Varnichny Creek, Murmansk

What does the French region of Normandy have in common with Russia’s largest arctic city? Both are named after the Norsemen, an old English term for the Vikings whose extensive trading networks stretched across Europe’s coasts and waterways. Murmansk is also the last city commissioned by Russia’s imperial government, three months shy of the Tsar Nikolai II’s abdication.

Фото: Николай Хлабыстин

Varnichny Creek is a hidden waterway of this far-north city, once a habitat rich with fish that is today heavily polluted with most of its course channelled beneath the city’s surface. The above image is a neglected pedestrian bridge in the October district of the city, where the creek flows in a ravine.

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Kamenka, Novosibirsk

The largest city in Siberia was built on the banks of the mighty Ob River. It also has its own hidden urban stream, the Kamenka. Its once-imposing gorge was filled in the 1960s and a highway built atop its former course two decades later.

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Adding to the insult, the river’s name was removed from the highway in 2007 and sets of luxury residential towers are popping up on undeveloped land that could have been used for daylighting the stream as a linear park. One hint of the Kamenka in the city is the Sibrevkom Street Bridge that spans the much shallower gorge that was carved by the Kamenka.

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Moscow’s Clean Ponds

When I teach art history, the top Russian artists in my syllabus are Ilya Repin and Isaac Levitan, whose countryside landscapes underscore the vastness of the world’s largest country. It’s a shame that I haven’t visited it since age seven and a return is long overdue. The last place where my family visited in Russia was its capital Moscow, city of more than 12 million residents.

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Once a tiny village, the city began to develop in 1156, when Yury Vladimirovich Dolgorukiy built a fortress (Kremlin) on the Moscow River and has since expanded in concentric circles to nearly a thousand square miles. Within the city’s borders are numerous hidden streams such as the polluted Yauza and the underground Neglinka.

In total, the number of hidden waterways within the city exceeds a hundred. For now, here’s the story of Chistye Prudy (Чистые пруды) or Clean Ponds, a park in the city’s center, a mile to the northeast of the Kremlin. Continue reading