This winter my colleagues, the guides of Yekaterinburg and I decided to explore the Southern Urals to see its touristic potential. Within 6 days we covered over 3000km by car, visited 3 regions of Russia populated by over 100 nationalities: Chelyabinsk Region, Orenburg Region and the Republic of Bashkortostan. Almost every day we were crossing the border of Europe and Asia, got into a severe blizzard in Step and drove through the thickest fog I’ve ever seen along the river of Ural. The temperatures in January varied from – 25 in the mountains to -7 Celsius in the step areas.
100km away from Orenburg we stopped at the village of Saraktash. Apart from the local museum and ubiquitous street markets with traditional Orenburg shawls the village is proud of St. Trinity church complex.
The Orthodox churches as well as the priest’s huge house (Father Nickolas and his wife adopted 70 children) have been built in the recent years with the help of Orenburg sponsors. The priest, father Nickolay proved to be a very business oriented person and attracted large sums of money to the village. The sponsors were often invited to Saraktash and to the priest’s house for parties. Finally the Church dismissed Father Nickolas after a drink and drive accident with his Mercedes car involved. The video made by the road police got to youtube. Nowadays the priest is in the church again but lives a more modest and quite reserved life in Saraktash.
The citizens of Saraktash will also tell you about a movie shot in Saraktash in 1998. 'Russian Riot' is a film based on the historical novel Captain’s Daughter by Alexander Pushkin. Pushkin visited Orenburg region to collect the information about the Russia’s largest peasant revolt also known as Pugachev’s Rebellion or Cossacks’ Rebellion of 1173-75.
The Moscow filmmakers chose Saraktash village for shooting the adaptation. The remained props of the wooden fortress are now the museum of the Captain’s Daughter. The museum has a hotel in the wooden house, a restaurant and a banya.
In his novel Pushkin describes severe blizzards in Orenburg steps. As we travelled in the Southern Urals we realized how dangerous they can be. For many kilometers you find nothing but white kurgans (hills) and when the visibility is almost zero at night and the car gets off the road chances to be rescued on time are very low. This will be the next story on the Southern Urals.