Current Issue
September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
11 July 2012
Michael J.L. La Civita

Babushki light candles at the Pskovo-Pechersky Dormition Monastery, located near Russia's border with Estonia. (photo: Sean Sprague)

It is a worldwide phenomenon: village life is dying as the youth leave for the schools, opportunities and glamour of the globe’s cities. Nowhere is this more acute than in Russia, which suffered greatly during the Soviet era.

Until recently, Buranovo — which is more than 500 miles northeast of Moscow — could serve as the archetype of a Russian village. The New York Times reports:

In places like this, collective farms routinely go bankrupt, log houses tilt and sink into the soil, roads become muddy ravines and village stores make much of their money selling vodka. Breaking the cycle of decline is considered difficult, if not impossible.

But thanks to Buranovo’s babushki, or grandmothers, the village is getting paved roads, a water pipeline and even the internet. Perhaps the greatest change is the rebuilding of its church dedicated to the Holy Trinity, which the Soviet’s leveled in 1949.

It all began with a miracle, said Olga N. Tuktareva, the leader of the singing group, who is 43 and in fact is not a grandmother yet.

Ms. Tuktareva recalled strolling about the village with a friend in 2008 and lamenting a sad episode in local history: the destruction of the Church of the Trinity, taken down like countless other churches in Stalin’s Russia. ...

During that walk, Ms. Tuktareva recalled, her cellphone rang. It was a music producer in Moscow who had heard of the singing babushki — they performed locally — and had a proposition: if the troupe sang the Queen song “We Are the Champions” in their native language, Udmurt, to an audience of oil executives in Moscow, the producer would make it worth her time.

“I thought, ‘This is strange,’ ” Ms. Tuktareva said. “I just said it is impossible to rebuild the church, and then my phone rang. This is not an accident.”

Read more about this extraordinary story here. To read about the typical troubles in Russian village life, see Sean Sprague’s timeless piece, Despair in the Russian Village.

Tags: Russia Art Economic hardships