We'll take a regular look at the best, worst, funniest and quirkiest of how our vast and varied region is seen around the globe, hoping as we do so to bring you some surprises and enlightenment.
We'll take a regular look at the best, worst, funniest and quirkiest of how our vast and varied region is seen around the globe. Picture: Evgenia Arbugaeva, National Georgraphic
Our home is on The Siberian Times site - siberiantimes.com - and if you've noticed anything we've missed, please let us know.
Enough of the introductions,
Ann Gara and Jacques D'Or
Our first offering is a great new article and documentary from US-based www.vice.com on one of world's most remarkable women Agafia Lykova, who lives alone as a hermit deep in the Siberian taiga, several hundred kilometres from the nearest human settlement.
Her story is well known in Russia but less so in the outside world. This remarkable tribute to Afafia and her family, coinciding with her 69th birthday, will change this somewhat, and deserves to.
It tells how her parents - deeply religious Old Believers - set out in 1936 into Siberia's vastness to live apart and escape the persecution they faced under Stalin. She was born in this remote wilderness in 1944 but it was not until 1978, some 42 years after they disappeared, that their primitive huts were spotted from the air in the Sayan Mountains by a party of Soviet geologists who then came to make contact with them.
As The Siberian Times has written before - her parents and siblings later perished, leaving her alone.
This affectionate account from John Martin with pictures by Peter Sutherland can be read here - 'Meet the Last Lykov - Not many other people in the world have' at http://www.vice.com/read/meet-the-last-lykov-000001-v20n4
For the brilliant documentary see this link http://www.vice.com/read/happy-69th-birthday-agafia-lykov-from-your-friends-at-vice
Agafya Lykova, pictured in the middle of eighties with father Karl, left, and Krasnoyarsk professor Nazarov
As the VICE team say: 'Although the landscape was buried in snow, Agafia had no problem skiing and hiking all over the the place, and quite frankly, we struggled to keep up with her.
'She's tough as nails, and we can only hope we'll be as spry as she is when we're approaching the seven-decade mark'.
Next is an epic read from National Geographic - 'Of Mammoths and Men' - about Karl Gorokhov and his passion for hunting mammoth tusks in the far north of Russia, on a desolate island in the East Siberian Sea.
'He is cold and exhausted, with a hunger so primal that he has been reduced to eating seagulls. Even the two polar bears that attacked his camp were famished; their stomachs, slit open after they were shot dead, were empty. Gorokhov, a 46-year-old with wind-chapped cheeks and a scraggly, reddish beard, heads out every day past the nine graves near his camp - the final resting places, he presumes, for unlucky souls who came to the island to escape the Soviet gulag,' says the story by Brook Larmer, with evocative pictures by Evgenia Arbugaeva.
The link is here http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2013/04/mammoth-tusks/larmer-text - and the report neatly balances the human urge to search and sell the ivory, with China the big market, with concerns about destroying a natural resource of Siberia.
The report neatly balances the human urge to search and sell the ivory, with China the big market, with concerns about destroying a natural resource of Siberia. Pictures: Evgenia Arbugaeva, National Georgraphic
Gorokhov's wife, Sardaana, and their five-year-old daughter are waiting for him in Yakutsk.
He hasn't seen them in six months. 'When I get back, my wife will stroke my beard for one night and then demand that I shave it off', he says.
This may be the last time he hunts for tusks. 'I haven't seen a real summer in a decade', he says.
Still in Yakutia, we came across some pictures of Yakutsk by Swiss-based photographer Steeve Iuncker who journeyed to the world's coldest city and found it to be .... cold.
Some nice images, though the photographer misses the more modern face of the city.
The claim here on the population doesn't quite add up either, we reckon he means that Yakutia has a quarter of the population of the Sakha Republic rather than Siberia.
Still, see if you feel cold looking at his pictures: http://lightbox.time.com/2013/04/10/yakutsk-the-coldest-city-on-earth/#1
Meanwhile, a report by Tom Porter at the International Business Times picked up on newly-crowned Miss Russia's concern over an online campaign against her.
Elmira Abdrazakova, 18, lives in Mezhdurechensk in the Kemerovo region of Siberia and is a student in our largest city - Novosibirsk.
From a Tatar family, she has faced cruel online taunts for not looking Slavic enough, forcing her to close down her social networking accounts, reported www.ibtimes.co.uk
'One online commenter wrote that 'a gypsy woman cannot be the face of Russia' whilst one posting says she looks like 'an ordinary market stall worker' and would be considered 'a real beauty among sheep',' said the report.
Luckily, Elmira shows more guts that her anonymous attackers and is quoted saying in an interview with Sky News: 'It humiliates first of all not me, but those people who write it. It was bizarre for me when men were writing things like that to me, I was surprised we have people of that sort here', she said.
She hopes her victory in a contest she never expected to win will act an inspiration to others, according to the story at http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/articles/456769/20130413/miss-russia-racism-elmira-abdrazakova-nationalism.htm
'Maybe some girls will look at me and get inspired by my experience to grow, to develop, to work hard. I hope they can see that in life you can reach something without big money', she said.
'I wasn't expecting to win, to get this crown. The host announced that Elmira Abdrazokova won and I remember standing there and thinking, what a lucky girl who won it. Then it dawned on me - that's me. All that evening I couldn't believe it, only when I got back home I sat down and realised - I'm Miss Russia!'
Elmira Abdrazakova, 18, was crowned Miss Russia 2013. Picture: The Siberian Times
Finally for now, we came across this:
'When someone mentions Siberia, the first thought that comes to my mind is a frozen wasteland where Soviet dictators, like Stalin, sent exiled insurgents. What I don't think about is the beautiful landscape, which includes the world's largest, deepest freshwater lake, Lake Baikal, or the unique culture of the Mongol Buryat tribes whose ancestors were conquered by the infamous Genghis Kahn ...'
It is from the newspaper of Union College in New York state and is puffing a coming 'study abroad term' for led by Professor Kristin Bidoshi for US students to Irkutsk State Linguistic University - http://www.concordy.com/article/807-u/april-11-2013/get-your-shiver-on-in-siberia-the-cultural-experience-of-a-lifetime/6296/
As the politicians of the US and Russia lock horns over the Magnitsky issue, let's hope the deteriorating atmosphere doesn't stop this kind of trip for young people which can build future relations on a sounder footing, and help people in the West to have a more modern view about Siberia.
He chose to become a hermit for six months on the shore of Lake Baikal in deep winter, miles from the nearest town and city.