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Issue: May 2012


Toward Russia With Love

Continuing with the tour of Russia, here is the section on Krasnoyarsk Krai (Krasnoyarsk)

Krasnoyarsk Krai:  the epitome of Siberia; and even though Siberia is considered anything East of the Urals, when you are talking about Siberia (or thinking about 'Siberia'), chances are you discussing/thinking of Krasnoyarsk, because it is so massive and is the 'Heart' of Siberia. (Much in the same way West Virginia is the Heart of Appalachia).

Krasnoyarsk is the second-largest Federal Subject of Russia, encompassing 903,400 sq mi 13% of Russia's total territory (Sakha [Yakutia] being the largest). That is massive, Man! Much of the land seems to be inhospitable (except to the multitude of mosquitoes, horseflies, and reindeer that live there); certainly it is enormous — hard for one to get one's mind around. The Krai is composed of some of Russia's most beautiful wonders, such as the Putorana Plateau in the Northwest, the Sayan Mountains in the South, and a multitude of lakes and rivers.  It is a land that has not changed in millions of years but for some reason struck the Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen as the Land of the Future (and he had the idea to start a mini-empire there, at a spot which is now near Yeniseysk an attempt at a canal to China was even partly built).

What we do find here of Modernist 'futurism,' in the 'Russian' parts of the territory, is the former USSR 'secret town' of Zelengorosk secret because uranium enrichment/bomb-producing; the 'capital' of bleak and hazardous mining towns of enormous deposits of coal, uranium, and nickel; or of former Gulag prison camps or places of exile.

The Heart of Siberia, capable in the 20th c. of spawning global cataclysm, has always been regarded as the End of the World.  Nobody really ever went to Krasnoyarsk on purpose, so there are things here, remarkable things, that have gone un(der)investigated.

In a veritable early 20th-c. science fiction scenario, the Tunguska Event, or 'Blast,' of 1908 sent shock waves around the world, as a gigantic either meteorite or comet, the largest ever to strike Earth, hit here. (Had it landed in New York or LA, the City would have been totaled but it landing here, where it did, luckily no one was killed.)  Stil, this scientific landmark explosion was only reported in some scant number of Central Siberian newspapers, escaping any real scientific notice until twenty years later, when Leonid Kulik discovered the area near the settlement of Vanvara in Evenkia.

Italian scientists believe that a fragment of that 'asteroid' created Lake Cheko a landscape feature which didn't appear to exist a hundred years ago. Spinning theories less sound than that of Italian scientists, some loonies believe that this occurrence was caused by aliens, and it is on this that some science fiction stories, TV Shows (like The X-Files), and video games have based Russia's Roswell mythos.

But, far from being exclusively and surreally science-fiction'futuristic,' this land is also something of a sci fi throw-back in time — a portal to the Unknown Lands of 'unknown' and genetically unique human enclaves. Native populations found especially in the Taymyr Peninsula (whose largest town is Dudinka); the Arctic town of Krasnoyarsk; and Eastern Krasnoyarsk may be almost as elusive as the ancient Pazyryk, Afanasevo, and Tagars who used t roam the Krai.  These areas in fact used to be their own autonomous Okrugs (of Taymyr and Evenkia) until as recently as 2007, when they were absorbed into Krasnoyarsk. As a result of these exotic peoples' antique and extended isolation, a lot of their culture, way of life, and music have not really been recorded (except in just a few areas)

There's is much more about this and other Russian music on my blog at www.louisvillemusic.org/terrabeat.

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