Just how cold does Siberia really get?

Issue Number: 
Joe Adamov

Russia has been mentioned in the U.S. list of countries it targets with nuclear weapons. Why is Russia keeping quiet?

– Amen Moshi, Arusha, Tanzania

Russia doesn't keep quiet. It tells its American partners when it disagrees, like when it disagreed with the U.S. plan to go ahead with the ABM shield. Russia also voiced its disagreement with the way the former Yugoslavia was bombed. Today we have found a solution to which we may both agree: cutting our stockpiles of nuclear warheads. The nuclear warheads or charges will be removed, but the carriers – the missiles, submarines or planes – will be put in storage. Today, a body called the Council of 20 has been formed in NATO. Russia will take an active part in the council, discussing five or six problems, including terrorism, humanitarian issues and others. This is one step on the way to getting closer to NATO. So we are not the toothless lion you say we are.

How cold does it get in Siberia? And what is the main national dish of Russia?

– Patty Edwards, Silver Spring, Maryland

Siberia covers an enormous territory. It depends which part you look at. In Eastern Siberia the climate is extremely continental. The difference between summer and winter temperatures is 50-60 degrees Celsius. The heaviest frosts in the Northern Hemisphere are at Oimyakon and Verkhoyansk. There, the temperature sometimes falls to minus 70 degrees Celsius. The cold weather is comparatively tolerable because of a lack of wind. The summer is short, but relatively warm.

Everyone cooks and eats what they likes best. We have an old Russian saying, "Shchi i kasha – pishcha nasha," meaning that shchi (a Russian soup) and porridge are our food. But that is only a saying. Okroshka, a cold vegetable or meat soup made with kvas, is also popular. I must note that Russians usually have soup alongside a second dish for lunch. Russians always like to eat a piece of bread with every dish. They like herring, Siberian meat dumplings with butter or sour cream, bliny (Russian pancakes), usually served with caviar if you can afford it, and blinchiky (fritters) with meat, cottage cheese or apples. Russians are very fond of cereals like buckwheat. They also like Middle Eastern foods such as shish kebab.

Are children immunized in Russia?

– John Devon, Long Beach, CA, U.S.A.

Our children have compulsory inoculations, most of them before the age of seven. The last, when they are seven years old, is to prevent tuberculosis. They are immunized against polio, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, measles, paratyphoid, German measles and hepatitis – quite a list. These are all stretched out during a child's first seven years. But I can't be sure every child gets them all.

Could you tell me something about the forced repatriation of Soviet Army personnel and civilians after World War II?

– William Kerr, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

After the war, 2.2 million Soviet prisoners of war in Germany and civilians who had been taken away by the Nazis for slave labor were forcefully repatriated. It was London that agreed to return these people to the Soviet Union, according to former tsarist Count Tolstoy-Miloslavsky. Most ended up in camps. Others, on returning, were limited as to where they could work, study and live. Only in 1955 were civilians who had worked for the occupiers given amnesty. The fate of prisoners of war remained the same.

(E-mail Joe at editor@russia journal.com)