Irkutsk: Paris of Siberia

Winter sunset, Irkutsk, Siberia

Pervomaiski region of Irkutsk. This scene continuously reverberates inside my head as a city on the very edge of the earth. Probably not what you expect from the Paris of Siberia, but striking all the same.

The Paris of Siberia, that is Irkutsk. I wrote on the wonders of Irkutsk several years back, it is worth a read. Here are some beautiful photos of the city who rests on the banks of the blue Angara river.

Orthodox church in Irkutsk.

A lovely vision off the beaten path.


Flooding in Siberia

Dramatic floods hit Altai with fears of worse to come

Source: Siberian Times

These pictures in the link below are from the Altai Republic of Central Siberia. Several regions in Siberia have experienced serious flooding this spring, but Altai particularly so. Siberia’s housing shortage is an ongoing problem dating back to Communist times. For most families in Siberia, losing a home is catastrophic. Home owners insurance is virtually non-existent, and many of the homes that have been inundated are very old, what insurers would deem un-insurable.

Moscow Times Article: Altai Flooding

Krasnoyarsk Olympian Killed in Crash

Sad news Monday from Krasnoyarsk. Nikolai Khrenkov, twenty-nine year old bobsledder, dies in head on collision. Full story here:

Saturday Night Live in Siberia!

A micro lesson for SNL on Russian names: A woman’s last name virtually always ends with an a, or aya making our dear Olya above Olya Povlatskaya. (Source:


View Saturday Night Live’s Olya Pavlotsky here.

This SNL skit makes me laugh. And right it should. Kate McKinnon’s humor in the visage of “Olya Pavlotsky” takes full advantage of the west’s cultural stereotypes of Russian life in a Siberian village. Let’s see, we’ve got extreme cold, suffering eternal, ravenous wolves, ravenous bears, a headscarf over a dumpy sweater, line waiting for provision, and marauding packs of dogs. SNL’s Siberia is a regular barren wasteland trapped in the 1930’s. Kate’s commentary on Russian culture calls forth mirth dependent upon our perception of what Siberia is. And it is based on some historical truth, it is a mixture of what Siberia was like in the first three decades of the twentieth century, when exiles and prisoners labored in camps, when the hooves of red and white forces thundered across the frozen Asian taiga in Civil War, when State engineered famine struck in the twenties, and after the Great Patriotic War (WWII) through the fall of Communism, when it was normal for people to line up for hours grasping ration cards to trade for life-necessities such as soap, sugar, baloney sausage, and underwear, yes, underwear to name a few.



Supporting the luxury of support will require those ration cards ladies! (Source:

If anyone could appreciate making light of tragedy and suffering, it is Russians. That is an art the people mastered. Humor lightened the load, and kept hope alive. How strange it is to laugh at deeply dark and violent things, and yet cathartic, enervating the body, launching us toward restoration.

While Kate’s portrayal of a young Siberian woman is absurd and whimsical, if we settle for that Siberia, we miss out on the vast richness that is Siberia today. Siberia has it all: arts, culture, unexplainable beauty; bursting with berries and fruits, alive with the hustle of sprawling urban cities, and her sunburned summer days lengthen long into the evening.

Take Chelyabinsk for example. The screaming fireball of a meteor (most filmed meteor in history) that streaked her morning sky, rumbled over a population well north of a million. You can see cars, trams, and buses locomoting the streets of the city, sorry, no wolves, no bears here. Flowering trees, flowerpots and tech-savvy, smart phone-toting teens in the flower of youth spring up from parks, benches and sidewalks. Chelyabinsk is home to opera, ballet, an art museum and twelve universities. The time-lapse video below is full of remarkable city vistas you might encounter in any of the large cities that call Siberia, home.

So laugh with Olya! And remember Siberia, she is enchanting.

Life in Russia

You can read my offering for Life in Russia here.

Recently the creator of the blog “Life in Russia” asked if I would write a piece for his site. I popped over to see what Steve was up to. Here is what he says about Life in Russia. I appreciated his view point and quite agree that mutual understanding between cultures and people is vital. Though there are vast differences in our worldviews, we share the commonality and community of being human together. And so, I agreed to write up something that would reflect his idea to be a bridge between cultures. I will rework it a bit and post it here at Transform Siberia soon. Until then, click on this link “My Paradigm Shift in the Land of Buryat” to read my post on Life in Russia.

If you would like to learn more about Russian Folklore, which is much more apocalyptic than American, check out what Steve wrote here: Russian Folklore