Today, Our Russia focuses on a rather typical Russian town in the Perm region, and on the art of local reportage photographer Marina Nikonova.
At one time the largest industrial center in Tsarist Russia, Solikamsk is today the third largest town in Perm Krai. Built mainly due to the discovery and exploitation of the vast salt deposits nearby, the name of the town is derived from the Russian words "соль" (sol, meaning "salt") and "Кама", which is the river that flows through the town.
Although vast expansion of Solikamsk ended, as Yekaterinburg to the South became the urban gem of the Urals, the culture and history of the town have remained in tact over the centuries. Churches and other attractions remain popular touristic values here, as do the trappings over everyday Russian life. The riverside, parks, local shopping and entertainment venues, and especially the city's dedication to the arts, these, and other societal values, make Solikamsk a great place to work, life, and play.
Like so many towns and cities in Russia, Solikamsk draws its strength from two nearly inexhaustible resources. First, the River Kama River
, which flows through the town, is both a natural resource, and a natural playground for the people of the region. The city's people, as it is the case in any such region of the world, are an exuberant and unending force that keeps this small town alive. Love of family, nature, the arts, and the heritage that such places possess, are but a few of the social attributes driving many other similar cities in Russia.
It is important for the reader to understand, while St. Petersburg, Moscow, and other major cities, play a key role for Russians, the little towns and way points across this vast country are the engine of a great society. Such places make up the threads of life with which the larger fabric of an amazing country are sewn. The strongest of these threads of humanity, culture and heritage, play a huge role in every community in Russia. In Solikamsk, the cultural hub is the Palace of Culture "Kama"
- where local artists, teachers and choreographers, often play out wonderful performances. Many of the images we present here are owing in some way to the efforts of city officials, schools, and organizations, which utilize the services and facilities of the cultural centerpiece.
The salt mines of Solikamsk are still in operation. As many as 11,000 citizens are employed in the backbreaking work above and below the ground. Fiercely patriotic, and extremely spiritual, the people here are representative of many regions and nations. The fabulous churches, and monasteries nearby, are living, breathing icons of faith, hope, and the eternal striving of many Russians.
Community, this is the gift Russians give to these stop-over places spread across the vastness of Russia.
I can relay this to the reader: I contacted
Marina Nikonova about using her photographs to paint a picture of her hometown earlier today. Within a very short time, perhaps 20 minutes, she had responded agreeing to the use of her wonderful pictures. Here positive response, to a request in English I might add, is also characteristic of the people we have featured so far on Our Russia. Marina, and people like her, are anxious to tell their stories. Russians are ready and willing to show the world what life is like in their country.
This is a wonderful experience, being able to share the so-far unknown corners of the biggest country of all. Finally, looking at the faces and lives of these people, I am reminded of something Tolstoy wrote:
"And all people live, not by reason of any care they have for themselves, but by the love for them that is in other people."