Defender of the Fatherland Day – Krasnoyarsk

The other weekend I joined some of the other foreign students on a trip to Krasnoyarsk.

It was a long weekend; the week breaking early to celebrate “Defender of the Fatherland day”.  This is public holiday (День защитника Отечества) has apparently been through numerous iterations, starting life as Red Army Day (День Красной Армии) to celebrate the 1st mass draft of people into the Red Army in 1918 to fight the Whites in the civil war. Nowadays it is a general celebration of those who have served in the army.

It takes 12 hours to reach Krasnoyarsk by train from where I live, so I boarded the over-night sleeper train.  I was separated from the other students but was fortunate enough to share a compartment with 3 ex-career soldiers, one of whom was from Buryatia.  I had had the foresight to bring a bottle of vodka with me, as had they.  My rye-bread fish sandwiches turned out to be not so popular but the block of seasoned pork fat provided by my new-found comrades provided good sustenance.  What happened that night?  I definitely remember toasting the Red Army and also a rather long ramble through ‘platscart’ class to introduce my new friends to my old friends.  Other than that, who can tell?  I woke up, face planted into the cabin seat just in time to get off.

Here is the only digital evidence I can find of the evening..

I got off the train to a frosty industrial city…


Over a million people live in Krasnoyarsk which sits on the banks of the Yenisei River which flows north from Mongolia to the Arctic ocean.  The city started life as a Cossack outpost and grew rapidly with the oncoming of the railroad.  A massive dam sits 30km upstream from the city and is therefore also home to aluminium production (aluminium being usually produced near cheap sources of energy due to the high amounts of electricity consumed in the production process).  Krasnoyarsk was a key centre for the Gulag system under Stalin and also for heavy industry, particular during the Second World War.  It still has an industrial feel to the place with some impressive docks on the river.  The odd wooden house can be seen in the centre, looking lost amongst advertising boards and roads busy with imported cars.  I noticed a lot of new housing developments seem to be going up.



Here are some snaps of the city…

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On the first day we discovered a small bandstand celebrating the public holiday.  A motley collection of local singers and dancers put on their best performance while buffeted by sub-zero winds.  Some ladies were offering free tea and porridge from a large samovar.  In my hungover state I shovelled two teaspoons of salt into my tea.  No one felt inclined to warn me before I gulped down an initial mouthful.

On the second day we went walking in a national park called Stolby.

Not much to say other than it’s both pleasant and popular.


Came across this church on the path.

And then back on the train for another 12 hour pleasure ride.  This time it happen to be on the Beijing- Moscow line.



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