A girl is seen in a street at -42 degrees Celsius, Norilsk.Denis Kozhevnikov/TASS
One could almost imagine that the design for the famous Russian nesting doll came from looking at the winter outfits of people in Siberia and the Russian Far East, where -30°C is not really even considered to be freezing. When it really becomes cold though, locals say you can never have too many layers of clothing. Even then though, they still do their best to dress well and look good.
Yakutsk, the temperature outside is minus 47 degrees.Bolot Bochkarev/Sputnik
Kristina Kobeleva, a geography teacher, moved to Norilsk from Krasnoyarsk (1,500 km to the south, but still in Siberia). She says that cold temperatures in the north feel less uncomfortable because the humidity there is lower, although in both cities it is regularly 30-35°C below zero during the winter.
“In Norilsk, at -40°C only exposed parts get cold: the face, hands if you are not wearing gloves, feet if you are standing for a long time. Otherwise, if there is no strong wind, you don't even feel the frost. Whereas in Krasnoyarsk, even at temperatures of -10°C you will freeze to the bone.” In Norilsk, it is another matter if the temperature is -40°C and on top of that the wind blowing at 20-25 meters per second. At times like that, you need to dress so that not a single part of your body is exposed to the wind.
“Here everyone wears either a fur coat or a full-length down coat. I wear a thick floor-length down coat padded with sintepon and thermal underwear or fleece jackets underneath. I prefer dresses, so I put on thermal leggings on top of tights." Gloves are a must, Kristina says, and hers “are made of mink fluff and are very tightly knit.” Footwear usually means boots made of natural materials (leather, suede and fur) that have thick soles.
Kristina says she almost always wears thermal leggings in the winter, but that this does not qualify as "wrapping oneself particularly warmly" by Norilsk standards. “Although you do see fashionable people who wear sneakers in winter, roll up their pants and do not cover their heads at -35°C,” she says. “But then their ears are usually blue with cold.”
Yakutia is considered the coldest region in Russia and is home to the two cities with the lowest-recorded temperatures (nearly 70°C below zero), Oymyakon and Verkhoyansk. In the region's capital, Yakutsk, the average winter temperature is 40-45°C below zero.
Russian blogger Ilya Varlamov in Yakutia.Ilya Varlamov (CC-BY-SA 4.0.)
“If in other places a fur coat is a luxury, for our region it is more of a necessity,” says Margarita Makarova, an anchor on the Sakha TV channel. “Although recently very warm Bask jackets (a Russian outerwear brand whose down jackets cost about 30,000 rubles, or $500) have appeared, and they are also popular because they are cheaper than a fur coat.” At the same time, many people still wear fur hats since knitted ones are just not warm enough for local winters, along with fur boots made of reindeer skin, called mukluks.
“There is a variety of different models, and Yakut women take full advantage of the available choice. Men wear mukluks too, only their models are usually more restrained,” says Margarita.
In addition to covering their heads, many locals also cover their faces because otherwise you will end up with the famous Yakut “makeup” of icy eyelashes. All it takes is spending 10 or so minutes in the cold.
In addition to a fur coat and fur boots, it is an absolute must to wear several layers of clothing underneath, such as woolen leggings and leg warmers since the knees are particularly prone to freezing in such extreme cold. Of course, many people also wear wadded pants, although it is difficult to look very feminine in them. “Thus, a winter look here does not come cheap, but it is the only way to keep warm in freezing Yakutia,” Margarita says.
Pevek in Chukotka is officially the northernmost city in Russia. Long and cold winters there are accompanied by one of the strongest winds on the planet, the yuzhak, so locals make sure to cover their faces to protect themselves against it.
“In cold weather, we always wear a scarf and a snood, otherwise the face will be frostbitten,” says Yevgenia, who moved to Pevek from Vladivostok several years ago. “We cover our faces to the very eyes.” Yet, despite the strong wind and frost, young women want to look beautiful and still put on makeup. “Of course, everything freezes, and if you get watery eyes it is a complete disaster. But there you go, you just have to fix your makeup once you are indoors,” she adds.
Designer boots would not get you very far in Chukotka in the winter. “In felt boots you can cope with any frost,” Yevgenia notes. “I have high felt boots, white with embroidery, they are fashionable and look good and, most importantly, very suitable for the north.” You can, of course, wear ordinary winter boots too, but just to get to work and only if you do not have to spend more than 15 minutes or so outdoors. And these boots must still have a thick sole consisting of several layers.
Residents of Chukotka prefer clothing made from natural materials: cotton turtlenecks, wool sweaters, fur hats and full-length hooded natural fur coats. “But that is if we are talking about severe frosts. If the temperature is just -30°C, you can wear a ski suit. As for schoolchildren, it is all the same to them: They walk about without hats and with bare ankles.”
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