Yakutsk – Doris Heimann

Coldest Place on Earth


A German wrote this account of Yakutia after visiting. It’s been translated to English.

The winter lasts from October to May. The temperature often drops to minus 45 degrees.

A good thing: it’s easy to get frozen fish from the baskets of the market traders. A bad thing: the biting cold is so strong that it triggers a coughing fit when you go out.

Local Nura Starostina says, ”Minus 35 degrees – that’s not so cold. We used to have minus 55 degrees in the winter.“ The shopper wears a large fur hat of gray fox. If you can believe it, this is an outdoor market! It’s not for wimps: Yakutsk, located in northeastern Siberia is the coldest major city in the world. Approximately 240,000 people live in extreme conditions.
INFO
Yakutia covers three time zones but is sparsely populated: Yakutia has one million inhabitants. Approximately 640 kilometers northeast of Yakutsk is the place Ojmakon. It is considered the “cold pole” of all the populated areas on Earth: The lowest temperature was recorded here, was minus 71 degrees.

One enters a world with special rules. The car engines have to run all the time to keep them going. Slowly, as in a dream, the traffic slids over the icy roads. Most cars are sedans with the steering wheel on the right side. They are imported through the Pacific port of Vladivostok directly from Japan.

“Bone Road” is the only connection to the rest of the world. It runs 2032 kilometers to the port city of Magadan. Five days for the truck driver bringing supplies.

This inhospitable corner is where the Russian czars exiled their opponents. Leading Bolsheviks spent years of their life mostly working as teachers or lecturers. The main objective was to keep them away from political life. Stalin had built hundreds of prison camps near here. The Gulag prisoners built the path to Magadan, which is called the “road of bone” because of the many who died.

Yakutia is fabulously rich in natural resources. Diamonds grow here. They look like the ice they come from and make up to 20 percent of the worldwide shipments. There are also silver, gold and coal deposits. In a Yakut legend says: When the gods of Yakutia flew, so they got cold hands, that they dropped all their treasures. The Soviet Union was pumping billions into the development of the region. In the 90s, the crisis came, subsidies were completely eliminated. At that time, many migrated, since the conditions were so harsh.

The residents of Yakutsk dress amazingly elegant. The basic oufit includes fur coat, hat and special gloves. And of course, the warmest boots of the world. Inside thick wool felt and reindeer skin, decorated with colorful fabric borders, the locals stay warm.

Just four meters below, the ground is frozen the year around and hard as concrete. Permafrost covers 65 per cent of Russia and 98 percent of Yakutia. There is no choice: all the buildings are on stilts, and each hole must be drilled in the rock-hard ground.

Schat scientists confirmed the observation of market woman Nura: “The winter in Yakutsk have become milder.” In Yakutia, the permafrost layer is 300 meters to 1500 meters thick. With the global warming of the permafrost, it will be about two centimeters less. Not much to worry about here.

On the road you rarely meet another car. We travel twelve kilometers to the village of Tulagino. Bauer Yuri Fedorov is 68. He and his wife, Ekaterina, have eleven cows. To keep the barn warm, the Yakut farmers put manure on the roof and walls which then freezes into a layer of insulation. This used to be a collective farm. Now, the farmers are self-employed in Tulagino. “Today, we are better,” says farmer’s wife Ekaterina confidently. “In Soviet times there was nothing to buy. If we are successful, you can afford to buy something. ”

On the snow-covered pasture behind the house are 20 small shaggy horses. “But we do not keep them for riding,” says Bauer Fedorov and invites into his house. We go inside where a gas heater makes the log cabin cozy. Note: the horses are very fat horses.

— Admin – May 2012