Naked in Taiga, at -40C

News that made my day: a man walked out of his train at full speed. By accident.

Yesterday, a resident of the small Siberian town of Bratsk was traveling through Siberia by train. Late at night, he went to the platform at the end of his carriage for a cigarette. Having smoked the cig, he opened the door and went back to his compartment. Well, he thought he was coming back, while in fact he was coming the other way. But he courageously stepped out, and over, towards the darkness. And found himself in the snow, surrounded by taiga, wearing slippers, a t-shirt and tracksuit pants, watching the train as it sped away.

He tried to run after the train, but the train proved to be faster. Minus 32 to minus 36. Celsius. Outside. It is minus 25 to minus 32 F. The man then ran 7 kilometres to the next station, and lived to tell the tale.

What does it say about the Russian character and soul? That Russians – when cornered – are capable of incredible bravery and heroism. We, Russians, are proud of that. But we hate being reminded that it had often been excess drinking, slovenliness, fatalism or barefaced stupidity that got as cornered in the first place. In that, we are not different from any other nation.

What does it say about Russian art? Guess why the manner of painting developed by socialist realism painters in the 1950s was once aptly named the Stern/Inclement Style.

Viktor Popkov. The Northern Song.

Viktor Popkov. The builders of Bratsk (the hometown of the guy who walked out of the train – rough and stern people used to running through ice age Taiga twice a day)

Even when, as a reward for the loyalty in portraying the achievements of socialism, an artist working in this Stern style was sent by the Soviet authorities abroad, he would not abandon his view on things. Even the beautiful city of Florence would be painted as a Gulag prison block:

Petr Ossovsky, Florence (1960s)

Many view Russians as rough and stern people. Indeed, Russians may look like that, on the outside. On the inside a Russian can often be just the very contrary. Lyric, sentimental and engaging in kissing birch-trees (only when abroad to soften the pangs of nostalgia). I’ve never seen the tree-kissing personally, I’ve never kissed any birch-trees myself (regardless of my time away from Mother Russia), but I think I know a few people who do, when no one sees them.

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11 thoughts on “Naked in Taiga, at -40C

  1. The Kat and The Falling Leaves

    Our survival instincts kick in when we are placed in any emergency situation. I can’t even imagine how this guy felt in a -32-degree weather wearing only тапочки, майку и спортивные штаны!
    I don’t believe I am familiar with Popkov’s work, thank you for posting this.

    Reply

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