Like to live Siberia
Siberia is a very big geographical region of northern Russia. It is also known as North Asia. Siberia has historically been a part of modern Russia since the 16th and 17th centuries. I have got a chance to grow up in a small town (10,000 people, you may even call it a village) in the Western Siberia. Here I want to clear that Siberia is divided into two parts by a river named the Yenisei River.
These parts are known as Western Siberia and Eastern Siberia.
Siberia contains almost 77% part of Russia’s land area, but it covers the population of just 40 million people i.e. 27% of the country’s population. This is equivalent to an average population density of about 3 inhabitants per square kilometer. It is approximately the same as in Australia. It makes Siberia one of the most sparsely populated regions on Earth. If it were a country by itself, it would still be the largest country in area, but in population, it would be the world’s 35th-largest and Asia’s 14th-largest. My native place is located very far from any big city. People there mostly live very simple and traditional life. Let me tell you about that.
Winter comes early
Siberia is a land of ice. Here winter comes early. At the start of October, It starts snowing and in a few weeks, everything is covered with heavy snow which stays till the end of February. In winter most of the streets would look like on the picture below. The authorities would send special cars to clean up the roads but you have to clean work by yourself and clean around your own house. It could be very frustrating to spend a few hours clearing up the way from the house to the main road (snow is very heavy) and then a sudden snowfall would cover it all once again.
In December and January temperature could decrease down to -35 to -45C. In those days children were allowed to skip the school and stay back in the home. Those were happy days, as you can imagine. Also, in January schools would close up for a week for so-called “quarantine” when there was a high risk to catch flu. If you weren’t sick it was fun. In those days we did not have computers so children played outside any time of the year. In winter we would play snowballs, go skiing or ice skating. But the most favorite activity was sledding down the hill! Adults would make a snow hill on nearly every street around and children would spend whole days sledding down on their snow racers, school bags or their butts. Making a snowman was also a thing. Adults had their own entertainment like ice fishing. It’s when you go to a frozen river/lake, break the ice and freeze your butt sitting there and hoping to catch some fish.
How did we keep our houses warm?
Modern buildings would have a heating system, but my house was a traditional one. So we had a pech (oven). It looked like one on the picture below. Every morning we would put coal and firewood inside, fire it up and soon the whole house would become warm. The oven worked as a cooker as well. We had an electric stove too, but let me tell that nothing beats the taste of food cooked over the real fire!
Though from my words winter sounds like a lot of fun but in fact seeing snow for five months per year is pretty tiring. For me as a child, summer was the happiest season. Warm days in my place last from mid-May to mid-August. Temperature stays between 20-25C (pretty extreme if you compare it to -35C in January). There were many lakes, rivers, and hills around my hometown. We used to spend a lot of time swimming and playing in the water. The water was never really warm but that didn’t matter. We swam anyway.
We used to go to forests surrounding our place to gather berries (mostly strawberry, raspberry, and blueberry) and mushrooms. In those days every street would smell like jam because in every house women would boil berries in water with sugar to make varenye and then keep it in jars till winter. Most of our foods would be preserved in different ways as there was no way to get fresh stuff in cold months.
We had a lot of our own land that we used for gardening and growing vegetables. Taking care of the land and plants would take most of the summer. Harvest season came in September. Then all the vegetables would be kept in a cellar, beneath our house, where the temperature was very low even in the hottest days of summer.
Siberia is huge and very less populated than the Western part of Russia. There are many large cities (like Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, Tomsk, Omsk) but the distances between places are very large. When I left my place to study in the nearest big city, the capital of my state, I would travel for 5 hours on a bus through a forest. On the way the bus would pass 3–4 tiny villages – the rest was empty fields and forests. Again, in winter, when the temperature was especially low (like -35) trips would get canceled because there was a risk for the bus to break and then people would be in danger to freeze.
There is a common joke that in Siberia bears walk on the streets. Well, this is not true. Although I did play once with a bear when I was 14. My friend’s parents had found an abandoned baby bear in a forest (they had gone there for hunting or fishing). They brought the baby home and while they were arranging how to bring the bear to a zoo we all got a chance to play with her (it was a female bear) and take pictures (unfortunately, I do not have them in my laptop).
So this is how life used to be in a small Siberian town 10–15 years ago. The lifestyle is slowly changing and the infrastructure is developing. Yet the harshness of winter and the beauty of nature is still same.
– Anna Stepanova