Irkutsk is one of the largest cities in Siberia, and the gateway to Lake Baikal, the world's largest freshwater lake. What makes Irkutsk unique? Each of us set out to explore a different aspect of the city, but all our themes together highlight what constitutes "Contemporary Irkutsk."
First is an exploration of tourism, one of the most important aspects of the city's economy. What draws people to Irkutsk, where do they come from, and what do they do here? Do they come for Irkutsk, or for the natural places that lie outside of it? We take a look at how the city is advertised, how tourism is accommodated, and what places inside and outside of the city attract visitors from other cities around the world.
From the visual we delve into the aural, with a collection of miniature soundscapes of the city. This Siberian urban hub of 600,000 residents offers a unique intersection of cultures and demographics, comprising Irkutsk’s soundprint. As an interactive map, “Open Windows” invites the listener on a self-guided tour through sound.
Next, we head to the kitchen. Irkutsk is a culinary crossroads of east and west, and this is deliciously evident in the array of dumplings on tables around the city. At the top of the menu are the so-called Siberian dumplings, pelmeni. What makes them special?
From the kitchen we move to the library and examine the impact of Valentin Rasputin on his home region. His most popular work is chosen as a case study of the enduring legacy of one of Irkutsk's greatest writers.
The project concludes by looking at Irkutsk’s role in the growing relationship between Russia and China. The focus here is education: Why do the city's students choose to study Chinese? Conversely, why do Chinese students come to Irkutsk to learn Russian? And, just as interestingly, does either group see a Sinifying effect at work in modern Irkutsk?
Click on the links below to learn more.