Mittwoch, 2. März 2016

Family homestead settlements in Russia! A ray of hope for humanity? (Part 1)

The rise of Russian Eco villages is of great interest to many people currently searching for meaningful, healthy and community-orientated lifestyles. In this report Stefan Wolf recounts his extraordinary experiences staying with Russian families who welcomed him into their lives. 

In 2011 the Anastasia series of books by Vladimir Megre opened up a new way of perceiving Russia and its society for me. Prior to reading these books I had zero interest in Russia. However the historical and visionary stories revealed about this land and its inhabitants, as well as the family homestead movement inspired by the books, appealed to me.

I then released a German documentary in early 2015 about the family homestead settlement “Slavnoye” and through this I was in contact with the Director of the film Andrey Shadrov. He lives with his family in “Slavnoye” so I made enquiries as to whether I could stay with him for a few days. Andrey agreed and so it came about that in August 2015 I embarked on a 4 week Russian journey. I prepared for my trip by acquiring the basics of Russian language and writing that I felt appropriate. In particular the words “vegetarian” and “vegan” were very important to me, as I was anxious that as a vegan in Russia I wouldn't get enough to eat. Fortunately this fear quickly turned out to be an illusion when Andrey and his brother Eugen collected me from the airport. Eugen explained that he was a Raw Foodist and that in Russia there are increasing numbers of vegetarian, vegan and raw food enthusiasts. I felt a sense of pleasant relief!

In the “Slavnoye” settlement

On the way to the settlement Eugen told me that he would stay with us for a few days before going to his parents who were based half an hour away from the Slavnoye settlement. I asked him about Vladimir Putin and he replied that most Russians considered him a good president. Before Putin became president the average life expectancy in Russia was 60 years and the death rate was higher than the birth rate. In the meantime the life expectancy has risen to 70 years and the birth rate is higher than the death rate. According to Eugen, the rates of crime and corruption have decreased significantly, the standard of living increased and the Russian people have restored their love for the Nation again thanks to Putin. Generally speaking the residents of Slavnoye also like Putin due to his support for the idea of family homesteads.

When we arrived in Slavnoye we needed to drive through the entire settlement as Andrey lived at the far end. I was then very warmly welcomed by Andrey's wife Tatjana. After a delicious dinner of homegrown potatoes and vegetables I retired early to recover from the long journey I had made from Taiwan.

The next morning we awoke to fruit and watermelon for breakfast followed by a delicious green smoothie with energy-giving greens from the garden.
After breakfast we walked into the forest. I almost didn't believe my eyes at how many chanterelle mushrooms there were. In a short time the basket was filled. At home Tatjana prepared delicious meals with the mushrooms and dried the rest to store for winter.

In the afternoon I was invited to enjoy the Russian sauna on Andrey's land. For me the idea of using a sauna in the heat of summer was unusual, but according to Andrey, in Russia people sauna the year round.

150 families have a homestead in Slavonoye, but the majority are only seasonal residents. A lot of them still work in the cities and only come to their homestead recreationally. I spent my first week in Russia at Slavnoye with Andrey, his wife Tatjana and son Luchic at their family homestead. I couldn't speak Russian except for a few sentences and they also only spoke a few sentences of English and German. Nevertheless we succeeded in being able to communicate simply, but above all, we understood each other well at a heart level. For complex conversation Andrey and I used computer translation programs (Google or Yandex translator) which helped greatly and worked very well. I stayed with them in their hand-built wooden house and had my own room so I was granted insight into their harmonic family life.

Homeschooling, decision-making processes and increasing self-sufficiency

Three-year Luchic was in my opinion an exceptional boy. In the week of my visit I didn't see him cry once. Although he repeatedly stumbled while running in the woods or on the gravel road, and a few times he fell pretty hard, he didn't cry. Everything Andrey and Uncle Eugen asked of him he undertook in a serene, but determined way. “They really know how to raise a child” I thought. Also, I never felt that he was disturbing me, as I have often experienced with other children, because he always knew how to entertain himself and our contact was based on mutual respect. To me this child was like an angel. Perhaps the reason for his harmonious nature is based on the fact that he was conceived in love on Andrey and Tatyana's own family homestead, in their hand-built home? Or maybe because Tatjana spent the pregnancy on the homestead, Luchic was born in the house, is now growing up surrounded by various flora, flowers and trees his parents planted for him and that now provide him and his family with real food? Perhaps these are some of the reasons that may explain why Luchic is so harmonious. It is probably also due to the natural, wise and clear way in which he is being raised, as well as the harmonious and loving relationship of his parents. Moreover, life in the community would certainly be supportive of his development. Not to mention the beautiful songs with truly good lyrics that are sung almost daily with or to Luchic, accompanied by Andrey on guitar and Tatjana's flute. 

Luchic will not have to go to a school outside Slavnoye, because the community's residents have created their own non-state school, where parents jointly teach the students. Once a year, students must pass an examination at a state school. This type of homeschooling can be practiced in Russia up until the commencement of high school. 

Decisions by vote

Incidentally the community residents make strategic decisions for the settlement by majority vote (75 % ) during a general meeting . Additionally they are also able to call on other communities for advice and they have a Chairman in the settlement, who is elected by the residents. 

On one occasion Tatjana showed me some photograph albums. In the pictures I could see the change that had happened on their land. From its beginnings as a barren field they have transformed it into a living oasis with lots of trees, a beautiful wooden house and several smaller buildings, a fountain and gardens. 

More and more people are able to achieve an income through activity undertaken at their homestead or in the community. In addition, their self-sufficiency increases. Water self-suffiency is 100 percent achieved through their own wells and according to Andrey about 50 percent of their food needs are achieved on average by self-sufficiency.

"Illegal" homes

One day Andrey and his two sons took me on a tour of Slavnoye. We visited some people that featured in the film Slavnoye, and I took pictures. We also went to the lake of Slavnoye, a two hectare natural lake created by Sepp Holzer and sponsored for the benefit of the entire settlement by a businessman who lives in a homestead next to the lake. It was a pleasure to swim in this lake.

What was impressive to me was that each house really was unique and individual. There are no two houses that look similar. This is due to the fact that people designed and built their homes themselves to their own specifications. 

All the houses in Slavnoye were built illegally, which means that they have no official address and officially the inhabitants live elsewhere. But in Russia, nobody cares all too much about these things. Nevertheless they hope that a future law will make it easy for them to legalize everything. There are already ways to legalize, but at the moment they would bring practically no advantages and the disadvantages would include higher payments.

The settlement "Living Picture"

One day we went to the neighboring settlement "Living Picture". There the co-founder of the settlement had invited us to his 67th birthday. It was a big birthday party on a mown lawn next to a large river and there were an estimated 150 guests. There was a great vegetarian/vegan buffet and numerous children and adults enjoyed the variety of dishes.  On stage there were musical and dance performances including Andrey and Tatjana with their uplifting songs, who incidentally are professional musicians. They have a wonderful Album called "Ode to Nature"*

At this birthday party I met Rita and other people from the "Living Picture" community. Some of them including Rita, could speak very good English and we had nice conversations with each other. So it came about that Rita and her husband Ivan invited me for the following Sunday to their homestead. I accepted this invitation enthusiastically, especially as it meant I would get to know the neighboring settlement better.

As a guest at Rita and Ivan's homestead.

On Sunday Ivan picked me up by car. We drove on the gravel road that leads through Slavnoye to the community of "Living Picture". We had to also traverse a river and a steep incline that would probably be impossible in rainy weather without an all-wheel drive vehicle. Arriving at the family homestead of Rita and Ivan I was initially surprised by their beautiful, self-built eco-house and the beauty of their land. Both are from Moscow, about 30 years old, ethically motivated vegans and have lived for 3 years on their country homestead. In such a short time, they have achieved so much. I was very impressed with what they have done. They built the first straw bale home in their settlement and have achieved remarkable results in the garden as well as natural, peaceful beekeeping. Rita and her friendly neighbor Svetlana greeted me and Ivan apologized that he had to leave again because his neighbor needed help with building a roof on his house. Yes, even on a Sunday there is work to be done in the settlement. We agreed that we would pay him a visit later at his neighbors. After Ivan had gone Rita showed me their house and their land. Her neighbor Svetlana accompanied us wearing her ​​six month old baby in a sling. 

It looked bright and neat, a space of love was already recognizably felt. Rita showed me an apple tree, which was previously a wild apple, with thorns and inedible fruit, and which has now mutated into a "good" apple tree, with entirely different leaves, no more thorns and now has edible fruit, which improve in taste from year to year. She told me that she has achieved this through regular communication with the tree. Truly amazing what is possible! Co-creating with nature holds so much potential and there is still much to discover! After a tour of the land, she showed me her house and told me about the process of building. They built most of it themselves, but the neighbors also lent a helping hand every now and then. The interior of the house had a warm and cozy atmosphere. The straw bales were coated with adobe and then the walls were plastered with lime to create a beautiful white color. 

To strengthen me in the kitchen home-baked, yeast-free bread was offered with a spread made ​​from their own honey and flaxseed paste (called "Urbetsch" in Russian). This tasted so good to me and I wasn't even aware it existed until now. “Unbelievable that we do not have this”, I thought. In no health food store have I ever seen linseed spread.

It probably doesn't taste so good pure, but in combination with honey from the land it was a delight. Then Jenya came to visit and invited us to his and his wife Anja's Homestead.

Prior to this we took a walk through the village, and we visited Ivan, who as I said, was helping a neighbor in house construction. I was amazed at the size of this house the neighbor was constructing.

Quite in contrast then was the home of Jenya, which was a small, two-story wooden house. Of course, he had also built the house himself and his child had come into the world there. Again, the energy of the house was good, it was bright and clean. 

Professions - as multifaceted as life

As Jenya and I are both filmmakers, we had discussions about our work. He has a Film company with Anja in England and has made ​​documentaries about their travels through most of Asia. He also runs a successful web shop, which offers various natural products. In regards to professional backgrounds in the settlements I came to know people from all directions. From doctors, filmmakers, artists, musicians and artisans, to the mining engineer, nursery owner, beekeeper, online store owners or self-sufficient, every possible occupation was there. When we were back at Rita's homestead, we went to the birch forest, where I filmed a nice interview with Rita. She told me of her background, from their way to their own family homestead, the building of their home, and many more interesting things. The resulting Interview contains invaluable pearls of experience and knowledge from Rita and is offered free to download from the online shop at

Heartfelt farewells

On the last morning at breakfast there was one final private concert for me from Andrey and Tatiana, which naturally pleased me very much. Then Andrey and Elisey took me to Moscow. 

In Moscow Andrey, Elisey and Andrey's mother brought me to the station, waited with me for the train and then there was a heartfelt farewell along with hugs. I travelled in the direction of the Kovcheg  ecovillage. The train journey there would take two hours. 

To be continued ... 

Story by Stefan Wolf (Stefan Veda)

*The album "Ode to Nature"

Andrey & Tatyana Shadrovi are two Russian Bards who are changing the world through their songs!
Finally you can get the full album with a Digital Booklet of two of the best bards of Russia!
The Album comes as a Digital Download with a Booklet containing all original Russian lyrics, as well as the English translations. 

  • 15 Unique Songs by Andrey & Tatyana Shadrovi
  • Songs with beautiful melodies and uplifting lyrics
  • incl. Digital Booklet
  • Russian Lyrics and English Translation
  • with Guitar-Chords
  • Green Product (100% Digital Download)
  • For more information click here.

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