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30 Mar, 2009 07:09

Bitter fairy tale of reality

The smallest village in southwest Russia with a population just over a hundred has its own puppet theatre. But for locals, it’s first about surviving, then entertainment.

Medovo is a remote village with a scant population of just over a hundred. At the local puppet theatre, local women have put on the traditional folk story 'Kolobok' – a prodigal doughball who keeps getting into trouble and upsetting his grandparents. The audience, mostly youngsters, love it.

The women behind the curtain are just ordinary villagers. They say they started doing this for fun. But also out of necessity – to some, a puppet theatre is just children's entertainment, but here in Medovo it's more than that.

The theatre is the only form of public life in the village. The population of Medovo has been falling for decades and now less than 50 families remain. The village school has recently shut. There are no shops, and the nearest city is hundreds of kilometers away.

When local inhabitants are not busy with the performances, they run their own households. Lyubov Abramova does it alone. Although a gas line has been constructed to her house, she cannot afford to connect it.

“We are probably going to live like this, with this wood stove, and die like this. In the 21st century!” says Lyubov.

She and her children tried to run a farm. But it was hard to stay afloat. She says the combination of unemployment and low wages has produced a culture of desperation and alcoholism.

“Life here is difficult – particularly for young people. As soon as they can, they try to leave. Anywhere bigger than this. Apart from the theatre, there is nothing. Without it, lives would be drab and grey”, says Lyubov Abramova.

The puppet theatre may bring joy to both the audience and the participants. But soon enough, there may be nobody left to put on a show for.