Mind the gap

Russian village between two capitals
On the world's map there's clearly seen a territory between Finland and Japan. Google maps put the name of this land in the very center of it, to the north from the lake Baikal and to the east from Ural Mountains big letters are saying: Russia. However, the real center of the country has always been in the west.
The capital of the USSR and of the modern Russia: Moscow, the city that, according to soviet movies, 'does not believe in tears', the city of big opportunities and high hopes. Today Moscow is a giant megapolis enclosed by 3 beltways that are constantly stuck in traffic jams. The second biggest city of Russia is its 'northern capital' St.Petersburg, which once used to be a heart of the Empire and is now a modern city with a population that exceeds the population of Norway.
Two of the Russian capitals are separated by 700 km. This distance is covered by a high-speed train called 'Sapsan' in 4 hours. When travelling with it you can hardly notice hundreds of villages that you're passing by just looking out of the window. Platforms, fences and houses – everything is being merged into one.
At 'Moskovsky' railway station in St.Petersburg next to 'Sapsan' there are platforms with local electric trains. They move with an average speed of 50 km per hour and stop in almost every town and village.
You have to mind a huge gap while entering Russian local train. Then you find yourself in a soviet-styled coach with wooden benches.
'Babushkas' (the way Russians usually call old women, it can be translated as 'granny') are walking between the benches, selling homemade pies or handmade warm socks. They're being interrupted by musicians who hope to get at least a few coins from the passangers after playing the same song over and over again in each coach.
That's the part of everyday life of people who live in small towns in the suburbs of a big city and have to take a train to go to work. That's the part of everyday life of Russia that still remains unknown and unspoken about.
No mountains
− God knows, why is this place called like that, − says a local woman, − there has probably been some kind of a hill nearby.
Train station in the village 'Novinka' has a strange name: 'Gory'. In Russian this word means 'mountains'. However, there has never been any single mountain in this region.

According to the data of the year 2010, the population of the village Novinka is approximately 140 people. Most of the buildings in the village are 'dachas': summer countryhouses which are visited at weekends only.
Nevertheless, there are still some people left who constantly live in Novinka. Even though the village is just 42 km away from St.Petersburg, the life differs completely from the one in the city. You feel it immediately after getting off the train.
You can hardly find a young face in the crowd. It seems like the more far we get from the city, the older are the passangers.
They're getting off the train at the 'Gory' station and cross the railways: not all of them are srong enough to deal with giant soviet stairs to do it in a safer way. Not paying attention to the signs claiming 'danger!', old people are climbing down the platform: it's easier for them.
In a couple of minutes there's a total silence at the station. All the people disappear, dissolving in between 4 streets of the village.
The silence is replaced by dogs' barking: they're happy to have their owners back.
The saleswoman in a local shop asks not to take photos.
− Before now I used to have many goods, now there's almost nothing left. You should've come a few months ago. The shop is about to close, not the best times to take pictures.
− Is it the only shop in the village?
− Yes.
− But what's about the people who are living here all around the year and not going to leave for winter?
− What to do... We'll go to the nearby village, Mga. There's a shop.

− A suburban passanger train in the direction of Mga stops at the second platform! − says a voice from a loudspeaker.
'Gory' station doesn't have an electronic timetable, so all the trains passing Novinka are announced by a speacial person.
− A suburban passanger train in the direction of Mga stops at the second platform! − he repeats again and again. The loud voice covers the whole village that makes the dogs bark again.
− A suburban passanger train in the direction of Mga stops at the second platform! Please, don't step at the railways!
People start to move faster. They climb the platform at the 'Gory' station and get into the train.
Teacher's day
Tosno is a town located 60 km away from St.Petersburg in the direction of Moscow. Its population is about 38 000 people. This town is an administrative center for a lot of villages nearby.
Here typical village houses adjoin even more typical soviet grey blocks of flats. It makes you feel that you're not in the village anymore, but at the same time you're not in the city yet.
A local market offers a big variety of fruits, vegetables, fake 'Adidas' and handmade socks, scarfs, hats. An old woman behind the counter complains that she has to work, the money that she gets from the government is not enough for buying necessary medications. Nadezhda Aleksandrovna moved to this town around 30 years ago from a same-sized town in the central part of the country. As she says, 'for a better living'. A ukranian middle-aged man behind her did the same. 'Here it's better and cheaper than in St.Petersburg,' − he says and adds: 'Reaching a big city is not that easy'.

In a small shop nearby the trainstation in Tosno you
can buy a local newspaper. Price: 3 rubles ( ≈ 0.0436 €)
A picture on the front page of the newspaper shows a teacher who's standing by the blackboard. She's quoted: 'My students' acceptance is the best award for me'.
According to the statistics, an average salary of a teacher in an ordinary Russian school differs from one region to another: it varies from 6 000 rubles (town Aksai in the south of the country) to 74 000 rubles (Moscow). However, Moscow salaries can be rather called an exception.

It's the 5th of October and people in Russia are celebrating the Teacher's day. Inside the building of a local school the walls are covered with posters, dedicated to the celebration. Children are dressed officially, but it doesn't stop them from running around and making noise during the break. Most of the teachers are women. They carry flowers in their hands while passing the school corridor.
− I don't know much about other schools, but ours is pretty good, − claims Tamra Mikhailovna, a teacher of Maths, - all of my students have entered universities in the city after the graduation! Isn't it an achievement?
− Of course, the majority of my collegues are women, − says Natalia Aleksandrovna, the manageress of the Museum of Regional History, − and, of course, all the young researchers are in the city.
The museum is located in a 19th century building, which doesn't fit into the row of soviet blocks of flats made of red bricks.
− Of course, we have Anton, a [a history scientist in his thirties] but he's some kind of an exception.
The talk is interrupted by children's voices. In the next room there's a young man giving a lecture to primary school children.

Tosno Museum of Regional Hitory
Source: http://artikka.net/
− Kids love Anton! He got his degree in Pushkin and did a research in our museum. And he has decided to stay, he's arranged these classes.
− What are they about?
− Literally everything, historical calsses. Today they're learning how people used to grow cotton. To be honest, as a manageress, I'm trying my best to make him stay here as long as possible.
Parents are crowding in the museum's hall, making as much noise as their children. The class is about to end.

Direction: St.Petersburg
Opinion poll made by Russian union of the youth of countryside with support of Russian Public Opinion Research Center in 2010.

Territory: 9 regions
Respondents: 2500 young people
Age range: 14 - 30
Lack of money and good infrastructure, inabilaty to afford good leisure makes Russian people move to bigger cities . Let the numbers speak.
The ongoing process turns Russian villages and towns into a place for elder people only.
The train starts moving in the direction of St.Petersburg. It's crowded and finding a vacant place is hard. I take a seat near an old woman.
− My grandson! My grandson! − she immadiately starts talking to me.
With shaking hands she's trying to open a picture on quite an old smartphone.
− This is my grandson! − she repeats proudly.
On a picture there is a teenage guy doing judo.
− He takes part in a championship abroad!
She smiles, carefully puts the smartphone back into the bag and leaves the train at the station in the next village.
A multimedia story produced during the workshop at St.Petersburg State University, School of Journalism and Mass Communications in collaboration with Volda University College (Norway).

Idea, text and web development by Polina Popova
Research and background Information by Ekaterina Kutukova
Visuals by Anna-Alina Maigurova and Darren Seiffert
Assistance by Vilde Aurora Drevland Klyve.
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