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Tea in the village

Is there a chance of survival for small taiga villages, whose whole life was previously tied to logging? Family circumstances forced the EastRussia correspondent to make a short trip, by the standards of the Far East, not at all distant - 550 km one way from Khabarovsk. But as is often the case here, simple things acquire special value, and a ten-hour trip requires fees, like on an expedition.

So, there is wire, "cold welding" - there is, there is an ax, two shovels - on a short handle and on a long one, matches ... there are also matches - both ordinary in a waterproof package, and hunting, plus gas cylinders with piezo ignition, but just in case alcohol tablets should also be put in the backpack. So, what else ... a knife on the belt (when the knife is not nearby, this is a useless piece of iron, you know?), Mega boots for winter running hunting, in which it is inconvenient to steer, but which will save you if you have to march through the taiga or through frozen Cupid - just put them in the salon. Two thermos with tea / coffee - that's understandable ... a twenty-liter canister with gasoline is already in the trunk. Damn, take a second spare tire, or not? It seems that the rubber SUV and the second season of everything goes, and there is no more rock along the road, and the snow, even a little, but fell ... No, I will not take it. There are also gifts-transfers for the entire trunk. Plus two children of ten or eleven years old, and the eldest son is already under 30. Where am I / are we going? It's not far here, in general - to Kiselevka. The village is in the Ulchsky district of the Khabarovsk Territory. The only problem is that neither Yandex nor Google maps can lay a road route there. There is no road - that's what their big data, satellite data and other "IT high-tech" think. But we will go, and most likely we will. Well, because Cupid froze there for a long time and there was not much snow. What is it not clear?

Tea in the village
Photo: Gennady Zbarsky

Google maps are honestly admitted - there is no way there!

No, I do not consider myself a lover of the taiga winter beauty and off-road romance, and the car is an SUV, but the parents of my late wife, who have been living in Kiselevka for almost 40 years, have a broken laptop. And although the Internet does not know about the way there, in the village they have long been accustomed to it - to the Internet. For my father-in-law and mother-in-law, of course, he is not "like air", but it is no longer possible to imagine a day without this connection with the outside world. Firstly, daily calls to my granddaughters via Skype, and secondly, with other relatives, and of course Odnoklassniki! And also ordering all kinds of necessities in online stores. And then the laptop flew. Moreover, according to the classic scheme in this village - one of the rotten power line poles fell, and the wires on them without insulation, in general, flashed and the light went out. And for many of the Kiselevites, various equipment went out forever. And then New Year's holidays, how can you not go ?! Yes, and show the grandchildren. Moreover, one already arrived from Nizhny Novgorod. Why are there such difficulties with the training camp? And it is located because Kiselevka is on the “wrong” bank of the Amur. And you really can't get to it by car on the ground - until there is a crossing over the frozen river (in summer it is possible to cross the Amur at a high price on the ferry). And in winter, the ice crossing along with the approach to it is the most difficult section of the road, and just here you can really regret that there is no ax, shovel, matches and everything else. Now let's go!

The rise is not very early: driving in the winter morning twilight is just in vain to get tired. Our main task is to skip the easiest part of the path so that we can overcome 13 kilometers before dark along the frozen mari and cross the Amur itself - this is another seven kilometers along the coast, and, in fact, across the river. The easy part is the asphalted section of the Khabarovsk - Komsomolsk-on-Amur highway - 340 km before the turn to the so-called “Nikolaev” highway Selikhino - Nikolaevsk-on-Amur. As once (a couple of years ago) the head of the local "Kraydor" -enterprise explained to me, this road does not exist at all. Well, it seems to be there, but not quite. Because it was born once spontaneously - from scattered forest trails, which gradually merged and stretched along the Amur for a proud almost 600 km. Here, along this once logging, but now even at times equipped primer, which in places turns into a rock, we need to drive another 160-170 kilometers, and, before reaching quite a bit to the village of Tsimmermanovka, we decisively turn off from it and see above - overcome the mar and cross the Amur. What is Mary? This is such a bog relief, on which there are hummocks, and forests, and glades, such a ... solid off-road.

 Almost a route. Here you can see that Kiselevka and Komsomolsk-on-Amur are on the same bank of the Amur, but there is no road between them.

And now - let's go! So far, there are only two grandchildren on board - my son and my Nizhny Novgorod nephew, in Yagodnoye (this is a village already on the stretch of the dirt road between Selikhino and Zimmermanovka) we will take another granddaughter on board. The first kilometers of the Komsomol highway on the section from Knyaze-Volkonsky and almost to Mayak are usually called a serpentine - the road winds around the hills. This, of course, is not a mountain serpentine, but you should not yawn too wide. Then, up to Selikhino, the coverage may not be the best, but 110 can be walked completely without fear, and whoever likes it can drive under 140. There is not much to tell here, only the "near-Easterners" should be warned that cellular communication on local routes is not a matter of course at all. Here and VHF radio stations make a handle already at a distance of 70 kilometers from Khabarovsk. And the mobile catches the signal on the heights. And that is not always the case. There are fewer and fewer completely “blind” zones every year, but the law of meanness is like that, if something suddenly happens, it will happen where there is no cellular connection. However, the route is actively traveled, our people are sympathetic, so there are no fears yet. But when you turn onto the "Nikolaev" highway ... the first thing to do is to refuel. The nearest settlement where there was once a gas station - just the same Yagodny - is 100 km away. And, again, there was a gas station. Not now. But there are people there, you can try to buy fuel from a canister. If you get there. The next place where you can refuel is Zimmermanovka, 200 km to it, but we will turn off earlier, and what an emergency stop in the taiga in winter is fraught with, when it’s outside -25 in the afternoon, I think, no need to explain to anyone. So, we refueled on the “Komsomolskaya” highway, turned onto “Nikolaevskaya” and after 30 km we said goodbye to cellular communications. Now it will not be at all until Yagodnoye. But this does not bring discomfort - this is usually the case, and again - people drive along the road, albeit not as actively as on the "Komsomol" - if something happens, they will definitely help. There is already more attention to the road itself, or rather to the bumps of which it consists. The truth is I will not dissemble at all - they are following her. At least, graders walk on this section from time to time, but no, no, but you will run into a cobblestone sticking out of the ground. Therefore, you do not take your eyes off the road, you begin to look "into the distance" less often. Another local subtlety is not to accelerate when the road goes downhill - but here it is constantly: up a hill, down a hill, up - down, up - down ... So - below, as a rule, there is a bridge - there are a bunch of streams and rivulets they made their way between the hills, and the bridges across them are a separate song. With rare exceptions, they are wooden. And not new. And timber trucks and other heavyweights go here as well. Continue? I will continue - the inevitable pothole before the flooring, it simply is always there. And if you drive into it with all the foolishness, then with a "successful" scenario, you won't go further. But whether or not there is a gap in the pavement coverage is already a lottery. This is how lucky. So they passed the pothole on tiptoe, tiptoe across the bridge. And then up and down and so on. Sometimes the road is more even, but the basic rhythm is like this. And after an hour and a half - welcome, civilization! Village Yagodny!

In some places the primer is no worse than asphalt.
What can I say for Yagodny? This is, in fact, civilization by local standards. Although there is not a regional center, but a regional hospital, there are not many people - under 2 thousand, but here is the headquarters of a large timber industry. Central heating not only in the school and hospital, but also in some two- and three-story buildings. There is work - mainly in the taiga, many have contracted for rotational trips, construction is not far off for the needs of the GOK, again only 100 km to the highway, and there - if there is another 60 kilometers to the right, then Komsomolsk-on-Amur! But bears roam the streets here, yes. And where, tell me, are they not hanging around here ?! No, well, not every day, not every ... But before! Before something !!! There was a railway and a station here. The forest was transported from here - just to Selikhino, passenger mini-trains of people were delivered. But there is no more, and the rails were removed and sold. True, as the rumor passed that a bridge to Sakhalin might be built, so here many skipped a beat. Because in this case the railway will be built. Again. Just through Yagodny. True, it is customary to talk about it here with a tinge of disdain - they say, yes, no one will build any bridge to Sakhalin, bullshit is all, but in the eyes of longing and hope at the same time.

But now the gifts have been handed over, the coffee has been drunk, at 14-00, it is already necessary to hurry up - it gets dark early. The section from Yagodnoye to Zimmermanovka is also, in general, not bad. Uhabist - yes, and bridges again, but whoever remembers the old road - it goes to the right and across the pass - does not complain. Here you rush, count like on a highway, and 80, in some places you can and faster - if you are not afraid to fly into a hole, and then you would crawl along a rock, and it is not a fact that you would not have torn the tires into the trash. By the way, there are still such areas from Zimmermanovka to De-Kastri, but now we don't need to go there. So we drove to ourselves almost with a breeze, though we stopped often - our new passenger - Vika was rocking, and every now and then we were slowed down to "breathe". After about an hour I began to peer anxiously at the left side of the road. There must be a congress somewhere. If someone thought that it would be fair to expect a direction indicator - they say, here to the "Kiselevka" - he was mistaken. 

Think there is no turn? And he is!

Turn to Kiselevka between the 156th and 157th km of the Selikhino - Nikolaevsk-on-Amur highway! 

Instead of a road sign, a stick usually sticks out, and on it a boot. Or a tattered sweatshirt. This time there was a canister. Yes, the locals know where to move out without a canister on a stick, but I was there the year before last, and forgot, but now, nothing happened. Although nothing has been done yet, but only now is the time to worry. Because there may be no movement here for a day. Well, no one needs to go anywhere. And you have already gone deeper and got stuck, tore out the suspension, punctured both wheels, broke the timing belt, or simply stalled and you won’t start (underline the necessary), and you’re with children, but not a cellular connection. Sooner or later, of course, you can get somewhere on foot (and, by the way, it was necessary to go just in this area in a blizzard through the Amur), but I would not like, I would not want to. Now about the road. Wow, I regret that I did not shoot a video or capture it in a photo! Imagine an autumn muddy, along which trucks crawled and trampled an eerie rut in it. Have you presented? And then frost struck and fettered it all. And to the left and to the right of this "four-lane" track - the forest is impassable. Let me explain - the "carriageway" is one car wide, but someone was driving along one track, and someone shifted by half a body and laid another one, and you tack-tack so as not to get into any of these ditches. Otherwise it will be sad.

Not tired of reading? But we haven't reached the Amur yet! But we will assume that we have reached - after an hour of shkandybania along the notorious track mari, we were on the shore and started off first along the shore. And although the track was left behind, the calmness did not increase at all. There was not much snow this year and there are few well-readable tracks, and any wrong turn and exit on the ice is fraught with wandering in the hummocks, with the inability to turn around, and loss of time. And it’s about four o’clock, and although it’s still light, the sun is already hinting at an imminent separation. 

Cupid stretched before them

Slowly, listening to the crunch under the wheels, we crawl along the coast. There are few controversial moments, although sometimes you stand puzzled - it seems like there are traces on the right, but further hummocks ... or on the left, but it seems the snowmobile has passed, and you will definitely not get through there on the SUV. And now you can already see the village in the distance, and all you need to cross the river almost perpendicularly. And even the sections at first meet frighteningly even - like a skating rink! 

Brave travelers

And although it is a pleasure to drive on them, you cannot see any traces on them at all! However, landmarks appear. Such branches are stuck in the ice. And even suddenly they came across a sign 1.11.1 "Dangerous turn to the right" installed right on the ice. In general, I have seen ice crossings, equipped according to all the rules. There are signs and signs, everything is present. But not here. Focusing on the landmarks, we slowly crawled on. From time to time we went to the mirror surface - even though now you could skate, but for the most part we had to ride over hummocks. In some years, the bulldozer evens the surface here - both on the ice of the Amur, and the road to the road, but now we are not lucky. How it looked - if you please be curious.


The ball joint was pulled out of the Honda, but there is already a connection and the driver called for help, which, however, did not help - when we moved to Khabarovsk a day later, the CRV was still standing on the ice. 
And here we are in Kiselevka. In the village, the best days of which, as in many other villages of the same kind, are in the past. Once there was a large timber industry enterprise. The ships loaded with timber were heading straight from here to Japan. In the early 90s, I even happened to see a Japanese man in a suit and rubber boots floating around the back streets - he was a representative of a company that bought timber. He controlled the quality of the shipped timber. Then there lived about two and a half thousand inhabitants, during the heyday, they said, there were even five. Now there are a little more than 600 people. There is no timber industry, there are only jobs in a local utility company, a school, a kindergarten, a couple of shops, and one of the entrepreneurs keeps a farm and an aquaculture farm (more on that later). Hard-working men have found themselves rotational work and disappear there for a long time, others try to hunt for fishing and hunting. Once the remoteness of the village - and it was founded by Cossacks from the pioneers - was a reason for pride. Like, the bosses are far away, and we ourselves are our own masters.

 "Own their own masters" - this motto of the founders became almost an epitaph for Kiselevka. In the most obese years - at the end of the 80s - in the early 90s - just when the Japanese were wandering the streets here, and steamers were standing under loading, taking on board 6 thousand cubic meters of timber (only the first went to Japan and Korea). and second grade), the local peasants decided to separate from the large Bystrinsky timber industry enterprise, of which their enterprise was a part. In order, therefore, to gain sovereignty and have more profit from the export of timber. And then, look, freeloaders got divorced. They didn't manage to become completely independent - the gut came out, but they were incorporated. Initially, 51% from local peasants, 49% from the regional enterprise, which, in fact, was engaged in supplying timber industry enterprises, concluding agreements with contractors, etc., etc. Then the procurement of up to 200 thousand cubic meters per year was here, the lower warehouse, the upper mechanized warehouse, cranes, berths. But a year later, another director was replaced, then the owner. The second director was replaced by a third, he was replaced by a fourth ... Now it is impossible to make out, because of which the timber industry bent down. Some say, they say, the Varangians came, while it was profitable to haul timber - they drove it, then abandoned it, stole it, sold it. But one of the former directors of the timber industry, Alexander Starienko, by the way, who still lives in Kiselevka, believes that the village has suffered the standard fate of any of the hundreds of dying taiga villages, where all life revolved only around logging. The forest became scarce nearby, it is unprofitable to transport it over long distances, so the loggers left.

Most of the houses in the village of Klyuchevaya near Kiselevka are abandoned. In some log cabins, one half of the living area remained.

The areas allowed for mining in comparative proximity to Kiselevka now allow taking up to 30 thousand cubic meters of timber per year, but its sale will not pay off maintaining the road along which it will have to be taken to the coast. That's all for a short time. There was nothing to cut. And now the village is a classic example of a village disappearing before our eyes. Although Alexander himself, who was born here in Kiselevka, believes that it is not the absence of a forest that kills the village, but the lack of activity among local residents, who found it easier to leave than to try to build something else here. He himself was engaged in logging at one time - he had his own company, then he was in charge of the timber industry. Now he keeps cows - 150 heads and a hundred pigs - he sells milk and meat through his own store. A kilogram of pork is 320 rubles, beef - 360, milk - 60 rubles a liter. The price tag for imported goods, he says, is comparable to the city price - because they simply won't buy it more expensive, only pensioners stayed in the village. But the hoofed-heel livestock is precisely a subsidiary farm. And the main stake is on aquaculture. The sturgeon herd numbers 3 individuals, 200 rainbow trout, and incubators for the reproduction of chum salmon - for 800 million fry, plus about 3 thousand sturgeon fry. She has not yet caught black caviar - for commercial production the age of most sturgeons is not yet the same, it works more for reproduction of the population. Alexander is sure that only those who produce something will be able to survive here; you won't last long here for “buy and sell”. He is full of optimism, although the population in Kiselevka is decreasing.

Alexander is full of optimism and plans. Photo from A. Starienko's personal archive 

The transport inaccessibility of Kiselevka still drives a carnation into her coffin. In a rural whatsapp group, 80% of messages are somehow connected with the transfer of a package, the search for fellow travelers or a car “to the mainland” or vice versa. In total, for at least three months a year, Kiselevka is completely isolated - during the freeze-up until the ice gets stronger, and in the spring until navigation begins. However, navigation does not yet guarantee that you can leave here - the epic with the installation of a landing stage (floating pier) sometimes stretches for months. The fact is that the village does not have its own landing stage. We have to rent it for money from a company from Komsomolsk-on-Amur, and due to the peculiarities of the auctions and other casuistry, in past years, it was common for Meteors to skip past the village, just because they could not stick there ... Everyone who went to Kiselevka went to Zimmermanovka and from there made an agreement with local "cabbies" on motor boats. Now everything seems to have "settled down", but if you want to leave here by car in the summer, then only through the ferry or the timber industry enterprise or here Alexander Starienko. Not free at all 5 thousand for a car in one direction, and if a truck, then at least 12 thousand.

View from Kiselevki on "The mainland"

“Stepanych, well, maybe we'll move after all? Here, at least in Yagodny. And Shura is there (the youngest daughter - author's note), and granddaughters, and a son-in-law. An apartment with amenities? Again, there is a hospital there - in terms of equipment, like a city one ... "

My father-in-law and my father-in-law are not the first to talk about moving, and it already looks like a worn-out record on which the needle now and then bounces back to the previous phrase. Stepanych has few arguments against moving, but he clings to them with a stranglehold. 

“What am I going to do there? Don't bury me - here I am moving! I’ll get some water, chop wood, a vegetable garden ... And then I’ll sit in front of the TV and that’s all. In my mother-in-law's eyes, I see that this movement - firewood, a vegetable garden, the lack of running water - has long ago become disgusted and does not hold back at all in Kiselevka. But the decision is up to Stepanych.

"Maybe some more tea?" - asks Raisa Sergeevna. It's warm and cozy in the kitchen, the wood is cracking in the stove, the hand itself reaches for the kettle, but ... it itself suddenly jerks back. "No, I probably won't, thanks." Why? And because it’s by nightfall, soon to go to bed, and any activity in the village is not quite the same as in the city. Especially in winter. And an extra cup of tea can backfire unkindly at about five in the morning, when the body suddenly demands to get rid of the accumulated fluid. Just imagine - you are lying in warmth and comfort, there is silence all around, you can only hear the wind howling outside the window, and doubts take you apart. While more moral - the pressure on the bladder is growing, but you continue to persuade yourself and your body. Maybe it will cost, maybe if you close your eyes tightly, you will fall asleep again. Alas. The kidneys are merciless. The bubble is relentless. Persuasion is lost in vain. Better to get rid of it faster. You somehow put on your pants and hesitate for some time whether to wear socks or not, your brain helpfully reminds you that it's minus 30 outside, and the dilemma ceases to be insoluble. You quietly glide along the corridor, although you know in advance that attempts to keep your relatives asleep will be fruitless. Door No. 1 - into the cold hallway. Everything is simple here - fold the hook. Before proceeding with the manipulations with door number 2 - first you need to turn on the light in the hallway and on the porch, then pull out a long metal pin-bolt, which is frozen through, it seems through and through. The fingertips immediately lose sensitivity from touching, so when you start fiddling with the main lock, the next frostbite goes unnoticed. However, you begin to swear at yourself for being too lazy to lace up your shoes, and the cold has already seeped into them in a thin stream (well done, at least thought about socks). Step into a no longer cold, but just a cold vestibule to door No. 3. Here again everything is simple - one heck and one hook, but the dog awakened by your fuss is already barking and everyone who has just slept already knows where and why you are you go. And yes - this was not the last obstacle. There is also a gate to the garden - also on a metal bolt, which must be pushed out and placed so that later you do not look for it in the dark. Hurray, operational space, and it would seem: "You are everywhere!", But no, leaning against the wall of the wind, you crawl to the cherished booth, because urban education does not allow you to turn yellow snow. And when you dive under the covers with frost on your beard and fingers that have lost all sensitivity on your hands, you swear to yourself that next time the first cup of tea will be the last ...
Why, you ask, was this physiological intermezzo needed? But suddenly you find yourself in a village in the winter in a house with a cozy stove and tea drinking, maybe you will remember, change your mind.

In the meantime, the elder grandson transferred the data from the old laptop (his display was covered) to the new one, and connected it through an uninterruptible power supply with a built-in voltage regulator. Mission Complete. Tomorrow on the way back - Cupid, Mary, soil, asphalt. And everyone who has done it knows how gradually, after each stage, gradually releases the tension. Cupid passed - exhaled, crawled through the mud - spat, slipped through the dirt road - went to the "Komsomol" track - rejoiced. The asphalt seems downy, and although it will take another four hours to cut to the house, you just get pleasure from this ride.

PS On January 18, news came from the village - nevertheless, they began to equip the crossing. The bulldozer passed the first hundred meters. If only he did not drown, like last year. Pah-pah-pah.

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