I traveled from Rovaniemi, from Finnish Lapland’s capital on the Arctic Circle with a small bus, over the Russian border, to the industrial town of Apatity on the Kola peninsula. Here I met an old friend from the Siberian Studies Centre in Halle/Germany, Masha Nakhshina, who is herself from that town. This part of the Kola peninsula was heavily industrialized in the Stalin era.
On the southern border of the beautiful Khibiny mountain range the mining cities of Apatity and Kirovsk were built to deliver fertilizers for the the soviet agriculture and for export.
I used the opportunity to get first impressions from the Kola Peninsula where one of my project partners, Nina Messhtyb, will do her part of the comparative fieldwork. Masha asked a friend with a car and we had a nice short trip in the vicinity of the Khibiny mountains.
On Saturday we hired a local guide and went with a snowmobile into the mountains. The weather was cold (between -20 and -25 C°) and sunny, but the days north of the Arctic Circle are still short (about six hours)
It was a good opportunity to also test my clothes. I avoid high-tech equipment and clothing and just use the stuff from the army-surplus-store as usual, plus some Sámi reindeer fur shoes. Fist test passed I would say!
One day we used for a walk in the city and another friend introduced us to a local artisan workshop in one of the dark cellars of the soviet concrete blocks that are typical for Apatity. Here two women use driftwood from the seashore to produce laughing cats and smiling reindeer and other souvenirs for the growing tourist industry.
Internet is not a novelty here anymore, but for me its still exotic to video-chats with home. I didn’t have the feeling that it shortened distances, the opposite actually: it let me feel the foreignness of the place even more.
Now I join the big road from the town of Murmansk in the North of the Kola Peninsula to Russia’s northern second capital St. Petersburg or shortened “Piter” as the locals say.