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These places show that Russia is “like a termite-infested house – everything is beautiful from the outside; but inside is decay and rot … an entirely different world” where almost all the comforts, goods or even values many in the big cities assume are normal don’t exist except by the accidental arrival of outsiders.
There are no roads, only paths, and people use horses or tractors, not cars – and what vehicles exist are as old as the grandparents one sees. And for the residents, those who visit from the outside – and such people are rare enough – look like “extraterrestrials well-dressed, sober, in big cars and smiling.” In this other Russia, “there aren’t any people like that.”
All the houses are collapsing, and there is trash everywhere, trash that the residents do not even bother to take very far from their doorways, Maltsev says. People say “Stalin took the country with a plow and left it with an atom bomb.” But here people still have the plow, and that “bomb” lies under the country, the bomb of “complete degradation.”
There are still the guard towers of the GULAG even though they too have been abandoned, silent reminders of what was and of what Russia has still not escaped, however much the glitter of the cities suggests otherwise. The people of these Russian villages live “outside of time” and serve as both a reminder and a warning, although few take note of it.