After my first visit to the area almost twenty years ago, I said that I would never come back to this part of Russia.
The Kola Peninsula was dangerous to visitors back then, and not much has truly changed over the last two decades—at least not for the better. Traveling to this part of Russia has become more risky as time has passed, and fewer people will face the eminent risks in order to satisfy their own curiosity.
To drive by car through Karelia to Kola Peninsula is very dangerous, and the safest way is definitely to be in a group of vehicles. For this reason, drivers are organized in large numbers and only commute in places that are the most well known to them.
Most of those who do travel here are male students with free spirits who are fearlessly seeking adventure as they travel through this hypnotized, ice–cold, beautiful land of Lapland in the wintertime.
Foreigners mystically attracted by the beauty of a late summer consider it as travel to the land of their dreams.
Westerns and Russians have heard mystified tales about shamanic abilities of local Sami/Saami/Lapps, and this attracts visitors like a magnet.
From my personal experience, this kind of ancient practice never disappeared, in spite of the persecutions by state orthodox religious establishments and government where the Sami resided.
The Sami/Saami/Lapps people are one of the most written about in the world, although an increased self-awareness among them has led them to ever increasing resentment towards the ethnographers and anthropologists that they believe exploit the Sámi experience in the name of scholarly enterprise.
Who would have thought I would have the rare opportunity to come into such close encounters with an almost vanished ethnic group on the Kola Peninsula of Russia?
My second trip to the Kola Peninsula gave me a chance to meet some of them face to face.
Copyright © Rachel Madorsky