There are «god forsaken places» — remote villages that are located far from busy roads built for connecting cities of Russia. The people live there like in the core of history with nature and poultry. You can guess that today’s the 21st century only by satellite plates on the roofs of the rich houses.
Laptevka is one of the god forsaken places. It is situated in the Vasuganski bogs; 100 kilometers from Novosibirsk or 3 hours from Moscow by plane.
There is no bog in the world that is bigger than bog called «Vasuganskoe». Moreover it is difficult to find the place which is purer than this one. The peatbogs occupy thousand of kilometers and purify the Russian air from the civilization dirt.
The village was called after one man whose name was Laptev. This man was either the merchant or the enterprising peasant who settled in these places. Nobody knows when it happened, the people who could tell about it died many years ago.
It is believed that Laptevka has been settled by Laptev. But there were people who lived here many times ago. In those times people were buried in the trunks. Such trunks-coffins were invented by the Siberian Tatars in 16th -17th centuries. These coffins were found after the bank fell down.
Laptevka consists of two streets: the Central Street and the Zarechnaya Street. There is a small river between these two streets. This river reminds the bog — the water is transparent with frogs and lilies. There are a lot of forgotten houses here. They are dark and empty. Especially there are many such houses before the entrance to the village. And these forgotten empty houses and fat gooses walking along the roads make the first impression about Laptevka.
During the Soviet Union Laptevka was the leading agriculture. The herd was huge about 1000 heads of cattle. There was everything for the state: cream, butter, good harvest. There were apiaries almost in every garden. People ate the bowls of honey and drank the casks of medoc (alcohol drink from honey).
These places became homes for the exiles after the war. Marina Czvetaeva’s sister Anastasia has written the book here that is called «My Siberia». Maya Peterson and Svetlana Buharina lived in the nearest villages. Maya Peterson was the first major of Kremlin Rudolf Peterson’s daughter and Svetlana Buharina was Nikolay Buharin’s daughter.
Before reformation Laptevka was not a god forsaken place. The railway goes across the village. It was destroyed in 1990. When the railway was pulled down in the station Penek it was found the rail belonging to 1915. It had got the brand of imperial plants of Nikolay I age. The people rebelled complained and demanded to save the railway. But anyway it is destroyed nowadays. It is not profitable for the state to keep it.
And now 20 kilometers of road to Laptevka is terrible and sometimes it is very difficult to approach to this village even by tractor. So Laptevka became a god forsaken place.
«God forsaken places should be closed», — it was Putin’s words. He is probably right. It means that it is not profitable to develop the agriculture here. But+ it is good place for cattle and making honey in big qualities+ — said the headmaster of Laptevka School Ivan Golikov.
He and his wife (she also works in school and teaches several subjects at once) could not come to conclusion if Putin was right about «god forsaken places» or not. They were sometimes «for», sometimes «against». But there is one fact they are going to leave this village. When they go away there will be only 3 teachers for 22 subjects in school.
Natalie and Ivan laid the table in their sunny white room: cutlets, rice, household pickles from their kitchen-garden and bread and just delicious honey. Then they called their grandson he came from the room there he played the computer game.
I banished the sleepy cats from the armchair and sat. Then I asked putting away the tea packet «Lipton» from my cup: «And how many people are there in Laptevka?» Neither the headmaster nor his wife could answer this question. They took a flabby lined list of paper and counted 93 people. The youngest inhabitant was born a few days ago and he is just going to come from the maternity department.
When headmaster’s family sold their flat in Novosibirsk and came here in 1990s there were 168 inhabitants.
Sheet of paper on which people are written down how many lives in Laptevka.
Unfortunately now there are no people who can run the business and manage the affair successfully, — reflected Ivan Golikov. — While the agriculture was being supported by the state program it could exist. Then Laptevka became subsidiary agriculture of Novosibirsky plant after Comintern. By the truth the village was flourishing to the Comintern. All facilities that you can see here were built by the plant: bricks houses and bridge. But during the reformation the plant refused from Laptevka.
Then the businessman Abdrafikov Fedor Mihaylovich (Fain Mahmudovich) has appeared in our village. He might want sincerely to improve our situation but he could not achieve the full result. At first he became to sell the cattle and the serious part of agriculture machines that were quite expensive by the way. He got primary capital and brought the gereford herd (the English breed of cows). But little by little he sold them all.
Ivan and Natalie speak turn by turn catching up and complementing each other+ Natalie continues:
— Why, — he told: «There are no skilled people here only tipplers.» Then he left our village alone. But our men love their village… There are men who do not drink. They are good hardworking guys. But to be honest, they are crude they do not know how to take a credit, go to somewhere and insist on their own way. They do not understand their advantage.
Generally speaking we liked it here, — Natalie remembered, — when we came here it seemed that we appeared in Switzerland. The food had very high quality in comparison with the city food+ I thought: Oh, my goodness, what is the honey! And the meat was the purest+ The nature is virginal here — the famous Vasuganski bogs. I have read about them studied in school and now live here. But it is very easy to get lost among them.
— One day I got lost here, — Ivan Golikov smiles, — I was looking for my dog in the forest. It was the winter day without the sun. I have found the dog but while we were turning around the forest I lost the direction. It is not possible to orient with the help of moss. It grows around the trees. We had been straying on the forest for some time then I marked three tall trees and went straight. So we went out of the forest.
— And what is the health in the city — my husband worked in school number 173 in Novosibirsk. He was ill very much and as a result got the second disabled group. But we came here he began to work as a carpenter. He chose the job which was not connected with mental activity. And it works! He had not been working anywhere for five years. The school was completed and nobody suggested him a job. So he got well his health became better and our life was not bad we had a lot of cattle. But now old age is not so far and there is no wish to stay here.
— I want warmth, — catches up Ivan. — And do you know about terrible domestic difficulties? The first thing is mosquitoes we have to wear warm clothes the whole summer not to be bitten by them+ The second firewood should be prepared.
— I can not keep an axe in my hand I am a city-dweller± said Natalie.
— Here there is a lot of grass everywhere. We have to cut it three or four times a year. It is very difficult. Everything grows well. The land is very fertile, black earth. Potatoes are just wonderful but we do not know what to do: there is no buyer for the harvest.
— Our sons left for Moscow took the credit for the flat. They said: «Mum, dad we take you from here it is just god forsaken place…»
Old woman Vera
Vera was born not far from Laptevka in another «god forsaken place» the Siberian village Nikitinsk. She has lived in four villages for all her life and has never left the district. She got married in the neighboring village Korolevka. After 20 years she got married again and her new husband brought her to Laptevka. She mourned about Korolevka at first but then got used.
— When Balahonov was alive we had a large housekeeping. — Vera remembers her husband treating to me and her granddaughter Natasha with soup and mayonnaise. — We kept ducks and geese. He made nests. The first year I was angry with him because it is female work to make nests. But he said: «Sit down and I will make nests». Then I got used. Well+ a duck sat on the eggs a week then he picked the eggs to his hat and switched on the lamp and lit the eggs up. He always knew that egg is good for eating and that one is not. In autumn we always had goose-meat, veal, rabbit-meat… We cut about 100 rabbits everything was in their fat.
Then Balahanov died. And old woman Vera has been living in Laptevka for 30 years. There are not any of her native villages. People dropped them out and they are staying empty among tall grass.
She was given a new house instead of previous one. But now she can not keep large housekeeping. Vera keeps only pigs and chickens. There is a cage in the floor and under the roof of the shed to stop chickens from flying to the pigs. Sometimes pigs «used» chickens. Vera spares them.
There is a lot of firewood in Laptevka. Vera does not save them and burns hot however the cool air is spreading on the floor. The fat cats do not eat cold soup in their bowls they are sleeping at the stove hanging over the noses.
There is only one shop in the Laptevka. It is not heat with the stove but only with the electrical heater. When it is -20 Celsius outside the temperature in the shop is just more on 20 degrees. People seldom go there.
People mainly buy sweets, sausages, flour, sugar, biscuits here+And some people can afford treat themselves with red fish, boiled salted pork, herring and fruit. But they say that food has not the best quality there it can often be spoiled. But the people have no choice. There is only one shop and money is a rare thing.
People live here at the expense of the pensioners. The pensioners live almost in every house. The other way to have money is to sell meat. Only five teachers, a librarian and saleswoman get the salary. About five families actively grow the cattle. Pensions are mainly three thousand roubles. Sometimes 4500 and the largest is 5500 roubles.
The only saleswoman in Laptevka Zinaida Ivanovna has got a big ample house with wallpapers, TV, telephone, heating+
— I went here in1980. I began to work as a shop assistant and have worked here for the whole life. I did not want to come back to the city. My daughter has got two rooms flat but why should we push one another. I used to live alone and live alone. My granddaughter visits me on holiday and daughter too. So that’s how it is!
So that’s how it is!
There are 16 pupils in «god forsaken place» school this year. By the truth when I was in school there were only 2 pupils the other children were ill…
There is no hospital here and no doctor. The nearest hospital in Pihtovka or Kolivan and there are just several cars. As usual there are not any cars on the move in the village. So that’s how we live if somebody feels bad we will call the ambulance from Kolivan «on the off-chance».
And there is no mobile connection here. A couple years ago we made the Internet and after that the phones have appeared in several houses.
You rarely see people in the streets. It is uninhabited like in the picture. Only the smoke is gently moving from the pipes+ There are many fat and funny pigs, huge fat geese, horses, cows in the strip. They say that there are bears in forests. But the learned people affirm that a bear does not come to the village nearer than two kilometers. They threaten with bears to justify the theft of the cattle Minks, polecats, roe deer run to kitchen-gardens, eagle owls fly to Cranberry grow on the bogs in summer. People come from the city to hunt for an elk.
The village people live little by little. They live simple lives and give birth to new people. The ordinary family consists of six children. The children help to manage the cattle and kitchen-gardens, study in school, grow up and go away+ But some of them can not get on in the city and come back because it is important to study not only in school but also in society: sometimes do not trust the other people and be able to stay independent. The people were not taught this by anybody in Laptevka. They can manage the work and studying in the city but they are not able to manage people’s rudeness and return home.
New books were brought to the library and all children shelves are full of colorful «Laughballs». Nadezhda Belyaeva is a librarian and a local deputy, she came to burn the stove in her day off not to give «Laughballs» and the flowers getting cold. Nadezhda has got a large housekeeping that feed her family meat and money.
— There is nothing good in the village that is why everybody goes away. Only the pensioners stay here because there is no reason for them to go somewhere. It is not bad for them in the village+ And where can they go? Who gives them flats? And they have no money to buy flats themselves.
We sell meat cheap — 100–110 roubles a beef. The market price is 200 roubles… So there is nothing good in the village. We have to work days and nights to eat and feed our cattle.
And the pure air… What is good? It is only for you; you come to us and enjoy: «Oh, how wonderful; it is just a land of plenty» But for us…
Well, right I go to Novosibirsk by affairs then I come back with the round head. There are cars everywhere in Novosibirsk, I feel seek+ When I come here begin to feel better. Perhaps we have to become a habit to live in the city. Ii is impossible there+ You used to but I can not breathe that air I have a headache. And there is awful rumble everywhere+ and vanity. Everybody runs and runs. We did not use to it.
Where can we get to? We are native people. So there is no better village than our Laptevka. Could you see on your way the other villages: no fence, just nothing…
Anyway it is very good in our Laptevka.
By Olga Saliy
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