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COLUMN ONE : Sad Legacy of Lenin in Leningrad : Once elegant, the cradle of socialism teems with pollution, hunger and hopelessness. But the city has exorcised Communist power and is desperate to start anew.

September 02, 1991|CAROL J. WILLIAMS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Simply putting a halt to the systematic destruction of their city would be enough to satisfy most. Tired of being subjected to the whim of experiments cooked up in Moscow, the people have revolted against illogical projects such as a massive seawall being constructed around the mouth of the Neva in the Gulf of Finland.

The 15-mile structure was envisioned as a barrier against the seasonal floods that regularly inundate Leningrad. But if completed, it would have the concurrent effect of damming about 60,000 cubic feet of untreated waste discharged into the Neva each day, turning the city threaded by canals into a giant open sewer.

"With the money spent on this project, we could have replaced the whole public transport network," complains Galya Nikolaeva, a retired power station worker. She gestures disparagingly toward a smoke-belching bus running the gauntlet of sooty buildings flanking Dzerzhinsky Street, named for the KGB founder otherwise known as "Bloody Felix."

"Look at what socialism has given us! Our city and the environment are ruined," the 50-year-old pensioner laments. She bobs her henna-tinted bun toward the street nameplate and thinks better of her denunciation.

"On the other hand, maybe this is how a street named for Dzerzhinsky should look."

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