July 01, 2013

Of Crocodiles and Tchaikovsky

Of Crocodiles and Tchaikovsky

The people living in my hometown — Izhevsk — have a love-hate relationship with the place. Many locals pejoratively call this large, industrial center “a big village,” and most dream of leaving it. When I left for the US, it felt like an attempt to escape a quagmire. Yet, looking back, I have to say that Izhevsk is no different than many cities of its size, whether in Russia or the US. And, with a touch of nostalgia, I have to admit that Izhevsk has its own hidden charm.

Izhevsk, population 650,000, is the capital of Udmurtia, a small province on the outskirts of the Ural Mountains. To be exact, it is the Republic of Udmurts, an ethnic group related to Finns.

The city is best known as part of the military industrial complex, with enterprises such as “Izhmash” (Izhevsk Machinery Plant) and Izhevsky Mekhanichesky Zavod (Izhevsk Mechanical Plant). When people ask me where I was born, I always drop two names — AK-47 and Tchaikovsky. It is paradoxical that one city can be associated with a killing machine and beautiful music. Yet, Izhevsk is the birthplace of both the rifle and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, creator of The Nutcracker.

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