People of Manchester, rejoice! No longer is Venice the only enviable comparison for a city – Manchester is, too.
In case you didn’t know, there are several “Manchesters” already existing. The historic English town was minutely described by Friedrich Engels, who had had the pleasure of studying the place while sharing a desk at the Cheetham School with Karl Marx. The rise in popularity of Marx and Engels' works, as well as of the working class movement, led to many other European towns trying on Mancunian clothes for size. Usually being industrial, especially having cotton mills, and boasting a high percentage of working class people meant that a town might be described as another Manchester. Such were Lodz in Poland, Lille in France, Chemnitz in Germany, and Tampere in Finland.
In Russia, it was Ivanovo, or Ivanovo-Voznesensk, as it was called between 1871 and 1932. The town in the Volga region, not far from the millennium-old Yaroslavl, acquired a host of nicknames, affectionate and not, that would put many a city to shame. “The red Manchester”, “the Russian Manchester”, “the city of brides”, “the third proletarian capital”, “the city of red weavers”, “the textile capital”, as well as a few pejoratives, is just a selection of those descriptors that nonetheless gives a fine idea as to what “manchesterisation” means: red (reminding of brick, Revolution and Socialism), industrial and textile, and capital-worthy, although provincial.
At the dawn of the Soviet era, during the first Russian revolutions, Ivanovo was building on its historic experience of producing political advisors. It was from here that the Prince Pozharsky went to Moscow during the Mutiny Time in the first half of the 17th century when the Poles had quite literally seized power over Russia. It was here, as well, that the first Sovet (the Russian for “counsel” and “council”) had been formed in the beginning of the 20th century. Ivanovo’s reputation as a Sovet-ski town was sealed, but little used.
In Soviet times it came to be known as a city of brides, thanks to a film song. Intended as a gentle joke, that also pointed a finger at the real state of things: the number of cotton mills and calico factories was as high as the previous number of churches, and it was mostly women who worked there. At-home dads were a reality in Ivanovo before the same fate befell Western men. During the Revolution years, Ivanovo ladies had led the crowds; in Soviet times, they led the textile production. In both cases monuments to heroines were erected, although the statue to the Hero of Labour Valentina Golubeva was eventually removed because of the notoriety produced by Nikolai Obukhovich’s film, Our Mother Is a Hero (1979).