Russia -1

Living Day by Day in Ufa

                       06 Dec 2007




 For generations, the young and old of Ufa have shared common goals and aspirations but changes are rapidly taking place.  An ever-widening gap between the generations is occurring. As these changes come about, many are left behind.  The dichotomy between the old and the new,  …the antiquated and the modern, … is everywhere one looks.

 There are the grayish soviet style apartment blocks built in the aftermath of World War II.  These buildings … with their distinct box like utilitarian construction … are located throughout the city and are home to 75% of Ufa’s populace.  Some of these apartment complexes have a playground for the children enabling children them to escape the confines of their small apartment.  The balconies provide some measure of openness for the residents, but … most often … they are used to dry laundry and for extra storage.  Security is a continual problem.  Access to Ivan’s stairwell is often through a steel door leading to a bare concrete hall that is frequently decorated with graffiti and then through double locked doors into the individual apartments.  If he lives in a building taller than five stories, he may have an elevator. The single elevator is usually very small, slow, dirty, and unreliable.

 Heat for much of the city is provided from huge … centrally located … boilers that furnish hot water to apartment buildings. Temperature control in the individual apartments is impossible since thermostats are not available.

 The small parking lots accommodate some who have cars.  For a monthly fee, above ground, as well as underground, garages are readily available.  These steel door concrete bunkers are secure but ice build up around the door is a continual problem during the long, cold Russian winter. 

 New apartments are arising from the drab surroundings.  These are more colorful … more luxurious and … more costly. They are built wherever land is available … sometimes along busy streets …  sometimes near older apartments and … other times … overlooking the older style wood frame structures.  But they always remind the residents of the housing boom in Ufa as they head for work, shop for daily needs or just stroll along the edge of the construction zone.  This construction boom is spurred on by the “New Russians”.  These young entrepreneurs are seeking a better life style and business opportunities than that available elsewhere in Russia.  In prime locations, luxury cottages and condos are also rapidly changing the landscape. These are for the “New Russians” who are already well on their way to financial success.

 Despite the new construction, many very old one and two story wooden dwellings are also present throughout Ufa. The rotted … but ornate wood shutters  … the double pane windows … and the faded paint attest to their age. They are sometimes cold and drafty in the winter and hot in the summer.  Even with their age … and their serious need of repair … they are home for many.  Living here are those who cannot afford … or do not want  … to live elsewhere … those that remain locked in their antiquated dwellings.

 The old and the new are very much in evidence when purchasing food, clothes, or other household items.  There are street vendors and kiosks on nearly every block.  The kiosks carry a variety of small items.  Candy, soft drinks, newspapers, and even toys can be purchased at these tiny buildings. There are many rynoks or markets where one can haggle over the price of anything. These markets may be inside, outside, or a combination of both.  The huge Central Market is in two buildings containing many, many vendors selling their wares.  Here kerchiefed grandmothers called “babushkas” with thick reddish hands prepare vegetables for customers … others call out the virtues of their wares … “look at this beef,” one cries, … “look at the quality; only sixty rubles!”  … A vast array of goods is available and ready to choose from  … flowers … produce … fresh fish and meat.  Because many of the goods must be purchased fresh, a daily trip to the market is a part of life for many. Stalls are open year round … rain or shine.  Even the winter snow and cold does not deter many of the vendors or their customers

 Many … especially the younger … prefer to shop at Gostijnii Dvor The Guest’s Courtyard.  This is the modern showcase mall with its hip, trendy music, and cafes.  A variety of high tech consumer goods are also on display.  The products available mirror that found in most western department stores. The Courtyard and its chicly dressed clientele and upscale products seem oddly out of place.   They are on a twenty first century island in an early twentieth century culture.

 The entertainment tastes of the city’s residents point to another, … still greater … dichotomy in Bashkir culture. Attend a ballet or an orchestra at the relatively new Center for Performing Arts and one finds mostly a senior audience.  While … if you want to find the younger set … you must visit the clubs, bistros, and movie theatres. To the chagrin of the gray hairs …billboards advertise the attractions coming soon to the theatre on Lenin Street.  Bashkortostan is truly a land caught between the older generation … who lived the bulk of their lives under Communist rule … and generation now … between Rachmaninoff and Madonna.

 The seniors prize group and community relationships … while the younger populace is beginning to put more emphasis on the individual. The older generation looks back on a glorious Soviet past and longs for the good old days of Communism … whereas the youth look with both pity and disdain at their elders and the seventy years lost to an empty Leninist legacy.  Grandfathers and grandmothers live a dreary existence as they try to supplement their meager pension.  Often, they bitterly denounce high prices and insist that profit seekers should be arrested. Meanwhile, a lifetime of high wages … in a career of their choosing … is the dream of Ufa’s 90,000 college, institute, and university students.

 But today the average Ivan must take whatever job is available.  The pay is low … about $100 per month for the 6-day workweek.  The massive petrochemical plants in the northern region of the city offer many employment opportunities. … During World War II, these plants were moved east to Ufa to escape Hitler’s advance on Moscow.  Crude petroleum … from the many oil wells within Bashkortostan … is used for producing gasoline, diesel, fertilizer, and plastic products. 

 Thus … the people are caught in between the reality of taking whatever job is available and the dream to choose a career. … They are caught in between the antiquated and the modern … between the old and the young. … Tremendous cultural change is occurring in Bashkortostan.

 Won’t you come and help us show these people that a personal relationship with Jesus should be central to this change? … Won’t you come for at least two weeks and help us minister among …


Š      Students

Š      Industrial workers

Š      Professionals

Š      Open-air markets

Š      Home-based Bible studies


YOU are needed in Bashkortostan.  Won’t you come?


Closing scene



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