Mistress is appointed from above to guard natural wealth. The mere fact of the Ural epos creation is unique. Times of "Nibelung”, “Kalevala”, “Elder Edda” creation had long ago passed into oblivion. And suddenly – such a powerful spiritual energy at an early age of the Russian capitalism formation.
In part just that very root blind force concentrated in Yekaterinburg drew a line under the last Russian Emperor’s life. He had much wandered, travelled guarded across the Russian land and Siberia, and only in Yekaterinburg were found braves-murderers that committed a deep sin. Negative energy is energy too. The same fatal 1918 the Ural Council of Workers' and Peasants' Deputies acted at its own risk.
Later the Urals’ energy sector put the first President of Russia Boris Yeltsin on the podium of History. This kind of a man could probably be brought up only on the Ural ground. Inside him, like a spring, was contracted a bearded pathfinders’ force, tractive power of string of sledges bringing Uralian guns to the capital city. Yeltsin was just one of these leaders ready for duels with vicissitudes on their way. Being partly a seer, insomniac bear, man the helm, provincial leader, he clothed himself in the mantle of Caesar the reformer, broke the Soviet power, stopped the counter-revolution, and assumed the responsibility for the transforming Russia. In this might of spirit, in high-energy mixing of contradictions I see just that Uralian character.
Another resident of Sverdlovsk also became a cult personality - the legendary rocker Viacheslav Butusov, the “Nautilus Pompilius” group leader. Russia is a monocentric state. Moscow or Petersburg can be a place of birth of a new kind of art in the majority of cases. In the provinces there are simply no forces for competitive breakthrough. And there now! Just Yekaterinburg could give birth to its own voice and drive, which simply crushed capital groups of those times. In early 80th the “Nautilus Pompilius” group had no peers in our country. But besides “Nautilus” another two powerful rock groups started in Sverdlovsk – “Agatha Christie” and “Chaif” ...
Perestroika of 90th and Russia’s return to capitalist development inspired the city with triple energy. Capitalism for the Urals is its own sphere. The Uralians took to like a duck to water! Yekaterinburg turned out to be able not only gain evolutional impetus from Moscow, but also develop it to methodical offensive.
A renovated with great violence city unfolded before my eyes. Preparing for SCO summit Yekaterinburg changed into a big construction site, surprising not only by its scale, but also by civility of the process.
I wandered in the center, as if I was not born here. I did not recognize the Vainer street: it was now a building workshop with a crowd of people walking through it. And the Institute of culture, where I, as a capital writer, was invited for a meeting with students, amazed by abundance of nice young faces. The institute was buzzing as a beauty production machine, rehearsals were held on each floor, people were juggling with maces, riding on wheels, reciting poetry, marching in gym, learning their parts, trying on costumes, playing the guitar …
One can not help remarking that selection of this city as capital of SCO summit-2009 is a happy choice. Firstly, it is a city directed toward the East, twin city of the Chinese Guangzhou, worthy partner of the Central Asian states. Within the framework of the “In search of an ideal city” international project Yekaterinburg enters the top of the most dynamic cities of the world. Its powerful industry is headed by the giants such as “VIZ-Steel” and “Uralkhimmash” that approximately 24 thousand small-scale enterprises had joined.
It is a city of brain and energy where new outlines of the City consisting of four skyscrapers have been already appeared: the “Ural” tower (higher than the Eiffel Tower), the “Iset” tower and two more giants – “Tatischev” and “Gennin”.
... Half an hour's run from Yekaterinburg, at the side of the motorway there is a steel obelisk, designating a geographical point of the border between Europe and Asia. The monument is surrounded by a gloomy fir forest, where all nearest spruces are densely covered with thousand of colored ribbons. In such a way people of the ÕÕI century like heathens surround this place, which has, as is thought, a magic force, with their spiritual secrets, various personal requests and lurking hopes. Standing in the middle of this sacral heathen temple, I involuntarily thought how much of unspent force and strong faith in its fortune the Yekaterinburg land still has, and how great its rise to light of new times will be...