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Farming and Food in Russia
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Old Believers in Siberia, Russia
Babushka and Dedushka, two Russian "Old Believers," with their milk cow, who is one of the family in Ynegetai, Siberia, Russia. Effie Elfer photo for the Fall 2004 Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.


Articles
Herding cows in SiberiaRussia is a vast country. The northern city of St. Petersburg sits some 7000 miles from the Green Mountains of Vermont, where I grew up on a small subsistence farm. From St. Petersburg to the city of Irkutsk is an eight-hour flight, like flying across the United States. In Irkutsk, a train skirts the southern tip of Lake Baikal, the “Jewel of Siberia,” bringing one into the Autonomous Republic of Buryiatia, stopping in its capital, Ulan Ulde. Someone must meet you at the station, because since the fall of the Soviet Union, the bus runs only three times a week. An hour-long car ride brings you 43 miles east, from the city of Ulan Ulde, through rolling hills of steppe, by way of once thriving villages, past a Buddhist Datsan, to the Old Believer’s village of Ynegetai.

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It was glorious! – the great Dvina river so still, so broad between its red banks of gravel and sand, and the grass and birch trees on the flat plain all around so green by contrast. And then there was the pungent scent of wood smoke, and we scrambled off the riverboat to see a long, low table laid with starched linen, glass, and cutlery, surrounded by logs on which to sit. All in a meadow smelling of strawberries and flowers. With a woman bending over a black iron pot, which dangled from a tree limb held by two firm posts over a hot fire. Of course, there was Vodka waiting. Because we were in Russia!

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