The Endless Steppe

by Esther Hautzig, Esther Rudomin Hautzig

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What does The Endless Steppe depict winter in Siberia like?

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According to The Endless Steppe, winter in Siberia is incredibly harsh. Temperatures remain well below zero throughout the winter months, making life even harder for Esther and her family. It is no wonder that she says that when the temperature began to drop rapidly, so did everyone's spirits.

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Winter in Siberia is about as cold as it gets. The small Siberian settlement of Oymyakon is officially the coldest permanently inhabited place on earth, with average temperatures in the winter months clocking in at around minus fifty degrees Celsius, or minus fifty-eight degrees Fahrenheit.

These are the atrocious conditions with which Esther and her family must somehow deal in The Endless Steppe. Having being deported to Siberia, the Rudomins are expected to make this cold, inhospitable place their home in the face of all the many challenges that life in Siberia presents.

Esther knows what life is like in Siberia when the weather turns cold. She observes that when the temperature began to drop rapidly, so too did everyone's spirits. But she's referring to the onset of autumn, so one can only imagine how bad things get when winter arrives.

Some individuals exiled to the frozen wastes of Siberia don't survive. Among the three families sheltering in the gypsum mine, a number of people perish, including a young man who lost his sense of direction in a snowstorm and froze to death.

As for Esther and her family, they have been sent to live in barracks outside the village. As political prisoners, they're not allowed to go inside. Though better than seeking shelter in a gypsum mine, it's far from ideal. For one thing, it always seems as if the hut in which the Rudomins live will be carried away by one of the many brutal storms that afflict the Siberian steppes at this time of year.

Life is also isolating for Esther and her family. As she tells us, she has a sense of “tumbling through space in total isolation.” Esther has no one and nothing to play with. She has nothing to read, except for the occasional book borrowed by Anya from the library in Rubtsovsk.

All in all, life in Siberia is unbelievably hard, especially in the wintertime. But that's precisely why the Soviet authorities sent the Rudomins there; as far as they're concerned, Esther and her family are class enemies who are to be punished by exile.

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