Friday, April 1, 2011

A to Z: Belarus

"Belarus?" I hear you say. "What does that have to do with gaming?"
Not much admittedly, but as gamers we often find historical & cultural things interesting and connections to our hobby in ways others don't.

Heck, most Americans don't seem to even know where Belarus is. I have been asked by postal clerks "where is that?" and when I was flying to Belarus last year, at the Philadelphia airport they checked my ticket which was to Frankfurt and asked if that was my final destination, I said "No, from there I go on to Minsk." She then asked "Oh, is that another city in Germany?"


And these are from professions that I would have thought would have a familiarity with geography.
So in the frame of reference with gaming, Belarus does seem an odd choice for 'B'.

I spent quite a bit of 2010 in Belarus, and had hoped to do some gaming while there.
I heard some play Warmachine & Hordes, and they sent a 40k team to the ETC this past year.

Regrettably, I didn't find or have time for any gaming, but I did bring some minis with me to build and paint and got some board gaming in.

One thing Belarus did offer a gamer like me though was inspirational eye-candy.
Which included a working T-34! There is a movie of it at the end. No fair skipping to the bottom!

Belarus is a haven for soviet era monuments and public art. I've always liked WWII and earlier Soviet iconography & symbolism. I just find it interesting and aesthetically appealing, I also like Jules Verne brass & rivet style, and early Medieval Western Europe. I often wonder why we like various aesthetics and not others... (a good topic to explore someday) but knowing why or not: we like what we like.
I also, when playing WWII wargames, always want to game either the British in North Africa or the Soviets:
My 'go-to' factions. So I was keen to spot as much soviet stuff as possible.

It wasn't hard.

The Picture above is a monument in Brect, site of the first real push into the Soviet Union by Germany in WWII.
The way the two Star cut out's converge in the center of the edifice at odd angles is truly impressive.

Nearly every town has at least one monument for WWII, as the country was overrun back and forth throughout the war.

There are also more general Soviet-era monuments to cultural ideals, which is quite a different environment for someone from a western-upbringing.
(if you don't include the fact I spent a good portion of my childhood within Disneyland).

This is the 'Lenin' metro station in Minsk. Despite what it may look like these things are not considered to be a continuance of the past, but by most, a respect for and memory of the past. A subtle & interesting difference.

I spotted this at the top of a column on the 4th floor of a shopping mall stairwell. Cool Beans.

And of course no wargamer can travel without trying to find the tanks and guns.
I know for most, the favorites are the German tanks: Panzers & Tigers.
But for me, it is a hard call for my favorite WWII tank... its between T-34s & the British Cromwell & Matilda.

At Polotsk, a site of battle with Napoleon's forces as he marched toward Moscow.
Don't worry, she'll keep that cannon silent with this time-honored technique.
Oh, Girls and their Guns...

Don't make the mistake of calling Belarusians 'Bela-Russians'. They aren't.
But that doesn't mean you shouldn't fear the bears:

Which also starts with B !

Know what else starts with B?

Here is the promised video, taken last summer during the parade celebrating the end of WWII.
A working T-34! I apologize for the shaky camera, I had to raise it above the people standing in front of me. I get a kick out of the soldiers needing to double time it up onto the sidewalk to avoid getting run over.
After the T-34 is some modern tanks, but I like the WWII tank best :)

You thought B was going to be for Blood Bowl didn't you? No.... too easy.


Paul´s Bods said...

Great set of pics...Belarus?...yep it´s a great song ;-D
Ok...they have added an "e" on the end..:-D

Anthony Emmel said...

Ah, yes, the T-34 is the bomb. I know of 2 operational in the US used by Reenactors. Well, the one in California is usually down for maintenance and the one here in Texas can't go in reverse...which is somehow appropriate!

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