In Russia's Arctic north, a new kind of gold rush is under way: With the sale of elephant tusks under close scrutiny, “ethical ivory” from the extinct woolly mammoth is now feeding an insatiable market in China. This rush on mammoth ivory is luring a fresh breed of miner – the tusker – into the Russian wilderness and creating dollar millionaires in some of the poorest villages of Siberia. [more inside]
How Did People Migrate to the Americas? Bison DNA Helps Chart the Way [The New York Times] “Two teams of scientists have succeeded in dating the opening of the gateway to America, only to disagree over whether the Clovis people — one of the first groups from Siberia to reach the Americas — ever used the gateway to gain access to the New World.” [more inside]
Every winter in Russia's east, the rivers that vein the enormous open spaces of siberia freeze solid. Photographer Amos Chappel joins one group of men who make a living on these frozen highways.
Do you listen to a lot of hip-hop in in the Yakut language? Me either. But that changed when I happened upon the story of Ayal Adamov, Monty Python fan and student at Northeast Federal University, Yakutsk, Sakha Republic, Russia. One day, he heard a song that celebrated bling and money and conspicuous consumption. He felt a profound sense of disgust and, in response, composed a song that celebrated his own, humbler, rural roots. The accompanying video has to be seen to be believed; it is embedded in this article in the Siberian Times.
According to the Guardian,
"Agafia Lykova is the last remaining member of a deeply religious family that fled civilisation in 1936 and did not know about the second world war until geologists stumbled upon them in 1978. After she contacted the “mainland” with an emergency satellite telephone to ask for medical help, the governor, Aman Tuleyev, ordered her evacuation from her homestead near the Abakan river to a hospital in Tashtagol, according to the Kemerovo region website."[more inside]
The Blue Pearl Of Siberia, Peter Matthiessen, 1991
Past eight in the evening on the last day of August, after a ten-hour climb, we haul ourselves to the high rim of the Baikal Canyon. From where we stand, high plateaus, in hard, clear light, seem to stretch forever westward to the Urals. Facing east, my companion, the huge Siberian woodsman Semyon Ustinov, spreads his long arms. Far below, his beloved Baikal, the most ancient lake on earth, is shrouded in mist that drifts up the steep talus slope as if in search of us. The canyon rim on which we stand is a mile or more above the surface of the lake, whose greatest depth is 6,300 feet, or 1.2 miles, with an additional four miles of sediment above the bedrock. The great Baikal rift is seven times as deep as the Grand Canyon, by far the deepest land depression on the planet.[more inside]
The Only Woolley Rhinoceros Calf Ever Found: Woolley Mammoths of all ages have been found. Adult Woolley Rhinoceros finds are so rare they can be counted on one hand. This is the first baby
Werner Herzog's 'Happy People' is less a film made by Werner Herzog than a film sculpted by Werner Herzog, as he selected and subsequently narrated ninety-four minutes of material taken from Dmitry Vasyukov's four-hour documentary of the same name. Vasyukov's four episodes, by season: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter. (SLYTs)
The Yamal Crater (previously) mysteriously appeared on the Yamal Peninsula in northern Siberia sometime in early 2014. Thought to be the result of methane accumulation in thawing permafrost, when first discovered the giant hole was too dangerous for people to enter. Now that the ground has frozen, scientists have explored the hole and released a a set of otherworldly photographs documenting their expedition.
An enormous hole has appeared (YouTube, 0:34) in Russia's Yamal Peninsula, near the Bovanenkovo natural-gas field. 'We can definitely say that it is not a meteorite. No details yet,' said a spokesman.
Inside, please find a list of forty-three movies, TV episodes, and short subjects by Werner Herzog, all of which can be streamed, along with some short descriptions of their content. One or two of the films are in German without subtitles; this is noted in the description. [more inside]
The Ket from the Lake Munduiskoye (2008, 30 min.) The Ket people are an indigenous group in central Siberia whose population has numbered less than two thousand during the past century. Although mostly assimilated into the dominant Russian culture at this point, a couple hundred of them are still able to speak the Ket language, the last remaining member of the Yeniseian language group. Recent scholarship has proposed a link between Ket and some Native American language groups.
Bandy is a game similar to ice hockey, but played with a ball instead of a puck. Somalia is set to enter its first ever team into the World Bandy Championships, comprised entirely of Somali refugees living in Borlaenge, Sweden where almost 10% of the population hails from war-torn Somalia. [more inside]
Siberian Ice Drumming. 'I felt like we were playing on the drums that Nature has left out for us, alone under the sun on the frozen waters of the world's most magnificent lake.'
A new article in Nature warns that "the costs of a melting Arctic will be huge", thanks in part to the likely release of "a 50-gigatonne (Gt) reservoir of methane, stored in the form of hydrates" beneath the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, "either steadily over 50 years or suddenly". An abrupt release is "highly possible at any time", says Natalia Shakhova of the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, who has observed plumes of methane up to a kilometre wide bubbling to the surface in the area. [more inside]
Alaska is home to two small villages of Russian Orthodox "Old Believers," whose ancestors left the church and their home in Siberia in 1666 in the face of state-issued church reforms. They have traveled more than 20,000 miles over five centuries in the search for the perfect place to protect their traditions from outside influences. Now, assimilation into American culture is slowly overtaking them. (Via) [more inside]
Featured previously, Vice does a 35 minute video chronicling a rare visit to the sole surviving member of the Lykov family, Agafia. [more inside]
In 1978, geological explorers in a remote region of southern Siberia made an unexpected discovery: a family living alone, more than 150 miles from the nearest settlement. They had lived in isolation since 1936 and were unaware that World War II had happened.
As part of his long-term Genesis project, Sebastião Salgado shares photographs of the nomadic Nenets of northern Siberia.
Anyone familiar with the contemporary Russian humorous folklore (jokelore, or in Russian anekdoty) knows that one of the most popular series of such jokes revolves around the Chukchis, the native people of Chukotka, the most remote northeast corner of Russia. These jokes, especially popular in 1990s and 2000s, fit the international genre of ethnic stupidity jokes . . .
In Siberia, several frozen human burials dating to 2,500 years ago have intact skin with elaborate tattoos. Warning: link contains graphic pictures of dead people.
Exxon mobil has signed a development agreement with the Kremlin-majority-owned Rosneft to develop the Bazhenov oil shale reserves in Siberia (PDF), which are estimated to hold 2 million million barrels of oil equivalent -- that's about 64 years of current consumption.
This is Bull of Frost (Chys Khan), which is Yakutian colleague of Russian Grandpa Frost (Ded Moroz) and Santa Claus. [more inside]
Evocative photographs by Evgenia Arbugaeva of "nomadic tribes of reindeer herders in my homeland, the Republic of Yakutia, which is located in eastern Siberia." You can read more about the indigenous peoples of Arctic Russia here (as you might guess, the outlook isn't rosy), and if you're curious and want more links, there's a zillion of 'em here.
Trans-Siberian Rail Journeys...follows the route of the Trans-Siberian Railroad which connects the newly opened regions of Russia, China and Mongolia. The seven-day train trip begins in Moscow and ends in Bejing. Also includes Russian archival footage that traces the 25 years (1891-1916) that it took to build the railroad. (PBS, 1996, 2 hours)
Welcome to the charming world of Vissarion: the Siberian, vegan, reincarnation of Christ, who also happens to be a Polygamist. When he lost his job as a traffic cop in 1991, Sergei Torop changed his name to Vissarion and began spreading his message about how to attain moral perfection, drive out negative energy, and survive the coming Apocalypse. Today the Community of Vassarion in the Krasnoyarsk region of Siberia numbers around 10,000, while a further 50,000 follow his teachings in the world beyond. [more inside]
"We badly underestimated the degree of damages and the risks of climate change," said Lord Stern in a speech in London yesterday. "All of the links in the chain are on average worse than we thought (pdf) a couple of years ago." [more inside]
Mayor of Siberian town orders his bureaucrats to stop using expressions such as "I don't know", "I can't", "I'm having lunch", and "It's impossible". Not sure if "You have got to be fucking kidding me." or "What the fuck, man? are on his list.
Dead Road - Museum of Communism in the Open. "It was one of the most ambitious projects of the Stalin era, known as the 'railway of bones'. At least 10 people a day died during the four years of its construction [actually 1947-1953], but unlike most of Uncle Joe's grand designs it was never completed and now sits unfinished in the tundra, an icy road to nowhere." The transpolar railway was built by labour camps^ 501 and 503 and construction was stopped after the amnesty following Stalin's death in 1953; 800km, about half, was built. Some sections are currently in operation, but much is abandoned: depot and locomotives in Dolgoe, Dolgoe itself, labour camps, more spectacular decay. (Previously: Norilsk, which was supposed to see an extension of the line.)
Norilsk is a big city in northern Siberia. On the permafrost. It was built by slave labor in the 1930s. Norilsk Nickle, a very profitable company, wants you to invest there. Some think it's a hell hole. Others think it was the downfall of the Soviet economy.
The giant spiraling hole in the ground near Mirny, Russia in Siberia is perhaps the world's largest open pit diamond mine. More giant holes.
Don't Eat (or Drink) The Yellow Snow!
note: it is our surmise that that this snow is probably not toxic. trust us. we're russia.
note: it is our surmise that that this snow is probably not toxic. trust us. we're russia.
Siberia's permafrost is melting. New Scientist reports that 250 million acres of permafrost are thawing, exposing the world's largest peat bog. This is likely to release billions of tons of methane gas. This would likely cause a positive feedback loop, massively accelerating global warming.
Kolyma: The Land of Gold and Death. 'Stalin's prisoners, or "lagerniks" as they were commonly called, referred to the frozen land of Kolyma as a planet, although it physically remained part of Mother Earth. This vast piece of Arctic and sub-Arctic territory, with its undefined political and geographical borders, was located in the furthest North-East corner of Siberia ... ' An online book by a survivor of the gulag.
What Would Vissarion Do? A former Russian traffic cop realizes that he is the reborn Son of God. Several devoted disciples agree, yea and verily. Insert own 'water into vodka' joke here. On second thought, please don't.