Village In The Sky: The Security Investigation (Part 2)

Po Hsien Liu continues his story.

Village In The Sky: The Security Investigation (Part 2)

Kurush, Republic of Dagestan is the highest and the southernmost village in Russia. In May 2019, I came to here, but because it is located in the border zone, I had to go through some kind of investigation.

After forty minutes of bumps, we finally arrived at Kurush.

Kurush is the highest human settlement in Russia, and even in Europe, with an elevation of 2560 meters. At the same time, it is the southernmost village in Russia. Across the mountains to the south is the territory of Azerbaijan.

Mt. Yaludag (гора Ялудаг) looks like a giant standing in the sky, stands opposite the village, and blesses the villagers who live here. A few clouds floated on the shoulder of the mountain, making it even more sacred.

Except for a small square, there is almost no flat land in the village. Dozens of houses staggered on the hillside, and almost all the roofs were covered with iron sheets. Villagers in Kurush are basically all Lezgins and muslim. There is a simple mosque in the village.

Obviously, there was no hotel in the village, and Efendi, the man who brought me here, invited me to stay in his house overnight.

This day was Victory Day, and there are commemorative activities in the square, and almost all villagers came to participate. Although the holiday is named "victory", however, to a country that sacrificed 20 million people during the war, this day is not really a day to spree. The celebration was solemn, and there was no Caucasian singing and dancing.

The faces were impressive: tall and sturdy noses, thick eyebrows, big brown eyes, deep and charming. Most of the men had a beard, and they looked strong. They reminded me of the Caucasus warriors who resisted the conquest of Emperor Russia in the 19th century. The women looked more timid and shy, but they couldn't stop watching me as a rare guest.

My appearance attracted everyone's attention like a panda. All of a sudden, a  young, blond-haired Russian man approached me and said, "Hello, I'm a member of the Federal Security Service, please show me your passport."

Although I had passport and the border pass, foreigners are too rare here. This security officer must take me to "drink a cup of tea".

He first drove me to a hiking base near the stream. A banquet was going on out there. Although it was Ramazan time, plenty of food was served on the table, and there were several bottles of vodka. All the local officials were here, including the head of the Raion. They welcomed me to join this commemorative banquet.

The head of the Raion seemed to be 60 years old. He stood up, and then everyone followed. He raised his glass and said solemnly, "70 years ago, our fathers and grandfathers arduously defended the motherland, contributed their blood, sacrificed their life, and finally repelled the enemy, so we can sit here today. We salute the fighters of the motherland!" All the people toasted together.

After lunch, I was taken to the border guard station not far away from the hiking base. The border station was a new and modern building, which was in sharp contrast to the simple houses in the village.

After entering, I was asked to give out my cell phone and was taken to an office of the man.

He took out a file folder and a pen and began to ask:  

Why did you come to Kurush?

I responded cautiously:

I watched a film that recorded Kurush and was really attracted, so I decided to come.

The staff of the Security Bureau carefully examined my documents for a long time. It might have been the first time a Taiwanese passport appeared in this building.

- Chinese?, he asked.

- Taiwanese, I answered.

For the next hour or so, a very detailed investigation about me was conducted. Questions like “Do you have a girlfriend?” or “Do you like girls or boys?” were also given. After this investigation, he drove me back to the village.

In the car, the man turned on the music, and his obviously became more relaxed.

- Do you like hip hop?", he asked.

- It's okay, I said. 

I counted a few Russian rock bands I liked, and he seemed quite surprised.

It was dark, and there were no street lights on the road. The loud hip-hop music in the car set off the loneliness of the barren mountains and the moonlit night outside the window.

To be continued.

Text by
Po Hsien Liu