Barentsburg: Russian Svalbard

Nice article at ArcticToday.com about a new push for tourism to replace coal mining in Barentsburg, the Russian city on Svalbard, at 78 degrees north latitude.

Here are two excerpts from Out in the Cold about visiting Svalbard for the March, 2015 total solar eclipse.

Photo from the Svalbard Gallery at EarthPhotos.com.

Helsinki

The site of the Trump/Putin summit is a compact, handsome, livable low-rise town of around 600,000. Click these photos to enlarge them.

President Putin’s hometown of St. Petersburg is a little less than 400 kilometers up the road. The high speed Allegro train connects Helsinki with St. Petersburg in three and a half hours, four times a day.

Mr. Putin must feel – almost – at home. The lay of the land, the lakes and forests, is the same in Finland as where the Russian president grew up. Here is Mr. Putin with Sauli Niinistö, the Finnish president, on a boat tour when we saw them last summer. Saimaa, the name of the ship, is also the name of the lake:

There are many more photos from lovely Finland here, at EarthPhotos.com.

Two Nice Articles about Russia

In the run-up to Russia’s World Cup, The Guardian has two nice articles this week, one about “the mother of all rivers,” the Volga, featuring the river cities of Kazan, Samara and Volgograd, the other featuring “A little parcel of land smaller than Wales wedged up against the Baltic Sea,” the Russian exclave Kaliningrad, between Poland and Lithuania.

1/3 of All Shopping Centers in Russia Shut Down

This is remarkable:

“On May 15, a demolition crew went to work on the charred wreckage of the “Winter Cherry” shopping center in Kemerovo, where 60 people (including 40 children) died in a fire on March 25. Following this tragedy, Russian fire safety officials launched unplanned inspections of shopping malls across the country. By early May, the authorities had shut down nearly a third of all the shopping centers in Russia, finding widespread noncompliance with federal fire safety standards.”

Meduza has the story.

Silly Diplomats

As Russian Foreign Ministers go, I think Sergey Lavrov is a pretty cool dude. He is charismatic, dynamic, he engages with European and American interlocutors in English, a skill his boss hasn’t mastered.

He is an effective mouthpiece for his government, a dedicated cynic and as far as faux patriotism takes you, a cool dude.

Still, I think his recent charge of “Genocide by sanctions” may be just a twinge too far. A bit of a reach.