Séminaire des Études Sibériennes – Séance 2

copyright A. Karaseva "Road mobility in the Northern areas of Russia is well-studied. Researchers have defined its specific traits such as the instability of roads, users’ engagement in road functioning, and high social and emotional value of roads for the northerners (Argounova-Low 2012a; 2012b; Argounova-Low and Prisyazhnyi 2016; Broz and Habeck 2015; Davydov 2018; Davydov and Davydova 2020; Habeck and Broz 2015; Illmeier and Krasnoshtanova 2022; Kuklina and Holland 2018; Orlova 2021a; 2021b; Saxinger, Krasnoshtanova, and Illmeier 2021; Usenyuk, Hyysalo, and Whalen 2016; Vasilyeva 2019; Ventsel 2011). However, road accidents and practices of safety were mostly out of the researchers’ scope, except for (Orlova 2021a). In this talk, I'll analyze the core event—freezing on the road—and the local road rescue infrastructure it gave rise to in order to show how communities in Kolyma prepare for road accidents. Kolyma (officially, Magadanskaya oblast’) is a sparsely populated region in the northeast of Russia notoriously known for its Gulag past. Since the 1990s, the region has experienced massive out-migration which has led to the closure of many settlements and intensified mobility between the remaining ones and the regional capital Magadan. Closure of the settlements meant that many possible stops on roads where drivers could get help or call for it in case of trouble had disappeared, and now they have to travel hundreds of kilometers with no towns, no fuel stations, no repair workshops, and no mobile or internet connection. To ensure the safety of the trip, drivers use an intricate grassroots road rescue infrastructure (in the sense of (Star 1999)) which includes drivers, their cars and trucks, satellite phones and walkie-talkies, tools for repair, additional gallons of gasoline, pieces of paper and pencils to write down a phone number of an employer or a family member to connect with, WhatsApp chats, etc. — and a particular road ethics. In 2017, a local entrepreneur from Magadan invented “emergency communication cabins” — the shipping containers equipped with a mobile and internet connection spot and also a communication spot with the state emergency service. In my talk, I’ll focus on this successful project and show how it became a techno-fix for the social change in the space of Kolyma trassa."  
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