Tula: Brand New?

It has been a VERY long time since I had a chance to update this blog.  I look at some of my earlier entries and I see that Tula has changed.  It is becoming more groomed, more modern.  Many of the old wooden houses I’ve been eulogizing here will soon be gone forever – streets of new modern high-rises will take their place instead. I am not sure if “gentrification” is the correct term here but you can see improvements everywhere – old apartment buildings are being repaired throughout the city, coffee houses and restaurants are popping up on every corner, parks look well-groomed, inner yards of apartment buildings receive colorful playgrounds.

At the same time the city’s image is being re-conceptualized.  It includes two, seemingly opposite, components.  First, it continues to be built within the frames of Tula’s official symbolism: the city as the country’s “arsenal and shield”.  At the same time, Tula – and Tula region – take on a new identity, that of a place open to its guests and comfortable to its citizens, a city with modern sports facilities, major tourist attractions, a stage for various art festivals, a cultural and “cultured” center.

I will talk about this metamorphosis later but I think that one recent project in particular illustrates this new development.   It is the restoration of pedestrian underpasses.

There are several pedestrian underground tunnels in Tula. Built in the Soviet times (early 1980s) they’ve seen good and bad times.  Dilapidated and some of them closed in the 1990s they have been repaired and now continue to help pedestrians to cross the city’s busiest streets.

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They were mostly unadorned, gloomy, dimly lit at night and a nightmare for those with strollers or in wheelchairs.


They seem to be in a pretty good shape now but a representative from the mayor’s office said that a complete renovation is scheduled for the next year and that the underpasses will be equipped with elevators.

But for now, in time for Tula’s 870th anniversary, passageways have been decorated with mural … graffitis!

I was really surprised to learn that these graffiti writers were winners of an open national competition of young graffiti artists sponsored by the city.

Painted by various artists these murals allude to Tula’s role in Russia’s history.

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All of these murals feature patriotic and historic images done – however – by a modern medium of contemporary graffiti!

The painter who worked on an underpass near one of Tula State University’s buildings is Dmitri Yazykov. Here is his rendition of the Patriotic War of 1812.

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Yazykov has already painted another graffito in Tula. It is the 140 meters long and 3, 5 meters tall piece on the embankment of Upa.  It decorates the fence of Tula’s MashZavod (now Machine Works holding), one of Tula’s oldest manufacturers specializing both in defense and civil products.  I find the fact that this work has been ordered by the plant really surprising.

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(A local newspaper documented the process of graffiti completion here: http://mk.tula.ru/news/n/39051/)

What is even more important is that Tula’s new image is on the agenda of the municipal committee on urban planning and development. А Moscow consulting agency has been hired to create Tula’s brand. I don’t write “rebranding” here, since I don’t know if Tula’s “city brand” has been developed before.  It formed, of course, by itself, organically, over the centuries of city’s long history.  But now, with the help of three focus groups including city’s representatives, students and businessmen and after a series of meetings over the last four months a new concept for the Tula Region’s brand has been developed.

Some of key words used in this place branding are: “workmanship, Tula secret, ability to create the unfeasible, pride, dynasties, continuity, competition, might, school, initiative, and talent.) (https://myslo.ru/news/tula/2016-10-19-kakim-budet-brend-tulskoy-oblasti)

It is said that about 86% of place rebranding campaigns fail.(http://www.citymetric.com/business/why-do-most-city-branding-campaigns-fail)

Let’s hope that this amalgamation of Tula’s past with the future will prove to be more successful.