Yakutsk is the coldest inhabited city of its size anywhere on earth. Resting near the shores of the Lena River, one of the world’s longest, Yakutsk endures winter temperatures that average -40°C, which creates a shroud of fog that cloaks the city.
Russian photographer and Instagram user Maxim Avdeev visited Yakutsk and spent some time there. As a result of his extended stay, his photos offer rare insights on life in these extraordinarily harsh weather conditions.
Say hello to the author of the photos. Maxim Avdeev is a Russian freelance photographer; he has worked with Forbes, the Financial Times, Le Monde and many Russian newspapers and magazines. He might shoot a fashion project for a glossy magazine one day and the next he might go to eastern Ukraine to capture the consequences of the conflict in Donbass.
“Sergei Vorobiev, 53, cuts ice from under the ship frozen in the Lena River near the ship repair yard in Zhatay. Once he frees the way with screws and propeller shafts, workers and welders come for repairs and maintenance. This is the 17th winter that Sergei is working on defrosting. The whole process takes 2-2.5 months.”
Ordinarily, this time of year, temperatures drop to around -50 C. One can get used to anything. Besides, thermal underwear, a hat, down parka, gloves and fur will not allow you to perish on the frozen streets. Nevertheless, dressing for any venture outside is like dressing for a walk in open space. The cold burns physically wound your face. If you disdain ski pants, the cold, like a living creature, will cling to your legs; your jeans will freeze to your knees.
Street festivals are a common occurrence, to say nothing of the fact that Yakuts love to spend their leisure time in the open air — hunting, fishing, or working outside. All in all, it’s a matter of habit.
Despite all the disadvantages you can be assured that the meat you buy in an open market has been kept in proper conditions. Even if there are no fridges, the temperature is below zero up to seven months a year, so they are not usually necessary.
A boy and a rabbit in a market.
If you are planning to go somewhere from Yakutsk, be aware that the city is very remote and the roads leading to the nearest villages and meteorological stations are for the most part abandoned. If you want to go somewhere, you need help from the locals. Pictured in the photo: when travelling, locals are sure to bring extra wood supplies, a blowtorch and also spare wheels and a repair kit. They carry this stuff, so that if the car gets stuck or breaks down, you won't have to spend a night outside.
Deer-raising is common among locals, in particular the Nenets, a small northern ethnic group. For them reindeers are food, a means of transportation and clothes. The government runs special programs to save this traditional activity, the Nenets are provided with flats and snow-tractors. And there is a big celebration — “reindeer-breeder’s day” at the end of March.
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