Ex-labor camp 1, ex-collective farm 0

A unique Russian commune has turned an abandoned Soviet labor camp in into a thriving, self-sufficient village.

On one side of Donetsk, in the Rostov region, the faces are grim. Houses are falling apart. Local coalminers are tired of working hard and not getting paid. On the other one – happy smiles and people who don’t know what the economic crisis is.

The bright side is a former abandoned Soviet work camp, which a group of enthusiasts have made their home.

The commune lies just across the field from the old village – the aging Soviet collective farm, surrounded by coal mines and plants that were closed decades ago.

Inhabitants of the commune say the only thing that separates them from the rest of the world is their lifestyle.

No swearing, smoking or alcohol are the harsh, but supposedly effective, self-imposed rules in a unique Russian community.

Anna Svobodina, a local resident, says they and their children live in a clean environment, they eat food made with love, and they bring up their children accordingly.

Most denizens say they do what they desire, and they don’t need to struggle for survival.

“We haven’t noticed [the crisis] at all. We have plenty of food and enough for all our needs,” resident Tatyana Polyanskaya says.

The community is almost completely self-sufficient. Its inhabitants take care of their own fields, farms and workshops.

But if anyone is to call them a sect, these people say it’s not true. There is no religious or ideological agenda behind the idea, along with no formal leaders. Key decisions are made by vote at a gathering.

There are many benefits that people get in return: free food, housing and a share of common income when they sell their homegrown fruit, vegetables and meat at the nearby market.

While for the rest of the villagers, communal living remains an oddity, these dwellers are hoping that someday they’ll be understood. And that the idea of living in harmony with nature, and away from urban stress, will be shared by others.