Russian family was isolated from all human contact for 40 years, unaware that WWII existed

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Siberian summers do not last long. The snows linger into May, and the cold weather returns again during September, freezing the taiga into a still life awesome in its desolation: endless miles of straggly pine and birch forests scattered with sleeping bears and hungry wolves; steep-sided mountains; white-water rivers that pour in torrents through the valleys; a hundred thousand icy bogs. This forest is the last and greatest of Earth’s wildernesses. It stretches from the furthest tip of Russia’s arctic regions as far south as Mongolia, and east from the Urals to the Pacific: five million square miles of nothingness, with a population, outside a handful of towns, that amounts to only a few thousand people.

When the warm days do arrive, though, the taiga blooms, and for a few short months it can seem almost welcoming. It is then that man can see most clearly into this hidden world—not on land, for the taiga can swallow whole armies of explorers, but from the air. Siberia is the source of most of Russia’s oil and mineral resources, and, over the years, even its most distant parts have been overflown by oil prospectors and surveyors on their way to backwoods camps where the work of extracting wealth is carried on.

Thus it was in the remote south of the forest in the summer of 1978. A helicopter sent to find a safe spot to land a party of geologists was skimming the treeline a hundred or so miles from the Mongolian border when it dropped into the thickly wooded valley of an unnamed tributary of the Abakan, a seething ribbon of water rushing through dangerous terrain. The valley walls were narrow, with sides that were close to vertical in places, and the skinny pine and birch trees swaying in the rotors’ downdraft were so thickly clustered that there was no chance of finding a spot to set the aircraft down. But, peering intently through his windscreen in search of a landing place, the pilot saw something that should not have been there. It was a clearing, 6,000 feet up a mountainside, wedged between the pine and larch and scored with what looked like long, dark furrows. The baffled helicopter crew made several passes before reluctantly concluding that this was evidence of human habitation—a garden that, from the size and shape of the clearing, must have been there for a long time.

It was an astounding discovery. The mountain was more than 150 miles from the nearest settlement, in a spot that had never been explored. The Soviet authorities had no records of anyone living in the district.

The four scientists sent into the district to prospect for iron ore were told about the pilots’ sighting, and it perplexed and worried them. “It’s less dangerous,” the writer Vasily Peskov notes of this part of the taiga, “to run across a wild animal than a stranger,” and rather than wait at their own temporary base, 10 miles away, the scientists decided to investigate. Led by a geologist named Galina Pismenskaya, they “chose a fine day and put gifts in our packs for our prospective friends”—though, just to be sure, she recalled, “I did check the pistol that hung at my side.”

As the intruders scrambled up the mountain, heading for the spot pinpointed by their pilots, they began to come across signs of human activity: a rough path, a staff, a log laid across a stream, and finally a small shed filled with birch-bark containers of cut-up dried potatoes. Then, Pismenskaya said,

“beside a stream there was a dwelling. Blackened by time and rain, the hut was piled up on all sides with taiga rubbish—bark, poles, planks. If it hadn’t been for a window the size of my backpack pocket, it would have been hard to believe that people lived there. But they did, no doubt about it…. Our arrival had been noticed, as we could see.”

The low door creaked, and the figure of a very old man emerged into the light of day, straight out of a fairy tale. Barefoot. Wearing a patched and repatched shirt made of sacking. He wore trousers of the same material, also in patches, and had an uncombed beard. His hair was disheveled. He looked frightened and was very attentive…. We had to say something, so I began: ‘Greetings, grandfather! We’ve come to visit!’

The old man did not reply immediately…. Finally, we heard a soft, uncertain voice: ‘Well, since you have traveled this far, you might as well come in.’

The sight that greeted the geologists as they entered the cabin was like something from the middle ages. Jerry-built from whatever materials came to hand, the dwelling was not much more than a burrow—”a low, soot-blackened log kennel that was as cold as a cellar,” with a floor consisting of potato peel and pine-nut shells. Looking around in the dim light, the visitors saw that it consisted of a single room. It was cramped, musty and indescribably filthy, propped up by sagging joists—and, astonishingly, home to a family of five:

The silence was suddenly broken by sobs and lamentations. Only then did we see the silhouettes of two women. One was in hysterics, praying: ‘This is for our sins, our sins.’ The other, keeping behind a post… sank slowly to the floor. The light from the little window fell on her wide, terrified eyes, and we realized we had to get out of there as quickly as possible.

Led by Pismenskaya, the scientists backed hurriedly out of the hut and retreated to a spot a few yards away, where they took out some provisions and began to eat. After about half an hour, the door of the cabin creaked open, and the old man and his two daughters emerged—no longer hysterical and, though still obviously frightened, “frankly curious.” Warily, the three strange figures approached and sat down with their visitors, rejecting everything that they were offered—jam, tea, bread—with a muttered, “We are not allowed that!” When Pismenskaya asked, “Have you ever eaten bread?” the old man answered: “I have. But they have not. They have never seen it.” At least he was intelligible. The daughters spoke a language distorted by a lifetime of isolation. “When the sisters talked to each other, it sounded like a slow, blurred cooing.”

Slowly, over several visits, the full story of the family emerged. The old man’s name was Karp Lykov, and he was an Old Believer—a member of a fundamentalist Russian Orthodox sect, worshiping in a style unchanged since the 17th century. Old Believers had been persecuted since the days of Peter the Great, and Lykov talked about it as though it had happened only yesterday; for him, Peter was a personal enemy and “the anti-Christ in human form”—a point he insisted had been amply proved by Tsar’s campaign to modernize Russia by forcibly “chopping off the beards of Christians.” But these centuries-old hatreds were conflated with more recent grievances; Karp was prone to complain in the same breath about a merchant who had refused to make a gift of 26 poods [940 pounds] of potatoes to the Old Believers sometime around 1900.

Things had only got worse for the Lykov family when the atheist Bolsheviks took power. Under the Soviets, isolated Old Believer communities that had fled to Siberia to escape persecution began to retreat ever further from civilization. During the purges of the 1930s, with Christianity itself under assault, a Communist patrol had shot Lykov’s brother on the outskirts of their village while Lykov knelt working beside him. He had responded by scooping up his family and bolting into forest.

That was in 1936, and there were only four Lykovs then—Karp; his wife, Akulina; a son named Savin, 9 years old, and Natalia, a daughter who was only 2. Taking their possessions and some seeds, they had retreated ever deeper into the taiga, building themselves a succession of crude dwelling places, until at last they had fetched up in this desolate spot. Two more children had been born in the wild—Dmitry in 1940 and Agafia in 1943—and neither of the youngest Lykov children had ever seen a human being who was not a member of their family. All that Agafia and Dmitry knew of the outside world they learned entirely from their parents’ stories. The family’s principal entertainment, the Russian journalist Vasily Peskov noted, “was for everyone to recount their dreams.”

The Lykov children knew there were places called cities where humans lived crammed together in tall buildings. They had heard there were countries other than Russia. But such concepts were no more than abstractions to them. Their only reading matter was prayer books and an ancient family Bible. Akulina had used the gospels to teach her children to read and write, using sharpened birch sticks dipped into honeysuckle juice as pen and ink. When Agafia was shown a picture of a horse, she recognized it from her mother’s Bible stories. “Look, papa,” she exclaimed. “A steed!”

But if the family’s isolation was hard to grasp, the unmitigated harshness of their lives was not. Traveling to the Lykov homestead on foot was astonishingly arduous, even with the help of a boat along the Abakan. On his first visit to the Lykovs, Peskov—who would appoint himself the family’s chief chronicler—noted that “we traversed 250 kilometres [155 miles] without seeing a single human dwelling!”

Isolation made survival in the wilderness close to impossible. Dependent solely on their own resources, the Lykovs struggled to replace the few things they had brought into the taiga with them. They fashioned birch-bark galoshes in place of shoes. Clothes were patched and repatched until they fell apart, then replaced with hemp cloth grown from seed.

The Lykovs had carried a crude spinning wheel and, incredibly, the components of a loom into the taiga with them—moving these from place to place as they gradually went further into the wilderness must have required many long and arduous journeys—but they had no technology for replacing metal. A couple of kettles served them well for many years, but when rust finally overcame them, the only replacements they could fashion came from birch bark. Since these could not be placed in a fire, it became far harder to cook. By the time the Lykovs were discovered, their staple diet was potato patties mixed with ground rye and hemp seeds.

In some respects, Peskov makes clear, the taiga did offer some abundance: “Beside the dwelling ran a clear, cold stream. Stands of larch, spruce, pine and birch yielded all that anyone could take…. Bilberries and raspberries were close to hand, firewood as well, and pine nuts fell right on the roof.”

Yet the Lykovs lived permanently on the edge of famine. It was not until the late 1950s, when Dmitry reached manhood, that they first trapped animals for their meat and skins. Lacking guns and even bows, they could hunt only by digging traps or pursuing prey across the mountains until the animals collapsed from exhaustion. Dmitry built up astonishing endurance, and could hunt barefoot in winter, sometimes returning to the hut after several days, having slept in the open in 40 degrees of frost, a young elk across his shoulders. More often than not, though, there was no meat, and their diet gradually became more monotonous. Wild animals destroyed their crop of carrots, and Agafia recalled the late 1950s as “the hungry years.” “We ate the rowanberry leaf,” she said,

“roots, grass, mushrooms, potato tops, and bark, We were hungry all the time. Every year we held a council to decide whether to eat everything up or leave some for seed.”

Famine was an ever-present danger in these circumstances, and in 1961 it snowed in June. The hard frost killed everything growing in their garden, and by spring the family had been reduced to eating shoes and bark. Akulina chose to see her children fed, and that year she died of starvation. The rest of the family were saved by what they regarded as a miracle: a single grain of rye sprouted in their pea patch. The Lykovs put up a fence around the shoot and guarded it zealously night and day to keep off mice and squirrels. At harvest time, the solitary spike yielded 18 grains, and from this they painstakingly rebuilt their rye crop.

As the Soviet geologists got to know the Lykov family, they realized that they had underestimated their abilities and intelligence. Each family member had a distinct personality; Old Karp was usually delighted by the latest innovations that the scientists brought up from their camp, and though he steadfastly refused to believe that man had set foot on the moon, he adapted swiftly to the idea of satellites. The Lykovs had noticed them as early as the 1950s, when “the stars began to go quickly across the sky,” and Karp himself conceived a theory to explain this: “People have thought something up and are sending out fires that are very like stars.”

“What amazed him most of all,” Peskov recorded, “was a transparent cellophane package. ‘Lord, what have they thought up—it is glass, but it crumples!'” And Karp held grimly to his status as head of the family, though he was well into his 80s. His eldest child, Savin, dealt with this by casting himself as the family’s unbending arbiter in matters of religion. “He was strong of faith, but a harsh man,” his own father said of him, and Karp seems to have worried about what would happen to his family after he died if Savin took control. Certainly the eldest son would have encountered little resistance from Natalia, who always struggled to replace her mother as cook, seamstress and nurse.

The two younger children, on the other hand, were more approachable and more open to change and innovation. “Fanaticism was not terribly marked in Agafia,” Peskov said, and in time he came to realize that the youngest of the Lykovs had a sense of irony and could poke fun at herself. Agafia’s unusual speech—she had a singsong voice and stretched simple words into polysyllables—convinced some of her visitors she was slow-witted; in fact she was markedly intelligent, and took charge of the difficult task, in a family that possessed no calendars, of keeping track of time. She thought nothing of hard work, either, excavating a new cellar by hand late in the fall and working on by moonlight when the sun had set. Asked by an astonished Peskov whether she was not frightened to be out alone in the wilderness after dark, she replied: “What would there be out here to hurt me?”

Of all the Lykovs, though, the geologists’ favorite was Dmitry, a consummate outdoorsman who knew all of the taiga’s moods. He was the most curious and perhaps the most forward-looking member of the family. It was he who had built the family stove, and all the birch-bark buckets that they used to store food. It was also Dmitry who spent days hand-cutting and hand-planing each log that the Lykovs felled. Perhaps it was no surprise that he was also the most enraptured by the scientists’ technology. Once relations had improved to the point that the Lykovs could be persuaded to visit the Soviets’ camp, downstream, he spent many happy hours in its little sawmill, marveling at how easily a circular saw and lathes could finish wood. “It’s not hard to figure,” Peskov wrote. “The log that took Dmitry a day or two to plane was transformed into handsome, even boards before his eyes. Dmitry felt the boards with his palm and said: ‘Fine!'”

Karp Lykov fought a long and losing battle with himself to keep all this modernity at bay. When they first got to know the geologists, the family would accept only a single gift—salt. (Living without it for four decades, Karp said, had been “true torture.”) Over time, however, they began to take more. They welcomed the assistance of their special friend among the geologists—a driller named Yerofei Sedov, who spent much of his spare time helping them to plant and harvest crops. They took knives, forks, handles, grain and eventually even pen and paper and an electric torch. Most of these innovations were only grudgingly acknowledged, but the sin of television, which they encountered at the geologists’ camp,

“proved irresistible for them…. On their rare appearances, they would invariably sit down and watch. Karp sat directly in front of the screen. Agafia watched poking her head from behind a door. She tried to pray away her transgression immediately—whispering, crossing herself…. The old man prayed afterward, diligently and in one fell swoop.”

Perhaps the saddest aspect of the Lykovs’ strange story was the rapidity with which the family went into decline after they re-established contact with the outside world. In the fall of 1981, three of the four children followed their mother to the grave within a few days of one another. According to Peskov, their deaths were not, as might have been expected, the result of exposure to diseases to which they had no immunity. Both Savin and Natalia suffered from kidney failure, most likely a result of their harsh diet. But Dmitry died of pneumonia, which might have begun as an infection he acquired from his new friends.

His death shook the geologists, who tried desperately to save him. They offered to call in a helicopter and have him evacuated to a hospital. But Dmitry, in extremis, would abandon neither his family nor the religion he had practiced all his life. “We are not allowed that,” he whispered just before he died. “A man lives for howsoever God grants.”

When all three Lykovs had been buried, the geologists attempted to talk Karp and Agafia into leaving the forest and returning to be with relatives who had survived the persecutions of the purge years, and who still lived on in the same old villages. But neither of the survivors would hear of it. They rebuilt their old cabin, but stayed close to their old home.

Karp Lykov died in his sleep on February 16, 1988, 27 years to the day after his wife, Akulina. Agafia buried him on the mountain slopes with the help of the geologists, then turned and headed back to her home. The Lord would provide, and she would stay, she said—as indeed she has. A quarter of a century later, now in her seventies herself, this child of the taiga lives on alone, high above the Abakan.

“She will not leave. But we must leave her, seen through the eyes of Yerofei on the day of her father’s funeral:

I looked back to wave at Agafia. She was standing by the river break like a statue. She wasn’t crying. She nodded: ‘Go on, go on.’ We went another kilometer and I looked back. She was still standing there.”

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/For-40-Years-This-Russian-Family-Was-Cut-Off-From-Human-Contact-Unaware-of-World-War-II-188843001.html#ixzz2JgLr6Xgw
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Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

Human Immortality in 33 Years Claims Dmitry Itskov’s 2045 Initiative

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Although James Cameron’s “Avatar” took place more than 140 years into the future, a Russian billionaire has teamed with dozens of scientists to lay out a plan that would use avatars to transfer human consciousness into an artificial form. The goal: human immortality by 2045.

The 2045 Initiative, a life-extension project founded by 31-year-old Russian billionaire Dmitry Itskov in February 2011, offers a timeline for immortality over the next 33 years. Beginning with remotely controlled robotic avatars and re-creating the human brain through computer models, the end result would be human immortality in the form of holographic avatars.

The 2045 Initiative, which has had a major social media blitz, brought together 30 top Russian scientists to develop the “imortal” technology, laying out the plan for human immortality on its website.

“The first phase is to create a humanoid robot dubbed ‘avatar,’ and a state-of-the-art brain-computer interface system. The next phase consists of creating a life-support system for the human brain and connect it to the ‘avatar.’ The final phase … is to create an artificial brain in which to transfer the original individual consciousness into,” reads the plan.

Here’s the 2045 Initiative’s timeline:

2015 – 2020: A robotic copy of a human body remotely controlled by a brain-computer interface

2020 – 2025: An avatar is created in which a human brain can be transplanted at the end of life

2030 – 2035: An avatar that can now contain an artificial brain in which a human personality can be transferred at the end of life

2040 – 2045: A holographic avatar emerges

In addition to taking the Internet by storm, the 2045 Initiative has also launched its own political party, called Evolution 2045, pushing a new strategy for human development. The Russia-based party takes a global approach, encouraging other countries to follow in its footsteps “not in the arms race, but in the race for building a bright future for mankind.”

Last month Itskov appealed to members of the Forbes World’s Billionaires List, urging them to take heed of the “vital importance of funding scientific development in the field of cybernetic immortality and the artificial body.

“Contributing to cutting-edge innovations in the fields of neuroscience, nanotechnology and android robotics is more than building a brighter future for human civilization. [It’s also] a wise and profitable business strategy that will create a new and vibrant industry of immortality — limitless in its importance and scale. This kind of investment will change every aspect of business as we know it,” read Itskov’s open letter.

Itskov plans to host a Global Future Congress meeting next year in New York. A previous event was held last February in Moscow.

This massive hypothetical technology would give the “new” mankind amazing survival abilities, according to the Initiative.

“The new human being will receive a huge range of abilities and will be capable of withstanding extreme external conditions easily: high temperatures, pressure, radiation, lack of oxygen,” claims the Initiative on its website.

And according to a slick video produced by the 2045 Initiative, once the hologram-like avatar reinvents mankind’s scientific and social structure, war and violence will go by the wayside as “spiritual self-improvement” becomes mankind’s primary goal.

But what about the average Joe who just wants to live forever?

The cost of these avatars should be on par with that of an automobile, the Initiative’s website assures, as soon as mass production begins.

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/technology/2012/08/human-immortality-in-33-years-claims-dmitry-itskovs-2045-initiative/#.UOcJvQYxrPo.email

Thanks to H.M. for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

Mayan apocalypse: panic spreads as December 21 nears

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Cubans participate in a Mayan ritual at Bacuranao beach in eastern Havana.

Fears that the end of the world is nigh have spread across the world with only days until the end of the Mayan calendar, with doomsday-mongers predicting a cataclysmic end to the history of Earth.

Ahead of December 21, which marks the conclusion of the 5,125-year “Long Count” Mayan calendar, panic buying of candles and essentials has been reported in China and Russia, along with an explosion in sales of survival shelters in America. In France believers were preparing to converge on a mountain where they believe aliens will rescue them.

The precise manner of Armageddon remains vague, ranging from a catastrophic celestial collision between Earth and the mythical planet Nibiru, also known as Planet X, a disastrous crash with a comet, or the annihilation of civilisation by a giant solar storm.

In America Ron Hubbard, a manufacturer of hi-tech underground survival shelters, has seen his business explode.

“We’ve gone from one a month to one a day,” he said. “I don’t have an opinion on the Mayan calendar but, when astrophysicists come to me, buy my shelters and tell me to be prepared for solar flares, radiation, EMPs (electromagnetic pulses) … I’m going underground on the 19th and coming out on the 23rd. It’s just in case anybody’s right.”

In the French Pyrenees the mayor of Bugarach, population 179, has attempted to prevent pandemonium by banning UFO watchers and light aircraft from the flat topped mount Pic de Bugarach.

According to New Age lore it as an “alien garage” where extraterrestrials are waiting to abandon Earth, taking a lucky few humans with them.

Russia saw people in Omutninsk, in Kirov region, rushing to buy kerosene and supplies after a newspaper article, supposedly written by a Tibetan monk, confirmed the end of the world.

The city of Novokuznetsk faced a run on salt. In Barnaul, close to the Altai Mountains, panic-buyers snapped up all the torches and Thermos flasks.

Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian prime minister, even addressed the situation.

“I don’t believe in the end of the world,” before adding somewhat disconcertingly: “At least, not this year.”

In China, which has no history of preoccupation with the end of the world, a wave of paranoia about the apocalypse can be traced to the 2009 Hollywood blockbuster “2012”.

The film, starring John Cusack, was a smash hit in China, as viewers were seduced by a plot that saw the Chinese military building arks to save humanity.

Some in China are taking the prospect of Armageddon seriously with panic buying of candles reported in Sichuan province.

The source of the panic was traced to a post on Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, predicting that there will be three days of darkness when the apocalypse arrives.

One grocery store owner said: “At first, we had no idea why. But then we heard someone muttering about the continuous darkness.”

Shanghai police said scam artists had been convincing pensioners to hand over savings in a last act of charity.

Meanwhile in Mexico, where the ancient Mayan civilisation flourished, the end time has been seen as an opportunity. The country has organised hundreds of Maya-themed events, and tourism is expected to have doubled this year.

Nasa has been aggressively seeking to dispel doomsday fears. It says there is no evidence Nibiru exists, and rumours it could be hiding behind the sun are unfounded.

“It can’t hide behind the sun forever, and we would’ve seen it years ago,” a Nasa scientist said.

The space agency also rejected apocalyptic theories about unusual alignments of the planets, or that the Earth’s magnetic poles could suddenly “flip.”

Conspiracy theorists contend that the space agency is involved in an elaborate cover up to prevent panic.

But David Morrison, an astronomer at Nasa, said: “At least once a week I get a message from a young person, as young as 11, who says they are ill and/or contemplating suicide because of the coming doomsday. I think it’s evil for people to propagate rumours on the internet to frighten children.”

Mayans themselves reject any notion that the world will end. Pedro Celestino Yac Noj, a Mayan sage, burned seeds and fruits to mark the end of the old calender at a ceremony in Cuba. He said: “The 21st is for giving thanks and gratitude and the 22nd welcomes the new cycle, a new dawn.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/9730618/Mayan-apocalypse-panic-spreads-as-December-21-nears.html

170-Foot-Long Trampoline Installed in Russian Forest

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A nearly 170-foot-long trampoline trail has been installed in a Russian forest as part of the 2012 Archstoryanie festival, an art and music exposition.

The trampoline, called “Fast Track,” was designed by design company Salto and installed in Nikola-Lenivets, Russia.

“‘Fast track’ is a integral part of park infrastructure, it is a road and an installation at the same time,” Salto explains on their website. “It challenges the concept of infrastructure that only focuses on technical and functional aspects and tends to be ignorant to its surroundings.”

“‘Fast track’ is an attempt to create intelligent infrastructure that is emotional and corresponds to the local context,” the designers explained. “It gives the user a different experience of moving and perceiving the environment.”

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2012/11/170-foot-long-trampoline-installed-in-russian-forest/

Russian Drivers Stuck In 120-Mile Traffic Jam

Snowbound traffic queue, Moscow 29/11/12

 

Thousands of cars, lorries and motorists became stuck for up to three days in a huge traffic jam on a motorway northwest of Moscow after Russia was hit by heavy snowfall.

The length of the queue on the M-10 highway, which is one of the busiest in the country, was put at up to 120 miles (200km), according to media reports.

Some 4,000 trucks were thought to be involved.

Unusually severe conditions for early winter and heavy snow were blamed for the gridlock, which paralysed circulation over the weekend and into Monday.

Drivers waited for hours without moving in temperatures of -5 degrees Celsius, with one motorist reported as saying he had travelled just “one kilometre over 24 hours”.

Field kitchens were set up along stretches of the road, which is surrounded by a forest, in an attempt to ensure people had food and drink.

But many of those stranded came close to running out of fuel as they kept their engines and heating running in the sub-zero temperatures.

“Drivers help one another and that’s it, the problems are on the side of the authorities. There are no gasoline tankers, no water, nothing. We are just stuck here,” a truck driver called Sergei said.

Officials said that traffic had been moving normally again since the early hours of Monday but acknowledged more needed to be done to prevent a repeat of the problems.

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said it was clear road services had not worked effectively.

“At the start of the snowfall, not even a half of the available technical hardware was used.

“Many drivers were stuck without provisions and fuel in the middle of a forest. This is not a European road but a Russian one, a forest road,” he said.

Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Puchkov described the problems as “a good lesson for all the services”.

“They need to work on the roads and not in their warm offices,” he warned.

Russia map

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The M-10 links Moscow with Russia’s second largest city St Petersburg.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said that the road services needed to work efficiently and prevent such incidents from happening.

But he also appeared to admit that such problems were inevitable given Russia’s harsh climatic conditions.

“Drivers need to be prepared for the fact that the weather in our country is very, very complicated and there is always going to be snow,” Mr Medvedev said on television.

Russian authorities have been accused of sluggish responses to weather-related problems, including deadly wildfires in 2010 and flooding in the south this summer.

The M-10 highway links Moscow with Russia’s second largest city St Petersburg, some 435 miles (700km) from the capital, and stretches on to the border with Finland.

Russia’s roads have been the butt of criticism since Tsarist times and its infrastructure has been plagued with problems since the Soviet era when defence spending was high at the expense of roads, housing, healthcare and other civilian needs.

http://news.sky.com/story/1019710/russia-drivers-stuck-in-120-mile-traffic-jam

Russian woman mummified her husband

 

 A headless mummified body found in a ditch in central Russia was there because of a failed Biblical miracle, not murder, Yaroslavl Region investigators said on Monday.

The man, a Pentecostal missionary, died of an illness, but his wife, a member of the same Christian denomination, preserved the corpse for three years, the local branch of the Investigative Committee said.

The woman expected him to return to life, the report said.

The mummified body was found in the village of Semibratovo in July, stashed in a plastic bag. It was missing an arm and head, soon discovered in a nearby trash dump.

The committee opened a case on murder charges, but eventually discovered the truth was quite different.

The man, whose name was withheld, worked as a missionary for the Pentecostals, including in the Siberian republic of Buryatia, the investigators said.

The family led an isolated life, with their five children brought up by the missionary’s wife, a certified preschool teacher.

The head of the family expired in 2009, but his wife could not bring herself to accept it, the report said. She preserved the body in the apartment and told the children he would come back to life.

The children were made to attend to their late father every day, speaking to him and “feeding” him broth. They reported to their mother that he conversed with them, but she never entered his room, afraid that contacting him prematurely could spoil the resurrection.

The family kept acquaintances at bay by telling them the man was too ill to speak to anyone. They used air fresheners to mask the odor of the rotting body.

The pretend play continued until last summer, when the family decided to relocate elsewhere in the region. Fearing that the body would be discovered, two of the missionary’s three daughters, aged 9 and 14, carried the corpse away to dump it. The arm and the head broke away in the process and had to be discarded separately.

The case was closed without any charges against the woman, who did not need hospitalization, the investigators said. But child protection services were looking into the incident.

Pentecostal groups have more than 1,300 churches across Russia, according to Cef.ru, a website for the United Russian Union of Christians of Evangelical Faith, a Pentecostal organization.

http://en.ria.ru/russia/20121119/177589653.html

New incredibly bright comet to appear in 2013

 

A new comet has been discovered that is predicted to blaze incredibly brilliantly in the skies during late 2013. With a perihelion passage of less than two million kilometres from the Sun on 28 November 2013, current predictions are of an object that will dazzle the eye at up to magnitude —16. That’s far brighter than the full Moon. If predictions hold true then C/2012 S1 will certainly be one of the greatest comets in human history, far outshining the memorable Comet Hale-Bopp of 1997 and very likely to outdo the long-awaited Comet Pan-STARRS (C/2011 L4) which is set to stun in March 2013.

The new comet, named C/2012 S1 (ISON) was found by the International Scientific Optical Network (ISON) in Russia on 21 September when astronomers Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok captured it on CCD images taken through a 0.4-metre reflector. Its near-parabolic orbit suggests that it has arrived fresh from the Oort Cloud, a vast zone of icy objects orbiting the Sun, pristine remnants of the formation of the Solar System.

C/2012 S1 currently resides in the northwestern corner of Cancer. At magnitude +18 it is too dim to be seen visually but it will be within the reach of experienced amateur astronomers with CCD equipment in the coming months as it brightens. It is expected to reach binocular visibility by late summer 2013 and a naked eye object in early November of that year. Northern hemisphere observers are highly favoured. Following its peak brightness in late November it will remain visible without optical aid until mid-January 2014.

Comet brightness predictions sometimes exceed their performance. Amateur astronomers of a certain age may remember the Comet Kohoutek hype of 1973 – not quite the ‘damp squib’ it has been portrayed, since it reached naked eye visibility! Even if C/2012 S1 takes on the same light curve as Kohoutek it is certain to be spectacular, quite possibly a once-in-a-civilisation’s-lifetime event.

http://www.astronomynow.com/news/n1209/25comet/