Photographer: Андрей Вершинин, Анна Исламова, Владимир Сычев, Евгений Гришкевич, Марина Доровская, Мария Оленникова, Ольга Тихомирова, Сергей Игнатенко, Татьяна Меркульева, Юлия Гринева, Clare Parry-Jones
Text: Диана Серебренникова
On the picturesque bank of Lake Baikal, far away from noisy cities, a new nation is being born. Artists, sculptors, farmers, and businessmen united to create a territory of cultural tourism in the settlement of Buguldeyka. They call themselves the Buguldeys. The project is actively attended by creative people from all over the country and by some locals, who have already begun to re-adjust their living space.
Pyotr Nemoy, the author of “The Herd of Winds” project:
«First, it was Petersburg, then it was Moscow. Now it is the turn of Buguldeyka. We are too tired of the big city ambience; we craved for silence and power. Several years ago we came to Baikal for another art project and fell totally in love with this place. Every turn of months and seasons brings another blue of the sky, another green of the water. It is energy, stunning in its might».
Searching for a site for our new project, we came across Buguldeyka. We were astonished by the beauty of this place, where winds are born. Make one step away from any house, and you find yourself in the magical surrounding of mountains. Ancient caves and virgin nature, traditional 18th century Russian houses with carved facades, rickety of time, and blackened Buryat yurts with a thick layer of soil on the roofs…
This place did not experience the tourism boom, so it is still peaceful and not so crowded. Now Buguldeyka is a tabula rasa, where people live in their old houses, keep their belongings in huge chests and use old utensils to do their chores. A long gravel road leads to the village, until, at last, the Buguldeyka river blocks the way. You can cross it over a wooden bridge.
However, we realize that sooner or later the inimitable beauty of this place will turn into the favourite vacation spot for tourists, who have already put the environment of Olkhon island and the Small Sea Strait under danger. This is why we want to create a centre of “non-Small-Sea tourism”, which means something more than just a beach holiday among rubbish and empty bottles.
Now we formed a real village council which engages itself in village planning in cooperation with the local people. We work to convey the idea, how many valuable objects around us need our protection. It is not hard at all to draw public attention to an abandoned village. It is much harder to maintain a unified aesthetic style, to prevent a monstrous, chaotic building up of the place that once was beautiful. It is a large and a very important experiment. And if we manage to do it in one place, develop the mechanisms of this procedure, we can repeat it in other territories.
You know, I think that this is the way worlds are created. In order to develop Buguldeyka, to turn it into a cultural centre, we made up a brand new nation with its own customs, traditions and myths.
«BugulActions» is the first project, compiled of a number of celebrations and events. The major and the largest one is «The Herd of Winds».
The project, launched on February 1, lasted for about two months. Every weekend we celebrated Buryat, Russian or completely made up holidays with amazing adventures. For example, on March 8 we had a family metal bed racing on ice and a women’s football championship; on Maslenitsa festival we made larks of hay and ribbons, did pillow fights, played tug-of-war, and danced Yokhor, a Buryat round dance.
Buguldey costumes are the reflection of the surrounding terrain with a million of grey and dark-green tones. Buguldeyka landscapes are incredibly subtle, mountainous, with a delicate palette. Our costumes originate from this image, completing it in their own way.
A great achievement for us is involving locals into our events. For example, with the help of the whole village we made a collection of old Buryat family pictures and opened an exhibition in half-ruined ulus houses. Now, all together, we are preparing for the holiday season: we prepare rental houses, discuss which services we should offer and what treats to serve. We even invented our own cuisine! For example, mere pâté is represented in 12 different variants.
The Herd of Winds
Just imagine this scene: Buguldeyka, midnight. Our team is discussing the last details of the Saturday event. Suddenly we hear a knock on the door. A short guy enters the room.
– Hello, Vitalik is my name. I read in the newspaper that you are preparing an event called “The Herd of Winds”. My family sent me here. In fact, I am a vet, but I do some little things of modelling clay for the school and kindergarten. But I want to make some ice sculptures of horses. At first I wanted to make them in the memory of two stallions stolen from me. But now I changed my mind, let the old grieves go, so I am just willing to help.
By the end of March 9 herds of ice, galloping to the East, to the Sun, had appeared on the Baikal bank. Each of them was dedicated to one of the Baikal winds: Barguzin, Kultuk, Sarma, Buguldeyka etc. All herds were headed by Baigal, a 12-meter horse, which, according to a local legend, was the progenitor of these beautiful animals.
For three weeks sculptors from Irkutsk, Buryatia, Yakutia and Perm worked on the clear lake ice to create over 300 gracious horses, different from another, each one weighing a ton and a half. But among them it was easy to recognize those twelve, were made by veterinary Vitaly, not by professional artists. They were made in such a thorough way, that even the structure of their muscles was visible.
On the Baikal bank 384 ice horses were made. According to Chinese calendar, this is the exact number of days in this year.
What is “The Herd of Winds”, what is it for? You may not believe me, but we also have no answer to this question. We explore the Herd of Winds just in the same way as you. Transmitting our ideas to the world is too dull for us. We like creating mysteries, spaces that make people speechless with their beauty. They do not convey any message or give any answers; they ask questions.
On Solstice, March 22, over 1500 people gathered in Buguldeyka to watch the ceremony of “releasing” the herd of ice horses to the sounds of horns and drums, playing the patter of hooves. Now, when the sun has melted their transparent manes, they joined the world ocean as a unity symbol of nature and art.
Some horses were bought from us for 27000 rubles. It felt like a club of absolutely different people, keeping faith in madness and beauty. The owners of the horses were our guests from Russia, France, Italy, Norway and Poland. However, very few of them had another chance to visit Baikal and see their purchases. French Yoann Barbereau was the luckiest of all: he and his daughter took pictures of their horse to bring them home.
Each horse owner was handed a passport of the horse with its photograph, date and place of birth, and a silver horse-shaped charm. During the ceremony of releasing the herd into the sky, each owner put a ribbon on their horse and whispered their wish to the ice ear.
What for? For them it was significant to have a horse, belonging to their family, in the herd of winds. Yes, the figures melt, and so does the money invested into sculpting them, but something stronger remains: it is the energy that unites many people.
How to get here
To Irkutsk, by air or railway. There are daily buses to Buguldeyka village departing from the bus station at 10:30, local time. Trip duration: 3 hours and 32 minutes. Ticket price: 333 Rubles. To get there by car, first you need to take Kachuga highway to Bayanday village – 128 km. In Bayanday take a right turn to Yelantsy and keep on driving in the direction of Kosaya Step to Buguldeyka sign. The last part of the trip, 42 km, is a quite decent country road. At the entrance to Buguldeyka you can enjoy the view of the same-name river, flowing into Baikal, the village, and, of course, the lake itself.
Where to stay
“Zarechnoe” estate, which also organizes equestrian tours, provides 4 different types of accommodation: a well-furnished family room for 4700 Rub., a comfortable twin room for 1700 Rub., a standard room for 1300 Rub. per person, and an economy class room for 530 Rub. per person. You can also stay at the locals’ houses. Price: 500 Rub.