A few days ago, on April 20 2017, the Ministry of Justice declared the Kola Ecological Center, of which my mate Alexandra is a member, a “foreign agent” for receiving foreign financing and being engaged in political activity.
Its “political activity” appears to be taking part in public hearings where government officials were present.
The “foreign agent” status means, in addition to a serious stigma, a significant increase in the amount of reporting paperwork the NGO has to do.
The Kola Ecological Center is behind the eco-trails east of Kandalaksha and near Kolvitsa. They also orchestrated the construction of a WW2 memorial in Kolvitsa. These are the sort of things that stand out in their work, not attempting to influence Russian government officials using foreign funds.
Yesterday, for no particular reason other than its curious name, we headed to a place called Africanda, about 10 miles north from Polarnye Zori. The story says that the name originated as a joke, when railroad station builders encountered a particularly hot, Africa-like, summer day. The village offers among the most spectacular local ruins. The town core however appears relatively civilized, full of small two-story houses surrounded by pine trees. Here are a few photos to convey to you the sense of the place:
I’ve recently have been once again looking at the issue. It appears that the only way to get the FSB (former KGB) permit is via a local incoming travel agency. Those I’ve contacted (www.atv51.ru, snow51.ru, and www.m-tour.ru) would only arrange permits to the participants of their tours that start at ~$400/person. I’m continuing to look for one that would provide assistance with no strings in the form of tour participation attached.
A couple of years ago I wrote mentioning the British Cemetery in Murmansk from the WW1 days. Recently I got a request for grave photos, and received the following story from Alexandra’s Murmansk acquaintances that I’d like to share with you:
Yesterday drove through 250km of snow and blizzard on the insistent request of my mate, who apparently needed some variety to clear her head off the eider thoughts. If anybody does not know, she is intensely working on a book on the relationship between humans and eider ducks. Sometimes that results in brain overheat, thus the need for a cooling trip once in a while.
Leaving the computer behind. If the matter can’t wait please call +7 921 155 5432. Back Sunday evening. The Murmansk program includes visiting a Saami village with the reputation of being “authentic” near Murmansk. A report is to follow.
It remains a mystery where the animal has come from and how it ended up in a snowbank in Murmansk. At the moment is is being treated from frozen paws, and there already is a lineup wishing to adopt it should the owner fail to show up.
The other day I’ve noticed a poster by Orenburzhye Airlines at the local supermarket announcing direct daily Murmansk to Arkhangelsk flights. The cost of the ticket is ~8000 roubles (about $130) one way according to their site. Before this offer became available one would either have to fly via Moscow (that would take pretty much the whole day) or spend one and a half or two days on the train.
They ordered me to translate their site into English, and immediately uploaded these translations to snowtracker.ru/en/. Last March we ourselves took part in one of their 3-4 hour tours, were impressed, and can recommend Kola Expeditions to travellers looking for the “local spirit”.