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'Irkutsk has the sins, the false hair, and the perfume for which Paris is noted'
Mrs John Clarence Lee, 1914

Thousands of Siberians dip in ice holes with air temperatures as low as minus 45C

By The Siberian Times reporter
20 January 2014

They dived into rivers and lakes to celebrate the Orthodox Christian holiday of Epiphany.

'No regrets, it's a fantastic feeling as well as doing your duty to the church,' said one diver. Picture: Alexander Tyryshkin

Altai region photographer Alexander Tyryshkin's footage shows two bikini clad worshippers in Gorno-Altaisk submerging in the waters of the Katun River in temperatures of minus 16C. Ice holes - sometimes in the shape of a cross - are cut to enable hundreds of thousands of people across Russia to mark Epiphany, the baptism of Jesus.

While the water is above freezing point - just! - the air temperature on Saturday night varied from minus 45C in Yakutsk to minus 17C in Novosibirsk region, minus 18C in Omsk region, minus 43 in the north of Krasnoyarsk region, and minus 14C in Khakassia. Among those plunging in was Yakutsk mayor Aisen Nikolayev who said: 'As you dive into the river or lake water on Epiphany, you purify yourself not only physically, but you purify your soul, too. I feel myself a happier man after diving, there is  more energy to my work'.

Unlike other cities in Siberia, in Yakutsk separate entrances were made for men and women, and a dome was erected above the ice hole in the Lena River.

Across Russia, some 35,000 Emergency Ministry personnel were on duty to deal with any emergencies from night time swimmers. 

In Moscow, some 90,000 bathers took the plunge, saying it gave them a feeling of being born again. 

'No regrets, it's a fantastic feeling as well as doing your duty to the church,' said one diver. 

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