Category: Stalin

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Tirana in 2022

On Monday I returned from a six-day visit to Albania, my first proper dark-tourism trip this year! I was based in the capital Tirana and did most of my fieldwork there, but also went on a guided day trip to one of the former communist-era prisons/hard labour camps in the mountains in the north of the country … but that will be for another separate Blog Post some time soon. For this post I’m going to concentrate on Tirana only.

It was

Dark Tourism & Hands

The most recent theme poll didn’t have any winner by last Sunday, but one vote came in late and nudged ‘Hands’ ahead of the other three. So I’ll feature this theme first, but the others will come up here at some later stage as well.

The first photo – featured above – was taken at Recoleta cemetery in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which features plenty of beautiful Gothic elements, but this pretty hand with cobwebs, a detail of a full-body statue, is one of my favourite hand photos of them all! Beautiful and a bit spooky at the same time.

Another favourite is this next one, taken at the fabulous

Riga & Tallinn

Last Wednesday I came back from a nine-day return trip to the Baltics, well, just to two of the capital cities, Riga in Latvia and Tallinn in Estonia. My first trip to the region had been in 2014, and I knew that in these cities a few new sites of relevance to dark tourism had newly opened in the meantime or had changed significantly, thus warranting a re-visit.

In Riga, the

Tito

On this day, 41 years ago, on 4 May 1980, Josip Broz Tito died. He had been Yugoslavia’s socialist leader since the end of WWII. Tito famously fell out with Stalin and the Soviet Union and paved the way for the Non-Aligned Movement as a third way, taking neither the Eastern Bloc’s side nor the West’s side during the Cold War. Moreover he somehow held together a multi-ethnic Yugoslav federation, and

Women’s Day

On this day it’s International Women’s Day, so I’m marking this by posting some photos of really big women sculptures. Above is the very biggest of them all, the largest female statue ever built. This is the Rodina Mat, aka “The Motherland Calls”, statue on Mamayev Hill in Volgograd, Russia. She’s the central part of the memorial complex for the Battle of Stalingrad. This is Soviet monumentalism at its most monumental! The figure is 52m tall from head to toe, with sword even 85m. At the

Stalin

On this Day: on 18 December 1878 a certain Iosep Besarionis dze Dzhugashvili was born in the Caucasus town of Gori in Georgia. This man is of course better known to the world under his self-adopted name: Stalin (meaning Man of Steel).
On my travels in the East, I’ve come across Stalin in images and statuary in various places, and so I can give you a little Stalin-themed photo essay here.

Let’s begin at the beginning, as it were, in

Dark Tourism & Stars and Stripes

This theme was not decided on by a poll, but just by myself, and the link to today’s significant date should be obvious.

But let’s start at the beginning. So, what kind of stars feature in dark tourism? For one thing there’s the old communist or Soviet five-pointed red star, like these:

Halloween

Today it’s the 31st of October – Halloween! But of course in the currently escalating pandemic crisis, there cannot be a proper Halloween party. And it’s even a Saturday, so it would have been ideal for partying. Such a shame …

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not missing all the commercialization of Halloween. In fact it was that very over-commercialization that had put me off Halloween for most of my life. It wasn’t until 2014 that

Nagorno-Karabakh in Trouble again

There has been extremely worrying news the last few days from a little-visited region in the Caucasus that was included in my trip there ten years ago – Nagorno-Karabakh. Apparently the ‘frozen conflict’ over this contested region has flared up again and escalated into military confrontation and fighting, with already over a hundred dead, so it’s worse than the last time around in 2016. Moreover, now Azerbaijan is receiving open backing by Turkey, while Armenia is banking on support from Russia. So this has the potential to spiral into a full-on proxy war (as nearly happened in Syria a few years ago).

A little bit of background: Nagorno-Karabakh was a

Iconoclasm versus Interpretation

The photo above shows a plaque in Vienna commemorating Joseph Stalin’s short sojourn in this city as a young man. I’ve been reminded of this by the recent images on the news from the USA, where protesters are disfiguring or toppling monuments to former proponents of slavery and such like, in the wake of the unrest caused by the killing of George Floyd by police. Now, how do the topics of Stalinism and the Black Lives Matter movement go together, you may ask. Let me explain:

Make no mistake, I do understand the outrage of the protesters about the

The Nuclear Landscapes of the Polygon, Kazakhstan

A few years ago I had an extended exchange with a guy in Canada who did an intriguing project about the Polygon/Semipalatinsk Test Site (STS) in Kazakhstan, the place where the Soviet Union carried out the majority of its nuclear tests. The project was part of a master’s thesis in Landscape Architecture, at the University of Toronto, and proposed a number of structural “interventions” at the site, so a kind of commodification for visitors. It was envisioned that