Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Hard Life in the Urals

March 13th, 2012 · 2 Comments


When I first traveled in the post-Soviet world many moons ago, one thing that struck me was how all the restaurant menus listed foods by specific amounts. In Michal Kováč-era Bratislava, one did not order a small or large platter of dumplings; you either got the 200-gram size or the 500-gram size. And I have no doubt that those weights were precisely measured on a kitchen scale—a practice that was a vestige of the days of Communist rigidity.

Given how that culinary experience stuck in my mind, I was naturally drawn to this photo essay that visualizes the suggested daily food intake in Yekaterinburg, Russia. It’s a salient reminder that our bodies are ultimately just machines, a fact that governments use to their advantage when resources are scarce.

Impressed by the essay, I just had to go and unearth the photographer’s other work. And I’m glad I did, because Fedor Telkov boasts an impressive portfolio of images from the less salubrious corners of his native Russia. Check out his collections from Eastern Mari prayer meetings, the backwoods of the Sverdlovsk Region, and the fishing holes of the Central Urals. The captions are all in Russian, but that’s why someone much smarter than I invented automatic web-page translation.

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2 Comments so far ↓

  • Jordan

    One of my teachers in high school related a story about visiting St. Petersberg in the mid-90s: there was a pay toilet where you were given exactly three squares of toilet paper when you entered. Her friend in front of her accidentally took four squares. She only got two.

    She also said that the clearest indication of how bad the Russian economy was at that point was the fact that it still read “LENINGRAD” in giant letters across the seawall.

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @Jordan: Another lasting impression from that first trip east of the former Iron Curtain was the abysmal quality of the toilet paper. There really should be a Tumblr dedicated to terrible toilet paper brands of the Soviet realm. I remember this one in Poland that had an awesome porcine mascot, but had the consistency of stiff bark. Wish I could find a photo somewhere on The Tubes.

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