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Larry Paradine
01-09-2008, 21:53
In the summer of 2005 I told my students in Samara that I was being temporarily transferred to the school's branch in Togliatti (Тольятти; pronounced Tol'yatti), which is a lot closer to Samara as the crow flies than as the bus moves. Their response was unanimously disapproving: Togliatti, they said, is an ugly, dirty city populated by mafiosis and drug addicts, and my fate would be limited to the choice of being murdered by mobs of demented crack and heroin addicts running amok in the city centre in broad daylight or getting caught in crossfire between warring gangsters blasting away indiscriminately with tommy guns from the windows of their reinforced limousines.

Well, I survived to tell the story, such as it is. Togliatti is unusual in lying on the opposite bank of the river to most other Volga cities, the other side having been the site of a much older town named Stavropol on the Volga (not to be confused with Stavropol in southern Russia), which was demolished in the middle of the last century to make room for yet another of the hydro electric power stations that disfigure and upset the ecological balance of Europe's greatest river in return for the doubtful benefits of a chronically unreliable electricity supply. A decade or so ago, the city's electorate voted not to change its name in favour of something less reminiscent of Soviet times (well, to be precise, voter indifference was so general that less than the stipulated minimum 20% bothered to vote), so not following the example of Samara (which was named Kuibyshev by Stalin in honour of a local thug and drunkard). To this day, the memory of the eponymous Palmiro Togliatti, long term leader of the Italian Communist Party who wangled a deal between the Soviet Politburo and the Fiat company to set up an automobile company in what was then a very small town, is held in more respect by the citizens of the Russian city named after him than are the names of those indigenous communists (Kuibyshev, Sverdlov, Voroshilov et al) which were expunged from the roll of city names after the fall of communism). Perhaps this respect is merited: one of my prize possessions (before, unfortunately, I lost it) was a snapshot of Togliatti at Stalin's funeral, grinning broadly while surrounded by less honest communist luminaries shedding crocodile tears over the demise of the man they all hated and feared. Let PalmiroTogliatti's epitaph record the fact that he brought economic benefits to the mid Volga region and caused harm to no man (well, he never had the chance, spending all his life in opposition)!

The city is trisected by forests, and this fact is acknowledged in the map, which shows it as a political union of three separate geographical units: Komsomolskaya, Old Town and New Town (and a couple of incorporated hamlets).

Komsomolskaya is the only part situated right next to the Volga, and is the area I would chose to live in (if I had no choice but to live in Togliattti) but it's far removed from the economic life of the city and sinks into apathy in winter.

Old Town (Старый Город) is a bit of a misnomer for a town that's been in existence for only half a century or more. It's actually quite a pleasant area; not much pollution, more medium size blocks of flats (the best of the "хрущевки") than skyscrapers, lots of trees (a "зелёный город"). Unfortunately the signs of decay and dilapidation are everywhere, and one gets the feeling the infrastructure has been neglected since the construction of the

New Town (Новый Город). Built specifically for Signor, sorry Comrade, Togliatti's Fiat concession Автоваз, New Town is the only place I've been to in Russia where not being a car owner gives me a sense of deprivation. Municipal transport, supplemented by fleets of marshrutni taxis, is more or less adequate by day but scarce in the evenings and pedestrians are second rate citizens who often have to walk long distances to find a safe crossing. Car drivers have the advantage of wide dual carriageways designed for fast and gridlock free travel (though the enormous increase in privately owned vehicles over the last fifteen or so years has considerably reduced these advantages). The city is laid out on the same sort of geometrical pattern as many US cities, long avenues from east to west and streets running on a north-south axis, the interlocked squares being mainly residential кварталы: high rise apartment blocks (with temperamental elevators) facing each other across courtyards with plenty of benches that were originally intended for the use of children and nursing mothers while the family breadwinners were at work but are now more often utilised by the burgeoning ranks of the unemployed (Avtovaz, like its Italian parent, has found that one robot works more efficiently and cheaply than four unskilled or two semi-skilled humans). From the top floor balconies there's a splendid vista of more tower blocks and, in the distance, the smoking chimneys and concrete sheds of Avtovaz (though perhaps the experience of having just climbed 18 flights of garbage strewn stairs sours one's appreciation of the view).

Togliatti (and especially New Town) has its upmarket side too. There are some areas that have gone through the process known in Britain as "gentrification" and these are easily recognisable by the ranks of gleaming imported cars (nobody who is anybody in Togliatti would be seen dead driving an Avtovaz product) parked in enclosed and guarded courtyards. The denizens of these exclusive areas (still often referred to as "New Russians", новые русскии, though the term no longer embraces the wealthiest class , the loathed and envied "олигархи") don't have to travel far to while away their leisure hours, the New Town has no shortage of night clubs and casinos (despite recent legislation that's supposed to confine gambling joints to specified tourist areas), and gentrification has converted such landmarks of Soviet shopping as the rundown торговый центр Русь into fashionable shopping malls where only the souvenir shops sell Russian made goods.

At the very furthest extremity of New Town is the beach, and a very nice beach it is too, not particularly inferior to Samara's and with the considerable plus of being much less crowded, probably because most locals can't be bothered with the long marshrutni journey and those holiday makers who actually choose Togliatti for their summer vacations have the use of private beaches run by the proprietors of the зона отдыха a little further down the river. Visitors wanting to explore a little further afield could take a two hour ferry journey to Усолье on the far side of the river and, standing on the landing stage, watch the comings and goings of limousines with tinted windows and police escorts at a heavily guarded sanatorium just the other side of a narrow river inlet, and speculate as to the identities of the latest eminent arrivals, then trudge into Усолье for an hour or so, just long enough to rid themselves of any romantic Tolstoyan notions they may have had about Russian village life, before the return ferry arrives to take them back to the comparative fleshpots of Togliatti.

When the time came to take leave of my Togliatti students, they did their best to dissuade me from returning to Samara, which, they said, is a преступный город, a criminal town, where drug addicts and muggers menace pedestrians while Mafia hitmen are as likely to mow down innocent bystanders as their intended targets.....

gme
14-10-2008, 16:23
Hello to everybody,
my name is carmen and i should come from spain to work in togliatti starting january. after i read the posts i am a little scared about nobody talking english (my russian is still "niet") and drug addicts and all that. i do like to take from the places the good parts.

if anyone can help me with information about togliatti, hows life there or the prices for a house rental i would really apreciate it. it seems i can`t find a rela etate agency that could help me.

thank you ery much in advance,

Regards,
Carmen

russ1
23-12-2008, 08:34
Yes...there are problems there, but like Russia itself...there are problems. GME is probably looking to cancel the trip after reading Larry's novel. It is a fine place to visit. It has it problems like anywhere. GME...enjoy your trip. Bad things happen anywhere. My daughter lives there still. You will be fine. ENJOY:)

romanso
07-01-2009, 13:21
Hi, Carmen!
My name is Roman, I live/work in Moscow, but Togliatti is my hometown and my parents still live there.
Well, Larry's description is good enough (I was even surprised), but I too agree that bad things happen everywhere. I'm not sure that TLT is somehow special in it's unfriendliness to foreigners (English language communication problem, "customs, morals and manners", etc.) as compared to other Russian cities. But there are many good people there (like everywhere, I believe), so I hope you'll find ones, and avoid meeting bad ones. )
Good possible solution is to find local English speaking people who may be interested in communicating with foreigners, for example through couchsurfing.com, Free Accommodation world wide through Hospitality Exchange - Hospitality Club (http://www.hospitalityclub.org), etc. If I live there, I'd be glad to be your guide.
Anyway, I'd be glad to help you (with information, maybe flat rental - will ask my parents or friends in TLT, etc.), don't hesitate to write me.

P.S. I'm planning to go to TLT for a weekend in january.

spykidsmom
14-02-2009, 07:54
I have friends in Togliatti. We visit it recently. It's good city. I have a lot of friends there who speak english and can help. If you need any help send me PM.

fredd
22-06-2009, 00:03
I studied at Tolyatti State University for the 07/08 academic year before transferring to a different university. During my time there I got to know the city and the people well. Hopefully the info below will be of use to those travelling to or considering travelling to Tolyatti.


THE CITY

‘TLT’ is 3 large towns in one city. The population is over 700,000. Despite this, people there regard TLT as provincial. Whilst I don't agree with this due to the sheer size of the city, it is by no means a bustling international city. There are basically no Westerners there. TLT is very Russian. I would like to give a word of warning to those who are thinking of living there: if you don’t speak Russian then you’re going to find it very lonely. If you studied Russian at school or at university and are concerned with improving your Russian then Tolyatti would be a good choice because there is no expat community and the locals don’t speak English too great. I’m half Russian and I speak the language fluently so I was able to socialize with the locals and my classmates and form some good friendships, without my Russian I would have felt desolate.

Anyway, the city was founded in the 60s. The architecture there is awful. True communist style, the Russians say it's 'a city without a face'. The streets are straight, wide and long. On their banks are rows and rows of 5-10 storey grey apartment blocks, all identical looking. This town is no beauty. Having said this, the majority of streets are tree-lined which does improve things greatly. Behind the apartment blocks are 'dvors' (communal yards which are open to all and are children’s play areas by day and drinkers' hangouts by night). If the locals have maintained them then they are a pleasant place to sit, relax and watch the world go by.

The 3 Towns

The largest 'town' is Avtozavodski District aka New Town (Novii Gorod). The enormous car factory (Avtovaz – a visit to its museum is recommended) is situated in the most north-western part of this town. Apparently 100,000 people work in the factory, an absolutely staggering figure. This, and the grid style layout of the city, has resulted in TLT being given the nickname 'The Russian Detroit'. New Town is the biggest, busiest, loudest and most unpleasant of the 3 but on the plus side it’s the most ‘happening’ of the 3. The roads are wide and very very long, there is a lot of traffic and the buildings are taller than the other 2 towns. The popular and pleasant New Town Volga embankment is situated at the southern edge of the town and is easily accessible. 80% of TLT's nightclubs are in New Town, nightclubs in TLT are OK but small.

Centralni District aka Old Town (Starii Gorod) is not quite as big as New Town. I lived and studied in this district. The streets are narrower and not as long but are just as straight. Almost every street has wide sidewalks and is lined with mature healthy trees. The focal point of this town is Central Park (Centralnii Park, more commonly known as 'Gorsad'). Whilst this has nothing on Manhattan's version, it is nevertheless half decent. It's clean (something that can't be said about the rest of the city), there are a few monuments and statues, an ancient amusement park complete with a trashy rollercoaster, and plenty of hideaways where you can go water the trees.

Near Gorsad is Karl Marx Street which is as close as you're going to get to a Nevski Prospect or The Arbat. It doesn't, even in the slightest, come close to either of them. This is something that TLT really lacks; a highly pedestrianized pretty street packed with cafes and bars, street artists, interesting shops- a street that has that touristy vibe about it. The so called 'centre' of TLT is surprisingly and disappointingly lifeless for a city of over 700,000. If you're walking around, it just feels like something is 'missing' (prob. money) and it's just a little dull. Tolyatti doesn't have any charm about it to make up for this. Thankfully the people are on the whole the direct opposite; attractive, gracious, social, friendly and welcoming.

There are a few factories dotted around the place in Old Town. There is an ice rink, numerous mini-supermarkets, sun bed places, gyms, clothes shops, the occasional market; pretty much the same as you’ll find in New Town minus the choice in nightclubs. There are also quite a few bars near Gorsad (the most popular is called Pivnice and is situated on the north end of Gorsad, on Gagarin Street) but they were empty in summer. If you want to have a couple of beers in the summer; head to Gorsad, the central square, your local 'dvor' or better still go to a friend’s dacha for the weekend.

The 3rd and noticeably smallest town is Komsomolskaya. I didn’t spent much time there so my knowledge is limited. The Volga embankment there is OK. There is no beach but it's cleanish (clean by Russian standards) and there are a few outdoor bars. There is a port, you can take a short river cruise in summer. The view across the river is good and you can see the hydroelectric dam which looks cool.

Portposolic - is a place where people come to relax by the Volga and sunbathe. It's the location of the Tatishev statue; one of TLT’s few sights. Nearby is Italian beach which is nice enough I guess but I preferred the New Town embankment. The views are great from both places. Most weekends in summer they hold open air parties on the beach which blast music out until 7am. These are a lot of fun. Tickets cost around 100 to 200 r.


TRANSPORT

You can fly to Kurumoch International Airport which is situated between Tolyatti and Samara. There is a bus you can catch - No. 326. It leaves every hour or so from 08.30 to 22.30 and goes to both New and Old Town. The bus ride takes 90 minutes. A taxi from the airport would cost anything from 800 to 1500 roubles depending on the time of day and your bargaining skills.

Tolyatti is easily accessible from Samara. Busses leave every 30 minutes from Samara's main bus station. Tickets cost 130 r. but the bus is often full so be prepared to stand if you catch the final bus of the day which departs at 20.30. A taxi will cost 750+ roubles.

Travelling by train to TLT from Moscow and St Petersburg is not overly complicated. There is 1 direct train from Moscow every day. It departs in the early afternoon and arrives in TLT the following morning. If you're coming from St Petersburg then you'll have to change at Moscow. The train leaves from St Petersburg’s Moskovskii station (on Nevskii) in the evening; you arrive in Moscow the following morning and then you have to hang around in the station for a few hours waiting for the afternoon train to TLT.

Tolyatti has no metro, tram or inner city light railway. The most popular method is by the infamous marshrutka. Buses are common but not as numerous. Marshrutkas are yellow minibuses and are a pretty hellish experience (due to a combination of TLT's pot holed roads, the minibuses' hard suspention and blistering temperatures) but nevertheless they're vital if you don't own a car. They cost 10/13 r. for an inner district journey and 18 r. if you travel between ‘towns’. If you understand Russian you'll be able to cope OK but if you don't then you're going to find it hard when trying to figure out where each one goes let alone knowing when to actually get off. Once you've completed a particular journey a couple of times in a certain marshrutka then it becomes a doddle. The main destinations of a marshrutka are written on the side of the minibus. You can also buy a map with all the marshrutka info. If you want to travel to Gorsad, the main bus stop there is called 'сosmos / космос'.

If you stay in Tolyatti for any length of time, you're going to want to travel between towns. New and Old town are connected by an inner city highway to the northern end of both towns. The traffic gets pretty bad during rush hour, especially in winter. Travelling from central new town to central old town can take anything from 25 to 45 minutes depending on the marshrutka's route and the traffic.

Unlike St Petersburg and other Russian cities, Tolyatti doesn't have a 'gypsy cab' or unlicensed taxi culture. Taxis aren't hard to find. You can also book one fairly simply. Remember to agree the price before you travel. During the day, 'In town' rides cost 50 to 60 r and 'between town' rides cost 120 to 150 r. The prices goes up in the early hours but are never extortionate.

SHOPPING

On the inner city highway between Old and New Town is Park House; a large modern mall with fashionable shops, bowling, a cinema, canteen food places and a big supermarket. If you want to go shopping then this is the place.

Word count – 1525

staceybowles
22-07-2009, 12:25
Isn't the great Russian Gymnast Alexei Nemov from Toliyatti? If this is true, it can't be ALL bad :)

galle
29-07-2009, 11:18
im currently working in tolyatti, probably doing the OP's old job. the town isnt at all that bad!!! i quite like the place really and im becoming more and more fond of the town :punk:

Fantastika
19-09-2009, 07:05
Hey Larry, I haven't visited expat.ru in quite a while, saw your name...

Did you get my messages about the DC demonstration? We had 2,000,000 there, not the 70,000 the Benito Obama media claims.

About Novi Gorod, I'm still wondering if Kristina was playing the city Chamber of Commerce promoter when she said about the office on Zherzhenski St., that it was a different Zherzhenski, not the founder of the KGB.

Also in Novi Gorod is Doctor Ivanov, the best dentist I ever had, US or Russia.

My fav pic from the protest:

http://www.fairbrothers.com/104.JPG

Fantastika
19-09-2009, 07:14
I also noticed that the people in Samara refer to Togliatti as "Mafia City", and the people in Togliatti say that Samara is "Mafia City." After a while, I started agreeing with them (depending on which city I was in).

Kole
23-04-2010, 02:18
Hi Larry

My name is Zoran Lukac. I am an expat from Australia in Togliatti (for another 2 years). I wanted to start some sort of expat forum (physical not only virtual) in Togliatti since there is nothing at the moment. I was hoping I could start by talking to you since it seems you are a rare person who knows your way around Togliatti and is willing to share it.

Many thanks
Zoran

torrentstorm
24-05-2010, 18:36
When the time came to take leave of my Togliatti students, they did their best to dissuade me from returning to Samara, which, they said, is a преступный город, a criminal town, where drug addicts and muggers menace pedestrians while Mafia hitmen are as likely to mow down innocent bystanders as their intended targets.....[/QUOTE]

I worked in Togliatti for a few months in 2006. It was not a happy time, and yes, I found the place to be much more restrictive in many ways as compared to Petrozavodsk and other cities I worked in.

I was told that Togliatti is still considered a 'restricted' area due to the presence of Avtovaz, and also, the Air Base. In general, people were not as kind and helpful as I saw in other areas, certainly not warm at all. I had unsolicited and frequent problems from the moment I arrived at the airport. My visa was constantly and routinely questioned despite being valid. I managed to get by thanks to the help of a few lady friends I made, some of them fellow teaching colleagues, but boy, let me just say that when I left, I felt I was leaving old 'stalinist' Russia for real, and the flight back to Moscow on board those old Tupolev planes Aeroflot still uses did nothing to alleviate the stress and tension.

Togliatti still brings a bitter-sweet taste (mostly bitter) even as I write and remember.