Here comes the BAM, now where’s the Boom!


The Trans-Siberian railroad was an enormous feat for Russia when it was built. The 5000 miles of railroad stretched across the tundra of Russia to connect one end of the largest country in the world with the other. It opened up new trading possibilities and was a way to transport goods that before were unreachable. Stalin tried to expand this railroad during his rule.

standard first ticket

The BAM or Baikal-Amur Mainline started construction under Stalin, but did not finish until 1991 with the fall of the Soviet Union. The mainline was a secondary railway that sprouts off the Trans-Siberian railroad and extends for two thousand miles. The BAM is north of the Tran-Siberian railroad. The mainline is known to be very scenic as the writer Finn-Olaf Jones attested. She is awed by the tundra of the Siberia as the train travels. She said that she “couldn’t imagine another place in the world that could be more pristine.”

inside meeting first train

The Baikal-Amur Mainline progressed well through the first years of its construction, but with the death of Stalin the amount of funding and work that was put into it dwindled. The project was not restarted until Brezhnev took power in 1974. The mainline was completed only 10 years later, though not all of the railroad was functional. The plans that Brezhnev had for the mainline were revolutionary with an electrified double track, though it was sized down to a single track due to funding. The labor and environmental costs were staggering.

The pollution that the construction of the BAM caused to the terrain of the forest and Lake Baikal were irreversible. Lake Baikal was the largest clean body of water that the world had known, until the pollution from construction waste turned the water murky. The construction of the city, Severobaikalsk, caused environmental problems. This city was mainly used to house personnel that were working on the mainline.


Earlier in the year, Putin promised to brighten the future for the railway. This month, Putin is looking to reinvesting in the BAM. The government would be investing $14.3 billion to upgrade the BAM with the hope of doubling the cargo capacity of the trains by 2020. This investment would be one of the biggest projects that Russia has seen in the past 10 years. The upgrade would cover, as the article stated “4,324 kilometers.”

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A Thaw that would not refreeze

After the death of Stalin, the Soviet Union did not know what to do. The years of repression and cleansing left the population of Russia fearful and questioning the new leadership. There was something that came out of the death of Stalin: The age of the Thaw began.


The Thaw started in 1953. With the publication of “Il’ia Ehrenburg’s THE THAW,” a new age started in the Russian population. This time period from 1953 until 1964 was known as the Khrushchev thaw. This was a time a fewer repressions and a more liberal political life (though still very strict). These were the first steps in an effort to change the Stalinist tendencies that formed during the beginning of the Soviet Union.


With the death of Stalin arose many new anti-communist movements which began during this period. The Communist Party handled these protests with just as much force as before. The destalinist movement was leading to more political liberalization than they wanted to see. The party became actively resistant to this movement though the continued tightening down of the Soviet Union.


The irony of all of this, it that the book that sparked this thaw was largely written to “honor the tenets of Stalinist culture,” according to von Geldern. Though the book did not show Soviet culture in the same magnificent light as many other publications, it was not written to degrade the benefits of soviet society. The Soviet culture flourished through the time of the thaw. There were romantic films and music made. This thaw was irreversible.


There was another ironic thing that happened during the Thaw. The political regime did not change at all. Though the partial destalinization was a step towards a better life, many did not see it. The repressions of the intelligensia continued as well as the destruction of churches. The Thaw was just a new era that the people of Russia saw which sparked hope for a life with more freedoms. Many thought that the death of Stalin would bring more change, but the Communist Party still had their hold on the Soviet Union.

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Treblemakers in a national cause

When you hear about a singing revolution, what comes to mind? A group of people making a statement or an entire nation standing up for liberty? A little country that no one heard of (and still doesn’t know about) had a peaceful revolution against the Soviet Union.


Estonia is the northern most Baltic state. Estonia declared its independence from Russia in 1918 when the Russian Revolution has crippled Russian power. The United States among many other countries recognized Estonia’s independence and guided Estonia into a democratic political system. The hope for peace and independence faded with the beginning of the Second World War. The Soviet Union took over Estonia in 1940 and from there the country was a war zone with both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union fighting for land. After the end of World War II, the Soviet Union maintained control over Estonia.


The first celebration to Estonian culture was in 1869 in Tartu (the second largest city in Estonia). The Estonian people had great nationalism and held on to that through the many occupations and wars that their country endured. The song festivals happened every five years. These festivals were a way for the people of Estonia to rejoice in their nationalism and individuality. The only time when there were no song festivals was during the Second World War. The song festivals continue in 1947, though Estonia was still occupied by the Soviet Union.

crowds at the festival

The song festivals continued to occur through Soviet occupation because the Soviet Union thought that it would be a good was to show the happiness and joy in the Soviet Union. The choir was not allowed to sing the original Estonian national anthem, but a rewritten version about the Soviet Union. The song festival was the only thing that kept Estonia nationalism alive during Soviet occupation. During the song festival of 1988, the choir sang the original Estonian national anthem. This was the beginning of the Singing Revolution. Estonia was the only country in the Soviet Union to have a peaceful revolution. In 1991, the Soviet Union recognized Estonia has a independent nation.


Today the song festival is a national event. There was a stage erected for the thousands of singers that come to preform for their country. People for all over the world come to see the spectacular performance. I was fortunate enough to study in Estonia for two months this summer and attend the song festival. There is a heart-warming feeling that you get when you hear the choir sing. I didn’t understand the language at all, but you feel like you are a part of something bigger than yourself. Being at the song festival is an awe inspiring moment. At the song festival this summer, one million people came to hear the choir sing and participate in the festivities. The population of Estonia is 1.3 million. That means that 77% of the population showed up to participate and experience the performance. It is incredible to think about.


The finale was the best part of the performance in my opinion!! Check it out
Song Festival Finale

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