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Incredible journey to the land where winter begins, the place where winter is born (photo report)

incredible journey1A typical temperature in winter is -60C degrees, and the coldest was -71.2C.  Picture here and below: Naryiana Romanova

In this exclusive report, Yakutian photographer Nariyana Romanova takes us on a magical journey through her kingdom of ice.

The northeast of my homeland Yakutia - the coldest place of human habitation, the Pole of Cold, the village of Oymyakon, this is where we are travelling.

A typical temperature in winter is -60C degrees, and the coldest was -71.2C. 

For locals, living in such a severe climate, it is nothing more than a normal condition of the weather. 

You can even contemplate children playing outside and eating ice-cream, and older people taking a dip in the Indigirka River for ‘body training’. 

By the way, the word ‘Oymyakon’ means ‘non freezing waters’ in the Even language. 

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The word ‘Oymyakon’ means ‘non-freezing waters’ in the Even language. 

It is such a unique contrast in the land of permafrost, because we have the lowest temperatures anywhere that people live and yet hot springs are running from the mountains! 

Local rivers are popular for winter dips, too, among foreigners - for ‘toughening up’. 

These rivers were sanctified by ancient shamans and give incredible strength for people. And the locals in Oymyakon are remarkable for their longevity.

It is amazing how people decide to move here or stay here, in such a place, thinking it’s the best place in the world. 

Talking to them about traveling and seeing new places, they travel, they do, but they don’t want to. This large region where I was born is big enough to spend a lifetime discovering new places. 

Something keeps Yakutians here as if they had roots growing deep down in the earth like trees. It’s love, strong love for this land.

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The road to the Pole of Cold is neither simple nor easy. This is the Kolyma road. 

The journey usually begins from Yakutsk, the capital of Yakutia. 

Starting from the first second in Yakutsk, it feels like you arrived somewhere else, not Russia. A different country, and in winter it feels like a different planet. 

The landscape reminds of the moon, or of cold planets from the movies. 

But at the same time you have the happiest, the kindest people living here. People who enjoy a calm way of living, in wild untouched nature.

The road to the Pole of Cold is neither simple nor easy. This is the Kolyma road. 

The notorious Road of Bones of Soviet times - overseen by sinister Dalstroy organisation. It had 109 GULAGs on the way, and thousands of bodies lie under this route.  So many lives lost in this cold land.

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The landscape reminds of the moon, or of cold planets from the movies.

There is a monument devoted to prisoner-road-builders: a road goes between two mountains. That’s how prisoners with their bare hands were destroying a mountain to make a road for Soviet rulers so they could get access to the gold of the Siberian rivers. Breathtaking views and stories. Beautiful nature and blood-chilling history.

We see Soviet villages built in the 1950s, abandoned in the 1990s. Settlements full of life became empty right after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. 

Some 300 people moved from the village of Kyubyume in one year alone. 

Nowadays the nature of the north looks even more remote and empty than it did during Soviet times. 

Soviet symbols now are like echoes of the past. They’re not here anymore, but you see objects of the past, and you see the descendants of those who were sent from the western part of the USSR as punishment, the children of politicians, doctors, builders, poets, and the like.

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Settlements full of life became empty right after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. 

Today Yakutia is becoming more and more national. You couldn't be proud of your own language during the Soviet time, you had to speak Russian. 

Starting from the 1990s, slowly but surely the traditional part of the Yakutia and Sakha people is coming out into the light, as if it was all frozen before and now is melting and opening the culture of Sakha people in a more saturate way. 

National events, cinematography, theatre, art... today, everything displays the national symbols, and it’s beautiful.

Nowadays nature is giving us access to the treasures of entrails such as mammoth fauna, animals remains, in perfect condition as the permafrost melts. 

Ancient horses, bison, cave lions and finally the woolly mammoths. Hundreds of tons every year. 

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Yakut horses and cows seems do not fear the cold.

This land is not only famous for its diamond and gold mining industry, but for the best preserved ancient animals.

People here have a special connection with nature and it looks like the land is awarding them in it’s own special way for keeping it safe and clean, keeping ancient traditions, not losing the connection with spirits.

The beauty of this land is in the variety of contrasts, the severity of the climate and the warmth of the people. 

Not letting in a person inside means leaving him to die outside. 

This is how their hospitality feels. A total stranger comes in, they give a hot cup of tea, food, this amazing compassion they feel to any person, thinking how else they can help him. 

The most surprising thing is not usually in the rivers, lake, tundra and taiga, but in the people. 

Their kindness makes the biggest contrast.

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Naryiana Romanova, 25, from Yakutsk, studied photography at the Gerasimov Cinematography Institute in Moscow. She is available for commissions in her native Yakutia and can be contacted on +79142960621.
Tagged under Pole of Cold Oymyakon