10 May 2008

Faces of May Day

A myriad of faces and expression on May Day.

The veterans.








The incumbent.


The rookies.



09 May 2008

Victory Day

The 9th of May is known in Europe as Victory Day, or plainly as May Day. It marks the end of World War 2 in Europe where the Allied forces defeated the Axis power in the year of 1945, bringing years of suffering and atrocities to an end as peace reigned over the continent. Since then, this day was celebrated annually in almost every country in Europe.

World War II is more commonly known as The Great Patriotic War in Russia. It was a war so terrible and devastating that many Russians likened it to the complete extermination of the Russian race, should Hitler's army capture Moscow. With casualty of more than 27 million Soviet lives at the end of the war (easily surpassing Malaysia's population today), it was a do-or-die decision for all Soviet citizens.

Victory Day in Russia in particular is celebrated in a grandious manner. It is a national holiday much similar to Malaysia's Independence Day, but unlike our bloodless struggle of independence from the British Empire, Victory Day symbolises the victory of Soviet Socialists over Nazi Facists through the strength and determination of the working class.

The emblem of the Great Patriotic War & 9th May. The black-and-white photo shows Soviet soldiers symbolically disposing of Nazi standards at the Red Square in Moscow.

Back in the heyday of the Soviet Union, huge military parades were held yearly to commemorate this significant day. Endless columns of war machines would rumble pass the ranks of marching soldiers of the Red Army, and their leaders would salute them gloriously from the heightened podium as the military band played vigorously.

Heavy vehicles carrying weapons of mass destruction rolling through the Red Square to the delight of its spectators.

The Victory Day Parade was celebrated not only in Moscow, but in nearly every major city and town in Soviet Union. Besides paying tribute to the heroes of World War 2, it also the raised patriotism, and strenghtened faith and confidence in the country's ability to defence itself. The world too would observe mindfully over the potency of the military of the Soviet Union – the message is clear: Don't mess with the USSR.

The Red Army marches on on Victory Day.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Victory Day military parade in modern Russia was toned down much to the acceptance of the world to show the obviation of old communistic ways. Until the recent year, Victory Day parades were mainly of the army marching.

Russian soldiers goose-stepping with much dexterity at the modern day parade.

Further away from the capital, the people of Kursk also celebrated Victory Day, albeit in a more sober fashion without the pomp and grandeur of Moscow.

The day started of at about 9:30 a.m. at the junction of Karl Marx Street and Lenin Street. When I arrived at the scene, people had already gathered and the crowd was ballooning by the moment. People were wearing ribbons of orange and black stripes and holding flowers.

Young cadets to the fore with wreaths.

Karl Marx Street was closed off from motorists in the morning to make way for the march. At exactly 10:00 a.m., the march began with the military band leading crowd.

The customary brass band. I have a feeling that they are the same guys on Labour Day.

Following closely behind the brass band were officers bearing flags of the military, the country, the former Soviet Union, and the state.

Colourful flags decorated the formation.

Most of the participants at the head of the march were war veterans dressed smartly in their uniforms, widows and widowers of the fallen, important people and senior citizens.

Flowers and medals, don't leave home without them.

The second contingent following the march was, of course, Medvedev's own political party – United Russia. The crowed was awashed with the colours of red, white and blue; the evident presence of who's in charge.

"Happy Victory Holiday!"

Where there is the ruling party, the Opposition would closely follow. Members of the ever watchful Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) trailed behind as the march moved on.

Raise the Red flags high.

Along the way, the march came to a halt as a the people paid their respect at church. A brief ceremony ensued, and a few priests joined the procession.

Members of the clergy anticipating the march with their wreath.

Soon, the contingents reached the World War 2 Memorial Park of Kursk. People had already gathered to witness the event, as well as the mass media.

The brass band marched on, uniform bodies lined up at the background.

At the park, members of the rest of the contingents were held back from entering the park, as only the brass band marched on to reach the memorial site.

They kept playing as they approached the destination.

Close by, several regiments from various branches of the army had already assembled for the formal ceremony.

The drill sergeant inspecting his regiment and shouting orders.

Soon afterwards, a ceremony took place at the WW2 memorial site, where the Eternal Flame burnt at the foot of the WW2 Obelisk. The national anthem was played, a message was read, and branches of various uniform bodies including the church and large corporate entities laid wreaths to pay tribute in memory of the day the Soviet Union emerged triumphant. Then, regiments of the army performed a goose-step march pass before the one-minute moment of silence was held. It was a solemn ceremony.

The ceremoney taking place in the presence of uniform personnel with the exception of the press.

As the ceremony continued, the ever-present, ubiquitous and omnipresent propaganda van with hailing loudspeakers echoed the nostalgic sentiments of the past with speeches of patriotism and indebtedness to the departed heroes.

The propaganda van – you can never miss it anywhere.

After the ceremony ended, members of the public were allowed to move to the memorial site to lay flowers. The crowd was simply overwhelming. Although it was a bright sunny morning, the atmosphere was sombre.

Flowers were laid at the Eternal Flame (at this photographic angle, the flames were not visible).

Members of the Communist Party laid their wreath and held a vigil at the memorial site with flags of the USSR, banners and portraits of Joseph Stalin.

The Great Leader immortalised himself through his iron-fist legacy.

Nearby, the crowd moved on to lay flowers at the memorial monument of the tragic Kursk nuclear submarine which sank in August of 2000. The submarine was named after the city of Kursk prior to its tragedy.

118 crew members perished aboard the Kursk submarine.

Veteran officers paid their respect to their fallen comrades by visiting graves at the memorial park, laying flowers and giving military salutes.

Remembering the comrades-in-arms who fell in the line of duty.

On the lighter side, war veterans were also in the limelight as people rushed to get photographs of them taken, while journalists hogged to interview them about their experiences of war and services to the country.

Once a year, he gets to be on TV.

Students and foreigners alike were impatient to have their photographs taken with heroes decorated with medals from head to toe.

Asian chicks really dig old men in smart military uniform.

At approximately noon, the procession came to an end as cadets on guard at the memorial monuments marched out from their posts. A few people lingered on and soon everything was over.

They must be really smug knowing that I was photographing them.

Didn't I say foreigners needed to have their photographs taken with veterans?


Happy Victory Day!

07 May 2008

Spaghetti Bolognese

Bolognese sauce (ragù alla bolognese in Italian, also known by its French name sauce bolognaise) is a meat-based sauce for pasta originating in Bologna, Italy. Bolognese sauce is sometimes taken to be a tomato sauce but authentic recipes have only a very small amount of tomato, perhaps a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste.

While going through some facts about bolognese, I'd decided to pamper myself to some spaghetti bolognese.

A good rummage through the refridgerator and I quickly assembled the necessary ingredients.

Let's try some home-cooking!


Group 1:
3 tablespoons of cooking oil.
1 onion, chopped.
1 carrot, chopped.
2 cloves garlic, minced.

Group 2:
200 grams pork, minced.

Group 3:
½ cup white wine.

Group 4:
½ cup milk.
1¼ tablespoon salt.
¾ tablespoon pepper.
1 pinch nutmeg.

Group 5:
1 medium size tomato, chopped.
2 tablespoons tomato paste.
2 tablespoons Heinz® bolognese sauce (this ingredient is cheating, but heck).

Group 6:
200 grams spaghetti.

Group 7:
1 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1 fresh parsley, chopped.

Get your ingredients prepared!


Group 1:
Cook for 5 minutes.

Group 2:
Add to broth and cook till no longer pink, but do not brown. Drain excess fat.

Group 3:
Add to broth and cook till evaporated.

Group 4:
Add to broth and cook till evaporated.

Group 5:
Add to broth and boil for 2 hours at medium heat.

Your bolognese sauce should look like this.

Group 6:
Prepare by boiling till soft.

You're almost there.

Then add bolognese sauce by mixing half to spaghetti and topping with another half.

Group 7:
Top to meal for taste and appearance.

Spaghetti bolognese.

Serve meal for 2 person.

Mix well.

Bon appétit.

05 May 2008

Victory Avenue

I took a walk at a beautiful memorial park at the northern most edge of the city of Kursk, which was named The Victory Avenue.

Facing northward, it is the gateway to Kursk and greets travellers from the next major neighbouring town of Orel.

Because of this, many of us who travel from Moscow southward to Kursk by land transportation nickname this park 'the Kursk Gate'.

Victory Avenue – a green park; war machines facing north towards the Triumph Arch located beyond the cathedral.

Kursk is well-known for being the site of the largest tank battle in history (during World War 2) with 2700 Nazi tanks and 3600 Soviet tanks involved. This battle is known as the Battle of Kursk.

To commemorate this battle, this park was built and several important monuments erected.

At its closer end to the city, a total of 8 weapons of war that contributed to the victory of the Battle of Kursk are showcased, each lined up one by one facing northward.

A Soviet mobile rocket launcher.

Such examples are the Soviet mobile rocket launcher, mobile anti-air battery, mobile artillery and the famous T-35 heavy battle tank.

A Soviet mobile anti-air battery.

These vehicles displayed serve as a reminder of the sacrifices and brutality of war.

A Soviet mobile artillery piece.

Even so, victory was their greatest pride despite the lost of 27 million Soviet lives at the end of the war, a number exceeding the population of Malaysia today.

The signature T-34 main battle tank of the Battle of Kursk.

Many engraved stones were erected in memory of those who lost their lives during the war, like the one below.

Written in both Russian and Hebrew, "Right here, in the days of occupation of Kursk by the German-facist aggressors, 443 Soviet civilians were executed by gun-point shooting."

A cathedral was built at this site to commemorate the events that transpired during World War 2.

The cathedral at the memorial park.

It had been under construction for a very long time; for a while works were put on hold due to the lack of fundings, but now as Russia's economy stabilised, work had resumed and it is now on the verge of completion.

A close up view of the achitecture of the cathedral.

The interior of the cathedral was meticulously done, although not yet finished, I predicted that it would be very beautiful upon completion. On the walls of the cathedral, names of fallen soldiers and civilians were engraved from floor to ceiling in their memory.

The painting of 8 angels on the ceiling of the dome.

The area around this memorial park is of high value, and is home to the richer minority of the city, which also complemented its beautiful surrounding and landscape.

Bungalows that lined the side of the park.

Further on, I reached the another World War 2 monument that honoured fallen Soviet soldiers. Here, the Eternal Flame burnt ceaselessly for the Unknown Soldier.

One of the many WW2 monuments bearing the Eternal Flame all over Kursk, and the rest of Russia.

Finally, that the most distant end of the park stands the focus of my trip: the Triumph Arch, the gateway to Kursk. Built after World War 2 and the re-establishment of the city, this structure is one of the major landmarks of Kursk.

A statue of a horse-riding knight slaying the serpent at the top; 4 warrior of various ages guarding the 4 corners of the arch.

Before mass transportation was commonplace, vehicles used to pass underneath the arch to the city of Kursk; now it has become a monument, symbol of victory of a war long passed.

The statue of Marshal Zhukov, the Triumph Arch and the cathedral at the distant.

As the park reached an end, so did my evening stroll at the park.

The Triumph Arch, the complete picture.

What a long walk. I guess I'll take a bus home.

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