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The best place for children is here, in the heart of Siberia

By Alexey Malgavko
29 December 2012

There's no better place to grow than in the towns like my historic Tara, founded in 1594, without traffic jams and supermarkets, but with winter fun and fresh air.

There is a great variety of winter fun in Siberia - for example, a local businessman Sergey Benke made a banya (Russian steam sauna) on wheels. Picture: Alexey Malgavko

In my town of Tara the summers are hot - and winters extremely cold. We live in a region which has a sharply continental climate.

When the smoke from the chimneys rises up in the sky, it means that it's freezing outdoors.

However, there are less kids on the snowy streets nowadays than when I was young. In the age of the Internet and computer games it's hard to find them. Most seem to spend their free time in front of the screen.

In January, we usually have extended holidays due to the heavy frost.

But even in minus 30C  during my childhood, no one was at home. We played  in the yard or would go skating and play ice hockey.  

the best place for children to grow in small town in the heart of Siberia

That's more like its used to be: children enjoy cold weather in the historic town of Tara, Omsk region, Siberia.  Picture: Alexey Malgavko

As soon as the first frosts hit in early November, the farmers cull their cattle. Butchered carcasses are usually hung right there in the barns.

The meat, frozen by nature, will not go bad during the long winter.

There is a great variety of winter fun in Siberia. For example, a local businessman Sergey Benke made a banya (Russian steam sauna) on wheels, and now not only does he enjoy the winter, and his clients as he moves around our district, but but he also provides entertainment for the audience who happen to be near his latest stop on his mobile banya.

Hunting is just fun for some people, but for others it's a way of earning living and surviving. Fox, rabbit, sable, deer, wolf, and maybe even bear can be found just  20 km from the town.

the best place for children to grow in small town in the heart of Siberia

When the smoke from the chimneys rises up in the sky, it means that it's freezing outdoors. Picture: Alexey Malgavko

Car drivers here in Tara have to be smart about the cold, while starting their engines in minus 35C. Some heat up their motor by putting an electric cooker under the engine, others fix a plastic bag with hot water under the bonnet.  

Some wrap the engine in cloth, leaving the car outside at night. But they often have to start a car with a push, literally pushing the car for a while before the engine starts. In hard frosts road builders and loggers have their vehicles' engines running for days on end, being afraid that they will never otherwise start them again.

the best place for children to grow in small town in the heart of Siberia

Car drivers here in Tara have to be smart about the cold, while starting their engines in minus 35C. Picture: Alexey Malgavko

Tara has two subsidiary institutions of Omsk University. In cold weather the classes don't get cancelled. Often you can see how students while going  to college break their journey on foot by rushing from one warm shop to the next until their reach their college. 

One truism of living here is that the colder it is outside the warmer and more inviting feels the house in which you live.

Sometimes I'm asked what prevents me and other Siberians from moving to warmer countries. Some place where we wouldn't need to spend money on warm clothes, fuel, and where we could grow fruit and eat delicious fresh produce all year round. 

Actually, nothing prevents it. But there is such a disease called nostalgia for the cold weather. I think, many of those born in Siberia, have caught  this disease. The heavier the frost is, the more active and alive people feel. 

This feeling is kind of extreme, and I like it.

the best place for children to grow in small town in the heart of Siberia

The colder it is outside the warmer and more inviting feels the house in which you live. Picture: Alexey Malgavko

Tara has a population of around 27,300 and was formed as part of the eastward Russian expansion into Siberia led by Yermak.

It pre-dates many of Siberia's major cities and for a period was a key gateway to and from the east.

It was overtaken by Omsk and the later routing of the Great Siberian Road and the Trans Siberian Railway bypassed it. It is now linked by the Tomsk-Tara-Tobolsk highway and there are signs of its economy reviving after the tough times of the 1990s. 

Alexey Malgavko

Aleksey Malgavko, 27

'Tara is my hometown and I am happy to share my view of it with the world. From 2005 I worked as a photographer for the regional newspaper 'Tarskoye Priirtyshe'.

Now I work as a correspondent for RIA Novosti, one of Russia's leading news agencies'.

Comments (5)

I am English and my wife is Russian. She grew up on the shores of lake Baikal and often speaks of the beauty of Siberia. This report is not made up. My wife says they all played outside in temperatures even down to -40 or -50 c.
Whilst it is true that Britain has trouble with coping in snow, there are some good reasons for it. The snow is often wetter, making driving more difficult. Winter tyres are not compulsory. People are not used to snowy driving conditions. But yes, the 'Safety First' culture has become ridiculous. Great pics!!
Ivor Hall, Dobromirka, Bulgaria via UK
05/02/2013 23:34
1
absolutely stunning, stunning pictures Alexey, and an example to many of us in Europe how we've got to stop complaining about the 2 inches of snow we've got, and also get things better organised for the next winter
Eloise , UK
23/01/2013 13:55
1
Its beutiful, Lyeha!
Vlad Glebow, Svazyland
23/01/2013 13:52
1
Its beutiful, Lyeha!
Vlad Glebow, Svazyland
23/01/2013 13:51
2
Kids walk to school when it's cold and snowing? In Britain many schools shut if there's 2 cm of snow, it's too risky if kids slip on school property and their parents sue. Our airports, roads and railways all struggle to cope with a few cm of snow. Many people can't drive safely on snow so if there's an accident the police close the road to gather evidence in the event of being sued. Minus 5C and 2cm of snow is described by our journalists as 'arctic' and 'Siberian'. Look on the web for our online newspapers, we're truly inept at handling a bit of snow!
Cam, UK
04/01/2013 07:36
3
1

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