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Russia through the eyes of a foreigner: 48 hours at the Pole of Cold

Russia through the eyes of a foreigner: 48 hours at the Pole of Cold

On Saturday morning, over a cup of coffee, I saw a letter inviting me to Yakutia for an ethnographic holiday. “If you're ready, send me your passport data,” wrote the editor-in-chief of National Geographic Russia. My heart almost jumped out. This is a chance to travel to the Russian Far East, to one of the coldest spots in the world! Seven days later I found myself at Domodedovo airport and got on a plane.

Bears shopping

The first thing that catches the eye of a traveler exhausted by a 6-hour flight Moscow-Yakutsk is a huge poster: a local beauty with a long braid in luxurious white furs and diamonds opens her arms with the words: "Almazergienbank welcomes you to Olonkho Land." “I wonder if there is enough warmth from this commercial embrace to get at least a taxi?” I thought.

The cold struck directly into the lungs, tickled the throat. I coughed. Spontaneous reaction of the body to the cold, from which the body contracted, as if for a moment thought about how to respond to these new sensations. After living for some time in the northern latitudes, I already knew the sensation when everything in the nose freezes and thaws with every breath, but that's so, to a cough - it was something new

We head for a snow-covered parking lot, bathed in the neon lights of the terminal. I mince, vainly trying to keep up with my guide, which now and then disappears in clouds of steam and exhaust fumes from running engines. The door of our minivan flew open, and, jumping in, I proudly thought: “I did it! I got to "the coldest city on the planet," Yakutsk, the capital of the Russian Far East republic of Sakha (Yakutia). "

“Oh, it's still warm,” laughs Ruslan Timofeev, our guide and head of the public relations department of the local municipality, after seeing my reaction to the “pathetic” minus 33 Celsius. “This is autumn for us. Winter starts tomorrow! " And he was right, because the main purpose of our visit to Yakutsk was to attend the 4th annual celebration ceremony "Winter begins in Yakutia". And isn't it symbolic to welcome winter here, where she feels like a sovereign mistress ?!

Later, during an interview with the mayor of the city, Aisen Sergeevich Nikolaev, I learned that Yakutia is known not only for its record-low temperatures recorded in the city of Oymyakon, the famous Pole of Cold, which is considered the coldest point in the Northern Hemisphere and the coldest settlement on Earth, but also a place with an extreme difference between winter and summer temperatures - with an amplitude from minus 64 frost in winter to plus 42 heat in the short Yakut summer - as much as 106 degrees! "To fall in love with Yakutia, come in the summer," the mayor advised with a smile, "and in order to understand it, come in the winter."

Well, we're on time, that's just where to start?

The Republic of Sakha, named after the Sakha tribe, or Yakutia, is about the same size as India (or four of France, as the locals like to say). Yes, India, but with one thousandth of its population, a third of which lives in Yakutsk. The population of Yakutsk is very young, the average age is only 29 years. In the city there are more than 30 higher and secondary special educational institutions in various fields: from economics and finance to art, but most importantly, people do not leave from here. The problem of mass flight to Moscow, from which many Russian regions suffer greatly, is not worth it. And even those who were temporarily blinded by the lights of the capital, as a rule, still return to their hometown, such as the actor and director Alexei Egorov, whom I talked to.

Our minibus slowly moved along the predawn streets of the snow-covered city, and, leaning against the frozen window, I tried to make out the outlines of the surroundings ... Here are the twin panel houses ... gray, pale green, pale peach, here is a square with ice sculptures. Here are strange, bear-like figures moving unnaturally along the sidewalks. Some towards the wind, others towards it. Oh, but these are people! Wrapped in fur from head to toe, in helmet-like hoods made of mink, arctic fox, raccoon and sheepskin. Shoes are called "pimas" or "fur boots" and are made from reindeer hide. From the dangling handbags, you can tell that some of these creatures are women, apparently rushing to work or shopping at the local store.

"Do you have wolves?" - I asked one of our guides, wrapped from head to toe in fur, thus making a timid attempt to apply my very meager knowledge about Yakutia. The image of a pack of wolves raging in the northern forests has become firmly imprinted in my memory after reading a newspaper article a few months ago. But it seems that no one was eager to talk about wolves attacking reindeer and horse herds.

"And the bears?" - I did not calm down. Tatyana Nikolaevna, a representative of the PR department of the local administration, answered, lowering her huge fur hood: “We have a lot of bears! It is so hot in summer that they run out of the forest. Hungry. " She told us that a year ago, all the local newspapers were full of headlines about the man who killed the bear that attacked him with a knife, and added with a smile: “Sometimes we hear stories about how people manage to survive in a fight with bears, if at the right time the phone will ring. They say that bears get scared and run away. Therefore, we have a joke that bears are afraid of Justin Bieber's ringtone. " She laughs, and her silver earrings clink.

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