Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Vodka and Isolation

Yes, this does sound like a very good description of rural Russia:

Friday is when the action happens in this isolated Russian village, six hours' drive north from Moscow along icy roads, past smoggy industrial towns and through vast pine forests.

That's the day the mobile shop makes its weekly visit selling life's little luxuries to Zimnitsy's 10 inhabitants.

"I've bought bread, frozen fish, cigarettes and vodka," said 53-year-old Vitaly as he bent over to load his tattered rucksack. "What more can a Russian want?"

Village life in Russia seems to have been dragged unwillingly into the 21st century.

Zimnitsy once was three or four times bigger and boasted its own full-time shop, but the crumbling wooden houses now bear silent witness to a population movement away from Russia's countryside into the cities.

Alcoholism, devout religious faith and a sense of scratching a living on the fringes of civilization -- the hallmarks of the Russian countryside down the ages -- linger, sometimes just below the surface.

Those villages in the north, they're all going to go over the next generation. As perhaps they should. Increasing agricultural productivity means there's no reason for them to be there at all.

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