How Russia’s ‘extreme’ commuters get to work

Alexei Malgavko/Sputnik
Do you find it tiring to commute to work every day? And what would you say if you had to travel to work in an excavator bucket? Or via a zipline? Well, for these Russians, getting to work on time can be a struggle!

Residents in big cities often complain about their long journey to the office - first by bus, then on the metro and then on foot. But it’s a walk in the park compared to what people working in remote regions of Russia have to put up with.

‘Riding’ with the wind

This worker is getting ‘blown’ to work at an industrial plant by heavy winds and has to use a screwdriver to stop himself being carried away. He was filmed in Sabetta, a closed settlement in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area, inhabited only by shift workers mainly engaged in gas production. You can't just go there - even air tickets are strictly issued according to registered names. In Sabetta, ‘prohibition’ is in force: Everyone arriving here is checked for alcohol.

The workers are also not allowed any contact with local wildlife: A bear can attack at any time and polar foxes can have rabies. Even walruses can sometimes pay a visit!

But the most curious thing about the settlement is not even its extremely cold winters (-50º C temperatures are common in Yamal), but the extremely strong and unpredictable wind blowing from the Arctic Ocean. It blows right through the settlement, so everything is fitted with railings, even short flights of stairs.

Catching the excavator bucket

If you thought winter was the worst time of year in the Arctic Circle, you’d be wrong. Every season has its own peculiarities. This video was filmed in the Republic of Komi. Shift workers had to cross to the other side of the River Nyarma-Yakha but, because of flood waters, the crossing had been washed away. The workers found a solution: The first five got inside the bucket of an excavator which took them to the middle of the river and there they crossed to the bucket of another excavator right over the raging water.

Such river crossings are also vital for locals: The spring ‘high water’ cuts whole towns off from dry mainland, but people still need to get to work. Not all remote areas have bridges, while pontoon ferries do not operate in bad weather and fording a river is not an option either.

Fording in an ATV

Many residents in the Yamal town of Labytnangi work in neighboring Salekhard - it's just 20 minutes away, across the River Ob. In winter, they cross over the ice and, in summer, take a ferry. In the spring, when the ice melts, every daily journey to work becomes minor accomplishment. Not only jeeps, but also lorries and all-terrain vehicles regularly get stuck here. But that doesn't stop the locals!

Hopping on a zip wire

For residents of Kazachy Luga, Irkutsk Region, the journey to work has long become a veritable theme park ride! When the nearby river floods, due to melting snow each year, the village turns into an island cut off from the dry mainland. People are forced to ford across to get to the other side (when the water level is not too high) or hop on an improvised zip wire. Even pensioners use it - just don't look down!

Taking the off-road

Taking the off-beat path sounds romantic. But in reality, in spring and autumn, most roads in Siberia turn into impassable bogs in which you can get stuck in no time. If, like the people featured in the video, you need to get through the taiga to reach your workplace at a logging site, you'd better have a lot of patience - and a heavy duty vehicle!

Flying by plane (and that's pushing it a bit!)

Imagine you’re somewhere in the middle of Siberia and you can only get back home by air. But it’s -50º C and your aircraft is frozen to the ground. What to do? These shift workers travelling from Igarka to Krasnoyarsk found a solution straightaway: They decided to give it a push. By the way, many thought the video was fake - but no, the airplane did, indeed, freeze! But how 70 people can get an aircraft moving is the real mystery. They must have really been desperate to get home!

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