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Travels in Russia

KLM Rocks Across Europe!
Santa Claus in Moscow
Television Is a Time Suck
The Reality of Irrelevance
Salute Mayor Luzhkov
Impeachment Happens
I Am Not The Only One...
I'm Back! Did Ya Miss Me?
Chechnya Burning
Weddings in Winter
The Jews Are Here!
Gailyn Goes to Town
Is There a Central Bank?
Santa Barbara is Real
Nick's Thanksgiving in Russia
Den' Rozhdeniya = Birthdays
Those Crazy Expats
It's Just a Few Drops of Vodka...
Elections Are Always Rigged
The Blind Leading the Blind
Good Russian Grooms
You Say 'Boris Berezovskiy' Fast
Russian Oil Towns
Sneaky Siberian Tigers
Which Way is St Peterburg?
Where am I again? Oh, yeah...
I Love Me Some Vodka
It's a Gosorg Halloween
Hunger Comes to Us All
Why Don't They Just Learn English?!
Post-Crisis, Life Goes On
Is Yeltsin 'The Man'?
Murmansk - Brrrr!
Taganka Hides Her Secrects
These are Communists
It's a Power Vaccum
The Commies are Back
Propaganda is Good for You
You Better Buy Russian!
Sex Ed Soviet Style
Party over, oops outta time!
Russian Healthcare in Moscow
What Russian Financial Crisis?
YE Prices in Russia
The Hungry Duck
Russian Caviar Mafia
Magical Mushrooms
Shhhh! We're Bear Hunting
Soviet Street Scams
Bez Dollarov
A Koshka Konspiracy
On The Dacha
The Banking Implosion
Surviving Army Life
Shashleek is Steak on Steroids
Dacha Thinking
Beach Weekend
Dos Vedanya
Hello from Vladivostok
Equality Means Only She Works
Jogging is an Extreme Sport
Russians Have Reunions Too
My Folks in Massive Moscow
Better than Fireworks
Miners Are Real Men
The Russian Mafia is the Roof
No One Smiles in the CIS
One Year Anniversary
Russian Brides Rock
Laura is My St Pete Connection
Change is in the Wind
Chuck Norris' Beverly Hills Casino
The Expat Woman's Predicament
Street Food is Yummy!
Spring Flowers Make June Leavers
The Provinces Are Provincial
Ever Take an Elektrichka?
The English Invasion
Nuttin Like New Money
Rules Are Made to Break
All Black is Russian Fashion
Easter Memories = Easter Dinner
Politics, Russian Style
Theresa Tries to Russify
I Go to Gay Clubs Worldwide
I Hide on Women's Day
New & Shiny: Nizhny Novgorod
Psst! Wanna job in Moscow?
Fili Park Has All the Bootlegs
Web Page Reactions
Take a Break at Dom Odaha
Expat Living in Moscow is Swank
Why Are You Remonting?
They Look Like Telephones...
In Need of a Decent Hairstylist
Smashing Bottles in Red Square


Russia, November 9, 1998

Too Cold to Care!

You think you know what winter is? Ha! I lived through two Russian ones!

The army awaits!
Ready to clean the snow!
Ever see one of these puppies before??
Mmm.. car tasty!
Cleaning time again!
Get that snow off the ground!
I said there shall be no snow on any paved surface!
Scraping away at the ice
At least they have a roof!
Nice and chilly apartments
It ain't going anywhere soon!
Gonna need a heater first!
I know I should be writing these pages instead of pasting in articles from the Moscow Times, but after two weeks straight of -15C and snow, I'm too cold to care!

Moscow Times November 11, 1998

Coldest Winter in 30 Years Grips City

By Julia Solovyova Staff Writer

Temperatures across Russia plummeted Tuesday, killing homeless people, closing schools in Vladivostok and prompting a swan rescue operation at Moscow's Novodevichy Monastery.

And it will get worse before it gets better: Meteorologists say the week will just get colder - and over the next few months Moscow will sink into its coldest winter in 30 years. 'Winter has finally arrived,' said Alexander Vasilyev, director of Gidromettsentr, the federal weather forecast agency, in a telephone interview Tuesday. Vasilyev predicted average temperatures this winter in Moscow will be 1 degree colder than last year's, which would make it the coldest winter since the 1960's.

The average daily temperature in Moscow has been hovering below zero since Sunday, and Tuesday it fell as low as minus 10 degrees Celsius during the day. Tuesday night, temperatures were expected to dip far lower, to minus 15 C in Moscow and minus 19 C in the surrounding Moscow region. Daytime temperatures will hover around minus 13 C on Wednesday and Thursday, meteorologists say. Friday will bring some relief, with temperatures rising to somewhere between minus 7 C and minus 2 C.

The cold has been brought in by a massive front drifting down from the Arctic Ocean. Unhindered by Russia's flat northern plains, freezing winds are sweeping across the country, from Murmansk and St. Petersburg to Moscow, then to Central Russia, and eventually to the North Caucasus and Kazakhstan. Such severe Arctic cold fronts have been given names in Russian folklore. When they come in January they are called the Christmas Frost; when they come in early May they are the Bird Cherry Frost.

But temperatures this low in early November are rare indeed, coming just once every 20 years or so, Vasilyev said. It is so rare that there is not even a picturesque name for it: It's just cold.

Every year the onset of winter kills homeless and drunk Muscovites. This week's cold snap has already claimed nine lives, according to Lyubov Zhomova, a spokeswoman for the city ambulance service. Another 67 people, many of them homeless, were hospitalized for hypothermia, she said. In addition to human casualties, two frostbitten white swans had to be forcibly rescued from a pond near the Novodevichy Monastery on Tuesday, said Nina Tolmachyova of the Moscow Rescue Service. The swans were left shelterless when their wooden houses mysteriously disappeared from the monastery's grounds the night before, apparently stolen.

Rescuers spent three hours chasing the scared birds, Christina and Edward, around a pond covered with a layer of ice too thin to walk upon but too thick to break through with a boat. Eventually a Rescue Service diver, Levan Agarov, had to break a path through the ice with his body for the boat to follow. In the end the two were lassoed and evacuated to the Moscow Zoo, away from hungry stray dogs and freezing cold.

In the Pacific port city of Vladivostok, temperatures were dropping below freezing but the city's central heating has not yet kicked on, which forced citywide closures of schools and daycare centers, Interfax reported. Vladivostok Mayor Viktor Cherepkov appealed to the local prosecutor's office to file charges against local energy supplier Dalenergo for not turning on heat to the city. Dalnergo said the heat would come on later this week. Company officials also told Interfax that the city has not paid its debts, and that has left too little money to buy fuel for the winter or to repair some heating pipes.

So far, the cold hasn't caused any other damage. There has been no increase in traffic accidents, said Tolmachyova of the Rescue Service. This year's harvest was poor but not because of the cold, as it was collected long before the frost set in, said Leonid Kholod, a former ministe r of agriculture - and a man clearly authorized to discuss winter weather, as his last name means 'cold' in Russian.

If this week's temperatures are unusually severe, snow on Nov. 7 is nothing special. It traditionally accompanies Moscow's Revolution Day celebrations, as longtime Muscovites well know. A Soviet-era anecdote even held that the tribunes above the Lenin Mausoleum were heated so that geriatic Kremlin officials would not freeze - even though their only movement as they spent hours watching marching crowds stream past was to wave phlegmatically.

Moscow Times December 4, 1998

Tempers Boil in Unheated Far East

By Russell Working

VLADIVOSTOK, Far East -- Thousands of people are shivering in cold homes in an icy archipelago across the Far East and the public's patience is boiling over.

A week ago demonstrators and motorists clashed here during a protest over unheated apartments. About 600 apartment blocks in Vladivostok are still without central heating or are inadequately warmed due to a combination of fuel shortages, delayed maintenance work, and bureaucratic infighting, local media reported. Tens of thousands of people in this Pacific port city of 634,000 are warming themselves with space heaters and by bundling up while indoors.

In the worse homes and offices, sewage freezes in toilets, porcelain cracks and maintenance workers struggle to thaw frozen pipes. The overtaxed electrical system in some apartment blocks is fizzing out due to the overuse of space heaters. 'We all stayed in one room with the space heater, and we all slept together in one bed with the dog,' said Olga Zinyakova, a 40-year-old shopkeeper whose heat was only turned on Tuesday. 'Our German shepherd was so cold he kept trying to get under the blankets with us.'

The situation is similar elsewhere. Anatoly Makhankov, head of the Federation of Trade Unions of Magadanskaya Region, said there has been no central heating for weeks in homes in Magadan, about 1,500 kilometers to the north, because the energy company can't afford coal. Schools have been closed and a commission from the Emergency Situations Ministry called the predicament a disaster during a recent visit. 'People are hostages here because they have nowhere to go,' Makhankov said.

In the town of Mys Shmidta on the Arctic Sea in the Chukotka autonomous region, 286 people had to be evacuated to an army base Thursday after the explosion of a heating system that serviced 10 apartment blocks. Temperatures are below minus 25 degrees Celsius.

And less than a month after federal officials flew to Petropavlavsk-Kamchatsky on the Kamchatka Peninsula to deal with an emergency fuel shortage, the northeastern seaport of 265,000 is again running short of fuel. Homes have had no electricity for three days and their heat has been reduced to save energy, said Vera Vlasova, spokeswoman for the Kamchatka region Press Center. Despite a wealth of natural gas and geothermal reserves, Kamchatka runs its power plants and heats its homes with oil imported by tanker.

Some small villages have been hit even harder. There is no heat in Olenevod, a collective farm village of about 1,000 people in Primorye, the finger of Russia flanked by China, North Korea and the Sea of Japan. Most villagers there once raised deer but are now unemployed.

Temperatures that have fallen to minus 22 C have mostly kept irate citizens indoors. But last week in Vladivostok, anger boiled over when at least 7,000 people in 29 apartment blocks were left without heat because of a squabble between the city and the port, which share responsibility for the boilers heating the homes. Hundreds of protesters blocked a bridge in the Egersheld suburb, and when a television crew tried to move its Volga through the crowd, Alexander Shishov, 68, started beating the vehicle with his cane. 'I can barely stand on my leg, and he tried to push me with his car,' Shishov explained.

The mob attacked the Volga, tore off its grille, and nearly succeeded in flipping the car over before police intervened. One motorist in a foreign sports car set his dog on the protesters, after which some of the mob grabbed the man and threw him on the hood of his car, news reports said. A police squadron rescued the driver.

Vladivostok Mayor Viktor Cherepkov's office refused to comment on the situation, referring reporters to a Nov. 26 news release stating that problems with energy supplier Dalenergo's pipelines shut down heat to 'half of the city.' Port officials scurried to return heat to most apartments left without heat, but others remained in the cold. Pensioners lined up outside one building to buy discounted herring, sugar and flour at a store. Workers bundled in scarves and fur hats shoveled bags full of flour for the elderly, bulky in their multiple sweaters and coats.

Raisa Stratova, an accountant, huddled in an office decorated with her boss's posters of a woman in a thong washing a red Mustang with a sponge. An electric heater buzzed underfoot, but she couldn't get warm. 'We can't turn on more because there will be blackouts,' she said.

Upstairs, Tatyana Kasianova, 38, said her 8-year-old boy has a cough and she doesn't know how to treat him in a cold apartment. The heat never rises above 7 C. The dormitory-style apartment has neither toilet nor bath, and the common shower room down the hall is unheated. 'We keep the space heaters on in the bedroom all night, although we are afraid of fires,' she said.

Elsewhere in the building, workers removed a section of floor and began thawing frozen pipes with a blowtorch. Sergei Besprozvanny, a plumber with a household maintenance company, said the city and the port had squabbled for too long over repairs, and now pipes have frozen in exterior hallways and stairwells.

'It's the end of the 20th century, and people are flying to outer space, and we are thawing pipes with a blowtorch,' he said

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