A land of endless vastness, Siberia, is known for its arctic temperatures. Yakutia, the coldest republic of Russia, lies even further east than Japan and 5,000 kilometers north of Vladivostok. Yakutsk is the capital of the Yakutia republic and is located about 5,100 kilometers east of Moscow. In the midst of it all lies Oimjakon, with its 500 residents. This village is the coldest inhabited place on earth and is located 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 Arctic stands wide open. Thus in the winter, cold masses of air expand into the Siberian landscape completely unrestricted.
The Siberian Oimjakon has the world’s coldest way to school, with an average temperature in winter of minus 40° Celsius. The extreme living conditions are completely normal for the residents of Oymyakon, such as the Tariks family and their son Aljosha, who is eight 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 already 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 outside to the front of the house, which is made of wood, just like 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, which 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 minus 65 degrees Celsius; no pipe work has a chance. Aljosha’s mother puts the ice in the pot and cooks some tea for her son.
If you’re curious to learn more about Oimjakon and the extreme living conditions in the coldest inhabited place on earth, check out the documentary, “Escape to the Pole of Cold“.