Siberia. Endless vastness – arctic temperatures. Even farther East than Japan and 5 000 kilometres north of Vladivostok lies Yakutia, the coldest Republik of Russia. Yakutsk is the capital of the Yakutia Republic and is located about 5100 kilometres east of Moscow. In the midst of it: Oimjakon. With its 500 residents the coldest inhabited place on earth. This village lies in a mountain valley on the upper reaches of the banks of the Indgirka River. One of the major reasons for the freezing temperatures is the great distance from the Atlantic Ocean and the humidity that the Ocean provides to a major part of the Northern Hemisphere. Masses of mountains shield Siberia against the warm air from the west and south, while in the opposite direction, the door to the Artic stands wide open. Thus in the winter, cold masses of air expand into the Siberian landscape completely unrestricted.
The average temperature in winter: Minus 40° Celsius. The children of the Siberian Oimjakon have the world`s coldest way to school. The extreme living conditions are completely normal for the residents of Oymyakon. This is also true for the Tariks family and their son Aljosha. He is 8 years old. The children of his age group are only excused from attending school on account of the cold at temperatures below minus 54° degrees.
Even before his departure for school Aljosha feels the grim cold. Lacking running water the house also has no bathroom. So Aljosha alredy has to go outside – to the unheated outside earth closet in the garden. Sascha’s mother cooks tea. In order to do so, she must go to outside to the front of the house, which is made of wood- as all houses in Oymyakon. Due to the great temperature differences here, concrete walls would soon crack and be destroyed. In the short summers, it can get quite warm in Oymyakon. In front of the wooden house the ice blocks are stored. The next-door farmer had cut out of the frozen river for them. There is no running water in the Pole of Cold, with temperatures dropping to -65 degrees Celsius; no pipe work has a chance. Aljoshas mother puts the ice in the pot and cooks some tea for her son.
Like every day, Aljosha must get ready to go to school. Like the majority of the other students, Sascha wears for the most part his traditional dress. The clothing prescribes to the onion-peel principle in order to protect the students from the Artic temperatures. His mother Irina has heated up the living room to 20° degrees. So when Aljosha opens the front door it is 70° degrees colder – every day life in Oimjakon. As soon as the children open the dormitory’s double doors, the icy cold brutally grabs hold of them. Within less than one second their nostrils become frozen.
Unlike the students in other parts of the world, the children from Oymyakon are seldom playful but instead very concentrated on their way to school. With quick steps, they travel in groups, attempting to put the 2 kilometer route behind them as quickly as possible. There are no signs of snow ball fights. The don’t spend a second of time watching the cows, which are kept up to nine months of the year in their stalls, and are now coincidentally being lead out of the barn for a drink. Even though the cows are wearing some sort of special “bras” which protect their udders from freezing.
Once in school building, Aljosha and the other students remove many of their layers of clothing, and get going with the school lessons. For the majority of them, a welcome diversion from the coldest inhabited town on the earth.