By Peter Dench

The Trans-Siberian Railway from Moscow-Vladivostok, spanning a length of 9,289km, is the longest uninterrupted single country train journey in the world. It has connected Moscow with Vladivostok since 1916, and is still being expanded. It was built between 1891 and 1916 under the supervision of Russian government ministers personally appointed by Tsar Alexander III and his son, the Tsarevich Nicholas (later Tsar Nicholas II).

Last summer the world’s greatest football tournament saw thousands of fans head to Russia to watch 32 nations compete to be world champions. It was an opportunity Olympus Visionary Peter Dench could not resist and so he set out across the country on the Trans-Siberian Railway, travelling more than 5,000 miles in seven days.

On the station platform at Belogorsk, Amur Oblas, a golden statue of Lenin gestures towards the Trans Siberian.

Before the World Cup, there were dire warnings for visitors, including threats to foreign football fans as well as gay people. But Peter found the Russian football fans were on their best behaviour. ‘They were approachable and genuinely thrilled the tournament was in their country.’ He says, ‘Also, the Russian team did unexpectedly well, which galvanised the nation. That made my job very easy.’

Army recruits play cards in a third class carriage on the Trans-Siberian Railway from Moscow-Vladivostok.

Carriages were cramped, Peter’s bunk was used as a communal space for others to occupy when he wasn’t there, and there were toilets but limited washing facilities. ‘After a few days, I kind of resented people who came on smelling clean,’ he says, ‘I felt a certain triumph being the smelliest person on the train.’

A night time stop on the Trans-Siberian Railway from Moscow-Vladivostok.

Danish fans drink beer in central Moscow ahead of their match with France.

Overall, Peter says his journey on the railway was an interesting experience, but not one he’s in a rush to repeat. ‘I wouldn’t want to put anyone off doing the journey, but I would think very hard about doing it again,’ he says. ‘It’s just such a challenging place to make pictures.’

The Moscow FIFA Fan Fest located at Vorobyovy Gory (Sparrow Hills) with a venue Capacity of 25,000. The site provides a spectacular view down the hill, directly towards Luzhniki Stadium and Moscow City. The 21st FIFA World Cup football tournament took place in Russia in 2018. It was the first World Cup to be held in Eastern Europe and the eleventh time that it has been held in Europe. For the first time the tournament took place on two continents – Europe and Asia. All but two of the stadium venues were in European Russia.

His pictures from the trip have been featured extensively in print and online. So much so that the exhibition attracted attention from the Russian Embassy itself, with the Russian Ambassador to the UK, His Excellency Alexander Yakovenko attending the Private View along with many other luminaries and fellow photographers.

Russian Ambassador His Excellency Alexander Yakovenko and Peter Dench

See the feature on Russian TV