Easter Celebrations Fill The Streets
By TOOL Tourism's Petr Hrdlicek
SYKTYVKAR - Who would have thought that Easter would be so rambunctious?
Yesterday proved to be one of the most amazing times I've ever had. Most years it's just a bunch of kids scrambling around looking for chocolate, then after that, they're back to their daily routines the next day.
But then there's Uralica. This is being written both for publishing in their newspaper, and for TOOL Tourism Monthly, and for those who don't know, in Uralica, 92% of the people are some form of Christian, with the remaining 8% being almost completely Jewish.
I decided to come to Uralica last June, in the aftermath of the Karma War, to get a feeling for what makes Uralicans tick. Well, I suppose I found the answer to that out today! Uralican Easter (which follows the Western date to avoid confusion and streamline work stuff) is an experience unlike any other Easter I've experienced in the world, and trust me, I've been to a lot of different places.
The preparation for the celebrations starts on Palm Sunday, for crying out loud! I mean sure, there are the Good Friday services in all Christian denominations, and the Maundy Thursday celebrations for the Catholics. But Easter... well, those Uralicans really pull out all the stops!
A neat tradition they have in Uralica is, they have a man and a woman - usually a married couple or brother and sister - sleep in the church overnight on Saturday, and get up before sunrise on Sunday, so that when the sun rises, they can ring the bells as loudly and frequently as possible. Given the variable times of sunrise, this can prove quite interesting! Personally, I heard the bells going off at 7:20 this morning here in Syktyvkar. And were they ever loud. All you could hear for five minutes straight was a bunch of clanging bells, and one could hear bells from as close as the nearby Uralic Cultural Centre (which has four churches on its property) and as far away as the gigantic Church of the Resurrection in Pazhga, which is a few minutes' drive to the south.
Speaking of the Church of the Resurrection, that's where I headed for the morning service. I went there for 8:30 AM so I could actually get into the absolutely breathtaking church, and not have to sit outside and watch the service on the big screens they had set up - it was to be an ecumenical service, which is only natural considering it is the most important Christian holiday, and that means the church would surely be bursting at the seems. Turns out I was right. By the time the service started at 10AM, they had set up extra TVs and Communion altars in the parking lot! The road this church is on, Giesbrecht Avenue, actually had to be closed so it could be converted into a de facto parking lot. That's how packed it was on that property.
That didn't stop thousands of worshippers from belting out their favourite Easter standards, ranging from Russian Vespers chants to modern choruses, in four different languages! Seriously, I was able to keep up with the English and Russian songs quite fine because of my Slovak heritage, but Finnish and Plautdietsch... not so much.
There were actually three preachers on hand. Archbishop Tamás Fehérvari and Metropolitan Nikolay Kosov were decked out in their traditional robes, while Dr. Matti Koppinen (President of the Uralican Evangelical Baptist Church, among many other things) and Dr. Markus Wender (Head of the Uralican Mennonite Brotherhood) were there in suit and tie. And it was an all-around beautiful service. Man, can that Koppinen preach or what? I'm not actually Christian, but I'm kinda thinking about that after this service.
So what happened after the service finally ended at around 12:30PM? Well, I was invited by His Grace Tamás to stay and have lunch. I obliged of course, and the work that these people did to set up such a huge lunch for the community is out of this world. I'm guessing that the regular members and adherents of this church (according to Koppinen, there's a difference between the two) were all involved. You would see everyone from the preteens to the septegenarians helping the catering services set up tables, move food around, get the barbecues set up... it was very inspiring.
We said Grace at 1PM then sat down for our Easter Lunch. I notice this huge guy sits down next to me, so I look, then I take a second look, and who else but Jarkko Salomäki, the Chief himself, is sitting next to me! So we get to talking about Easter, and he said that there was still plenty left to happen, that a typical Uralican Easter celebration went very late into the night. He himself was going to head back into Sytkyvkar for a concert. So I'm like, "concert? On Easter?" Turns out this is standard fare for Uralicans. Free concerts, fireworks, open houses, you name it! Turns out he wasn't talking about his EBM band, Bane of the Machine, and rather, was talking about the Uralican Symphony Orchestra, which was joining some Christian bands for a little musical revelry.
I showed up expecting a bunch of random classical music followed by some corny, stereotypical Christian soft-rock. Boy was I wrong. Specifically-written pieces penned by Uralica's finest classical composers mingled with Christian death/thrash metal and post-grunge? I was blown out of my seat. One minute I can't take my eyes off of Zuzana Nemtsova (her mere existence is support for the existence of God), and the next I jump about fifty feet out of my seat with the opening riffs of this song called "My Salvation" by this band called Pelastus, whom I'm told is the best-selling Christian band of any sort in the entire Robertian Era. Doesn't surprise me - you should see the musicianship these guys have developed. It's not a case of guitars tuned so low you barely register the sound as music, but of intricately crafted, dare I say Bachesque harmonies with solos so fast you wonder if a higher power gave Lauri Sinisalo the ability to slow down time just to make his fingers go so fast!
Then of course I spot the Pelastus bassist (I later find out his name is Tanne Kangur) trading his electric bass for a bowed bass to play a string quintet. "No wonder they're such great musicians," I thought. "They play classical stuff too!" Turns out they're all BMus students at the vaunted Uralikan Yliopisto. Their singer/rhythm guitarist, Matti Pitkänen, is a composition major with "a minor in metal guitar," which is actually legit, believe it or not. Tanne is a double performance major in electric bass and double bass. Drummer Jarno Mäkelä, who easily has the fastest feet I've ever seen, is a drums-and-percussion performance major. He's actually pretty adept with a xylophone, which I found out on this one classical number they did. Samppa Niskanen is an amazing piano player. He did this piece last night by Sirkka Numminen's other half, Martin Kosk, and it actually sounded kinda cool for a classical piano piece. Finally, there's Lauri, who not surprisingly, is a guitar major, twice over (classical and metal, y'know?)
Enough rambling about their musicianship though, since the Uralicans probably already know this. The concert went on for a while, long enough that there were actually two intermissions - after starting at 1:45, the first intermission was at 3PM and the second at 5PM. The show ended at 6:30 with a glorious performance of Numminen's Tenth Symphony - this was actually only its second performance, with the first being on Constitution Day a couple weeks ago.
After it was finally over, the crowd gave all the musicians a standing ovation, and they really deserved it. I was getting kinda hungry, though, so I headed to the nearest Vsevolod's and got myself a nice juicy steak with a baked potato and green beans imported from Jarkko Salomäki's old homeland. After I had finished, I was randomly invited by a couple of the locals to go downtown. One thought crossed my mind. Fireworks display.
But there was more to it than that. There was also a nighttime parade, as the sun had not yet set, nor would it until around 8:30PM. The fireworks displays started just as the sun was setting, and kept up until 11PM or so. Of course, I wasn't in the same place for the whole time. After an hour on Syktyvkar's main street, just down from the Council Chambers, I thought I'd go check out the UCC and what it had going on. It turned out to be something of a zoo. If you aren't from Uralica, you wouldn't expect the kind of partying that goes on at Eastertime - it's loud, it's rambunctious, but at the same time it is very orderly. Police are out, but if anyone causes trouble, it's usually not an actual Uralican.
Anyway, I went back to my hotel room, completely exhausted from all the dancing I did at the Cultural Centre, and hit the hay around midnight. And there was still partying going on! Do these people ever sleep?
Well, that's my spiel.
Tribal Council "Swamped" By City Status Requests
SYKTYVKAR - Vaido Kuik was very blunt when asked about the city assessment that was supposed to be completed on 1 April 2010.
"Yeah, about that," he said, sheepishly. "We weren't expecting to get swamped like we have been. I mean seriously, we've received around eighty applications for city status. Some are automatic writeoffs because of census population, but there are plenty that deserve an honest look, and it's just going to take more time than we anticipated."
He is not making any promises as to when the status and charter reviews will be done, although he is hopeful that this will come soon.
"I've set a goal to have this done by the 20th of this month, although I'm hoping sooner," the Estonian said, adding a joke afterward. "Jarkko will probably have my neck in a wringer if I don't have it done by 1 May!"
When asked if there are any towns that are locks for city status, he had this to offer:
"No one is 100% certain yet," he said. "However, there are some that there's a really good chance for. A few of the cities in the cut list of the first assessment have grown so much that they are pretty much going through the motions. Look at Trakt for example. It didn't even have a thousand people before Uralica was founded. Now it's a booming mining city of around forty thousand with a very distinct Hungarian flavour."
There are also a few settlements that have applied for name changes. Although many settlements still retain Russian nomenclature, there has been a process of "Uralicisation" going on in the country since its formation - the first example of this was the changing of the offical name of Vakhrushi to Vaahruše.
Name Change Applicants
(Original name first, then desired change)
Kovdor, SPM - Kouteri (Finnish)
Trakt, KOM - Tráty (Hungarian)
Kostomuksha, KAR - Kostamus (Karelian/Finnish)
Agryz, UDS - Ägerçe (Tatar)
Yarkosky, MAR - Salomäk-Ola (Eastern Mari)
Kugesi, CHV - Kükeś (Chuvash)
Medvedevo, MAR - Maskasola (Eastern Mari)
Paranga, MAR - Porancha (Eastern Mari)
Krasnoslobodsk, MDV - Yaksterekuro (Erzya)
Tarko-Sale, YAM - Talka-Salya (Nenets)
Regarding the actual application process, Vaido admitted that not all applicants seek to be admitted on their first go.
"We actually saw this trend start with Troitsko-Pechorsk in the first assessment back in the Fall of 2009, where they applied when they only had ten thousand people living there. Of course we require twenty thousand minimum in the census for city status. So you ask yourself, 'Why the heck do they?' Well, the municipal boards of some cities think the money is worth it for knowing what they need to be deemed a city. Also, some of the things the inspectors point out have multiple applications. If there is something needing improvement and that is told to the municipal board, they can ask advice on how to fix it properly. And they have. We've actually seen some pretty low-population towns apply so far. I think Vlasi [Malenkov] said he spotted a city in there whose census figures were only around twelve thousand people."
A complete list is expected to be released later in the week.
Sorokin: "I'm Cleaning House Come June"
A furious Milan Sorokin was helpless to do anything to stop the utter massacre of his FK Inta side at the hands of red-hot SiPS. 10-0 was the final score, leaving Sorokin, FK Inta's manager, to lay into his players after the match finished.
"We've played horrendous football since last season," he said. "We should be in the Kolmonen with how we've been playing, and enough is enough. I told them, either they need to smarten up, or I'll end up gutting the team if I'm still around in June. And mark my words, if we don't see improvement, I am going to clean house when the transfer window opens up. Losing 3-0 or 4-0 to SiPS isn't really an issue. They are the best team in Uralica after all. But 10-0? I know Kakkonen teams who have done better than that against them!"
All three Inta substitutions were used in the lopsided affair, to pull players who were glaringly bad. Shellshocked goalkeeper Vyacheslav Tikhonov was the last of these, after allowing eight goals on as many shots. Naturally, he was furious with his defence, who accounted for the two other substitutions.
"All but one of the goals I let in were on breakaways," he said. "Now you tell me, don't even the best goalkeepers struggle against breakaways? So why, then, does the defence make a habit of giving them away?"
He was reported to have had a discussion with the manager during the half-time break, after the team talk, asking Sorokin to bench defender Moroz Rybin, who leads all Bolakliiga players in giveaways. Not surprisingly, Sorokin has announced that Rybin will be sent down to the reserves in the Nelonen in favour of Lanssi Möttölä, who in spite of Inta Reserves' almost-as-dismal record, has been twice named to the Nelonen H1 Team of the Week.
In the win, SiPS forward Joni Rasimus scored six goals and attained two assists, and mids Raimo Suominen (1G 4A) and Jukka Tenhola (2G 3A) both managed 5-point games.
In other news, Keijo Karjalainen continued his goal-scoring streak with a beautiful chip-in goal and Miron Smertin bagged two in a 3-0 Zavod Ural Solikamsk win over Spartak Ukhta - a match manager Dmitry Makarov said was "the best football [he'd] ever seen the team play." Of equal note is the fact that former table-leaders Dinamo Arkhangel'sk were beat in an exciting 2-1 nailbiter against determined Telekom Pazhga.