The featured image above is of the “Mask of Sorrow” the monument dedicated to the hundreds of thousands of Gulag prisoners between the 1930’s and 1950’s that died building the Kolyma Highway otherwise known as the infamous “Road of Bones” called the “Road of Bones” because the dead prisoners were buried under the road and are therefore effectively it’s foundations. We all visited this monument on our way to Magadan airport on route to Vladivostok. The monument was designed by the famous sculptor Ernst Neizvestny whose parents fell victim to the Stalinist purges and who lived in New York and died only two weeks ago on 16th August 2016, aged 91, he was however decorated by Vladimir Putin (a genius of a politician) Inside the statue is a replica of a Gulag prison cell. The statue was unveiled on June 12th 1996 with the help of the Russian government. The tears coming from the left eye are in the form of small masks. The right eye is in the form of a barred window. The backside portrays a weeping mother and a headless man on a cross. Below the mask of sorrow are the names of all the many Gulag prison camps of the Kolyma region.
Magadan was founded in 1930 in the Magadan River valley, during the Stalin era, Magadan was a major transit centre for prisoners being sent to Gulag concentration camps. Between 1932 and 1953 Magadan was the administrative centre of the Dalstoy organisation a vast and brutal forced labour gold mining, road building and forced labour organisation. During this period over two million Gulag prisoners died, the average life expectancy was six months. The town later served as a port for exportation of gold and other minerals mined in the Kolyma region. Over the last 37 years the population since 1989 has fallen from 151,000 to 96,000 according to the Russian state census report. Today, ship building, fishing and gold mining are the main industries in Magadan.
Today Magadan has a Russian Orthodox Cathedral, the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity that was built in 1985, this magnificent church was directly opposite our hotel and I have recorded some beautiful photographs inside and out in my blog, if it wasn’t for the Mask of Sorrow, the Cathedral would have been my featured image, my photograph shown in my blog was taken at sunrise 05:00am on 3rd September 2016. There is also a Catholic church the nativity of Jesus that is part of the diocese of Anchorage Alaska,USA which is the nearest geographical diocese.
On my first post tour day, I woke early at 05:00am so as I could complete my blog. Later that day I cleaned my bike so as it was ready for shipping back to London, walked down to the North Pacific Ocean and checked out a Fur coat and bearskin hat shop in downtown Magadan, I thought about but resisted buying the hat, a mere $150!. Unhappily I missed giving Bruce a farewell Bear hug, I got a bit confused with the official Magadan time zone which is actually 11 hours ahead of GMT, I missed Bruce by 5 minutes, according to Patricia just before Bruce left for the airport he got out of the taxi and said “where’s Ted?” not sure if that’s true or not but if it was he was probably looking for the 3000 Rubbles that I owed him!!! Bruce, thank you for your friendship, you are the most Alpha Male I have ever met, stay happy and don’t change!
In the evening we had our official London to Magadan last supper, a joyous occasion where everybody spoke about their favourite countries visited. By general consensus, Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia were equal top with Russia (mainly for the lovely people) third and the amazing architecture of Uzbekistan making it fourth. I will give you my thoughts about the tour, on my last blog in a few days time.