Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Lenin Statues

Statues of Lenin still abound in Ukraine. The one above is in Zaporozhye, and the inscription at the bottom says "Communism means the electrification of the whole country." Zaporozhye, in addition to being a traditional home of Cossacks, is the site of an enormous hydroelectric dam built in Stalin's time. It used to be one of the Soviet Union's main locales for heavy industries that used the electricity. Today many of the factories are shuttered.
The main street of Zoporozhye is still named after Lenin, and at 9 km. it was the longest such street in the entire Soviet Union. Since post-Soviet Ukranians do not seem to have been able to agree yet on a unifying national myth, Lenin and in some places even Stalin are still honoured.
There used to be many more Lenin statues, of course, and I heard that someone is proposing to set up a park where the remaining statues will all be assembled. Shades of "Ulysses Gaze," the fine film by Angelopoulos, where the hero while sailing down a river in eastern Europe passed a barge carrying an enormous dis-assembled statue of Lenin.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Monument to the Scuttled Ships, Sebastopol

This monument in Sebastopol harbour is the symbol of the city and commemorates an event in the heroic defence of Sebastopol during the Crimean War of 1853-56. Realising they were overpowered by the larger and more modern British and French fleets sent to attack them, the Russian commanders decided to remove the guns and troops from seven ships and scuttle them in the harbour, making it more difficult for the enemy to bombard the city from the sea.
Sebastopol today is a pleasant, well-kept city that is headquarters to both the Russian and the (much smaller) Ukranian Black Sea fleets. A closed city until the 1990s, it now welcomes visitors from all over the world. Locals and visitors enjoy swimming right beside the monument to this long ago war, an interesting chapter in the bloody saga of struggles among European powers during the 19th and 20th centuries.
Today everyone can enjoy a walk along the embankment where in Czarist times only officers and noble ladies were allowed to take the sea air.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Aeroflot bargains

Aeroflot is offering some unusual bargains this fall. A check on Travelocity shows that for Oct. 11, a one way flight from JFK to Tashkent, Uzbekistan costs only $416, less than half the price of the next cheapest fare. You can go all the way to Irkutsk in Siberia for just $715 that same day on Aeroflot, almost $2000 cheapest than the next lowest fare.
In both cases there is a transfer at Moscow's Sheremeteyevo, not one of the world's great airports. I haven't flown Aeroflot since the bad old days of the Soviet Union, but at these prices it is tempting, n'est-ce pas?
I just hope fares are equally good next spring, when I hope to visit these regions.

Modern Cossacks

Performers at the Cossack Horse Theatre, Zaporozhye, Ukraine. This is a thrilling performance on the island of Khortitsa, traditional home of this sich of Cossacks. In the old days women and children were banned on the island, and any found were killed along with their male associates. Today everyone is welcome at this display of equestrian and mock fighting skills.
The riders do amazing stunts like riding along the side of a galloping horse, standing atop a galloping horse (I saw one guy standing on two galloping horses) and riding stretched out across the saddle of the galloping horse. In addition, the Cossack hetman chooses a strong man from the crowd who is required to stand holding branches in his hands while a Cossack snaps them with whips.
The performance is followed by a traditional meal of spicy rice with meat and fruit, and a shot or two of vodka. Well worth seeing, and according to several Websites the only theatre of its kind in the world.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ukranian Cossacks

The above is a statue honouring Cossack hetman Sahaidachny in Kontraktova Ploschad, Kiev. Cossacks, the wild horsemen of the borderlands of southern Russia, are more or less synonomous with Ukraine. They were freemen who organized into groups in various locations in order to escape serfdom in Russia or slavery in the Ottoman Empire. The only requirements to be a Cossack were Christianity and male gender--Muslims, Jews and women did not need to apply. They elected their own leaders called hetmen.
One large group(called a sich) of Cossacks met on the island of Khortitsa near Zaporozhye, where there is now a very interesting museum dedicated to them. They were outlawed by Catherine the Great and had fallen into decline by the 19th century. When not meeting for military training on the island, they were peaceful farmers.
Cossacks fought in wars against Poland and Lithuania and were notorious for participating in pogroms of Jews. They were renowned for their horsemanship, and visitors to Khortitsa can see amazing feats of riding at the Cossack Horse Theatre there in summer.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

House with Chimeras, Kiev

This is the house mentioned in an earlier posting, the Jugendstil masterpiece on Bankova built around the turn of the 20th century by Wladislaw Horodecki, an imaginative if eccentric businessman. If you look carefully at the top centre, between the two posts, there is a weeping or screaming face. The storm drains are shaped like elephant trunks, and on the grounds are statues of gigantic frogs, antelope and mermaids built of cement, a state of the art material around 1900.
The grounds and house seemed to be closed at least the day I was there, so I was only able to appreciate this place from the outside. A fine example of the style of architecture I prefer, and who would expect to find it in Kiev?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Kievo-Pechersky Lavra

This enormous display of decorated Ukranian eggs is located on the grounds of the Lavra, rated by my guidebook as the no. 1 sight to see in Kiev. It is the headquarters of the Moscow Patriarchate of the Ukranian Orthodox Church, and the day I was there the Patriarch was visiting so security was tight and streets leading to the lavra were lined with Ukranian and Russian flags.
The Lavra dates to Prince Vladimir's adoption of Christianity, and is best known for its caves, where numerous early monks and saints are buried. This is the top pilgrimage site for this branch of Orthodoxy but is also open to tourists. You enter very dark caves holding a thin white lighted candle and make your way past cases containing bodies, icons, and various shrines to saints. The visit is not for the claustrophobic, since the corridors are narrow and it can be very hard to see where you are going. There is no charge to enter the caves, though there is a small charge for candles.
The caves lie down a long steep path from the Upper Lavra, which contains a number of ancient and beautiful churches, a bell tower and several museums. A must visit for its history and the insight it provides into the religious spirit Ukranians kept alive through nearly 1000 years that included 70 years of Communist efforts to wipe out religion.
A correction to an earlier post mentioning that the Ukranian economy declined 9 per cent in 2009. According to Succeed, a fine business magazine produced by Austrian Airlines that covers Eastern Europe, the actual decline in GDP was 15 per cent that year.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Jewish Odessa

This is part of the Holocaust Memorial in Odessa, Ukraine. Prior to World War I, Odessa was considered the land of milk and honey for Jews. It had more Jews than any city except for New York and Warsaw, and 70 synagogues.
As a trading city, Odessa attracted many different nationalities and generated great wealth, much of which is still visible today in the opera house, the Bristol Hotel and other beautiful buildings. Many Jews, who were mainly traders, left Odessa at the time of the Russian Revolution. However, enough remained that some 25,000 were killed when the Nazis occupied the city during World War II.
A number of others were saved by their Christian neighbours, and Odessa's small Holocaust Memorial pays tribute to both groups. Today there are two historic synagogues, both Orthodox, in Odessa.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Church on Baseina, Kiev

This tiny chapel is part of a Russian Orthodox church near the Rus Hotel (sorry, didn't get the name of the church.) The main church is much more modern, yellow and white brick and up a lot of steps through English-style gardens. The day I was there several nuns were collecting money for some medical mission.
Russian Orthodoxy, the main religion in this part of the world, dates from the early 10th century when Prince Vladimir, Viking ruler of Kievan Rus, accepted Christianity of the Byzantine variety and insisted that his people follow his example.
Today Russian Orhtodoxy is making a big comeback in the former Communist lands. In Ukraine it is divided among several different types depending on the patriarch followed. Greek Catholic is another popular faith--this is a church connected to the Vatican that follows Orhtodox rituals. Evangelical Protestants have made some inroads in Ukraine, and in Odessa there is a small but growing Jewish community (more on this later.)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Crimean Tatars

This is a detail of the Khan's Palace in Bakhchisarai, Crimea. The Crimean Tatars controlled this region until the time of Catherine the Great. A Turkic tribe, they converted to Islam in the 14th century and ruled as vassals of the Ottoman Empire. They were noted for raids into Russian territory, and even occupied Moscow briefly in the 16th century.
The Khan's Palace is one of the loveliest examples of Islamic architecture in this region, and a major tourist draw of Crimea. Today guides at the palace include a number of Crimean Tatars, although their ancestors were deported en masse by Stalin during World War II to Uzbekistan and other far-flung parts of the Soviet Union.
Many of them and their descendants have returned to Crimea, only to find their former homes occupied by Russians. However, re-settlement seems to have been much easier for this ethnic group than for some others, notably Chechens.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

St. Basil's, Moscow

It's hard to believe it was three years ago exactly that I was in Moscow and took this shot of the famous Cathedral. Moscow is probably the toughest of the cities I've visited, especially for a lone traveller with very minimal Russian. Still, it is a fascinating city with enormous energy and a place everyone should see at least once.
I will probably be returning next year, en route to Uzbekistan and Siberia or Mongolia. Moscow is to Russia what Atlanta is to the south--you have to change planes there to get to almost anywhere else in the country or even the region.
I'm looking forward to what will be my third visit to the Russian capital.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Stray Animals in Ukraine

As in Russia, there are a lot of stray cats and dogs in Ukraine. This little cat was hiding in the shade trying to escape the heat in Sebastopol. I wondered whether it would be interested in the remains of my ice cream cone, and as you see the answer was yes.

Seeing so many homeless animals is one of the sad parts of travel in these countries. Of course, there are also many orphans and older people who are having great difficulty dealing with the exigencies of the new market economies. And it doesn't help that Ukraine suffered a big economic contraction last year, estimated at 9 per cent, one of the highest in Europe.

Haven't found any good sites to help Ukranian animals specifically, but free clicks at will at least help animals over here.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Chilling Out

Even bloggers must rest--Happy Labour Day everyone. I was going to post a picture here of a dog chilling in a fountain, but it has disappeared somewhere on my computer.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Jean Shinoda Bolen Comments

Jean Shinoda Bolen, pictured in an earlier blog post wearing a Japanese robe, spoke at the IAAP Congress about circles with a spiritual center, with particular reference to the consciousness-raising circles of the 1970s that led to the women's movement. Bolen, who has written 11 books in addition to practicing as a psychiatrist and Jungian analyst, is a feminist and activist.

"Jungian stuff helps one to be a good activist," she said. However, each person has to answer for him- or herself whether a particular cause or creative project is appealing. For people in the second half of life, however that is defined, the cause or project should contain an element of fun related perhaps to the people involved or the project itself.

Jungians are big believers in life stages, and the second half of life is defined as that period when one has contributed to society and to the culture through reproduction and/or career, and one is freer to choose "meaningful" projects. Of course, it helps if one has independent means to do this, as Jung and many of his patients did. In today's world of economic crisis, it seems likely most people will be mainly concerned with economic survival into old age (this is my opinion, not Bolen's.)

Bolen also spoke of crone wisdom, the wisdom possessed by everyone who has been to the underworld (hell) and come back, perhaps from addiction through a recovery program like Alcoholics Anonymous, from grave illness or accident, financial ruin, etc. The underworld in mythology is the realm of the god Pluto, and contains many riches. These may include gifts rejected, feelings not acknowledged, and so forth.

In the first half of life, parts of the personality that don't fit into one's plans are cast off and go into the unconscious or underworld, but they can be reconstructed through analysis, or various recovery programs, religion or other means.

Bolen cited Lawrence LeShan's question for cancer patients contemplating how to use their remaining time: What would make you glad to get up, and still make you feel good at the end of the day? It is a good question for anyone, she said.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Sandplay within the Analytic Framework

Do the lamp and the plastic palm tree above make you thing of anything? (The plastic palm is one of many found in Yalta, Ukraine.) If you were doing sandplay as part of a Jungian analysis, smaller versions of items like these could be among those from which you get to choose in constructing a scene in a sandbox, or as therapists like to say, a sandtray.
At the recent IAAP Congress several therapists discussed their use of sandplay in working with long-term analytical patients, thus turning the talking cure into a multi-sensory experience. "What is re-created in the sandtray often has a strong psychic charge," one of them said. They showed pictures of sandtrays created by some of these patients, including one that mimicked a nuclear explosion.
Sandplay can be very moving both for the patient and the analyst, and can allow the analyst to enter into the patient's inner landscape, often quite a bleak one. Although sandplay can provide insights into a patient's problems, the images themselves can never be fully known, another therapist pointed out.
Once I had the chance to participate in a group sandplay workshop and found it very interesting, indeed an experience that returns you to childhood.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Project Implicit

Christine Connidis, a Jungian analyst and lawyer based in Toronto, presented a paper at the recent IAAP Congress on Project Implicit (,) a research study funded by Harvard and two other American universities. It has shown that most people have unconscious biases, even if they think they don't.

According to Connidis, the test is important because it has brought the idea of the unconscious into the mainstream. As a lawyer, she is interested in it because of its implications for the judicial system. Judges and jury members are supposed to be unbiased in their decisions (though in reality this is impossible for anyone, including journalists.)

The test, which has been taken by thousands of people around the world, has found large and pervasive biases against blacks and even stronger biases against old people. You can take the test online to see if you share them.

I'm aware of my many biases, so feel no need to take the test. I have a particular bias against judges who post nude photos of themselves on the Internet. (This is an inside Canadian joke about a judge in Manitoba who has been in the news recently for doing just this.)

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Individuation and Traditional Culture

Gretchen Heyer, a Jungian analyst who works in Houston, spoke at the IAAP Congress about her work with several men from tradtiional Middle Eastern cultures. Jung put great emphasis on each person's need to develop an individual relationship to the numinous or the Self, a process he called individuation. Traditional cultures like those of the Muslim Middle East, however, stress the need for the individual to fit into the traditional culture and traditional family structure. For immigrants to North America from these cultures, there can be great tension between the demands of their family culture and those of their new homeland.

She cited the case of a young man from a rich family who worked in the family business and was expected to marry a woman chosen for him by his family. Prior to marriage, he patronized pros-titutes. As a feminist and a Christian, the analyst found this practice objectionable, though it is common for men from certain cultures. She mentioned that a male analyst she knows asked one of his patients why the man went to prostitutes, when "I give you twice as much time for half the money." An interesting comparison.

Heyer's patient did eventually marry the woman chosen by his family, and dropped out of analysis because he claimed he needed the money to invest in a new family business. He indicated that he knew he had disappointed her, the analyst. However, given the great gap in cultural norms between his family and the background of his analyst, he was bound to end up disappointing one or the other, Heyer said.

This was one of many talks on the difficulties of doing analysis with people from very different cultures.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Jung in the former East Bloc

There's no getting away from it--C.G. Jung was a white European male of the sexist variety. What is odd is that probably a majority of his followers today and of Jungian analysts are female--certainly a majority of new analysts who were recognized at the closing ceremony of the 18th Congress of the IAAP were female and Russian.

Analysts from Germany, the UK, Canada and the United States have been responsible for bringing Jung to the countries of the former Soviet Union since the fall of Communism. In Jung's lifetime (1875 to 1961) Sabina Speilrein, his former patient and collaborator, did the same thing until psychoanalysis fell out of favour with Communist authorities in Stalin's time.

The Jungian project faces a number of challenges in the former East bloc countries, and the primary one is probably the culture of corruption that still exists in most of them. But these countries also face profound social and mental health difficulties, and any help Jungians can provide for instance to present and former residents of underfunded orphanages must be very welcome.

Gert Sauer, a German analyst who has done a lot of work in Russia, spoke at the Congress on the relationship between Jung and Russian symbolism. It was a very good talk, but I was surprised he did not mention the famous Russian artist Maxim Vrubel who has his own room in Moscow's Tetryakov Gallery where his painting "The Dream" fills the top part of several walls.

Pictured above are two of my fellow volunteers.