Herewith a lovely, lively, astonishing, revelatory photo essay by the Russian photographer Valentin Trukhanenko. We have these images courtesy of Russell Working who curated and introduced the post as an accompaniment to his terrific essay “The Roommate: Vladivostok and the Ghost of Mandelstam” also published in this issue. The two pieces for a diptych, wonderful to have.
Vladivostok is so distant from Moscow, when Anton Chekhov visited in 1890, he decided to return by ship via the Suez Canal rather than face the 6,000 mile journey home on land.
Yet today it is largely ethnic Russian, a European city in a region flanked by China, North Korea, and the Sea of Japan. It is linked to the heart of the country by the Trans-Siberian Railway.
The homes are largely Soviet-style prefab concrete, and Russian traditions endure—such as children taking flowers to the teacher on the first day of school. Stalin saw to it that the Asian minority was exiled to Kazakhstan and elsewhere in Soviet Central Asia, but some have returned in recent years.
While Russia has had a Pacific outpost in Okhotsk since 1639, the port of Vladivostok –“Rule the East”—was only founded in 1860. The city’s main bay, Zolotoi Rog or Golden Horn, was named for its similarity to the Turkish waterway.
Throughout the Soviet era, Vladivostok was closed to foreigners, yet its citizens had black market access to jeans and rock ’n’ roll tapes thanks to sailors who traveled abroad. My mother-in-law even read a copy of Orwell’s 1984 that had found its way into the city in the 1970s. A friend lent it to her overnight.
HORN OF PLENTY
Founded in 1860 on the site of an indigenous fishing village, Vladivostok’s Zolotoi Rog (Golden Horn) Bay is Russia’s largest Pacific seaport. It was closed to foreigners throughout the Soviet era. © 2013 Valentin Trukhanenko
A Monument to Soviet Fighters in the Far East, who captured the city in 1922, dominates the central square. © 2013 Valentin Trukhanenko
EAT YOUR VEGGIES
A woman sells vegetables at a Saturday market in the central square. © 2013 Valentin Trukhanenko
FREE TRADE ZONE
Traders still use abacuses to tally their sales. © 2013 Valentin Trukhanenko
NINE BEAN-ROWS WILL I HAVE THERE
A woman works in her dacha, a plot of land and, sometimes, a rough cottage where Russians escape on the weekends. © 2013 Valentin Trukhanenko
Children enjoy the beach on a warm day. Although Vladivostok lies at roughly the latitude of Marseilles, France, the continental climate makes summers brief. © 2013 Valentin Trukhanenko
Women sunbathe and sip beer on a beach on along the Sea of Japan. © 2013 Valentin Trukhanenko
BACK TO SCHOOL
Children dress up and bring flowers for their teacher on the first day of school. © 2012 Valentin Trukhanenko
EAST MEETS WEST
A Russian sailor talks to Japanese women on Pologaya Street in prerevolutionary times. Stalin exiled tens of thousands of Vladivostok’s Japanese, Koreans, and Chinese to Kazakhstan and elsewhere in Central Asia.
Doughboys from the American Expeditionary Force Siberia joined Japanese, French, British, and Canadian troops in occupying Vladivostok in 1918 during the chaos of the Russian Civil War. One major goal was to aid 40,000 Czechoslovakian soldiers—allies of the Western powers—who had become stranded by the Revolution and were fighting their way east along the Trans-Siberian Railroad.
A monument to Lenin still stands near the train station downtown. © 2013 Valentin Trukhanenko
A traffic cop braves a blizzard. Winter temperatures drop to minus 35 Fahrenheit. © 2013 Valentin Trukhanenko
HOT ENOUGH FOR YOU?
Central boiler houses heat water, which is then pumped aboveground to apartment buildings and offices. © 2013 Valentin Trukhanenko
Firefighters and other city workers clear snow on a bitter day. © 2013 Valentin Trukhanenko
CLIMB EVERY MOUNTAIN
A woman scales a mound of snow in downtown Vladivostok. © 2013 Valentin Trukhanenko
Bundled up for the cold, ice fisherman wait for a bite on Amursky Bay off the Sea of Japan. © 2013 Valentin Trukhanenko
An ice fisherman drops his line behind a nylon shelter out on Amursky Bay. © 2013 Valentin Trukhanenko
UNDER THE SEA
A Russian submarine docked in the winter slush. Vladivostok is home to Russia’s Pacific Fleet. © 2013 Valentin Trukhanenko
The Bolsheviks destroyed many of Vladivostok’s churches and Buddhist temples, in the post-Soviet era new ones have taken the place of some. © 2013 Valentin Trukhanenko
— photos by Valentin Trukhanenko & captions by Russell Working
Valentin Trukhanenko was born 1947 in the Tver region of central Russia, north of Moscow. A retired Russian Navy captain, first rank, he is a photographer with the newspaper Dalnivostochnye Vedomosti. He has been a laureate and participant in Russian and international photography exhibitions. His work has appeared internationally in Reuters, AP, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Japan Times, and other newspapers and magazines. Trukhanenko was named the best sports photographer in Russia’s far eastern Primorye region for three straight years, starting in 2005.
Russell Working is a journalist and short story writer whose work has appeared in publications such as The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, The Paris Review, The TriQuarterly Review, Zoetrope: All-Story, and dozens of other newspapers and magazines around the world. He is the author of two collections of short fiction: The Irish Martyr (University of Notre Dame Press) and Resurrectionists (University of Iowa Press). He lives in suburban Chicago and is a writer/editor at Ragan Communications, which publishes PR Daily. He lived for five years in Vladivostok, Russia. He and his wife, Nonna, have two sons.