It is common in the mythologies and rites of many cultures to associate winter with death and a descent into darkness. Many of our most cherished holidays derive from the acknowledgment of our mortality and of earthly, seasonal renewal.
And yet it always hurts when death comes. Particularly when it is sudden and all too early.
Toward the end of 2019 we unexpectedly lost a writer for this magazine, Ivan Kobilyakov. He was a very enthusiastic, energetic young man who embraced the wild beauty of Siberia and loved to share stories of his travels there with us. In particular, he was taken by the Putorana Plateau, a place so remote that few people of any nationality have ever visited there. But, thanks to his pluck, he took us there thrice, in search of wolves, sheep, and painterly landscapes. He also took us to Norilsk and wrote an article on mine rescue workers that won a national award, and to Chukotka’s gold mines. His stories were long, and told from a personal perspective, and beautifully illustrated. We will miss his work, and, more importantly, his person. Please pay tribute to him by going back and reading some of his articles.
Interestingly, because this is how things seem to happen at this magazine, before we even heard of Ivan’s untimely death, we had decided to include the heart-wrenching diary of George Washington Campbell in our Readings section (page 14), because we wanted to share something about the lives of foreigners in Russia exactly 200 years ago, which is when Campbell served as American minister to Russia.
And then there is the story on the photographer and artist Nikolai Shabunin (page 56), who also died young and somewhat mysteriously. And our long lead story (page 32) by Yevgenia Volunkova tells of a lighthouse keeper’s untimely death, and how his widow Lyudmila is struggling to keep their mainland village from dying. And of course there is our PostScript (page 64) about the death of former Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov.
Death, as we all well know, is always around the corner. We just don’t know which one. And so all I can think of to add here is the fine and fitting ending of Mary Oliver’s poem “The Summer Day”:
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
Enjoy the issue, and thank you for your support.
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