I helped to conduct the interview with Mikhail who breeds special horses that can withstand the cold ––
Mikhail, 56, Oymyakon, Russia
After the fall of the Soviet Union there was no work for me. I had to think of a way to provide for my family, so I decided to create my own smallholding. I have 100 horses and work with my son and brother-in-law.
Our horses are bred to grow extra fur in time for winter and to get a layer of fat for warmth. It enables them to live outside when it’s incredibly cold. Here it ranges from -20C to -50C in the winter. It’s important for us to dress warmly because you don’t want to lose an ear or a finger. It’s not uncommon for that to happen to people; the trauma centre in Yakutsk, the nearest city, conducts dozens of amputations every year of fingers and toes due to frostbite. I’ve experienced -67C, but I have to work outside every day. I don’t mind. We’re in the mountains and being in nature is the best way to spend time.
Oymyakon is 1,000km from Yakutsk. It takes 30 hours to get here by car when the roads are frozen. About 1,000 people live here. Homes are wooden and heated with wood or coal fire. Our toilets have to be outside because it’s too cold for plumbing. We don’t use our fridges in winter – we just keep things outside. There are only four hours of daylight then, so in the evenings the streets are empty. Most people stay inside and watch TV. I like the news and talk shows, and I also like to read, especially historical fiction.
This weather is normal to us. Nothing really stops here, we drive (if our cars don’t freeze) or walk to work. The school only closes when it goes below -52C outside. When it’s very cold the little children are often taken on a sleigh. No one really complains about the cold; for us, this is natural. We live 3,000m above sea level and it’s beautiful and wild. We’re so used to it that it’s actually difficult for us to travel anywhere south and acclimatise. It’s so cold here that there are few diseases and we can easily get sick when we go somewhere warmer.
Read the full Guardian story here