Russian city of Petropavlovsk illustrates continuing affection for some aspects of the Soviet era

Travelers on Pacific voyage reflect on sights and geography

By Ed Martin
Guest Columnist

(Editor’s note: Ed and Peggy Martin of Venice are on an 82-day Pacific cruise, which is taking them to the Asian coast, Russia, Bali, Australia, Hawaii and other islands before they return to Los Angeles on Dec. 12. Ed Martin is providing periodic reports from the trip for the readers of The Sarasota News Leader.)

The is one vista of the Kamchatka peninsula. Photo contributed by Ed Martin

Oct. 13: Petropavlovsk, Russia.

A clear sky, a Coast Guard presence, a commercial fishing fleet and a snow-covered mountain in the distance behind a range of foothills: Welcome to Russia. (I searched carefully, but, despite my best efforts I could not see Sarah Palin.)

One-fourth of the world’s salmon catch comes through the port where our vessel has docked. Beautiful natural surroundings blend with the prevalent, mundane Stalinist housing, featuring five-story apartment buildings.

Security is very tight. Only passengers on organized tours are allowed on land. For that matter, they cannot even stand on the quay where our ship, the Amsterdam, is moored.

This afternoon at 2:30, we departed on a local tour, including an area museum and market; a chance to support capitalist Russia!

The market has a floor for meats and fish, with many smoked salmon varieties; a floor for small shops; and a floor for upscale, international-type shops found in malls worldwide.

This is Petropavlovsk, which combines the names Peter and Paul in Russian, with a bit added, as there was another Petropavlosk in Russia when this city was named.

Bering, for whom the strait and sea were named, traveled in ships named the Peterand the Paul, and so the city was named in his honor. (For those puzzling over the masculine names of the ships, you will have to ask Larissa, a friendly local high school English teacher who was our guide.)

The Kamchatka peninsula, which cannot be reached by road or train — only relatively recently has it become available by air — has a population of about 180,000. The peninsula is home to various industries, including shipbuilding and repair. Since the end of the Soviet era, the number of inhabitants has declined from about 350,000. Several references were made to the government not having sufficient funds for infrastructure and such social services as support for the arts. Despite that, a large and popular theater is a highlight of the city tour, as are various musical groups.

A museum showcases items from the Soviet era. Photo contributed by Ed Martin

In an accompanying photograph you will see items in a volunteer initiated and operated museum. With a main gallery perhaps 50 by 25 feet, it features articles from the Soviet era, (objects that would be familiar to U.S. citizens alive since the end of World War II), as well as some banners and photos from Soviet times. My impression is that there was some nostalgia for that era. Certainly, the defeat of Germany after a terrible war is, and has been, a highlight of history for the nation.

This is another exhibit in the museum. Photo contributed by Ed Martin
This is a poster in the museum that reflects the Soviets’ defeat of the Nazis on Soviet territory. Photo contributed by Ed Martin

Finally, on a geographic note, I should point out that Kamchatka has almost 100 volcanoes, more than 20 of which have been judged to be active, although no recent eruptions were mentioned on our tour. Three of the volcanoes — about 25 kilometers from the city — rise as high as 6,000 and 7,000 feet. Favorite activities in the four months that do not comprise winter in this area are hiking and picnicking on the smaller of the three.

Da Svetanya(phonetic for good bye).

1 thought on “Russian city of Petropavlovsk illustrates continuing affection for some aspects of the Soviet era

  1. Ed, I was surprised to hear about the security in Petropavlosvk during your visit? We were there in May on a Norwegian cruise and we along with the other passengers were tendered to shore,got out and simply walked all around the town on our own.

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