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23 Jul, 2010 08:50

Oppressive heat wave killing Russia’s crops – and people

Russia's unprecedented heat wave rages on, with more record-breaking temperatures forecast for the weekend. Almost 300 people have drowned in the country this week alone – most of them trying to cool down.

Abnormally high temperatures have gripped Moscow since mid-June and four records have already been broken in July, meaning that on four occasions it was the highest temperature recorded for that day.

Slowly but surely Russia is wilting in the heat, not to mention the fact that thousands of forest fires are breaking out all over Russia.

The country is also suffering its worst drought in years, and 23 Russian regions have already declared a state of emergency as crops dry out in the fields.

The challenge to keep cool

When temperatures soar, everyone has to find their own way to cool off in the sweltering city summer. Two brothers in Moscow have come up with a plan to beat the heat, as well as make a bit of cash on the side.

Anatoly and Boris rent out their apartment in the summer months and set up a camp on a small island in the Arkhangelskoye-Tyurikovo estate one kilometer outside the center of the city.

“I [first] came here in 1960 when I was in my second year at school,” Boris Kotov recalls. “We came here in a car and we saw that the place was vacant. We bought a boat right away and brought it here. It is a paradise and there is good fishing here.”

It might seem like a strange choice, but it's all perfectly legal. Anyone can pitch their tent and start their own camp, as long as they obey certain rules.

“Our chief concern is to avoid harming nature,” says Olga Alpatova from the Federal Service for Supervision of Nature Resources. “These people are clean and tidy.”

As a way to beat the heat, Boris and Anatoly have discovered a fairly novel one, but their Robinson Crusoe-esque activities haven't made them turn their backs on all of the creature comforts of city living.

The retired men have just about all they could need on their 30 meter wide island getaway. If there is anything they want, it is only a short trip to the nearest shop, once they have taken the boat ride to the shore.

The brothers spent their working lives on boats all around Russia and that wanderlust is what inspired them to up sticks for the summer.

Heading for some alfresco sleep isn't a new thing for Muscovites. In the past before the invention of air conditioning, many people would sleep in the courtyards of apartment buildings to try and get some respite.

Not many will be willing to go to the same lengths as Boris and Anatoly, however, but with temperatures still sitting around 30 degrees Celsius, more people will be looking for ways to stay cool this summer.