A few weeks ago, Sari Pyöhönen was an assistant to the Consul for Culture and Media at the Murmansk branch of the Consulate General of Finland in St. Petersburg. Now she returned home after seven years of work in the Arctic capital and wrote a book "Guide to Murmansk."
For the first time Sari visited the port city on the Kola Peninsula in the autumn of 2006 as a correspondent for the newspaper “Pohjolan Sanomat”. Together with the photographer, she did a series of reports about Murmansk, which at that time was 90 years old. For three days, an experienced journalist managed to gather information for more than one publication. And according to her, a simple sympathy for the city started to grow into love.
"I wanted so much to get to know the city better," she says. "Luckily for me, I got a job in the consulate, and my dream came true!"
To date, the guide is published only in Finnish with a circulation of 500 copies. On the cover there is a mongrel cat, whom Sari accidentally photographed in one of the small shops in the city. The guide is full of everyday pictures, because the book reflects only the personal experience of the author. She translated a few excerpts specially for «7x7».
Bering Street and the "Floating Dock" punk club
"They have Bering Street, but no street of Barents. According to the legend, a new street in the residential estate under construction was called that way because someone sent a request to Moscow to agree on the name of the street, wrote a wrong name and did not have time to correct the mistake. It seems, Willem Barents and Vitus Bering were not the most familiar names for the official sending the request."
In her guide, Sari Pyöhönen shows different Murmansk. Not only usual tourist attractions, but also the underground cultural places of the city. You won’t find this information in the official reference books. Not every Murmansk resident knows about the locations visited by fearless Sari. For example, the punk club "Floating Dock". Nationalists and fascists will not pass tough face control. Information about the concerts is available only in social networks and in the format of a female radio. This does not prevent the club from inviting bands from America, Spain, France and Poland. It was the stage of the "Floating Dock" where the Japanese multi-instrumentalist Hico Natsuaki played on a melodic harmonic, a harp, an overtone flute and other instruments after the concert of the legend of Soviet free-jazz Sergey Letov.
“The "Floating Dock" Club is located in the first floor of a multi-storey building and looks like an old warehouse. There is no bar, but there is a kettle in the corner of the room. Apparently, it can be used freely. Near the stage there are several benches and tables, but you can sit on the floor. Good atmosphere and special modern music: punk, rock, jazz, electro — or all together. Concerts, events, nice people. The club also serves as a rehearsal ground for many music bands. Address: Knipovich, 46 (entrance from the yard).”
Monument of Cheburashka
In the book, along with historical information and geographic data, you can find anecdotes, urban legends and sketches from everyday life. For example, Sari noticed that for Finnish friends visiting her, it is very strange to see the point "Reimbursement of damages" in the restaurant menu ("Why should someone pay for a broken toilet?", they were constantly surprised). Why is one of the residential estates of the city called the Mountain of Fools? Where is a monument of Cheburashka? The answers to these questions are also on the pages of the guide.
“Murmansk residents call a monument to sister cities Cheburashka, because the monument has the same ears as the funny animal from the tale of Crocodile Gena and his friends (known in Finland). I learned about the monument of Cheburashka because in October 2000 hooligans had stolen all the bronze letters of the names of sister cities. After more than ten years, park and monument were repaired. By the way, the Finnish city of Rovaniemi became the first sister city of Murmansk in 1962.
The issue of tolerance is important for any European. Having lived in Murmansk for seven years, Sari Pyöhönen made her accurate conclusions. Assaults of foreigners were rare at cultural events of her visit. But having traveled almost the entire Kola peninsula not in the capacity of an official, Sari concluded: Murmansk region is closer to Europe by mentality, rather than the middle part of Russia.
“Black people in Murmansk are very rare, but usually I did not observe any manifestations of racism in the city. If your appearance differs from others, it causes curiosity, some people just look at you, and young people can giggle, because they see a foreigner for the first time. Tourists and foreigners are minorities in Murmansk, especially if they are at the outskirts or far from popular attractions.
Apart from cultural events, Sari Pyöhönen visited the office of the regional initiative LGBT group "Maximum". The words of support that LGBT activists have never heard from Russian officials have often sounded from the consuls of Norway and Finland. Including Sari. A flag with works of the cult gay artist Tom of Finland hangs on their office wall for a reason. It, by the way, was also a present Sari, bringing it from another trip to its homeland. In the guide, she devoted attention to the LGBT community.
“Nowadays attitude to sexual minorities in Russia is much more negative than before. If you do not hide your orientation, you can face the threat of violence. In Murmansk, the regional initiative LGBT group "Maximum" is active. They uphold the rights of the LGBT community, organise various events: meetings and seminars.
Gay-club “Town Hill” is the best LGBT club in Murmansk. After 2010, laws in Russia have become more strict and conservative. For example, laws on so-called "gay propaganda" or "foreign agents". These laws have significantly complicated the work of many NGOs. For example, "Maximum" has ceased to be an official organization and was reoriented to an initiative group, which recommends this club. In the club, you can be yourself, regardless of whether official Russia approves your orientation, your beloved /partner / spouse, your clothes or other things. Parties are held mainly on Saturdays. In summer, they are much less, as activists, like everyone in Murmansk, are trying to leave on vacation. The hottest time of parties begins after midnight and lasts until the morning, as in many other nightclubs of the city. In “Town Hill”, activists conduct free anonymous HIV testing, distribute free condoms and lubricants. The doors of the club are locked, you can enter only with the help of a doorphone, by invitation and after a conversation with the guard. The activists of "Maximum" and the clients of the club have repeatedly faced violence, threats and discrimination. Therefore, face control in the club is very strict. Due to security issues, we can not publish the addresses of the "Maximum" office and the “Town Hill” club. But they can be found in social networks, writing to the activists of the "Maximum".
In both countries, in Russia and in Finland, the presentation of the book has already taken place. The libraries of Rovaniemi and Kemi drew full hall of people. The press center of the Murmansk Regional Scientific Library also gathered more than a dozen people who wanted to learn more about the guide.
Material prepared for the project «Our Eyes on Barents» — a joint media partnership of the Barents Region
Alexander Borisov, photo of Lev Fedoseev, «7x7»