When you hear about Yakutia, a republic in the Russian eastern Siberia, chances are you get goose bumps imagining life in one of the coldest places to live in the world.
Larger than Argentina and just smaller than India, Yakutia’s population is fewer than one million inhabitants. Not quite there for the largest subnational governing body by area in the world at 3,083,523 square kilometers.
Being one of the ten autonomous Turkic Republics within the Russian Federation, Yakutia fosters close cultural, political, economic and industrial relations with the independent Turkic states through membership in organizations such as the Turkic Council and the Joint Administration of Turkic Arts and Culture.
Steppes in Sync had an unusual encounter with a Yakut man in Ukraine recently. Aleksandr Shoigo claims to be a native of Yakutia. But this 1985-born gentleman has no way to prove this since his nomadic relatives reportedly didn’t care much about procuring a birth certificate for this man. Mr Shoigo is a stateless person. The same problem affects an estimated 12 million people worldwide.
Apart from stateless nomads and extreme cold, Sakha Yakutia is famous for an UNESCO-designated natural site Lena Pillars Nature Park, sparkling rocks –an uncited Wikipedia source estimates that Sakha produces 99% of all Russian diamonds and over 25% of the diamonds mined in the world–and some more interesting people. Among them, is Mira Maximova who according to Yakutia Today‘s Savina Danilova often invites Yakuts living in China to take part in various creative video projects.
Another Sakha-hailing creative is Misha Maltsev who’s had experience of work on organizing Tabyk Ethnic Music Festival — one of the leading indigenous music festivals in Siberia — and in the times falling the collapse of the Soviet Union was instrumental in bringing Siberian musicians to the west.
Mr Maltsev is also into documentary filmmaking having done films for Channel 4, Arte, Al Jazeera. He reportedly worked in Nigeria for a BBC-funded project. While on of his films was reportedly nominated for the prestigious Rory Peck Award (International Impact section). The award is given to freelance camera operators who have risked their lives to report on newsworthy events. It was set up in 1995 and is named after the Northern Irish freelance cameraman Rory Peck, who was killed while reporting on the siege of the Moscow White House in 1993.
According to Mr Maltsev’s profile on Yakutia Today, he was a dedicated campaigner on behalf of the Hmong, an Asian ethnic group from the mountainous regions of China, Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand.He lobbied at the United Nations in New York and the European Human Rights Commission in Brussels.
If you got mesmerized by the ‘diamonds’ that Yakutia has to offer, hit the M56 Lena Highway aka The Amur-Yakutsk Highway. But before you do that just make sure you see these pictures. In the summer, with any significant rain, the road turns into impassible mud that often swallows whole smaller vehicles, hence the nickname ‘The Highway from Hell.’
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