Moscow River, Moscow, Russia


Artist Alexandra Semenova and photos by Mel Theobald.

In 2006 Gennady Troshkov, a painter/sculptor in Moscow, suggested the idea of using a continuous string of pillowcases to act like floating balloons in the Moscow River. Without the aid of an inner lining, he wondered whether they would retain a 3-D shape or sink. Alexandra (Sasha) Semenova, a recent art school graduate, decided to give it a try. On a typically overcast day, Mel Theobald located an ideal cite on the Moscow River directly across from the Kremlin. In this place they were able to descend the embankment and begin their new addition to the World Rivers Project. The broad expanse of the river is trafficked by a heavy flow of sightseeing boats, barges, and other assorted ships.

First a single pillowcase was tied to a hemp chord and thrown into the water like a fish line. Then Sasha began cutting holes at the corners of the remaining cases and stringing them together. Almost kite-like, this string of fabric was flung into the water. After several tries in which the cases simply absorbed the water and began slowly submerging, Mel held open their slit sides forming a pocket of air which allowed them to float. Unfortunately, there was not enough current to carry them away from the landing. Still, there was some success in the playfulness of these dancing fabrics against the yellowing transparency of the almost black water.

As Sasha finished wringing the water from the pillowcases, a quiet wake approached our space as a result of two large ships passing in tandem. Without warning the wave slammed the embankment wall, rebounding onto Sasha and washing away the pillowcases. Four were retrieved, but one disappeared and sank into the depths of the river. Having completed our task we gathered our white treasures and walked for several kilometers in an effort to dry Sasha’s clothing while contemplating the fate of the one that got away.

In Moscow the river is a rolling series of snaking curves which dictate the irregular pattern of streets and bridges. Along its banks are stone walls which control erosion and flooding within the metropolitan areas. Except at Gorky Park the urban Moscow River is relatively inaccessible and is used as a commercial pipeline. The river is 312 miles long with 5 tributaries feeding into the Oka and Volga Rivers. In 1937 the Moscow Canal was built to connect the river to the Upper Volga, allowing for dams and commercial shipping. Within the City of Moscow the river has 49 bridges and provides drinking water.

Volga River, Shestakovo, Russia


Artists Gennady Troshkov, Marina Maslova, Andrei Andreshnikov with photography by Mel Theobald and Robert Weitz.

One of several small villages which once lined the perimeter of the Uglichskoya Sea, Shestakovo was a way-station with a tavern on the road to the cabled barge connecting it to Kalyazin, an ancient Orthodox monestery on the opposite bank of the Volga River. In 1939, Stalin presided over the opening of a Uglichski Power Station and Lock which broadened the sea by raising its water level and creating the Uglich Reservoir. This forced the residents of Shestakovo to raze their homes and relocate them on higher ground. With the opening of the dam, the massive flow of the Volga River provided the region with one of Russia’s earliest hydroelectric turbo generators
Today, the remnants of several dozen 200 year old log construction homes have been abandoned by their ancestral families and are gradually being renovated as “dachas” and second homes by Moscow artists. Located about 200 kilometers (125 miles) north of Moscow, the Volga is a vast open waterway with barges, freighters and tourist liners breaking the otherwise tranquil landscape.
The Volga is the longest river in Europe, 2,293 miles in length, it has over 200 tributaries comprised of 151,000 rivers and streams. Originating in the Valday Hills region northwest of Moscow, the Volga empties into the Caspian Sea.


Kashinka River, Kashin, Russia


Artist Gennady Troshkov with photography by Mel Theobald and Robert Weitz.

Kashin, located about 180 kilometers north of Moscow, is one of the oldest cities in Russia. Never has the word “heart of the city” had

more meaning because the center of Kashin is uniquely heart-shaped as a result of the oxbow formed by the Kashinka River which defines its contour. The river is a visual wonder because of its vegetative density of grasses, reeds, algae, lillypads and sloping embankments. The length of the Kashinka is 128 Kilometers feeding into the Volga River near the Uglich Reservoir.  In 1319 this principality of the Rostov family was traded to the principality of Tver. Kashin was gifted to various family members and traded numerous times until 1591when Tsar Feodor Ivanovich appointed a governor from the Moscow State to control it.  One popular legend suggests that Kashin was prohibited from engaging in warfare by a woman on the Rostov family who was one of the first Russian women to be sainted. Whether true or not, there is a serenity to this town which is intricately embraced by the winding flow of this gentle and beautiful river.


World Rivers Note: On August 17, 2006, using a locally produced remnant of lace purchased in the Kashin market, Gennady Troshkov walked across a bridge and down the embankment of the Kashinka River to a favorite fishing spot. On a small patch of gravel he was enveloped by the vegetation and luscious green landscape. Voluptuous white clouds filling the sky were reflected in the mirror surfaced water. In a great unification, Troshkov, a graceful and gentile artist, began a series of movements in which the fabric was integrated with the water and the landscape. In the distance the dome of an Orthodox church was inverted on the opposite shoreline. It was a perfect day in a perfect place.