On February 4th, Robert Amsterdam posted a fascinated description of Chita, the nearest big city to Mikhail Khodorkovsky's Siberian prison, penned by hero journalist Grigori Pasko (LR cannot highly enough recommend Pasko's column on Amsterdam's blog, required reading for all Russia watchers). Anyone interested in Russian places should savor it slowly. Here's Robert's followup post where Grigori devastatingly reponds to a Russophile propagandist/commenter, who undoubtedly now wishes he'd never been born (or at least never opened his big fat mouth):
James Brooks (an Englishman living in Chita) left an extensive comment calling into question a number of the journalist's assertions. Here is Grigory's response to the comment in bold. (apologies for the delayed response - translation and other admin slows the process down a little bit)]
I was delighted to see an article about my sometime adopted hometown but the author has taken a lot of things at face value here. There is in fact plenty of construction going on, including along the main thoroughfare (Lenin Street),
Between January and March there has been virtually no construction in Chita. I visit many Russian cities and can say where it’s noticeable and where – like in Chita – it is in an unnoticeable state.
and to call the cathedral the “only decent building” suggests the author did not take the time to venture a short distance along the adjoining Amurskaya or Lenin Streets, or simply closed his eyes when passing the Shumov mansion. That’s not to mention the railway station, the Decembrists’ Church, the mosque.....
I agree with you fully: there are another 3-4 decent buildings of old construction besides the church. But in my article I was speaking about what has been built in recent years, and not in tsarist times. The church I mentioned – the Kazan Mother of God Cathedral – was in fact built recently. As concerns the mansion of the merchant Shumov, I am preparing a separate article about it: since 1937, the Administration of the NKVD/KGB/FSB had been located in it.
And if there are “more college places available than applicants”, why is there such competition for a place at Chita State University?
Because none of the surrounding regions (Buryatia, Amur Oblast) have their own universities; that’s why everybody comes to Chita. Besides, Chita Oblast itself has more than a million inhabitants.
The assertion that “only one of Chita’s hotels – and this one is located on the outskirts of the city – offers internet access” is simply wrong as the Hotel Zabaikalye, right on Lenin Square in the middle of the city, has a large and modern internet cafe.
Yes, that’s where I stayed on my second visit. The internet cafe is only open every other day, and only from 4 PM to 6 PM. And sometimes it’s just closed for no reason at all. And even when it is open, the internet connection is not reliable. The “Daurii” hotel doesn’t even have this. Internet is available at the “Panama-city” hotel – the one that is practically on the outskirts of the city. And that’s it. No other hotels. A new 30 room hotel is due to open soon. The rooms will be outrageously priced, but they are promising to have internet.
If you want a more considered perspective on Chita from someone who has actually lived there for some time, please visit my own page.
I will certainly visit your website.