National Geographic January 2014, Part 3

Putin’s Party, by Brett Forrest, photographs by Thomas Dworzak

Putin’s Party is about the then-upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. As we now know, things did not exactly go without a hitch in February 2014, with unfinished hotels and cramped conditions for the athletes, but this article is not about those things. You see, Sochi was a controversial choice for other reasons, namely the near eradication of the Circassian people.

The final battle of the war between the Circassians and the Russians (the Circassians lost) was in an area called Krasnaya Polyana, which is, coincidentally, where the skiing events of the 2014 Winter Olympics were held. The Circassians were sent to Siberia or to the Ottoman Empire.

Putin’s Party also profiles Pyotr Fedin, who biult a ski resort and got bought out by Gazprom, the corporation which previously had been the Soviet Ministry of Gas Industry. Gazprom is publicly traded on the Moscow, London, Frankfurt and OTC stock exchanges. As I write this, the price is $4.61 per share.

Things in Sochi and the surrounding area were getting tense in late 2013 when this article was written, both through threats from Muslims who live in nearby areas such as Chechnya and through Russia’s own, the article uses the words “suspicion of foreigners and their motives,” so let’s go with that.

In response to this, well, I guess, “suspicion,” is as good a word as any, the government has reactivated the Cossacks, who are both an ethnic group and a sort of military force. The Cossacks allied with the Tsars against the Bolsheviks. As a result, they were repressed during the Soviet era. They are no longer repressed and have been patrolling the streets of the cities and villages of the region.

Impossible Rock, by Mark Synott, photographs by Jimmy Chin

Impossible Rock takes us to a peninsula of Oman, where there are some of the most difficult rock-climbing rocks in the world, apparently. Our tour guides are Synott, a rock climber, and two of his rock-climbing compatriots, who prefer to climb without ropes.

The article is well written and the photographs are breathtaking, but this is about as close to free solo climbing as I think I’m going to get. This may be about as close to rock climbing as I really would like to get, come to that. I much prefer the kinds of adventures you can have exploring cityscapes and things of that nature. Maybe, someday, when I have exhausted all of the places that I can get to with a car or a boat or a train or whatever, and I’m down to places that can only be accessed by rock climbing, I’ll consider taking up rock climbing. I feel the same way about parachuting, by the way. It holds no interest for me unless it involves crossing more places off my travel “to-do” lists.

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