For most of us, waking up to a temperature of minus 50 degrees would spell catastrophe. Normal life would come to a screeching halt, we’d be scrambling to deal with frozen pipes and power outages, school and work would be canceled and weather warnings would tell us not to venture outside due to frostbite risk.
But in the Yakutia region of Siberia, that’s just an average winter day where life goes on as usual.
When you live in the coldest inhabited area on Earth, your entire life is arranged around dealing with ridiculously cold temperatures. Villages don’t have running water because freezing pipes wouldn’t allow for water treatment. Kids go to school unless the temp drops below minus 55 degrees Celsius (which is then considered dangerous). Showering involves spending hours stoking a fire in the bathhouse to create a steamy, warm room.
Native Siberian Kiun B. has created a series of documentary short films detailing what daily life is like in Yakutia’s frigid winters. She was born and raised in Yakutsk, Siberia, widely recognized as the coldest city on Earth, where average winter temperatures hover around minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit. As seen in her videos, smaller villages in the Yakutia region regularly dip down into the negative 50s, with the lowest recorded temp in the Yakut village of Oymayakon reaching a mindblowing minus 96 degrees Fahrenheit.
The popularity of Kiun’s YouTube channel demonstrates how curious people are about life in such harsh conditions, as her videos have been viewed by tens of millions of people in the past year alone.
Check out this video detailing a day in the life of a family in a Yakutia village.
Can you imagine going out to use an outhouse in minus 40 degrees? Oof.
Another of Kiun’s videos goes into more detail about how people shower and do laundry in the region. You might assume they wouldn’t line-dry their laundry outdoors, but they do.
What do people wear to protect themselves from the negative temperatures? Frostbite is a real risk, so it’s important to have the right kinds of clothing and outdoor gear to stay safe and relatively comfortable.
Kiun shared some frigid fashion norms from Yakutsk, which include traditional fur hats and boots as well as lots of layers and down jackets.
However, there are some Yakut folks who see the cold as something to embrace. For instance, this man takes an ice bath out in the elements as a morning ritual. It’s something he has worked up to—definitely not something to try on your own during a cold snap—but it still has to be painful.
(Seriously, please don’t try this at home.)
The way humans have learned to adapt to drastically different environments, from the sweltering tropics to the Arctic tundra, is incredible, and it’s fascinating to get a close-up look at how people make life work in those extremes. Thank you, Kiun B., for giving us a glimpse of what it’s like to experience life in the dead of winter in the world’s coldest inhabited places.