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It is fifth year since I left my hometown Yakutsk, a capital of Sakha republic in Far Eastern Russia, and astonishingly I never felt need to learn local news, except few things I have known from calls to relatives and friends. Not so much you can talk about in telephone conversations.
Many things changed, many people I knew very well or was acquainted shortly had some success, they are still in the media spotlight, others disappeared or just maintain low profile. Today I was catching up browsing media there.
Overall development in such remote corner of the world would surprise many. Former president of the republic Mr Nikolayev (who was responsible for the surge in development of the region and construction boom in 1990s) is the first deputy Chairman of Russian senate in Moscow and just concluded official visit to Washington where he had participated in Arctic nations conference and had talks with officials of Obama adminisrtation and US Senate (like Mr R. Lugar). He also met expats-Sakha living in US.
Mr Nikolayev and expats in DC.
But enough of politics. What bother local media there? Everything you can find in your local newspapers, weather, criminal chronicle, politics, finance and scandals. The cinema theater in just few minutes from my home organized movie festival and there were dignitaries like Ms Alferova (she is well known in Russia for portraying Constance de Boinassier from popular movie Three Musketeers) and Yakutsk's Orthodox archbishop Zosima. At openeing ceremony there was big scandal with one young journalist Mr Gorodetsky (I knew him well) asking from dignitaries outrageous questions. He was thrown out from FM radio station Victoria (where he was my colleague, I had a program there), right now he is editor-in-chief of tabloid "Yellow Yakutsk". So he questioned movie star over her newly found attachment to Orthodox church and charitable activities. Ms Alferova was outraged and press conference abruptly ended with her screams how she hates the yellow press journalist.
And finally I was reading interview with Masha Dubrovskaya, free lance photographer from Yakusk, she had lived also in India for many years but I never met her personally. The photo of Himalayan mountains above is hers, it's amazing. She likes Asia and currently shuttles between Bali and Thailand with her Indian boyfriend Ajay. It's wonderful to know that I am not alone.
Ajay and Masha
Here is another one which I liked. Feets apparently are Masha's and Ajay's.
and when you left, did you deliberately turn your back or was it simply fascination with the next corner ?
I apologise if I'm asking personal stuff you may not wish to share, but this is an aspect of the world I have no concept of and I'm curious.
keep to the Fen Causeway
When Soviet regime was crumbling it was fashionable in Russia (and in Sakha republic) to think that we have everything worst in the world. We simply did not know the world, we never traveled abroad (astonishingly even to China or Mongolia, our neighbours).
I am glad to say that since the fall of the Iron curtain many my compatriots left homes for wider world. What they discovered surprised them, it dawned on them we did not possess the world's worst (government, civil services, facilities, homes, utilities etc).
However not many returned. Why? Exactly because the world does not know us, beginning with the weather in our part of the world which is never reported. So some feel desperate and suffocated in small society where almost everyone knows each other, and want to find their own path in the world. There is no chance to find recognition in the world if you're stuck there.
Here is quote from 2007 editions of LP guide: "the Russian Far east is actually further from Moscow, remote and colder. It's also pretty big. Larger than Europe, it is comprised of taiga forest, snow-splattered or forested mountains and northward rivers, Few foreigners make it here... Up north, beyond train tracks or reasonable roads, surprising Yakutsk is the heart of the Russia's largest political division: Sakha Republic, home to many Yakut people (and a lot of horse meat on menus)."
And it continues - "For somewhere that's over 1000 km from anywhere much, Yakutsk comes as a pleasant, and sometimes surreal, surprise. Over half of its inhabitants are Yakut - and a good portion of the remainder are Chinese immigrants - so it feels (despite the Lenin statue) less Russian than many places across the Far East. Most of its buildings stand on stilts above a cruel permafrost that never thaws. It's most isolated when the weather's misbehaving - as winter frozen-river highways thaw, and earth turns into an unnavigable slop.
People are particularLy friendly in Yakutsk. Visitors often find themselves quickly connected with the local scene.
One of the oldest cities in the Far East, Yikutsk was founded in 1632 as a Cossack fort, and later served as a base for expeditions to the Pacific coast....
Today money is more noticeably being spent on striking modern architecture around the city, the legacy of former re-public president Mikail Nikolayev. A good example is the angular Sakha Theatre on pl Ordzhonikidze."
So not all is lost there, we have reasonably good homes with all facilities (I woould say better than Canadians or others in such extreme conditions, tempreature routinely drop to -50 Celcius in winter). Connection - when I was working at FM station I mentioned (at the same time I was student in Yakust university) I was pressing management for internet access. It was middle of 1990's. I've got it as well as subscription for special weekly CDs from American company which allowed us to have all popular singles many weeks in advance of their release to include them in musical programming. Sometimes friends from Alaska did bring to me new releases.
Then I finished study and began my work in university's social science laboratory. The building and office was ultramodern, the job was exciting - to prepare sociological studies and publush brochures afterwards about quality of higher education and social and political problems. I started this job as foot soldier, covering many square km of the city and neighbourhoods, interviewing thousands people about their problems and worries. I wondered about philosophical foundations of sociology, they did not seem to me quite solid, it's just statistical tricks, which can never explain human behaviour and human society.
Once I was making research on religion and students and while preparing questionnaire I was reading a lot of books. I was struck by similarities between philosophical views of my favourite science fiction writer Frank Herbert (of the Dune or Dosadi Experiment fame) and Buddha, who said these things 2500 years ago. So I searched internet to find where I can find more about Buddhist philosophy and the first choice was Buddhist institute in Delhi. The rest is the separate story.
Returning to Yakutsk I would say now I became more tolerant to it, its parochial culture, its callous and incompetent bureaucracy (no wonder after Indian experience).
I am glad that now I can access almost any prominent people's dossiers on their pages in internet (on Russian equivalents of Facebook) starting from president to show business starlets and journalists. Almost everybody curiously say that his (her) political views are liberal. Everybody knows here on ET that mine views are not liberal at all.
Local political life in Sakha republic is much more democratic than anything I have seen in Asia. Probably it's similar to Alaska or Canada. The press is vibrant and quite vicious and operates without restrictions. It is divided in Sakha and Russian-language media. Incidentally many local Jews own these media, like FM stations, newspapers, TV channels. However because of the small market I doubt it's profitable business. Don't forget that territory of the republic is of size of India, more than 3 mln sq km, yet it's population is less than 1 mln people.
About interracial relations - ethnic Russians and other Europeans are divided on "locals" and "newly arrived". The latter are despised because of the insatiable greed and damage they bring to fragile Arctic ecology. Many local Russian learn Sakha language, like Mr Gorodetsky (mentioned in previous post) who even sing songs in our language despite problems with accent. By the way it was his lucky chance, because of this song he was invited to Moscow to be filmed in new music video of Philip Kirkorov, one of the largest Russian pop stars.
However with many goodies of civilisation Sakha society became much more insincere and hypocrite.
[The one thing I cannot forgive is rudeness of some people there (like certain ministers which I quarreled with), however it is reserved only for locals not visitors]. That's why I befriended so many people in much less "civilised" corners of Asia, where people cannot hide their emotions (anger or joy, greed or generosity) and that's why I am still here, not there at home.
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