30.01.2023

A village with one resident was found in the Novosibirsk region

Only one resident remained in the Novosibirsk village of Vdovino. If you leave the big and noisy Novosibirsk and drive 160 kilometers north, you can see how life ends in the very heart of the Kolyvan district, surrounded by black-coniferous taiga.

The end of geography, the locals say. There is no further road, and most importantly, there is no point in going further: there are no residential villages left. Once in the villages along the Shegarka River, “politicals” were exiled, part of the Kolyvan region lived, for a while, becoming the Pikhtovskaya commandant’s zone. And then off we go. The village of Sparrows is empty, Dalnaya Polyana stands abandoned, Zhirnovka is gone, even on the maps it is now impossible to find it.

Although some of the villagers, looking at their neighbors fleeing to the big city, still decided to stay. Now their adjoining territory is huge fields with abandoned huts and farms, all covered with weeds. There, into the wilderness and obscurity, the correspondents of the NGS went to find out what life is like among the off-road and seemingly endless forest.

Be sure to watch our summer video that we filmed on our trip through endangered villages.

“Four days ago, the bear came out, they say, they saw,” says our guide, a local resident Viktor, jerking the bolt of the gun. He has at least five of them. This is a special pride of Viktor, who loves hunting and knows literally every inch of the Kolyvan district. He took the gun just in case: suddenly a bear would come out to people again.

Victor gets behind the wheel and takes us in an old “Niva” along the road, which supposedly does not exist – only potholes and bumps. On the way, he points to rare houses: here is the village of Khokhlovka, there are only 11 people left to live in it. Or live out.

Victor himself is from Ponomarevka. This is such a last outpost – the only densely populated point in front of a series of empty villages and hamlets. Although is it possible to call a densely populated village with a hundred inhabitants and 6 students in a school?

Previously, Victor lived in Novoaleksandrovka – this is also not far from here. But the village began to die slowly, the number of abandoned houses became more and more, and the connection with the city became less and less. Therefore, he with his wife and children moved to Ponomarevka. Together with his wife he went hunting, and then she fell ill, his wife was gone. Daughter, too, did not become less than a year ago. Speaking about them, Victor frowns, hides his eyes, lowers his voice: remembering is very painful.

His big house is now completely empty. In the distant rooms, where memories now live, Victor does not even enter.

Once he ran away from loneliness, leaving the farm in Novoaleksandrovka, but years later, loneliness caught up with him here.

*****

The Kolyvan region is large, long, rich in forests and hunting grounds. This is exactly the Siberia that the imagination of a traveler who has not traveled further than the Ural mountains draws: with dense pines, bears and crystal clear lakes. True, the number of rural residents is decreasing from year to year.

Officially, there are 59 villages in the Kolyvan district, but some of them are ghost villages. Local residents tend to the big city, or at least to the regional center, Kolyvan. About 12 thousand people live in it today, and even less in the villages scattered around. Every year 200-300 people leave the Kolyvan region. This is the population of a small village.

An active increase in the population in the Kolyvan region happened almost a hundred years ago, when prisoners under political offenses were taken to the taiga.

– They were exiled to Ponomarevka, to Khokhlovka, to Vdovino and further there to the villages. Old people say that there was nowhere to live. They settled in sheds, cowsheds, they tried to rebuild something ourselves, – says the librarian in the village of Ponomarevka Elena.

Her grandmother is also an exile. This is a common story for the Ponomariovites: show any village man – it turns out that his grandparents were exiled here as enemies of the people. In the 1940s, among the other exiles was the writer Nikolai Uglov, who decades later would write an autobiographical two-volume book about his years in exile. The scene is the village of Vdovino.

– My grandmother was sent to Zhirnovka, this is for Vdovino. And in 1965 or even later she moved with my mother to Ponomarevka. But many at that time began to leave: some moved closer, and some even left Siberia. In Ponomaryovka then a school opened, state farms were built, the people were. Everyone left Zhirnovka, now there is nothing there, says Elena. – A couple of years ago, I know, we went there to the cranberry swamps on a tractor, because there’s no way to get there. There used to be a farm there, they kept cows – that’s all the mention of Zhirnovka is now.

So it is with other villages. Behind Kolyvan, about 80 kilometers away, there is a view of the villages and settlements that do not exist. In some places, lopsided nameplates and empty houses remind of them, and in others there is nothing at all except overgrown weeds. The fact that people once lived and worked here is remembered only by old residents. Well, the most frequent visitors to these places are hunters – as a rule, they are accompanied by an inveterate hunter, Viktor.

Village per inhabitant

Victor is taking us to that very Vdovino. Formally, the village is considered abandoned, but there, among the deserted houses and farms, there is the only inhabited house with the only inhabitant – Leonidas. His family, as the locals say, left the village several years ago, but he himself did not dare to move closer to Kolyvan.

The only way to get here is a winding country road from Ponomarevka. It was laid by a tractor several years ago, when there were still people in the village – 3-5 people, no more. Now only Leonid lives in Vdovino, and he also uses the almost non-existent road, basically. Occasionally – Victor, who set up a hunting lodge not far from the deserted village and goes there to hunt.

– Why did I take the gun with me? If we go on foot so that we have something to shoot ourselves when the bear comes out on us, – Victor hoarsely laughs at the wheel of the Niva. – The gamekeepers were recently summoned: a bear came to Ponomarevka again, apparently to the cattle. Last year he kicked how many cows. There are a lot of bears here! Even my memories of these places are different. I remember how I shot a bear here, and a moose there. That’s how I navigate. What do you know about UFOs? Thinking I’m kidding?

He abruptly changes the topic of the conversation and talks about the mysticism in these places. According to him, a strange phenomenon has been observed in the villages for several years – huge balls of fire hanging over the area:

– Once the village was observed. I lived then in Novoaleksandrovka. Then the whole village came out to watch. About 400 meters above the ground – a huge ball and not just red, but such, you know, as a fire. The whole village was lit up! Although I didn’t believe in God, but when this incomprehensible beginning to scare me around, I believed in everything. Do you know how you prayed? Yes, there were a lot of things.

The writer Nikolai Uglov also has this “stuff” about this. He wrote how rumors circulated in the village about the goblin, devils and a witch living on the outskirts of Vdovino. Typical village folklore was overgrown with details: the goblin live in the swamps near the Kaurushinka River, where they collect cranberries, and the witch Silaikha is in the last house, on the edge of the taiga – at night she supposedly turns into a black snake and tortures the cattle. The fiction supplanted the terrible reality and the Spartan life of the exiles, forced to live from hand to mouth and work for two. But there is also about this in the book.

Victor has not read Uglov’s works, but he knows about the rich historical past of his area and immediately advises:

“It’s better for you to discuss this with Leonid. He is an interesting, intelligent person, but how to say … peculiar. Like Griboyedov in Woe From Wit, you know? Lenya is also from Novoaleksandrovka. But now nothing, he lives in Vdovino, somehow turns, he goes for groceries.

Ponomarevka is 20 kilometers away from Vdovino. To get to the unique village with a single inhabitant, you need to pass the ghost village of Alekseevka and the old bridge on stilts. As Victor says, every local who wanted to cross the bridge took a set of boards with him, laid them down and crawled to the other side, otherwise it was impossible to get there. Now the piles are not visible from the road because of the tall grass.

In what is now left of Vdovino himself, the features of the former village are also barely guessed: a couple of rickety houses, an abandoned farm building with gaping holes instead of doors and grass as tall as a man. A little further, a smoke can be seen: it was Leonidas who lit a smoldering fire on the road to ward off mosquitoes from the cattle grazing nearby.

– He does not talk to everyone, especially to journalists. First, I will go to him, you are sitting in the car. If he’s lucky, he will come out and tell him himself, ”Viktor admonishes on the move.

We’re lucky. After a couple of minutes, Leonid himself still comes out – a bald man of about 50 with a heavy look and a very unhurried manner of speech. He abundantly supplies her with metaphors and little understandable sayings. The house in which the man lives is a hut lined with fine white tiles. Near the porch, a real payphone is bolted to the wall, albeit inoperative; next to it is a red television plate and the inscription: “Starozhilov Street.” The house is far from new, but Leonid is trying his best to keep it in order, and despite the fact that he has a rather impressive household. He brought in cows, goats (they graze on the roof of the winter barn), horses, pigs and geese.

Leonid talks quietly with Victor. It is difficult to understand what the men are talking about, but it seems that some predator has again wandered into his possession. He points to an abandoned building nearby, probably the carcass of the beast lying there. “It’s just a pity for the dog that he kicked,” Victor also quietly remarks.

– Bears take pigs from my porch, foals and calves from the garden, and so on. In the clearing here I have them often shown, – turning to us, Leonid notes.

– Do you remember how you shot two people in one day, huh? – Victor asks him with a sly smile. – Well, can you imagine, only coped with one, he went straight to the house, didn’t he, Lyon? As his son is already shouting from the garden: there another bear came out to the cattle.

Leonid is silent and does not even smile, only squints in the sun, habitually driving away mosquitoes from himself. Here in the taiga they are special. The smoldering smoke of the fire hardly affects them, and if you listen, you can hear the subtle hum of insects in the air. Leonidas has long been accustomed to this, as he is accustomed to the fact that he lives alone in the village. He does not experience any inconveniences, except that, according to him, he has to take care of the products in advance – to buy cereals, salt and sugar for six months in advance, or better – for a year. Although sometimes he himself gets out to the store in Ponomarevka, Victor brings him something as he drives past Vdovino to his hunting grounds.

– In fact, when I moved here, there were already only three families of old people and their children. The Shchukins, the Novosyolovs had two sisters here, and this, like theirs, the Herberts also lived. Herbert then died in Pikhtovka last year. Shchukin – in Tolmachevo. His last words were: “It would be better if I stayed in Vdovino.” So I don’t want to move, ”says Leonid.

He lived in Vdovino as a child and, according to him, represented the fifth grade of the local school “in a single person.” Then Vdovino was big – 400-500 inhabitants. Then he moved with his parents to Lebyazhye, Altai Territory, and then there was Novoaleksandrovka and again Vdovino. By the time he returned, only memories of the large village remained.

– 5 years ago I was left here alone. My son had to go to school – they bought an apartment in Skala (a village in the Kolyvan district. – Ed. Note). Out of necessity, they went there, settled in 100 meters from the school, the apartment was well-maintained. They began to live, – he says. He deliberately does not mention himself: it seems that the story of the departure of his family is painful for Leonid.

He is worried about the lack of communication and a normal road to the place where he stayed to live. According to him, representatives of the village council hardly come here, there is more difficulty with calling doctors. He says that a couple of years ago, when there were still people in Vdovino, and the road was cleaned at least occasionally in winter, one of the locals got frostbitten on his feet. It was possible to call the doctors using a satellite phone, at that time there was a severe frost – 48 degrees. As a result, the victim’s feet were amputated.

– Of course, it’s hard for one, there are not enough hands. If I leave the cattle alone for half a day, something will happen. Now the raccoon dog has come to crush the bird. Either a bear comes, then another person comes, – he notes.

But despite all the difficulties, as it is not surprising, Leonid does not seek to leave his home, although he does not mind new neighbors. He points to the ramshackle huts nearby and says that those who have nowhere to live in his village “have enough mansions.”

– No, I’m not afraid alone. Still, relative, as they say. For everyone, the bell is different, – Leonid again embarks on philosophical reasoning. – The view will always change over time. A person is not left alone anywhere, depending on how he relates to it. That is, a person is not alone. What’s the point of running away from here? You can’t run away from yourself. If everyone runs from their place, then someone will be in my place, and someone in yours.

Leonidas, cautious and immersed in himself, does not dare to invite us to his house. After an hour of conversation on a bumpy road, he leaves to feed the cattle. Yes, and it is necessary to somehow resolve the issue with the carcass of a predator lying in a flooded abandoned barn: it seems that it was still a raccoon dog.

How pensioners live out their days in Novoaleksandrovka

Novoaleksandrovka is another village that is about to cease to exist. Four people live here, among them a couple of pensioners Granenko. Their children left, but they stayed, and they do not plan to leave, like Leonid.

Getting to Novoaleksandrovka is even more difficult than getting to Vdovino. Theoretically, this can be done on a tractor or SUV from Ponomarevka, but the road there, as Victor says, is even worse than the one that led to Leonid’s house. Yes, and would have to zip around a lot. Therefore, Victor launches his boat.

– The motor is new, Japanese, recently installed. In general, I have two of them, – he notes with pride again.

He also visits Novoaleksandrovka from time to time. Firstly, because he is nostalgic for the places where he once lived. He has a special reverent attitude towards this village. And secondly, behind Novoaleksandrovka, he built another small hunting lodge, where he again brings guests who want to hunt.

“If we arrived early, we could see the beaver,” he says, sitting in the tail of the boat, which rushes along the narrow Shegarka to the village, where four residents remain.

Now Novoaleksandrovka is a couple of houses located 70 meters from Shegarka. They began to leave the village with an area of ​​13 hectares a long time ago and not as rapidly as from Vdovino. First of all, due to transport accessibility. According to the 2002 census, four people lived here. So it is to this day. They cautiously point me to the almost collapsed hut – there lives a “cat-lover”, a man who has sheltered either 20 or 30 cats. Little is known about him, it seems like he sat, went out and came here, to an almost abandoned village. He has no work, cattle too, what he eats and what he lives on is unknown.

Another resident of Novoaleksandrovka is a young guy Vovka, an assistant to those very pensioners who have found it difficult to keep the farm in recent years.

– Come in soon, just close the door: mosquitoes, – we are met by Lyudmila Petrovna, the wife of Boris Nikolaevich. For the last 30-40 years they have been living in this remote village. They also have a satellite phone, a dish, a TV and a modest household. Basically, these are, of course, hives, but this year they also left a cow with a calf and chickens. There is enough for life, as he says.

– This is not mosquitoes at all. Then the paut will go, the blind man … Well, how the Mary’s root will bloom, – argues Boris Nikolaevich. – It happens, I think, that it is so dark in the hut, it’s day. I look at the net – and there are mosquitoes, horror!

He himself came to Novoaleksandrovka from the village of Atus, where he was a forester. Atus – just upstream of the Shegarka, a real taiga wilderness. Once in this village there were houses, albeit abandoned. But the unknown, as Boris Nikolayevich says, began to burn them. So Atus was gone. It was there that Victor built his next hunting lodge.

– In the 70th year I started here, in Ponomarevka, to go hunting. And in 1980, my grandfather got lost here, I came to look for him, and stayed. I got a job as a forester. And Atus left in 73 or 74. I arrived there, I look, you can imagine: the village is standing, and all the windows are boarded up and boarded up. We roamed, one might say. We live here, and for the summer – in Atus, there was also an apiary. We finally moved, probably in the 91st year. It’s quiet here, 7 kilometers – and the track. But try it, get it. Better by the river. There are animals too, they come out, it happens, but we do not touch them, and they are us. Bears, mostly. And once the lynx got into the habit of crushing sheep. At night – one or two. At night because they graze, during the day a mosquito.

Boris Nikolaevich and Lyudmila Petrovna have been together for 53 years. They have two daughters: one lives abroad and the other in the city. The eldest periodically calls her parents to her, to Turkey, but they are not ready to leave the household. A couple of years ago, when health allowed, they brought cottage cheese, butter, milk and eggs of their own production to Novosibirsk. But now, as Lyudmila Petrovna sighs, there is no longer enough strength for anything. Nowadays trips to the city are a rare pleasure, once every one and a half to two months.

– When we arrived at Novoaleksandrovka, all the farms were falling apart. Mainly beekeepers and farmers lived here. Victor kept cows. Well, there were also Afghans, probably eight people. They lured them here, they say, there is land, but put them away from the roads. Well, they sat out, and then left for the city, in short, in different directions. The beekeepers also sold everything in 1993 and left too. And in 2017, the director of the apiary came here and said that he wanted to breed the queens of the Central Russian bee. But I didn’t take it anymore: my health was not that good, from the Ponomarevskys, no one agreed either. They twirled around and left, – adds Boris Nikolaevich.

He worries about the road that at the very least connects them with civilization. Usually it was laid by workers from the village council, then the pensioners themselves, but how it will be this year is not clear. The health of Boris Nikolaevich and Lyudmila Petrovna was still crippled by the coronavirus, in the fall of last year they were both in Novosibirsk hospitals. They managed to call doctors from Pikhtovka.

– Why did you stay? We are already used to it. Where to twitch? They drink there, and it is not clear what they are doing in other villages where there are people. And in Novoaleksandrovka it is quiet, calm, – explains Lyudmila Petrovna.

– Yes, and in the 90s we had a big cattle. The village was falling apart, of course, but the cattle kept us here. So to this day we cannot part with her, although our legs are no longer walking, – says Boris Nikolaevich. – Petrovna sits like this, looking out of the window: well, what a beauty! Especially the Christmas trees. How to part with this?

He says that he was used to being alone – in that very Atus he lived alone. Lyudmila Petrovna came to him for some time only on vacation. When the girls grew up a little, Boris Nikolaevich began to take them with him for the summer to the abandoned Atus, like to a children’s camp.

– There was enough work then. We and the trees helped the foresters to harvest, and did a lot. And now everything is old age, – his wife sighs. – The children have not been with us for three years. The youngest child is sick, and the eldest is in Istanbul, and there are still some kilometers from Istanbul. She is offended that we are not going to her.

– Before, everyone called us, they said: “Let’s take the geese for you, you will keep it, then this. We will buy a house on the seashore.” But nope. There was not even a thought to leave here. We have relatives around us from different cities. They live in Sochi, in the Lipetsk region. But I once went to them, looked: yes, well, everything is beautiful, everything is blooming … But no. Where are we going? Both were born here, – the pensioner waves his hand.

Pensioners Granenko have somewhere to move in case of need. They own an apartment in Novosibirsk. But they are not ready to exchange taiga life and the silence of an abandoned village for a big city. The company in Novoaleksandrovka they are the assistant Vovka and Victor, who from time to time comes to hunt. There is also a constant telephone connection, thanks to which they regularly call up with their daughters.

Boris Nikolaevich and Lyudmila Petrovna escorted us to the gate, there is nothing special in their village: the yard, their strong house, several hives and cows grazing on the country road. The “cat-lover” neighbor, while we are visiting Novoaleksandrovka, does not show himself from his house.

We make our way back on the same boat. The tour guide Victor, previously talkative, becomes silent. He honestly admits that he decided to show us deaf villages, because he is very bored here. But in a couple of weeks his son and grandchildren will come to him – Victor’s large and cold house will again be filled with conversations, which, apparently, he lacks so much.

In May, we visited the last village bell in the village of Yurt-Akbalyk, where there are almost no children left. Take a look at how cozy and modest the last school holiday is in a small class: there are only five graduates.

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