What national geography is, the members of the unique complex expedition "Russia – 2021" can now say for sure. From March 3 to December 19, they were travelling along the borders of our country: they started during a spring snowfall in Sochi and finished during winter snowfall at the Krasnaya Polyana. Two bicycle, car and three hiking stages, as well as the voyage along the Northern Sea Route, were left behind. In 292 days, the project participants covered more than 35 thousand kilometers, visited almost 50 border regions of the Russian Federation. No one has ever made such a continuous large-scale journey. On December 22, our heroes will answer to all the questions and share their impressions during the final press conference.
"Russia – 2021" is a project of the Russian Geographical Society, the Federation of Sports Tourism and the Ministry of Education of Russia. It is being implemented using a grant from the President of the Russian Federation for the development of civil society provided by the Presidential Grants Foundation. The expedition was led by an outstanding traveler, member of the Council of the Krasnodar Regional Branch of the Russian Geographical Society Konstantin Merzhoev. The team included: Elena Galko (timekeeper, caretaker), camera operator Alexander Kashcheev, repairman and equipment manager Fyodor Usenko from Krasnodar Krai, geomorphologist Yegor Tulyakov from Moscow, journalist Rustam Sirazetdinov from Ufa, physician Alexander Konovalov from Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, blogger Nikita Yarkov from Arkhangelsk. Viktor Popov and Oleg Katyshev (Sirius – Murmansk), Yuri Derezyuk (Sirius – Tuva Republic) and Andrey Parshin (Northern Sea Route) were part of the additional teams.
Blogger Nikita Yarkov set off on the expedition from the Orlyonok Children's Center, where the specialized training sessions of the Russian Geographical Society "The World of Discoveries" have been taking place for seven years. The oldest of the participants, Rustam Sirazetdinov, turned 61 on the way. At the Bashkir Regional Branch of the Russian Geographical Society, he led a media group. For the only woman on the team, Elena Galko, this expedition has become the fifth. The camera operator Alexander Kashcheev had a daughter during the trip. The good news came when the team was in Murmansk.
Head of the expedition headquarters and project coordinator, chairman of the Krasnodar Regional Branch of the Russian Geographical Society Ivan Chaika reminded that the members of the expedition were re-discovering the country. They carried out a number of observations and studies, collected geological and ethnographic materials for the museum funds of the Russian Geographical Society, plant seeds for the world's first Children's Seed Bank of the federal territory Sirius.
"Our country is great! The members of the expedition saw it themselves and showed other residents and the whole world what it was like to go around the whole of Russia along its borders. All this time, the team members were telling on social networks and on the expedition's website about what Russia it like: multinational, with different climate zones and natural attractions. Photos taken during the trip and demonstrating the diversity and beauty of nature will be included in the book ‘Picturesque Russia’. A documentary was also filmed as part of the expedition," added Ivan Chaika.
With their project, the organizers and members of the expedition planned to "stir up the young Russia". The young people who wanted to go with the travelers part of the route through the territory of their region joined the main team in different locations. Meetings, press conferences, testing of excursion routes, just chatting around the fire with local children – all this united people around an interesting and useful endeavor that clearly demonstrated the potential of domestic tourism, charged with positivity and a sense of healthy adventure.
"There are places that you will not be able to reach, except with the expedition. And thanks to its participants, we will be able to see the protected corners of our vast country," said Artur Chilingarov, first vice-president of the Russian Geographical Society, at a press conference dedicated to the start of the expedition.
Our country has 11 time zones, five natural zones, 130 thousand species of animals. Not every resident of the country can get acquainted with such wealth even from books and films, let alone a live meeting! The participants of the expedition "Russia – 2021" managed to make their dreams come true. For example, Rustam Sirazetdinov really wanted to see a snow leopard before the start.
And here are some figures of the project: the first cycle stage from Sochi to Murmansk, from the Black to the Barents Sea, lasted almost 7 thousand kilometers. The largest audience within the framework of one event of the project gathered at the children's center "Artek", where more than one and a half thousand schoolchildren talked with the travelers. The length of the automobile stage of the expedition from Vladivostok to the village of Mondy was almost 5.5 thousand kilometers. Legendary Lake Baikal demonstrated its harsh character in a couple of minutes: calm weather gave way to a hurricane wind, which almost deprived the team members of the expedition tents. The highest point of the route was the mountain of the Big Sayan Ridge Munku-Sardyk with a height of 3491 meters. From July 13 to August 16, during an autonomous hike of the highest category of difficulty, the team passed several high-mountain passes and 120 kilometers along the river Belin.
The longest (54 days), difficult and unpredictable section of the route ran through the Tuva Republic. The weather there often changed, maps were showing incorrect information, all plans had to be changed on the go. Heavy rains caused the water to rise in local rivers by almost two meters, rafts and catamarans delivered by helicopter remained unused. The travelers had to go on foot through such a thicket where, literally, no man had set foot, to wade, climb. When they ran out of food, they learned to eat what could be collected or caught. It was this stage that had made some of the strongest impressions on the members of the expedition.
“I have traveled a lot in Russia, but I have never been to Tuva. And we traveled across it on foot almost completely, in the most remote areas. These are the Bolshoi Sayan and several adjacent ridges. A very interesting and distinctive region. People in rural areas live, like their ancestors, in yurts, herd yaks, eat what nature gives. I recommend everyone to visit it," said Konstantin Merzhoev.
The second cycling stage stretched from the Republic of Tuva to Karachay-Cherkessia. Here the members of the expedition fully experienced the Caucasian hospitality. In the homeland of the team leader, they were awarded medals "The 250th Anniversary of the Unity of Ingushetia and Russia".
Simultaneously with the "southern" team, the "northern" team travelled 15 thousand kilometers on the research vessel "Mikhail Somov" on Arctic waters. Six seas, dozens of archipelagos, and hundreds of islands in 77 days. Ice and pressure ridges, narrow straits and strong currents. In Tiksi, the ship’s path was illuminated by the northern lights. In Pevek, the travelers admired the wonderful landscapes of Chukotka. On Wrangel Island, they managed to see the master of the kingdom of ice, the largest land predator on the planet – the polar bear. On Dikson, the travelers honored the memory of the heroes of the North Sea Fleet, who gave their lives in a fierce battle with the German invaders. At the end of November, the vessel got stuck in the ice in the Vilkitsky Strait.
"On November 16, I turned sixty-one. I never thought that I would meet my sixty-first birthday in the Arctic, and even aboard the legendary vessel ‘Mikhail Somov’! The crew members gathered on the deck to remove the ice that in the last few days had covered the rigging, bulwark, cranes and ship structures. Everything covered with ice. I went to the deck to catch the fresh frosty air of the Arctic. I was left breathless and chilled to the bone. But as soon as I connected the phone to the Internet in the cabin, I immediately felt warm in my soul from the friendly wishes ... " Rustam Sirazetdinov recalls.
The final stage, from the village of Psebay to the Krasnaya Polyana, passed through the snow-capped mountains. Its length was almost 70 kilometers.
The final press conference will take place at the Krasnaya Polyana Resort on December 22, at 12:00, at the Novotel Congress Hotel (Lermontov Hall, address: Esto-Sadok, Gornaya st., 6). There, the presentations will be given by: the head of the expedition, a member of the Council of the Krasnodar Regional Branch of the Russian Geographical Society Konstantin Merzhoev, the chief of staff of the expedition, the chairman of the Krasnodar Regional Branch of the Russian Geographical Society Ivan Chaika, the president of the Federation of Sports Tourism of Russia Sergey Mironov, the general director of the Krasnaya Polyana Resort Andrey Krukovsky, the director of Shaposhnikov Caucasian State Nature Reserve Sergey Shevelev.
The press conference will also be attended by members of the main team of the expedition "Russia –2021" Elena Galko, Alexander Kashcheev, Fedor Usenko, Yegor Tulyakov, Rustam Sirazetdinov, Alexander Konovalov, Nikita Yarkov.
The partners of the expedition were the Sirius Educational Center, the Vavilov All-Russian Institute of Plant Genetic Resources, the Krasnaya Polyana Resort, Utair Airlines, and other organizations. Chief of the expedition headquarters and project coordinator is the chairman of the Krasnodar Regional Branch of the Russian Geographical Society Ivan Chaika. The coordinators are also the first vice-president of the Russian Federation of Sports Tourism Alexei Yaroshevsky and the head of the "Young Leaders of the Future" project, one of the authors of "The Golden Ring of the Bosporan Kingdom" project Khristofor Konstantinidi.