Coal Miner’s Tenant

“Tonight, I’m cleaning out my closet.” – Eminem

My suitcases are packed and ready to be moved after daybreak. My oft-foreshadowed apartment change has been greenlit. I’m trading my current place for a slightly smaller, cozier apartment that will be a little cheaper and more hospitable for three simple reasons: clutter-free bedroom, mold-free bathroom, and problem-free washing machine. Good things in life tend to come in threes and this golden trifecta is bound to boost my Happiness Index scores into the Scandinavian stratosphere.

Stakhanov on the cover of Time magazine

If you’re contemplating sending care packages, please note that I’m trading Turgeneva for Stakhanova. I’m moving from a street named after one of Russia’s literary masters to a street named after the Soviet Union’s most famous worker. Communist regimes had a habit of using propaganda to promote larger-than-life representations of the common man. Real events and individuals often served as inspirations for the legends. Think of legendary sniper and hero of Stalingrad Vasily Zaytsev (portrayed by Jude Law in Enemy at the Gates) and ask yourself “How many Nazis have you killed today?” In the Soviet Union, the honor and glory of being the propaganda machine’s  ideal worker fell to Donbass coal miner Alexey Stakhanov after he broke a coal mining world record by mining a hundred metric tons in under six hours – a workload fourteen times his quota. Stakhanov became a role model to follow – a living, breathing representation of the ideal Soviet man. He even made the cover of Time magazine in the heathen West.

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
– Juliet, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (Act II, Scene 2, lines 1-2)

Most Ukrainian cities have an undergone a significant post-independence facelift with removed statues, newly built memorials, re-named streets. The changes render a good riddance / under new management post-independence vibe , but not so much in Crimea where Soviet era iconography seems to have been retained in entirety. As far as I can tell, the only building named after Taras Shevchenko in Simferopol is a run-down movie theater near the center.

Karl Marx St. - Primary real estate in the city center

In  the Soviet period, the central streets and squares were named after Communism’s central figures. As such, the English faculty that I’m affiliated with at TNU works out of a former governmental building on Lenina and I do most of my shopping at Silpo, a supermarket located on the end of Karl Marksa. Silpo is the nearest equivalent to a Wa-Mart that I have found here. It is the only place where I have been able to purchase food, light bulbs, hygiene products, and school supplies in a single shopping run. Historical irony of such sheer magnitude occurs with the utmost normalcy here. Just last week I took a picture in Yalta of the resident Lenin statue on the principal square in town pointing towards McDonalds. Need I say more?

Lenin & McDonalds

Lenin pointing towards the Promised Land of Golden Arches

20,000 Dinars under the Earth

Stakhanov’s counterpart in Yugoslavia was Bosnia’s very own Alija Sirotanovic. The story goes that he defeated Stakhanov in what can only be described as a coal-off and broke the aforementioned world record during the height of the Tito-Stalin split that set Yugoslavia on its independnent non-aligned trajectory in foreign policy. For his troubles, Tito offered to grant Sirotanovic a wish, but the humble Alija only asked for a bigger shovel. And, so it was. The designed larger shovel became known as a sirotanovicka and it remains a familiar sight to this day to anyone who has been around a Bosnian construction site.


About eldinter

Hello! I'm an ETA Fulbrighter blogging about my adventures in Crimea (Ukraine). I'm teaching English at Tavrida National University (TNU) in Simferopol.
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