Out of Krasnoyasrk Krai: onwards to Irkutsk
OK, that’s enough on Krasnoyarsk and the general region. Another virtual pin in another virtual map. It’s time to focus attention east… with great apologies to Khakassia and Tuva. I know they deserve more… I didn’t even get to mention Siberian apricots… But, currently the excursion possibilities are “dubious” due to recession and the conditions and logistics that arise there from… Although the will may be there, Russia Experience isn’t currently offering it as part of the package… at least for now. So, no point in getting your hopes up just yet…
I also never got around to mentioning the famous/infamous1908 Tunguska “event” that occurred in Krasnoyarsk Krai… So for now just assume that aliens “did it” and we’ll move on.
I scanned around for footage taken east of Kraznoyarsk. From a train-window the view, at least a good portion of it, is “pleasant” enough: open, rolling Steppe, a variegated canvas of brush and shrub sprouting into equally rich rail-side forest. Small settlements and towns slump in the greenery with little signs of apparent life. It’s not really what you’ve bought your ticket for… but the trip was never about a seat on a train anyway, was it? Anyway, 12 to 14 hours later (a quick pop down to the shops by Siberian standards)…
At long last … the Paris of Siberia, the gateway to Lake Baikal … and stepping stone (via Buryatia) to Mongolia and then China. A significant port of call. Lots to see and do, no doubt. To paraphrase the tragic Captain Oates: “We may be some time…” It’s another of those places to which undesirables were exiled before Siberia was opened-up by rail and (in part) developed.
I assume that the pretty neo-classical buildings, the roads and electricity were not installed and waiting for the newly convicted to enjoy… Exiles had to eke an existence from the harsh ground, but compared to forced labour in the Gulag system…? Preferable? … Or are such comparisons meaningless as here I sit in the UK in sunny mid-December, in my comfy leather chair, feet propped up on the panel-heater?
Naturally, class played a significant role in the subsequent treatment of exiled offenders … Irkutsk’s most famous inmates were officer-class soldiers … including princes … responsible for the 1825 Decemberist uprising against the coronation of Nicholas I. Memoirs even exist speaking positively of the journey east and the friendly reception offered by Siberian locals. It surely beat prison! These were treated notably better than “common” foot-soldiers who received severe lashings and brutal, even fatal mistreatment… survivors making their way across Siberia on foot, chained to other “common” criminals.
It seems to have been a scatter-shot affair with a range of offenders brushed under Siberia’s carpet to a variety of far-away places and fates including mine-work and other forms of hard labour… But survivors falling upon Irkutsk (and the like) could even ultimately, ironically find liberation in their “incarceration” as they eventually established farms and became land-owners, were respected for their Decemberist actions by Eastern sympathisers and ultimately found life a great deal more liberal and indeed liberating than that which the stifling plots, intrigues and enforced formality up in Moscow provided.
Indeed, many stayed after serving out their sentences, and impressions from the lives that they crafted there, the society and productivity they nurtured is still felt today.
Now you can join them …
More next time.
Next time: Trips and Tales (Part 60) Irkutsk: Decemberist fallout
[Photo by stealthtractor]