Life in Russia’s Siberian city of Yakutsk in winter. What is it like to live in the extreme cold weather? (facts + photos)

June 24, 2008

It was one of the first questions I received and answered. Indeed, what is it like to live in Yakutsk, the coldest city (town) in Russia’s Siberia and the world, in winter.

Questions about the cold winter life in Yakutsk, Siberia/Russia:

“I am a journalist from a small town called Marshalltown, from the state of Iowa in the United States. I have been fascinated by Yakustk for quite some time, and really would like to visit there some time. Being from Florida, I don’t really like cold weather but your city (coldest in Russia and the world) has intrigued me,” the inquiry I received once via email. “I am writing to you because I have been fascinated by your city for quite some time. As one of the coldest cities in the world, it is very unique.”

“I often check the weather of your cold city during the winter and marvel about how anyone can live in such extreme conditions. I was wondering if you might be able to help me better understand a little more of the culture and lifestyle of people in Yakutsk, Russia’s Siberia?”

“What kinds of things do you do in the winter? What opportunities are there for recreation? Do you have indoor facilities for sports? What are some ways people have of dealing with the cold temperatures? Do vehicles still function under such extreme conditions? Are there still flights in and out of Yakutsk during the coldest winter? Do many people visit in the winter?”

Further, please, find my answers.

Winter photos of Yakutsk, the coldest city in Russia and the world:

Photo by Bolot Bochkarev.

A Yakutsk winter street walking video done in Winter 2012.


What kinds of things do you do in Yakutsk in the winter?
To me, Yakutsk-dwellers percept summer like holidays and winter like workaday routines. So the winter is good time for townsmen to work and study. Of course, weekend is rest time.

There are several ways to survive in coldness. People prefer to stay inside buildings most of daytime. We have to be outside when we are on the way to home from job/study or to job/study from home.

Last years we have no problems with public transportation. Waiting for buses doesn’t take much time. Nevertheless, when it is minus 50 Celsius Grades, five or ten minutes in extreme cold weather seem unpleasant anyway. If it is late or we are in hurry, we order taxi.

The other solution is to put on warm clothes. Fur coats, fur hats, high fur boots, fur gloves, pants with several underpants. That’s classic way to go outside.

However, there are people, especially teenagers, who want to be stylish. It means alaska or thick leather jackets, thick bound hats, and… They look like Arctic adventurers or Bruce Willis in Die Hard 2. They understand that stylish clothes are not warm at all. There’s nothing to be done. In their cases, to spend less time outside as possible is the only way to escape chilling.

I need to mention that our housing and communal services work better than colleagues of East Russia. Preparation of public utilities to winter starts in June. Long distances, high transportation expenses and short river navigation made the republic government to percept winter preparation as foreground task. We have only three months (summer) to deliver required spare parts for public water supply and heating systems and fuel for boilers from East Siberia. Maintenance of housing and communal services takes 1/4 of the republic budget.

What opportunities are there for recreation?
In the winter middle-aged men and elders prefer to spend leisure time at restaurants and theaters. Young people like going movie theaters (by the way, Hollywood movies start on the same day as in the U.S.), night clubs, bowling-alleys. Suburban recreation complexes with ethno peculiarities became popular. They’ve got restaurants, small zoos, blue-eyed huskies and Yakut horses to ride.

Do you have indoor facilities for sports?
Sure. Basketball, volleyball, footsal, swimming-pool, skating rink, etc.

What are some ways people have of dealing with the cold temperatures?
See above.

Do vehicles still function under such extreme conditions?
Sure. Strange though it may seem, Japanese cars especially off-road vehicles got popularity. They happen to function well in winter. Of course, we have Russian cars, mostly UAZ.

To keep private cars in safe, owners prefer not to use them in winter, only when it is warm enough. However, many cars ride on December. The secret is to keep vehicles in warm garages for nights and leave them always working in the streets. In order to avoid the breakdown, a driver crank up a car and wait for a minute or so until the car gets warm enough to start.

Are there still flights in and out of Yakutsk, the coldest Russian city, during the winter?
Even regular. Daily flights from Moscow. Two or three times a week from other big Russian cities, like Khabarovsk, Vladivostok, Novosibirsk, Irkutsk, Krasnoyarsk. There is regular direct international flights to Kharbin (China) and Seoul (Republic of Korea). Soon it will be possible to fly to Japan.

Do many people visit in the winter?
Yes. But mostly people arrive on business. And some extreme travelers appear in Yakutsk to go further inside the Republic of Sakha-Yakutia, for instance, travel to Oymyakon (the Pole of Cold) or Magadan.

Winter overland travels I do from Yakutsk:

The World’s Coldest Road Trip. Yakutsk – Oymyakon – Magadan. Winter 2012-2013.
6-Day Travel Yakutsk to Oymyakon, the coldest inhabited village on Earth.
Yakutsk – Oymyakon – Verkhoyansk. Siberian Triangle of the Coldest Places. 11-Day Winter Overland Adventure.
1-Day Travel Yakutsk to Lena River’s Stone Pillars, UNESCO’s World Heritage Site.

Recommend also to:

– Check out posts tagged under Yakutsk City and Winter.
– Follow me @yakutia and see daily Yakutsk winter photos.
– Browse through my other Yakutsk-related blog posts to see lots of Yakutsk winter photographs & videos.
– Definitely, subscribe my channel bolotbootur on YouTube to see freezing videos.

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