A dream trip: with love for the Far East

Russian Railways helps to spend money on a trip to the Far East. The holding announced “Mega dream trip” across Russia with tickets for 1 – 3 million rubles.

The most expensive trip in Russia in 2021 was a rail tour to Vladivostok . The trip will cost more than 1 million and 350 thousand rubles for a well-to-do (there will be no others in the train) passenger. Experts believe that the holding would not offer such a service for nothing, which means that there will be those willing to get a ride for such an amount.

On the eve of the summer season and in conditions of closed borders because of the pandemic, Russian Railways continue to attract passengers in various ways. And the eyes of the monopolist are directed not only at the budget customer, but also at the celebrities and just rich people. Yes, pensioners, schoolchildren and large families already traditionally get discounts. Well and for those who can afford distant countries, new ways to get rid of extra money are offered.

This summer Russian Railways suggest passengers to take a trip from Moscow to Vladivostok with a full wallet. Such a trip will cost at least 1.350 million rubles. The number of seats for such an ultra-voyage is limited. The passenger will have 26 days to travel from Moscow to the Far East. There is a choice of “luxury” class compartments or higher and more expensive.

During this trip, as stated in Russian Railways, the passenger can not only cross almost all of Russia, but also have a good rest. The train called “Dreams’ Megapassoulet” will start from Moscow on July 1. The most expensive (carriage “Imperial Plus”) tickets will cost 2 million 930 thousand rubles.

“You are waiting for a dream trip through the whole of Russia, along the Baikal-Amur Railway and the Trans-Siberian Railway on the “Luxury” class tour train. And also – authorial excursions, gastronomic tastings, new discoveries of the great Russia”, – states on the website of “RZD Tour”.

Tourist trains are always in demand, and in all categories from cheap to luxury ones, and every trip has its own client, said Kirill Yankov, chairman of the Union of Russian Passengers, vgudok.com.

“For many foreigners Russia is closed today. But for citizens of Germany, for example, our country is now open. And this is a big market. And there are people there who are not poor.

So Russian Railways probably calculated that there is a passenger and launched such a train.

Of course, the railway tourism was, is and will be. It could be either mass tourism, or such, as now they are trying to do with this trip. In Soviet times there was mass railway tourism. Now there is a more exclusive segment. And I believe that this is not an advertising move.”

The journey of dreams begins at the Yaroslavsky station, and then will continue with numerous stops. In each city the train will stop for 1-2 days. During this time, tourists will be introduced to local attractions.

The longest stops (2 days) are planned in Vladivostok, Severobaikalsk (Buryatia) and Baikal. In Vladivostok, tourists will have a big bus tour of the city, visit the island Russian, boat trip. In Severobaikalsk tourists will get acquainted with Lake Baikal – they will take a pleasure cruise on the lake on a boat.

The special tourist train consists of the carriage of such categories as “Presidential (“Imperial”) Suite” (the cost of the ticket – 2 mln 890 thousand rubles), “Presidential (“Imperial”) Suite plus” (2 mln 930 thousand rubles) and “Golden Suite VIP” (1 mln 570 thousand rubles); carriages of such categories as “Svobodnaya Gora” (1 mln 990 thousand rubles), “Golden Luxe” (1 mln 930 thousand rubles) and “Turquoise” (1 mln 110 thousand rubles). Cars in the Grand De Luxe category (1 mln 350 thousand rubles); retro style “Bronze luxury” cars; dining cars / banquet halls; saloon-bar car, where the evening musical and dancing programs will be held during the trip.

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“Mega Dream Journey” will follow the route: Moscow – Kungur – Tobolsk – Omsk – Novosibirsk – Krasnoyarsk – Stolby – Irkutsk – Krugobaykal Railway – Lake Baikal – Ulan-Ude – Vostochny Cosmodrome – Birobidzhan – Khabarovsk – Vladivostok (2 days) – Khabarovsk – Birobidzhan – Vostochny – Tynda – Larba – Novaya Chara – Kuanda – Taximo – North- Mui Tunnel – Kyuhelb – Angoya – Severobaikalsk (2 days) – Lake Baikal (2 days) – Kunerma – Niya – Zvezdnaya – Bratsk – Tomsk – Bolsherechye – Tobolsk – Yekaterinburg – Sarapul – Buranovo – Izhevsk – Murom – Moscow.

There are various options for such tourist routes, and it is not necessary to go strictly from Moscow to Vladivostok, said Kirill Yankov.

“I think that an interesting direction is Baikal with a possible visit to China. True, you can’t go there now. Perhaps the Arctic Circle, which was very popular with the Chinese at one time, while they were visiting us. Perhaps the Caucasus is also worth a trip, and central Russia. And along the Golden Ring, foreign tourists could take such a trip. Including for such not insignificant money”, – sums up the expert .

All this is fine. Only coupled with news about a cruise on the Yenisei for a million and a half rubles, there is a feeling that only millionaires live in Russia. Although, most likely, everything is just arranged only for millionaires. And the common people will have to sit at home until Turkey is opened.

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Arsenyev Country: 150 years of the famous explorer of the Far East

September 10 is the 150th birthday of Vladimir Arsenyev, the explorer and hero of the Russian Far East, writer and geographer, archaeologist, ethnographer, author of the stories “Across the Ussuri Krai” and “Dersu Uzala”. Courageous and selfless work for the benefit of the country was combined in him with a warm love for the local people and care for them. Among other things, Arseniev’s influence can be found even in such a seemingly distant story as the movie epic Star Wars.

Dreams of the East

Arsenyev’s 57-year life is divided into two almost equal parts: the first of which he spent in Europe and the second in the Far East. The young metropolitan Vladimir could hardly assume that the wild taiga would become his second home, and its inhabitants, the Udege people and the Nanai people, would be closer and more familiar to him than civilized urban people.

V. K. Arsenyev in Udegei costume (center) and the Udegei from the Anyuy River

Arsenyev in Udegei costume (center)

Arsenyev was born in St. Petersburg in the family of a modest employee of the Nikolayevsky railroad, studied poorly, but adored reading, especially books about travel – Przewalski and Darwin. It would have been logical to receive a scientific education, but Arsenyev went the other way: having joined the army, he graduated from a two-year cadet school and then learned all the sciences independently.

Instead, he was taught geography by Mikhail Grum-Grzhimailo, a traveler and inventor, who with his brother Grigory went on expeditions to the Pamirs, Tien Shan and Tibet. His tales inflamed Vladimir’s dreams of the distant lands of the East, although at first it was not possible to fulfill them: after graduation, Lieutenant Colonel Arsenyev was sent in the opposite direction – to the Polish city of Lomza.

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Toads and Lizards

Finding little pleasure in military service, Vladimir directed his main attention to his hobby: studying the flora and fauna of the area where his regiment stood. By that time he had married, and though he loved his wife so much that he carved her name Nura on his arm, he still could not give in to her entreaties to stop bringing toads, lizards, butterflies and birds into the house. Even more than toads, young Anna Konstantinovna was worried about her husband’s plans to transfer to the Far East.

The military leadership rejected one after another Arsenyev’s petitions, but in the spring of 1900, when Anna was pregnant with their first-born son Volodya, the lieutenant’s dream came true: he was made lieutenant and appointed to the 1st Vladivostok Fortress Regiment.

In Vladivostok Vladimir at once started to investigate the surroundings and soon found a way to combine his hobby with military service: he was appointed head of the hunting team of the regiment – a detachment engaged in reconnaissance and mapping the area. From the team members were required not only curiosity and physical endurance, but also courage: exploring trips were difficult and risky. Arsenyev and his soldiers often waded through winter rivers, fell through the ice, were hungry, clashed with Chinese bandits.

The right man

Lieutenant Arseniev’s research enthusiasm was very timely: the lands, long annexed to the Russian Empire, remained poorly explored. Maps were inaccurate, the habits and customs of the locals rarely interested anyone, let alone archeological excavations, that our hero set about, out of the question.

In the first years of his detachment, Arsenyev studied the southeast of the Ussuri Krai – from the Suifun River in the west to the Gulf of St. Olga in the east.

During the Russo-Japanese War staff-captain Arseniev commanded a flying squadron engaged in reconnaissance and foiled attempts of the enemy’s landing. For this he received several orders. But there was also a bitter loss: during the evacuation to St. Petersburg his youngest son, two-year-old Oleg, caught a cold and died.

Dersu Uzala

After the Japanese War, the need for the earliest possible study of the Ussuri Krai became obvious – at least for strategic reasons. Arseniev was transferred to Khabarovsk and instructed to lead an expedition to the Sikhote Alin Range.

Vladimir K.Arsenyev and Dersu Uzala

Dersu Uzala and Arseniev, 1906

Arsenyev led two Sikhote-Alin treks – in 1906 and 1907, each lasting half a year. He collected a huge amount of material and information: from cartographic and geodetic to ethnographic. The detachment included specially selected soldiers, Ussuri Cossacks, officers, and the botanist Palchevsky.

A special member of the team was Dersu Uzala, a hunter Arseniev had met in the taiga. He was a Gol’d (as the Nanai people were called at that time) and agreed to become a guide. Arseniev became good friends with Dersu. In the naive and at the same time wise Nanai he saw the ideal of a man living in harmony with the surrounding world. As Arsenyev’s son Vladimir later said, if people imitated Dersu, there would be no wars and strife in the world.

An excellent hunter, Dersu taught Arsenyev and the Russian soldiers not to make not only a single shot but in general not to take a single step without thinking: “Won’t it harm the outside world and, therefore, you yourself?

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For him, nature was animated, and man in it was not a king, but one of many living creatures. Animals, fire and other elements Dersu respectfully called “people” – in his view they were equal to the man, or even superior to him entities, with which he had to treat with great care.

The Russian officer found the same harmony in the society of the Udygeans, a small people of the Far East. Humiliated by the Chinese, they retained a remarkable good nature and a dignity rare for modern man. There was no theft or violence in their settlements, and the Udygeans lived by notions of the common good. Arsenyev was going to dedicate his main work to them – “The Country of Udyhe”.

Loss of a friend

When elderly Dersu’s eyesight began to weaken, Arseniev invited him to stay with him in Khabarovsk. But the hunter languished in the city. Life in his apartment was unusual and hard for him. He asked to go out and the officer let him go and gave his friend a new gun. Apparently, this valuable weapon was the reason of Dersu’s death – evil people robbed and killed the badly sighted Gol’d. Arseniev took hard the loss of his friend and immortalized him in his books, including the story of the same name, which was later filmed by the great Japanese director Akira Kurosawa.

The much-loved image of Master Yoda in the Star Wars film epic was inspired by Dersu Uzala in Kurosawa’s film. Star Wars creator George Lucas is a great admirer of the Japanese. Adaptation of the novel by Arseniev was released in 1975 and soon won the Oscar as the best foreign film. Lucas at this time just developing the plot of his “star” trilogy. He was so captivated by the image of Dersu that he based it on his alien sage, even borrowing the broken speech.

Hungry Expedition

In the taiga Arsenyev met another interesting man – the Chinese Zhang-Bao, a brave commander of a detachment of fighters against the Hunhuzes – Chinese bandits and poachers, who were very numerous in these wild places. A few years later, Arsenyev himself would hunt down the Hunhuzes, who caused much evil to the Udygeans and other local residents. And Zhang-Bao once saved Arseniev and his party’s life during the so-called famine expedition.

Vladimir Arsenyev

Arsenyev as a hunter

History and Art Collection/Vostock Photo

Arsenyev and his companions, who explored the northern Ussuriisk region in 1908, suffered a severe famine after a violent river swept away their stores of provisions and ammunition. They had to eat everything they found in the forest, including the half-decomposed fish dropped by the natives. They also ate Alpa, Arseniev’s faithful dog, exhausted, but after three weeks of starvation the travelers no longer had the strength to go forward.

They were to perish, but Zhang Bao, falling into a semi-delirious state because of illness, left camp early one morning and went forward. Wandering through the taiga, he accidentally met another detachment with food and equipment that was walking toward Arseniev’s team.

It is noteworthy that after such a severe test, Arsenyev and the soldiers, having recovered a little, continued the expedition, which eventually lasted for a year and a half.

Recognition in the capital

The expeditions made Arsenyev a local hero. People followed his trek by reading the Khabarovsk newspaper “Priamurye,” which published the travel letters sent by the officer (not all, about half of them reached). Upon his return Arsenyev read several big reports on the discoveries made during the trip and was appointed director of the Khabarovsk Museum of Local Lore. Then he went to St. Petersburg, where he also made speeches, donated his ethnographic collections to the Russian Museum, and was introduced to Tsar Nicholas II.

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The desire to stay in the capital did not arise: Arsenyev noticed so much intrigue and careerism in its scientific environment that he hurried back to Khabarovsk. Here his work awaited him: the new governor-general of the Priamurye region, Gondatti, wanted to have a famous traveler in his administration. Cabinet work was not to Arsenyev’s liking, especially since he was planning new large expeditions, but he had to comply.

Bandits and books.

At first much boredom, though, did not have to. By the order of the governor Arseniev led several secret expeditions, the aim of which was to capture and deport the Hunkhuz and to destroy their bases. During these risky operations Arseniev continued to gather new information.

В. Vladimir Arsenyev (second right) with members of the first secret expedition, 1911.

Staff-Captain Arsenyev (second from right) with members of the first secret expedition, 1911

At the same time he wrote and published his first scientific works. Unlike another famous Russian traveler, Nikolai Miklukho-Maklai, Arsenyev could not only get huge material during the expeditions, but also quickly systematize it, processing it into essays and monographs. The great Miklukha could force himself for years to sit down at a desk; Arsenyev, on the other hand, was more collected and organized. Hardly the day he returned from a difficult campaign, he could already make a detailed report on its results. “Get used to being thorough and accurate,” he wrote in admonitions to his son Volodya.

In 1912 he published his first major scientific work “A Brief Military Geographical and Military Statistical Sketch of the Ussuri Krai 1900-1911” – the condensed experience of his early expeditions.

In addition to all other abilities Arseniev had a literary talent. Based on his travel notes he wrote the stories “Along the Ussuriyskiy Krai”, “Through the taiga”, “In the mountains of Sikhote Alin” and others.

Troubled times and new power

Arsenyev’s activities interested many famous researchers. He met the master of Russian ethnography, Leo Sternberg, as well as the Norwegian Fridtjof Nansen and the Pole Stanislaw Poniatowski, who came to the Far East. He corresponded with Nansen until his last days, and he contributed much to the translation and publication of Arseniev’s books in Europe.

After the revolution, Arsenyev accepted the authority of the Bolsheviks and in honor of that he shaved off his “officer” mustache. However, the coup in the country brought him a lot of grief. In 1918 bandits killed his parents and several other relatives in a village near Chernigov. After the establishment of Soviet power in the Far East, he was registered with the GPU as a former tsarist officer. Arsenyev could have emigrated, but decided to stay and serve his homeland.

And he served: he worked simultaneously in several departments and, as a walking encyclopedia of the Ussuri Krai, advised the new authorities. As head of the islands and marine animal fisheries of the Far East, he visited the Commander Islands and Kamchatka. He was featured in movies and conducted several other expeditions.

His last years

At the age of 46, Arseniev had a new family: he married Margarita Solovyova, the daughter of a friend, who was 20 years younger than him. In 1920 they had a daughter, Natalia. “My paradise and my consolation are my daughter and my wife,” he said. But by the end of his sixth decade, fatigue and disappointment dominated the mood of the famous traveler.

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Shortly before his death, he wrote to the ethnographer Fyodor Aristov: “During the revolution and the Civil War, there was so much violence, so much bloodshed, that something snapped in my soul. I grew tired of people. I don’t understand what they want and why they are so spiteful toward others! If I did not have a family – I would have gone to my friends, the natives, never to return to the city.

In July 1930, he went on his last trip to the lower Amur River to check on the expedition he was organizing for the Ussuri Railway. On the trip he caught a cold, then caught pneumonia, from which Arsenyev died on September 4. It seems surprising that this man, who lived through so many difficult winterings, got sick in the middle of summer. But he no longer had that former thirst for life that had guided him in his youth, saving him from death in the icy waters of the winter rivers.

At Arseniev’s funeral almost all of Vladivostok came. “Nobody was buried like him here in the Far East,” the widow wrote.

“Shivenistic views.”

Arsenyev had detractors, but during his lifetime he managed to repel their attacks. Albert Lipsky, an ethnographer and OGPU agent and future NKVD staffer, whom Arseniev once took on one of his expeditions, accused the scientist of selling museum valuables abroad. In fact it was the collection of Polish ethnographer Poniatowski, left to Arseniev for safekeeping and sent by him to the United States at his request.

After Arseniev’s death, his enemies once again attempted to tarnish his reputation. Not even a year after Arseniev’s departure, the Vladivostok newspaper Krasnoe Znamya accused him of “great-power chauvinism”. But it was not the reputation of the deceased that suffered more, but his family. Beginning in 1934 his widow Margarita was repeatedly arrested, accusing her of participation in conspiracies, espionage and the like. Arsenyev himself was considered to be the conspiracy organizer. In 1938 she was shot. Her 20-year-old daughter Natalia was tried for anti-Sovietism and “Shvenist views” (as the charges were written) and sentenced to 10 years in a penal camp. Arsenyev’s first family was deprived of the right to live in Primorsky Krai and exiled to Altai.

At the same time in 1938, when Margarita Arsenyeva was executed, the same newspaper “Krasnoe Znamya”, which gave the signal for repressions, praises the scientist as if nothing had happened and calls him “the famous Russian researcher of the Far Eastern Territory”.

Traveller’s legacy

The slander could not diminish Arsenyev’s merits before the country and science. A city, a river, a mountain and many streets in Primorsky Krai are named after the explorer. Recently, Vladivostok airport has also been named after him.

The fate of Arsenyev’s literary and scientific manuscripts was not as fortunate as it might seem at first sight. Arseniev was often republished in the USSR, especially in the postwar period, but the books were compiled from the same limited range of texts, though remarkable, with considerable cuts. Other texts were simply not published.

The manuscript of Arsenyev’s main work, the two-volume The Land of Udyhe, disappeared after the death of the author and his repressed relatives. The most complete collection of his surviving works, the six-volume Pacific Rubezh Publishers, came out only recently – in the early 2010s. But better late than never.

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