Home of the Great Classics of XIX century (Tolstoy, Dostoevsky,…), but also to one of the greatest wildlife diversities in the world, Russia is the right place to combine a culture rich vacation and to explore wild untamed nature! There is no other country in the world where the brown bear is not only found in healthy numbers across its vast territory, but also takes a special place in the heart of the Russian people, in its culture and folklore!
Misha, 1980 Olympics mascot in Moscow…also the place to start our journey, visiting museums while buying our time for Kamchatka flight, on the 12th of August 2018.
Follow us for the next weeks as we are about to explore nature at its best, in Russia’s Kamchatka peninsula, one of the few true wildernesses left, home of biggest density of brown bears in the world, of not less than 29 active volcanoes, the spawning ground for about 8 Mil sockeye salmons (or 25% of its wild population), as we are about to explore this natural paradise, in the steps of famous naturalist Charlie Russell (blog here), who chose this place and dedicated big part of its life to reconcile the complicated relationship, across the world, between people and bears, breaking the myths of bears ferocity and impossibility of people and bears to peacefully coexist! This is a long battle far from won, as Charles Russel was about to discover (his letter “A Sad Update“), not only because of people fear, but also because of economic reasons (government allowing legal trophy hunting, for profit) and poaching (to satisfy a huge demand coming from China for bear bladder), and Kamchatka hasn’t been spared, as Charlie discovered in one of his returns to the peninsula, he finds more than 70 wild bears killed just for their bladders, including a generation of orphan bear cubs which he raised and educated to return to the wild! (more in the documentaries videos at end of this article)
But despite these set-backs, there is still hope in few places where bears still exist, and we need to make sure Charlie’s work has not been done in vain. “Most people fear bears because of a perpetual misunderstanding,” he says, “and bears fear people because of the mistreatment [they] receive due to this misunderstanding.” Same as in novels of the great Russian classics, which when reading one identifies himself with its characters, spending countless hours engaging with them – feeling from within what it is like to be someone else and seeing the world from the perspective of a different social class, gender, religion, culture, sexual orientation, moral understanding, or other features that define and differentiate human experience, same way, the naturalists need to live and show the bears’ life facts to the world, teach people the bears (and other species) perspective of the world, their wonderful inner nature, and what they can teach us and how we can co-exist. In novels or in the trips in nature, by living a character’s life or stepping in bears’ tracks and watching them in their natural world, you not only feel what they feel, but also reflect on those feelings, consider the character of the actions to which they lead, and, with practice, acquire the wisdom to appreciate real people or wildlife in all their initially miss-understood complexity!
I start this trip with great hope that Russian people, who know better than many other nations what suffering and misunderstanding mean, as they lived through their recent history, they acquired the empathy and wisdom to understand the value of life (even of other species like the iconic brown bear), the role of bears in ecosystem (not only in folklore) and the value of unspoiled wilderness, to allow, support and cherry their continuous existence (where shamefully other nations already failed)!
Next stop: Kamchatka peninsula, 13th of August 2018
Few sources to learn more about Charlie’s work and about Kamchatka and its bears:
- Documentary video by Charlie Russell: BBC Natural World 2006 – The Bear Man of Kamchatka
- Documentary video by Charlie Russell: Walking with Giants – The Grizzlies of Kamchatka Siberia
- Book by Charlie Russell: Grizzly Heart
- Book by Charlie Russell: Grizzly Seasons: Life with the Brown Bears of Kamchatka
- Photo Essay by Charlie Russell: Here
- Documentary video by National Geographic: Kamchatka Wilderness
- Article by National Geographic: The Biggest of the Big—The Brown Bears of Alaska and Russia’s Far East