The Sakha Republic (formerly Yakutia) is one of the republics of Russia. Located in northeastern Siberia, it is one of the coldest inhabited places on the planet. The capital, Yakutsk (307,911 inhabitants in 2017), records an average temperature of -60°C (-76°F) last January.
It is a region where oil, gas, gold, and diamonds are found, It has attracted migrants from areas such as Armenia and Uzbekistan, into these inhospi- table places. Real estate has therefore developed, with concrete buildings replacing old traditional wooden isbas. Upon learning that I had a distant family in Yakutsk, I naturally chose this city. Iakoutsk is also the largest city in the world built on permafrost – In other words, frozen soils that sink to a depth of up to three hundred meters. If the temperature increases too much, the ice can melt and cause a collapse of permafrost and all that it carries: roads and houses, but also lakes and fertile black farmland.
The inhabitants of Yakutsk, therefore, are particularly concerned about the dangers of melting ice. Most Soviet multi-story buildings in the city were not built to withstand global warming. Especially since according to estimates, Russia warms about 2.5 times faster than the rest of the world. By melting, the permafrost will release greenhouse gases. In other words, a consequence of warming contributes in turn to feed it. This is what scholars call «positive feedback».
The scientists at the institute have found that the average temperature of permafrost has risen from -11°C (-17°F) in the eighties to -8°C (-12°F) today. A leader of the Institute of Permafrost of Yakutsk admits: «If the temperature rises, the city will collapse like a house of cards, with huge warming of the territory»
If I had to summarize what struck me the most when I was there, I would say it is the drive to live, the survival instinct – which seems to be forgotten in the comfort and safety of our cities.