Friday, 30 August 2013

Anadyr, the colourful capital of Chukotka

If any place qualifies as being at the end of the world, it is certainly Chukotka.

The region of Chukotka is located in the extreme northeast of Russia, on a volcanic treeless tundra with a coast overlooking the Bering sea; after decades of isolation and abandon, the region of Chukotka finally called the attention of planners, business men and financial power.

Airview, with the port down left.

Located at the mouth of the Anadyr River, Anadyr is an important sea port on the Gulf of Anadyr on the Bering Sea, and the easternmost town in Asia. A modern airport serves several cities in the Russian Far East, like Khabarovsk, but also offers flights to Moscow or even to Nome, Alaska.

Отке улица (Otke Street)

Anadyr has been rebuilt from the old ugly five-story boxy soviet blocks, repainted in bright lively colours and renewed with new buildings and avenues, the seaport repaired and modernized.

Compared to the previously muddy unpaved streets and dilapidated buildings, a great progress has been accomplished.

The new Anadyr, with wide avenues and coloured buildings, some green patches, and a transport system.

Coordinates: 64°44′ N, 177°31′ E, the easternmost town in Russia and Eurasia.
Population: ~ 11 000, mainly Chukchi and Inuits.

This is somehow the russian counterpart, on the other side of the Bering sea, of Alaskan towns like Nome .

"Peeling and cracking five-story Khrushchev-era pile-dwellings, huts and sheds where people also lived. The streets were crisscrossed by sewage and heating pipes". 

Well, aparently Anadyr did change from that horrendous era of misery and decadence.

Otke Street, one of the most concurred in town.

Anadyr was founded on August 3, 1889 as Novo-Mariinsk,  and renamed on August 5, 1923, in memory of a Cossac site of mid-XVII century. For many years, it was just a Russian post for sovereignty purposes, where some military forces dragged their miserable existence, lacking the basic conditions for civilized life.

Modern times came long after the end of the soviet era.

A sunny spring in town

Boat bar in downtown Anadyr

The new Chukotka Hotel and the modern supermarket, in Otke Street.

Houses of the russian new rich, with a view to the Bering sea.

Nice new housing on Otke Street

But the most amazing is the new

Holy Trinity Cathedral :

Built on stilts over the permafrost, it's the largest othodox cathedral in Russia.

The building material was siberian pine and siberian larch wood; other wood like cedar and elm where used in the interior. Basalt helps the insulation and copper covers the roofs.

The cathedral's rich Iconostasis, in blue and gold, follows the Andrei Rublev tradition.

The main door, carved in fragrant spruce wood.

The Cathedral was built on a flat small promontory that is now the town center, at the crossing of Otke and Lenin streets.

The new center, with the cathedral, the Culture House and a huge statue of St. Nicholas. The idea was to create a sort of Kremlin, but something is missing - History, maybe.

The new Culture House and Museum

The new Culture House and Museum´s architecture may be not everybody's taste.

But it was a most important improvement in town, bringing a library, hall, museum, and cultural life that was missing in this far east remoteness.

Pride of the museum - the art of bone carving.

The settlement of Uelen, by the arctic sea,  is famous for the quality of bone carving.
You can find whale and walrus ivory handicraft by native Chukchi people at the museum and shops.

When the weather is fine, the best walk for local residents is along the Anadyr estuary, which surrounds the town on all sides.

Panoramic street down to the river and port.

The port, some years ago full of rusting hulls, also benefited from new painting - even the cranes are colourful now...

Anadyr river basin is quite rich in salmon, and the salmon fisheries are one of the main business here as well as an important means of subsistence.

Every year, on the last Sunday in April, there is an ice fishing competition in the frozen estuary waters of Anadyr River's mouth.

Chukotka region

The country through which Anadyr river passes is thinly populated, mainly by Chukchi and Eskimo populations, and is dominated by tundra, with a rich variety of plant life, wild forests, cold seas, deep fjords and spectacular rocks and mountains.

Chukotka is located on the very northeastern tip of Eurasia, between the Arctic and Pacific Oceans, sharing a maritime border with United States' Alaska. About half of its area is within the Arctic Circle, where polar nights reign in winter and the Northern Lights brighten up the sky during the long winter season.

Reindeer, upon which the local inhabitants subsisted, were once herded in large numbers. As the herding of domestic reindeer has declined, the number of wild caribou has increased.

Chukchi girls.

Anadyr port, and the Bering sea at dusk.