The questions below were sent to us by Way to Russia readers. Our writers go out on the streets and ask the exact same questions to ordinary Russians they meet. Their answers are below. Want to ask a question? Leave a comment here or on our Facebook page.
A worker and shaman from Altay mountains, who wants to blow up the world with his philosophy of letting the concious mind go...
How we met: On our trip to Altay mountains we went to Aktru glacier, which is near Kosh-Agach. Aktru is one of the most accessible glaciers - you can get to it by car, then you should walk about 8 km to Aktru alpinist camp, and from there it's possible to make short walks to the glacier itself.
When we arrived to Aktru, Nikolay, who works there, showed us a nice spot to camp. We spend there three days and had nice long philosophical conversations with him.
Who: Nikolay's life may seem hard to many people, but he feels happy to just "be" himself. Born in a former Soviet republic Tadjikistan (Russian origins), from his childhood Nikolay liked to travel, and especially to climb mountains (of which there are many in Tajikistan). He studied in a university and after that went traveling around Russia and USSR. With the USSR collapse, he, like many people of Russian origins, who were born outside of Russia became a person with no citizenship. Tajikistan wouldn't accept him because he was Russian, Russia wouldn't accept him because officially he was supposed to have Tajik nationality. So, he has Soviet passport, but no place to live basically. That made him travel even more, from one place to another. Finally, he settled in Altay mountains, the famous Beluha mountain and started to work there as a guide. This year (2003) he moved to Aktru, which is a few hundred kilometers from Beluha, and started to work there for alpinist camp.
His main interest in life is his philosophy, of which we should tell separately.
His philosophy: Actually, I haven't understood it completely, but here's how I see it. According to Nikolay, every person has his/her own path to live.
Some people live like "sheeps", just consuming from day to day what is given to them, without caring to question the reality that they impose on themselves. Some people, who are more intelligent, live questioning reality around them, exploring it, and expanding it. Different people have diffent ways to do this, some people like Yoga, some like meditation, Nikolay's path is the path of language, words.
His idea is that we live in the world of categories, that we impose on ourselves. Mainly we do it with language, defining everything about us. Nikolay proposes to stop doing that, through "blowing up" your language, destroying definitions and inventing your own way of describing reality. You may seem strange to people, but it doesn't matter because then you become free to be what you want to be.
He wrote a book, that he calls a "neuron bomb", and asked us to bring it abroad, so through this book he would make a worldwide revolution in people's mind.
The book's main idea is to start with definitions, and later, breaking linguistic constructions, present a reality of its own...
Quotes: "Love is very important, it is one of the main driving forces of life. For me, when I love a woman there should be both spiritual and sexual links. When one of the links are missing, I know the relationship won't last long. And when you find a person with who you feel you have both links, that's when you feel you are really in love and you found someone for your life."
Andrei and Alla
Intelligent and very nice and friendly people from Novosibirsk.
How we met: We (Dmitri, Celine, and our friend Fabien) were eating out in "Stone House" restaurant in Novosibirsk, and Andrei, who was having a drink with his wife at the opposite table, came to us and we started to chat. He learned that we are going to Altay mountains soon, and he told us they just came back from there. Andrei and Alla invited us to their place to tell us about the best places to go at Altay.
Who: Andrei and Alla are doctors. Back in Soviet times, Andrei was a researcher and Alla was an eye surgeon. With the changes in the beginning of 90s, they wouldn't be able to support themselves doing what they have been doing before, so they started to look for new opportunities. Andrei found a research institute in England that proposed him to work on a research program, and Alla and his daughter followed him to England. When the project finished, all the family came back to their home city Novosibirsk. Andrei became a representative of a big foreign pharmaceutical company, Alla became a representative of another big pharmaceutical company, their daughter studies medicine.
Quotes: "Many people think that life in the Soviet times was something really horrible, oppressive. It's a myth. Me, my friends, we had a nice life, we were enjoying ourselves, going out, doing interesting things. Of course, there were some problems, like limited choice (for example, only a few newspapers to read), but there are problems everywhere, every place has some things good, some things bad. The point is that there are many myths about Russia, but they are not true.
Now it's a great time also. We have good jobs, that we like, Novosibirsk is a nice place to live, and we have a lot of plans for our future."
Andrei, a taxi driver and car-reseller,
Andrei lives and Krasnoyarsk and makes his living by bringing GAZ Volga cars from Nizhny Novgorod to Siberia.
How we met: When we were in Krasnoyarsk, we called a taxi to bring us from the national park Stolby to the city center. It was Andrei who came to get us, and while we had one hour before our train to Novosibirsk, he showed us the whole city and told a lot of interesting things.
Who: Andrey said that driving a taxi is his hobby. His job is to bring GAZ Volga cars from Nizhny Novgorod to Krasnoyarsk, where he sells them. Because of this work he travels from one place to another quite often.
Quotes: "Krasnoyarsk is a very nice city. Since general Lebed came to power, he really made everything in order here. It became very clean on the streets, all the criminals were put in prisons.
The main places to see in Krasnoyarsk are the national park Stolby and an oberservation deck just 10 kilometers away. That's where all the couples go to marry. Also, the famous place is a chapel in the center of the city. It's even shown on 10 rubles banknotes. There's also Krasnoyarsk hydroplant on this banknote, so it's another good sight. Actually, do you know that Krasnoyarsk is the only Siberian city shown on Russian money?"
(Our comment: on every Russian banknote there's a Russian city shown, for example, Krasnoyarsk on 10 R note, Moscow on a 100R note, St. Petersburg on 50 R note, Yaroslavl on 1000 R note. Usually the picture shows the main sight in each city, so you can use it as a handy guide of what to see... :-)
"Also, Krasnoyarsk is very close to Khakasiya and Tuva republic. These are both great places to go for an active holidays, there are mountains and really unexplored untamed nature. We go there with friends sometimes, last time we went, we stopped next to a river there and the water was so clear, we could drink it directly. When you come next time to Krasnoyarsk, phone me and we can go together to Khakasiya, I'll show you around."
Message from Andrei: "To all travelers, if you need a car with a driver in Krasnoyarsk, or want to go traveling to Khakasiya and Tuva, here are my numbers, call me and we'll arrange something for you: (3912) 54-94-89 (mobile), (3912) 58-74-59 (home)." (Andrei speaks Russian only)
Comment (18/09/03): "my husband and i went to russia in 2003 and met a man in st. petersburg named roman who works as a tourist guide for chinese tourists. he was sooooo nice (and his mom cooked us dinner!) . because of him and the beauty of the city we want to go back a million times. sincerely, kim and jack from milwaukee, wisconsin usa."
Previous comments - leave yours below...
Comment (25/11/03): "My husband fell in love with a russian girl and I was wondering what does she have that I don't. Is there a certian aura about Russian women"
Comment (12/11/03): "I wish you health and happiness. Thomas from Hamilton Canada."
Comment (16/02/04): "We will be visiting Russia within the next few months.
We live in New York City and were wondering what Russian people are really thinking these days about Americans. Not our President, but about everyday, ordinary Americans.
As Americans, we realize that the world in general is turning a harsh eye on the U.S. and we're trying to get an idea of how our visit to Russia will be as Americans. We've done quite a bit of international travel, including Western and Eastern European countries, but we are most excited about visiting Russia. My famiiy came to New York around the late 1800s/early 1900s from various parts of the world, including Ukraine and Lithuania."