Take the white road!

Snow is the ally of the Russians. It nourishes and entertains, warms and protects. Treat snow seriously and with respect and it will become your ally in conquering so vast spaces that many people are unable even to conceive their splendour.

In my childhood, sometimes I came across a somewhat sympathetic attitude of my peers from other cities, who learned that I was from Kalmykia. "Ah, we know, we know!" they would say. "Elista, camels, endless heat, scorched desert and New Year celebrations under palm trees." Those experts were right about the first two items only. And even then, you do not often see camels.
Of course, they know perfectly well in Kalmykia what snow is like. One of the brightest memories of my childhood is fresh snow, fluffy and soft creaking musically underfoot. We, Elista boys, loved to run on skis – competing in time and distance, on a bet and just for fun cutting into the ice of Kolonsky pond with skates.
I cannot say whether ecology really worsens or age affects me but snow does not seem to be as soft, white and musical sounding as before. Probably, it is because of my childhood nostalgia for snow that the soul is so responsive to the poem of Alexander Galich "Kadish".

But snow still remains our faithful ally. Would our gardens and fields be so yielding if the snow had not warmed them in a long winter and irrigated them with melt waters in the spring? Snow protects us; it fights shoulder to shoulder with us: it stopped Napoleon’s many languages army and froze the Wehrmacht's troops so that the Luftwaffe aircraft could not rise into the air.
Snow helped us to master vast expanses of territory. It is not for nothing that the wish for the white road is considered one of the most benign among the Kalmyks. Summer paths have not always been associated with the most pleasant sensations: one will get shattered travelling from pasture to pasture on a bumpy road. And it’s not big fun to get stuck in the steppe after the rain. But you can fly where you need to on the sledge way – it’s same as on a tablecloth!
To this day, in Russia, there are places that can only be reached by helicopter or by winter road. And it's not the fault of some lazy and sluggish authorities. The very nature offers us a choice: either leave this god-forsaken place alone or master it despite all natural misfortunes.
Look at the map of Canada: the local population density is much lower at the same latitudes as our blooming cities. Alaska is also not so densely populated comparing with our regions. I do not know how to explain this mystery but the fact remains: the rest of the peoples do not need huge frozen snow-covered vastness – they are afraid of it. It turns out exactly as in an anecdote about a MGIMO student, a representative of hot Africa, who was asked how he liked the Russian climate. "Oh!" he said. "The green winter is still bearable but the white winter is very bad!"
Yes, but we are not talking about the inhabitants of Africa but about our neighbours – Europeans and Americans. Indeed, they perceive the snow as something magical, belonging to Christmas. Provided that the snow holds for no more than a week or two.
Probably, many heard about London fairs on frozen River Thames. It occurred rarely: every great freeze of the River Thames became a memorable event. There were festivities and rides, the Royal Family greeted the people; publishers put their printing stalls directly on ice and printed every little thing – from name cards to books, which have become priceless auction rarities now.
However, they start panicking if snow stays longer. Recall that 1816 entered the annals of history as a year without summer. European and American memoirs about that event are full of horrific stories about crop failures and about those who died of hunger and frost. Americans even called it "The death frozen year".
And only the inhabitants of Russia left no evidence of terrible suffering. Why? Did the sun warm our land separately? It is hardly so. Modern scientists believe that the global cooling (it is also called the "small glacial period") was caused by eruption of Mount Tambora. Thus, it had to influence everyone. However, the Russians did not notice it: for them it was just another year. Maybe just a little cooler than the previous one...
Same thing happens these days: if snowfalls are a little more heavier than usual in New York or Brussels, local transport disrupts and communal catastrophe begins. We laugh at our officials, for whom the winter always comes unexpectedly, but things are even worse in the West. There, people, spoiled by the warm Gulf Stream, still do not want to believe that the winter is a long time.
In the West, they still do not understand that snow must be considered with respect. However, it will consider you in its turn. Snow has taught us not to be afraid either of the vast expanses or the icy gloom of northern winter. Snow has taught us not to be afraid of difficult tasks and to win no matter what.
It was not for nothing that our great scientist Mikhail Lomonosov wrote in ecstasy on the appearance of the Northern Lights: "Stars-filled abyss has opened. One cannot count stars or reach the bottom of abyss."
We are not frightened by icy silence no matter what dress it wears. If necessary, we will go through it as our ancestors passed through the ages, and we will fulfil any of our tasks. We will pass through any snowstorm without being afraid of getting lost, simply because we are curious: what is there? And what is behind the snow curtain?
Yes, if you are wondering how I feel about snow, my answer is: Great!