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Great people, bustling cities, unbeatable nature - this is my Siberia

25 March 2013

The Kremlin's 'Mr Siberia' Viktor Tolokonsky tells 'Sphere of Influence' business magazine what our vast region means to him.

Keeping fit: Victor Tolokonsky, Presidential Envoy to the Siberian Federal District. Picture: V. Tolokonsky press service, courtesy 'Sphere of Influence' magazine 

'I have said many times that on one hand it is hard for me to compare life in Siberia with life in other places - I have never lived anywhere else but Siberia. 

'On the other hand, living in Novosibirsk I have never experienced the period of time when something did not suit me here or disturbed me in any way. 

'Although it does not mean that I feel something wrong when I visit other places - Europe, Asia, with a warm climate so different from ours. But in Siberia I have never felt myself being cut off from the world.

'I think that there are many people keen to check Siberia out. The difference to tourists is that we must live and work here. 

'Of course there are a lot of interesting things in Siberia - busy life, exceptional nature. Many people from all parts of the world come to our mountains, like Altai, Khakassia, Tyva. I am not an expert, I rarely go to the countryside but I did visit the Altai Mountains, and I managed to spend several summer days in Khakassia and Sayany Mountains. 

'It is a very special sky, silence, and greatness of nature. Believe me, Switzerland cannot be compared with what we have here.

Altai Mountains Siberia


Siberia

Stunning nature of SIberia. Pictures: k-ozeru.ru, Alexander Lesnyansky 

'When you go up the dam at Sayano-Shushenskaya hydro-electric station or when in Divnogorsk you go up onto Krasnoyarsk hydro-electric station, it gives your extraordinary feelings. And we have Baikal, after all! Last summer I was sailing on a boat across Lake Baikal for just two hours, heading to a youth camp. I'd not done it before. 

'On the way to the camp I was inside, having a business meeting, but on the way back I had a good look at the lake and its shores. It was in August, the beginning of Autumn, it was chilly - amazing impressions!

'The industrial face of Siberia is attractive, too. This is why I was curious to visit the mines, the metallurgy complex in Novokuznetsk, the mining and chemical  complex  in Zheleznogorsk, the oil-refinery in Omsk.

'Here in Siberia there is everything what I would call my Motherland, my land. I am Siberian, a citizen of Novosibirsk. I enjoy exploring the Big Siberia and I see how much our territories are different to the south of Russia, to the central regions, to the Far East. Coming to Vladivostok, you understand this and feel it that it is a completely different region, absolutely unlike Siberia.

'And human connections are important for me, it means so much to live among people who I know and who know me. Our family has always stayed together - my parents were here, the grave of my father is here, my mother is alive, my children and grandchildren, we are all together. 

'Of course now people are more mobile, the children could have left. My eldest grandson is about to finish his school, he could go and continue his studies wherever he wants. But I feel the mood of my family - they are not inclined to go away, they are attached to this place too.

Viktor Tolokonsky Siberia

Viktor Tolononsky, 59, Presidential Envoy to the Siberian Federal District. Picture: Vera Salnitskaya, courtesy 'Sphere of Influence' magazine 

'For many years I usually take a day off on my birthday and go to see the yard where I grew up, the school I attended. I go to see my old haunts, I go to get this special feeling of being native to this town.

'Before New Year, I am often asked where I plan to celebrate it. Every year of my life, except one, I was in Novosibirsk. Some five years ago somebody persuaded me to go skiing to Austria. Although I was not alone there - my wife, my daughter and grandchildren were with me, but still I felt somehow not in my own shoes.

'On 31 December I must 'feel' the Krasny Prospekt, see the main New Year tree of Novosibirsk, drive around the streets, see my mother, then to see how the city is waking up on the first morning of the New Year. Being united with your city is very important for me. I have never wanted to go away. 

'At the same time, as I get to know Siberia, I keep thinking that I may have had an interesting life in a different region. In every town here there is something special, something that seems to me very curious, important and valuable. 

'You want to go out of the car, to walk on your own two feet, to see the town not just from the window of your car or meeting hall or office, but to linger awhile: to walk on its pavements, wander into a shop, visit a marketplace, to talk to people. 

'I have visited all 12 regions (in the Siberian Federal District) many times and all of them are becoming native to me'.

See Viktor Tolokonsky's interview to Sphere of Influence business magazine in Russian

Viktor Tolokonsky, 59, is the Russian Presidential Plenipotentiary to the Siberian Federal District, a post he has held since September 2010. Previously he was successively Mayor of Novosobirsk from 1993 to 1999 and Governor of Novosibirsk region from 2000 to 2010.

The Siberian politician graduated from the economics faculty of Novosibirsk Institute of Economics and Management in 1974, and four years later received a doctorate from Novosibirsk State University. From 1978 to 1981 Tolokonsky lectured at these two institutions.

For the next dozen years he held positions in the Novosibirsk regional and city administrations.  He was born in Novosibirsk - Siberia's largest city - and is married with two children.

The 12 regions comprising the Siberian Federal District are the Altai Republic, Altai (region), Republic of Buryatia, Zabaykalsky, Irkutsk, Kemerovo, Krasnoyarsk, Novosibirsk, Omsk, Tomsk, Tyva Republic and the Republic of Khakassia.

Comments (7)

Same as Canada, most population is concentrated in the more inhabitable Southern Strip. That Southern Strip, with dozens of large cities and hundreds of towns and villages is in fact heavily populated by more than 30 million people ( a population similar to Canada´s in fact) so it is not isolated at all. Infraestructure (new trains and railways, superhighways, waterways, pipelines, 4 G telecom, internet broadband etc) can reach most of the population without problem. For villages placed in the Far North, renewable resources like windmills, solar power etc. could help a lot. And also using waterways more than isolated roads without vehicles, which cannot be used half of the year...
,
26/06/2013 08:40
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Jason - 'staying where you belong'!! Some of us have no choice to stay - but where we belong is another question. I and many of the First Generation know we belong back where our ancestors come from and being torn from them during the 'Forced Labour' was and is a heartache to many of us. On visits to my maternal family in Krivih Rih I would be nicknamed 'Sibirka' for many reasons. All I understood myself was where the outspoken ones were sent and I was also under the belief that it was a harsh, harsh place where there was no 'life'. But reading the Siberian Times for a while I realise that indeed it is a beautiful place with beautiful people - yes they have harsh weather, but they have survived and many would not leave - why would they. I am too old to relocate but had I known more, I would have considered it. Pity.
Valentyna, Perth, Scotland
27/03/2013 12:19
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yes somehow you want to hear more from a person of his rank
David, UK
26/03/2013 21:17
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'And human connections are important for me, it means so much to live among people who I know and who know me. Our family has always stayed together - my parents were here, the grave of my father is here, my mother is alive, my children and grandchildren, we are all together'.... yes, you can't say it better. It is still surprising to a western eye though to see how one might 'want' to stay in Siberia, but I second the point about staying where you belong
Jason, Australia
26/03/2013 13:13
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you really want to have a deeper interview from him; the guy has got an enormous territory to work on and is obviously an interesting person to chat to; it would be great to hear something else but 'nice Siberia' and 'stunning nature'
Vilma, Lithuania
26/03/2013 12:56
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nice smile)))
Monica, UK
26/03/2013 00:34
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its good to have more people speaking about Siberia on different occasions, it makes you feel and understand it better even on the distance
Mariusz, Warsaw
25/03/2013 23:23
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