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What is life like in Yakutsk, the coldest city in the world?

Supporters of the imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny have taken to the streets in various places in Russia to demand the release of the Russian opposition leader. This also happened in the Siberian city of Yakutsk, 8,500 km from the capital Moscow.

Yakutsk is the coldest city in the world. On Saturday it was minus 50 degrees Celsius, a temperature at which cold fire occurs after 5 minutes.

Even for the Russians – who usually don’t faint when the temperature goes well below zero – Yakutsk is the equivalent of ‘extreme cold’.

Yakutsk is internationally known for two reasons: the city plays a role in the party game Risk and it is also the coldest city in the world.

The 270,000 inhabitants defy the most extreme temperature differences. The short, hot summer often has consecutive days with temperatures above 30 ° Celsius. Winter sets in at the end of September and in October it is freezing most of the time. From then on the temperature usually remains below 40 ° Celsius.

“Freedom for Navalny,” read on Saturday on a sign that protesters were carrying during a protest in the Siberian city of Yakutsk, in a temperature of minus 50 degrees Celsius. (Photo: Ivan Barkov / TASS / Sipa USA)

Cold fire

Cold fire is therefore a constant danger. But despite its isolation, Yakutsk is a real city, with cinemas, an opera, a zoo and even take-away pizza. For the inhabitants, the winter cold is part of their daily life; visitors have a hard time understanding the stamina required to brave the cold.

Residents of Yakutsk visit a local market at a temperature of minus 30 degrees Celsius. (Photo: Svetlana Pavlova / TASS / Sipa USA / Isopix)

Even for the most motivated among them, the cold becomes simply ‘unbearable’ after 13 minutes. Journalist Marc Bennetts, had put on 16 different pieces of clothing when he got off the plane in Yakutsk. He collected the following interesting tips and facts:

Never touch your ears when they are frozen. If you do, you risk breaking them down. Wear several layers of clothing, but mainly count on fur to keep you warm.

Watch out for nasal moisture, because it freezes at -20 ° Celsius; in Yakutsk the average winter temperature is -40 ° C.

(Photo: AP Photo / Ajar Warlamov)

Always wear a hat. If you go outside bareheaded, you will experience it as if you are getting a hammer blow in the face. Wearing glasses is also a risk, because the metal sticks to your face and pieces of skin threaten to come with you when you take them off. ”

Keep your engine running when you leave your car. If you don’t, it will fail and you can walk home. Some people leave their car running all day while they work.

Children play – wrapped up warm of course – on the street with temperatures of -35 ° C. (“Otherwise they have to stay indoors all winter long”). They cannot get sick because the freezing cold kills all viruses.

The gulags of Stalin

The record temperature ever measured in the city is minus 64 ° Celsius. Stalin founded the infamous gulags (punishment camps) here. He made the prisoners dig for gold and diamonds.

Because of the permafrost (the phenomenon that in certain areas near the poles and in the high mountains the subsurface never completely thaws) anyone who builds has to lay their foundations ten to fifteen meters underground. The permafrost also means that metal pipes are everywhere in the city. They cannot be buried because of the freezing cold, but they do provide warmth in schools, houses and offices.

Photo: Isopix

The local delicacy is ‘indigirka’, described by a local waiter as “sushi without rice or seaweed, but much colder.” Then flush it down with a glass of ‘kumiss’, a carbonated alcoholic drink based on mare’s milk.

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