00:03:11 In the above frames Ben Kingsley, playing the corrupt narcotics cop, lights himself a Belomorkanal. Perhaps being a corrupt narcotics cop does not pay so well or perhaps he is using it as a cover.
The Belomorkanal Papirossi was supplied in a printed cardboard box made from the kind of cardboard used in lavatory paper rolls in the West. The smoker removed a cigarette from the box and began his enjoyment with an extensive tap of the cigarette to compact the tobacco in the end of the cigarette and remove any loose tobacco from the tube, to prevent it falling into his mouth. After the tapping ceremony, he would crush the end of the cardboard tube flat, as if placed between his teeth. Between the now flat end of the tube, and the tobacco at the business end of the cigarette was the uncrushed section of cardboard tube. This he crushes in a vertical direction giving the cigarette a distinctive profile. The tube is crushed in two directions to prevent any loosened tobacco from entering the mouth of the smoker while the cigarette is being smoked. With the ceremony of the crushing of the cardboard tube complete, the smoker is ready to light the cigarette.
Belomorkanal Papirosi packet and contents,
showing correct squeezing of cardboard tube prior to smoking.
The tobacco in Belomorkanal Papirosi tastes exceedingly coarse to a palate used to consuming the selected and refined tobacco included in Western cigarettes. Even to those who still smoke unfiltered cigarettes such as Senior Service and Capstan Full Strength.
You can see a Belomorkanal Papirosi being smoked properly by one of the characters in the motion picture Gorky Park (1983) . Behind the Iron Curtain, failure to complete the pre-light-up ceremonies correctly would mark you out as a spy. In the West, the presence of the remains of Belomorkanal cigarettes meant that something was a-foot. Soviet intelligence agents never had expense accounts (cash - 'unvouchered funds') with which to entertain prospective informants and even the East Germans considered them cheap. Unless the individuals in Soviet intelligence were some way up the Party ladder then working men's habits and tastes such as the Belomorkanal Papirosi would be their lot.
Belomorkanal Papirosi are still in production, but becoming rare in metropolitan centers. If you ask at every tobacconist you see, you will find them. I bought my last box of them at a little tobacconist in the Lubyanka Metro stop. I wonder which other important names also bought their cigarettes there over the years ?
In 1992 with Western companies rushing into the CIS to buy up cheap capital, the American tobacco company R.J. Reynolds purchased a controlling interest in Uritsky Tobacco Factory in Leningrad, manufacturers of the Belomorkanal Papirosi. The joint venture was called the RJR-Petro Tobacco Factory.
Post R.J. Reynolds takeover Belomorkanal Papirosi packets were unchanged except for a barcode added to them. This reduces their aesthetic value and diminishes their utility as a Movie-Prop. The actual Papirosi were the same, however. Vintage, pre-R.J.Reynolds, Belomorkanal are now very hard to find and perhaps only traded by collectors.
Post R.J. Reynolds Belomorkanal Papirosi packet, showing the barcode.
The capitalists ruin everything they touch.
Above are the reverse of packets of Belomorkanal Papirosi. Each packet bears the name of the town of the factory where it was manufactured.
From left to right.
1) Batumi in Georgia. Poor quality production.
2) Pogar, somewhere in Russia. Poor quality production.
3) Krasnodar City in Russia. Medium quality.
4) Odessa in Ukraine. Medium quality
Best quality production was Uritsky Tobacco Factory in Leningrad, which was purchased by R.J.Reynolds.
Using the term »Quality« with Papirosi is like using the term »Speed« with snails in that it is all relative. Some Papirosi were better quality than others in the same way that some snails are faster than others.
The year of manufacture of a packet of Belomorkanal is not possible to tell, as the printing on the packet was always the same.
Two different styles of image on the obverse of the packet. The left hand image has the territory of the CCCP colored in red, and no hyphen in the name Belomorkanal.
In the above photograph, detail of a post R.J.Reynolds production packet of Belomorkanal.
In the above Photograph, the top Belomorkanal is pinched correctly, the lowermost, incorrectly.
The Transsiberian crosses northern China en route to Russia.
The Transsiberian enters Russia and the endless forests begin. The railway system of Russia was built before the world adopted 1435mm (four feet eight and a half inches) as standard gauge and by accident 1520mm (four feet eleven inches and five-sixth) was chosen. China's railway system was built later and used the 1435mm gauge. For the Soviet Union this unfortunate choice was to pay dividends during the Second World War. German locomotives and rolling stock would not run across the wider gauge into the Soviet Union and the rapid advance of the Heer could not be supplied by rail. German engineers had to re-lay the outside rail into the 1435mm gauge. This they developed into such an art-form that rail re-laying would sometimes accelerate so fast that they engineers were within earshot of the Soviet guns. Much of the Soviet Union had little water and the long distance between the water stops and the destruction of the water towers by retreating Soviet armies meant that the German locomotives did not carry enough water for their entire journey. To circumvent this German locomotive builders fitted condensing tenders to the Kriegslok locomotives, which received all the exhaust steam from the cylinders into radiators, where it was condensed and recirculated. The locomotives could now go 1000km without re-filling with water. An added advantage was found when the locomotives were operated in the west: The locomotives emitted no tell-tale white plume which attracted the attention of the Allied Jabos , whose young pilots much enjoyed strafing locomotives because of the huge explosion of steam which towered skywards as their bullets and shells penetrated the boiler. Trains could only run in darkness prior to use of condensing tenders.
Standard gauge 1435mm extends out of Europe through Turkey across Iran to Zahedan on the border with Baluchistan but no further. The next rails after that are Indian broadguage 1676mm (five feet six inches) which reach as far as Quetta in modern Pakistan. China's standard gauge rail network reaches a long way East but only adjoins the Soviet 1520mm network towards its north-west. Rail-less Afghanistan would need to have a standard gauge rail link built across it to connect China with Iran and thus the continent of Eurasia's standard gauge rail network would be complete. The journey across Turkey is so long and mountainous that any standard gauge rail link would probably leave north-west China and head across Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan or Kazakhstan and swing north above the Caspian, thence across the Ukraine to Romania. This would be long fast and straight, compared to the three day crossing of mountainous Turkey.
Should Germany have beaten the Soviet Union in the Second World War then not only would the standard gauge network have reached China and the Pacific but the German government had plans to construct a giant three meter gauge network to spread across Europe and Russia and service what would have been a huge economy with a large consumption of raw materials. The blueprints progressed no further than the design of locomotives.
Even this effort was dwarfed by the Soviet Union's propaganda offensive termed »Peaceful use of the Atom« .aimed at promoting the image Soviet Union as non-aggressive. One of the drawings showed a four and half meter gauge railway transited by locomotives powered by atomic reactors of a similar design to nuclear submarines. An artist's impression is hardly a planning exersize, but the idea was there.
In order to transfer the Transsiberian from China's 1435mm rail network to the Soviet Union's 1520mm the rolling stock is raised on jacks and its standard gauge bogies are replaced with Soviet gauge.
The Transsiberian is now hauled by a Soviet TEP70 locomotive.
The TEP70 was based on a prototype English locomotive which had not been accepted into service and was purchased by the Soviet Union in order to analyze the design. The Soviet Union had a history of increasing the pace of its industrial development by copying or using large elements of successful designs. Much of their early aircraft fittings were based on Luftwaffe or USAAF equipment. Their first bomber was a copy of the USAAF B-29 . The TEP70 was a powerful, successful and widely used locomotive, one of several in the Soviet inventory. You can see a TEP70 in the first ten minutes of The Peacemaker (1997)
The delicious end-of-empire dilapidation of the Soviet Union
On the left is a German Kriegslok Class 52 .
The Kriegsloks were captured in large numbers at the end of the war by the Soviet Army and converted to Soviet gauge 1520mm. Many served until the end of the Soviet Union. Others were kept in a strategic reserve of 1435mm gauge locomotives in the Baltic zone for use should the Soviet Union invade western Europa. This particular Class 52 burns oil. It has been fitted with the cylindrical oil tank above the semi-circular water tank on the tender.
Sergio Leone used to recruit Gipsys from the local population in Almeria for use as extras in his Spaghetti Westerns in in order to populate the frame with powerfully drawn faces. Gold teeth were a popular among the criminal classes of the Soviet Union, even if their teeth were healthy. During the Second World War pulling gold teeth from corpses was popular pastime among infantry of all types.
Here, two cops light up modern filtered cigarettes by some decadent bourgeoisie Western manufacturer. Comrade Generalissimo Stalin would turn in his grave.
Pornographic magazines and western cigarettes were useful bribery currency during the ten years after Communism.
Soviet TEP70 locomotive control stand.
Soviet locomotive cabs differ in layout to Western locomotive cabs but any one familiar with one would be able to operate the other. Otto Skorzeny's wartime commando unit Amt-XI-S received training in the use of all manner of equipment, including the operation of locomotives. First step is to turn the brakes off on both the train and the locomotive. The two levers are usually close to each other, the locomotive brakes the smaller of the two levers, and have a pressure gauge or two on or near them.
The engine in the locomotive will, likely, already be running, especially in winter. Frequently, the locomotive engines are left running around the clock to because if they were shut down they would have to have their cooling system filled with ethylene glycol antifreeze instead of distilled water. Purchasing ethylene glycol in quantities sufficient to fill diesel engines this large is very expensive. Cheaper to leave them consuming diesel and avoid a slow and difficult cold start and a long warm up. In winter temperatures in the Soviet Union are so low that the lubricating oil will freeze in the engine. This means that the engine will destroy itself if it is started because there is no lubricant being pumped to the main bearings and the cylinders. In mining and extraction work, wood fires have to be lit underneath the engines at dawn in order to thaw them. Trucks on the road will drain their lubricating oil while it is still hot and hold it in a large pan. In the morning the pan is heated over a fire until hot then poured into the engine which is started immediately.
Some Swedish vehicles had external fittings which allowed hot water from the central heating system of a building to be circulated within the engine compartment overnight, to avoid frozen coolant and frozen lubricating oil. Furthermore, the lead-acid batteries give out a charge proportional to temperature, which means that they are least able to start a cold engine when most needed. Compressed air starter motors, fitted to large mining trucks, circumvent this problem, especially as compressed air can be fed from external compressors.
Overnight temperatures are so low in Siberia that the sap in the trees will sometimes freeze, causing the tree to crack open with a sound like a small explosion. This is a very eerie sound to hear in the quiet of the Siberian night where the last humans to pass there were from the abandoned GULAGs which dot the banks of the river systems. Siberia, with its impassible forests and frozen or swollen rivers, is probably the most remote region on Earth. Even Antarctica is easier to reach and traverse.
The control stand of a TEP70. The two red levers on the right are the brakes, one for the locomtive, one for the train.
The Soviet track width is only slightly larger than standard gauge, but the Soviet loading gauge, the size of the hoop through which the locomotive and carriages must fit, is the largest in the world. This makes the locomotives look like the size of a barn.
In this photograph taken with a long lens you can easily gain a feel for the Soviet loading gauge.
01:38:50 Ben Kingsley shares a Belomorkanal with one of the soldiers. Note the vertical squeeze on the tube.
The 500 Euro banknote. Other useful banknotes are the 1000 Swiss Franc.
Map of the Trans-Siberian rail routes. Careful investigation is called for when defining exact routes. I suggest you refer to the Worldwide Express website
+ SEE ALSO
Other motion pictures set or filmed in Russia are:
+ Gorky Park (1983)
+ Enemy at the Gates (2001)
+ Transsiberian at the Internet Movie Car Database
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