Story Detail

01 Oct 2015

The Russian Sun Is Something Money Can Buy

Vox Orbis / 01 Oct 2015 Sun

The Russian summer sun, spotted here in Olkhon Island in eastern Siberia, is a precious commodity. Anton Petukhov/Flickr

Languages: Russian (Русский)

Oksana Kondakova

How do Russian people see the sunlight? First, as something material and precious; something money can buy. That ordinary sun—the one that was here before us and will be here long after us—for a Russian person is a gift and a reward one has to work hard for. You may have heard this joke: “This year summer was pretty good, but unfortunately I was working that day.” Russians made it.

For the last couple of years I’ve been staying a lot in my hometown in Siberia. There, the whole year can be divided into eight depressing months of cold, wind and snow—if we are lucky in winter—and three short, magical months of happiness, warmth and sun. Then again comes the sluggish waiting for the summer and treating ourselves with mantras like, “there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.” I am talking about Siberia where statistics say 80 percent of days per year are “sunny.” The poor citizens of Moscow and St. Petersburg deserve some sympathy.

So, bearing this context in mind, there’s no surprise that despite all the warnings doctors keep issuing, Russian people will keep laying on the beach until they get sunburns—without a t-shirt on, of course, just to have as much sun as possible.

What t-shirts, pants and decorum should we consider, when every Russian knows that this celebration is too short to miss? You say the sun is shining and you left your swimsuit at home? No worries. People sunbathing in their underwear are not that rare to see. After all, we are all fellows in misery here. Sun in Russia helps to break the ice.

It was sun-starved Russians who made restaurant owners in Turkey, Egypt and Thailand create warning signs saying “No clothes; no entrance.” Those are the same Russians that will jump over all the sanctions and limits in the world to get a sunny vacation, whatever it costs. Because for Russians, sun is something money can buy.

Oksana Kondakova for Vox Orbis, 2015