Photographer: Мария Бурова, Владислав Ватутин
Text: Мария Бурова
“The World of Siberia” (“MIR Sibiri”), international festival of ethnic music and crafts, is an annual event, which is very exciting indeed. Once in 365 days the village of Shushenskoe* hosts a meeting of all kinds of people: Don Cossacks, babushkas from Ovsyanka*, hipsters from Mongolia, and rockers from Moldavia. Having heard rave reviews of it more than once, we decided to take our first trip to the event, tents in our backpacks and expectations of something beautiful in our minds.
The way from Krasnoyarsk to Shushenskoeisa nine hours’ trial with Russian roads. And Russian roads mean more than hummocks and bumps:there are also roadside taverns. It was in one of the taverns called “Sherdor” that we realized that our adventure had begun. All the necessary attributes of a road trip were awaiting us: a late heavy dinner and a heart-to-heart talk with a local grillman. We also saw lots of beauties of nature, endless forests, hills, and lakes. To arrive at the festival site in the morning and be ready to plunge into the festive hustle, the most of the trip was planned for the night, so, we left the city and entered Shushenskoe in a thick fog.
Pretty exhausted by the road reality, we arrived at the camping site at dawn. The opening ceremony was scheduled for the first night, so it was decided to get to know the festival’s soul with a meal.
Passing by countless rows of open-air cafes, you become wondering whether it is apilaf festival that you are actually visiting. This is the dish that is,doubtless,the popularity leader here, with the salesmen entering into play fights with each other to attract more customers: my pilaf is the coolest, and don’t you dare to deny it! This is the only place where a chef may take your refusal to buy his rice-and-meat mass as a personal offence and cease any speaking terms with you until the end of the event.However, we failed to find any relations between Siberia and this national Middle Asian dish. But there’s no Russian who does not like pilaf, especially choosing between eating pilaf or staying away from it, proud but hungry. But as for us, we have survived the three days eating the navy-style macaroni we cooked on our own improvised fire.
Having overcome the gastronomic temptation, in the afternoon we were challenged with another one, but this time it was not astomach, but a budget trial: the “Craftsmen’s town” fair. Everythingwas beautifulthere, starting from magnets in the shape of an indigenous Yakutto whickered woman figures. Traveller amulets, talismans against fiends, black cats, and other enemies, hand-painted horse figures, tambourines, and whistles are onlyasmall part of what you can get as a memory.For some souvenirs it took a year to create, while others were made right on the spot in public, so that the buyers would inquire, how, what for and why. Workshops were held throughout the whole festival:for a (triple-figured) token feeone could learn how to paint plates, twine baskets, or make spoons of woodand whistles of birch bark.
Strolling along “Shushenskoe” historical and geographical reservemuseum, the author of these lines made her dream come true: at last, she managed to create something more than just letters on a blank sheet, but a real crock of clay.Of course, it took two more hands of a real master to help handling the loam, but the feeling the transformingsome clay into something “mine” and “original”was a truly unforgettable impression.
As the twilight came down, as we hid the stewed meat cans in our tent’s nook and bought souvenirs to all our relatives and descendants, we joined other guests of the festival at the main stage, where the music performance was about to start.
It is hard to express how great it is to spread a plaid on the ground, lay down, and plunge into the variety of ethnic genres and sounds.All the headliners were theworld’s famous people, such as Russian folklorist Sergey Starostin, Russian folk rock singer Inna Zhelannaya, Tuvinianethnic rock band “Yat-Kha” (we had never known how rocking Tuvinian rock music could be), glib Moldovan guys from “ZdobsiZdub” band (it seemed like everybody danced to their music that night), the cutest Mongolian band “Khusugtun” (we were almost sure that at least one of them took part in “Gangnam Style” music video), Scandinavian band “Euzen”, who were sure that people got more beautiful when it rains than on a sunny day, and ethnic band“Ayarkhaan” who made the audience hear the winter wind, patter of horse hooves, and a song of lark with one music instrument only.
For three days of festival, three stages were in action: the big festival stage for headliners and “MIR” ethnic music award nominees; the small one for involving guests into ethnic acts, both musical and not: here the “World tablecloth” was sawn, the “World ABC” was compiled, artist VasiliySlonov gave children a ride onan outrunner iron; and the middle “ritual” stage which justified its name: everyday people gathered here to do national Thai gymnastics in the morning, play games during the day (“Line Fight”, “Little Currant”, “Pillow Fight”, “Benches”, “Fur, Floccus, and Feather”, “Drake Who Broughthis Ducks to Bay”), and do a round dance together with Chuvash national folk ensemble “Uyav” in the evening. Once they even learnt the pre-wedding rituals of Altay Republic.Of course, it is impossible to attend every event. It is better to check the program in advance to choose the parts most interesting for you, whether it is listening to some storytellers in a yurt or playing a round of open-air lapta game.
But no matter what stage you attend, you won’t escape from music. You can hear someone rehearsing or performing all the time, and here it does not even require a stage: sometimes one tree shadow is enough to take a guitar, begin to play and sing, and there is never lack of audience at a music festival.
For the seventy two hours that we spent here we have heard so much that by the end of the event there was only one melody left that would play in my mind until the next summer. It is something between the folk tune of some curly-haired Ivan and a Tuviniannomads’ rock song.
But the most important link in this music-and-craft chain is people. The people, who organized the event, the people, who made at least one dream come true, the people, who preserve traditions (not only musical ones), the people, who know how to listen to the music in their hearts and share it with others.
And maybe it is not worth coming here every year, but it is a crime against the “World” not to see it at least once in your life.
How to get here
Take a flight or train to Krasnoyarsk or Abakan, then catch a regular bus to Shushenskoe village. By car, take M-54 “Krasnoyarsk – Shushenskoe” motorway (estimated travel time 8 hours).
Where to stay
For those who spare no expenses, but risk not to feel the true festival mood, there is “Tourist” hotel near the village centre. Those who used to enjoy camping life in theirchildhood,are recommended to choose “Iskra” recreation facility. And those who do not mind cooking macaroni in a pot and waking up to a mosquito symphonyin the morning, may settle down at the tent camping site.
What you should know if you decided to spend three days in a tent:
If you want to enjoy a peaceful sleep during all the three festival nights, it is better to choose a spot near the police station, as it provides extra protection from too festiveneighbours. We were even luckier: coincidentally, we put up our tent near the EMERCOM tent, where we had a free shower, drinking water and firewood facility just nearby. The exit from the camping site was also very close. But even if there are no EMERCOM around, you can easily find another water tap, a car with firewood or a toilet: everything is all easily accessible in the wide territory of the village. Some people even managed to wash themselves in the rivers flowing nearby. Advice for the first-timers like us: prepare the water for the long-desired morning gulp a night before, because in the morning many water taps break down.
In all fairness, we felt safe everywhere around the ethno-action site. The number of policemen was almost equal to that of friendly people. So, keep calm and enjoy.
What to attend
Besides the festival stages themselves, within walking distance there are the Yenisei and Shush rivers, several lakes, and “Shushenskoe” historical and geographical museum, where the memory of Lenin and Krupskaya is carefully preserved.