|2005-01-02 - The true Siberians
1 Jan, 05 - 23:03
GPS-pos: N67°28´ | E153°42´ | Alt: 11 M
It is the first day of the new year, 2005, a Saturday in Srednekolymsk. The temperature is -49°F, weather is grey and raw, it is midday and the building of 12 apartments where we´re living, is dead silent. The New Year celebrations have taken a break for a while. People are still sleeping, probably up until the evening, when the joyful celebrations will continue up until the 10th of January. We´ve realized that the Russian Christmas Eve is the 7th of January and for this reason, there wasn´t any sign of celebrations the 24th the last month!
´´Your spirit is strong´´ ,Ludmilla Jegerova explained the other day when we were sitting at her overwhelming dinner table, eating the tastiest cream ever, together with frozen forest berries, ´´and if it wasn´t, you wouldn´t have been able to live the way you´ve done for so many years and the way you two do now. It is only those people with a big, strong and wise spirit whose in contact with all spirits of nature who survives out here. The weak perish quickly.´´
Ludmilla was physically a tiny, thin middle aged yakut woman, who ran a small farm together with her elderly husband, Vadim, a few bumpy miles outside Srednekolymsk. Their cows were longhaired, healthy fat and scared stiff for our cameras. The cream and milk from these cows, are the tastiest I´ve ever come across. 100% ecological, of course. The cows, and the same applied to the small, hairy and robust pony like yakut horse´s they had, walked freely around the village. And, since Ludmilla and Vadim were animists as most other yakuts along the Kolyma, I had told them our pretty odd story about the two giant ravens, Hugin and Munin, who´d tagged along with us all the way from Kulu to Zyryanka. (See earlier reports) And I added, that we hadn´t seen them at all since we left Zyryanka, until yesterday when they turned up when we went down to check the wind direction on the Kolyma River.
´´They´re your guardians´´ , Ludmilla Jegerova explained, ´´and they wouldn´t be here for you if your spirit wasn´t strong.´´
´´But, why then, ´´ the rational part of me asked, ´´didn´t we see them at all when skiing from Zyryanka to here?´´
´´You didn´t need them at this time´´ , Ludmilla said, ´´they only give you support when you need it. They´ll keep an eye on you when your spirit is weak and when you´re not fully coping with what you´re doing.´´
´´I will be the third raven´´ ,her husband Vadim laughed, ´´if you don´t send us those photos you´ve promised us, when you´ve returned home. A third raven is a bad sign. Bad sign!´´
That made Nikolai Vadimovich smile and laugh calmly. Nikolai is the one showing us around Srednekolymsk. He´s an old communist who´s one of the most intelligent people I´ve ever come across. And he is as generous, helpful, hospitable, funny, well read and informative as all other yakuts along the river. But, I did have a feeling of him not being as much of a pagan believer as the other two. At least not until that point, when we´d left the farm, sat off up that bumpy winter road in the jeep, when, suddenly, we had to put the brakes full on, since two big black ravens were sitting in the middle of the road. Not moving at all. Hugin and Munin, no doubt. When I, a few minutes later, asked a question, he quickly turned around, smiled and said:
´´You´re not putting a curse on me, are you?´´
´´Nope´´ , I answered, ´´I just want to know, what´s the population of Srednekolymsk today compared to before perestroika?´´
´´Around 4000 today´´ ,Nikolai Vadimovich responded, ´´in comparison with about 5000 before perestroika.´´
´´But´´ I exclaimed surprised, ´´there was maybe 15 000 people in Zyryanka before perestroika and now, there´s only about 4000 left. The same story as in Seimchan and Sinegorye, further down the river.´´
´´Well, we yakuts have lived a long time in this area and we´re true Siberians´´ ,Nikolai Vadimovich explained, ´´and the people who´ve left Zyryanka, they were all people who had no real heart for this region.´´
This is definitely the main difference between Srednekolymsk and Zyryanka. Even though people in Zyryanka were really nice, generous and helpful, the reality is that very few of them would stay if they had the opportunity to leave. This applies even to people who´ve lived in the area for many generations. They´re just not made off the right stuff, they´re not Siberians. They are mainly Caucasian Russians from the west who´s moved to the area for a reason, mainly to make money during the Soviet era, and never have learnt to like all the extreme sides of the Kolyma and Siberia. They are really visitors. Opportunity seekers. And, they´re people who try to live like city people, not countryside folks. Especially the women. And therefore, Srednekolymsk is much more of an overgrown fishing- and hunting community, than a major settlement.
And, ever since we left Zyryanka, we have discovered what one could call, the true Siberian soul. So easy to like. Even though, it is far to early for me to try to describe the true Siberian, there´s no doubt, that we´re talking about a human which is exactly like the people living along the Kolyma and in Srednekolymsk. Mainly yakuts, even and yugahirs, but also these great Caucasian Russians which are trappers, hunters and fishermen along the Kolyma. These Russians also shows that you don´t have to be a native of the region to have the right stuff to be able live here. You just need the right attitude. The right spirit. Therefore, no wonder, that it is first since we left Zyryanka, that we started to come across women and families with children living in the bush. My present description of a true Siberian goes like this:
´´It is an individual who loves the earth his walking on, who´s used to the worst and most miserable surprises and hardships one can think of, but still handles them calmly and don´t wastes too much energy on coping with them. This is a person who live a life which is fully integrated with the extreme nature and the human soul.´´