Every autumn the helicopter flies through tundra and takes small nomadic Nenets' children to the boarding school. During the long polar winter small herders study Russian language, mathematics and literature becoming adapted to life in the modern Russian society. What surprises does this adaptation hide?
Half abandoned town. Empty streets. Dark windows. In such a place you least expect to hear children’s laugh and to see bright jackets flashing by in the playground. It’s Nenets kids who were recently taken from their parents to the boarding school. Nenets are aboriginal people from Far North who still have their traditional way. Teachers come here on helicopters and search throughout tundra for their pupils.
The town of Sovetsky used to be one of the richest miner towns in the Soviet North. But after 1991 the mine was closed and now it’s just blocks of empty buildings. The only state institution left is this boarding school for Nenets kids which now looks like an island in a snow desert. Kids spend here Polar night and come back home for summer. Here they learn Russian, Math and all basic knowledge that a citizen must have. The aim of a 4 years education is to get them to know what a civilization is, but civilization itself is regressing here and retreating to the south.
Their first day at school is September the 1st. Kids are taken to the celebration in traditional Russian style, they look scared to death. But you can only guess – they are not used to showing their emotions. Even when they are taken to children camp at the Black sea, it’s their first day at the coast and they still look frozen. This is really a place where adaptaion starts: here they meet other kids – Russians. And Russians don’t behave friendly. Sranger it gets when you see our little Nenets in the middle of Russian disco, trying to catch the rhythm.
The only teacher who can speak their mother tongue is Elena Laptander, the dean. She’s also Nenets, born in tundra, Elena got her 2 higher educations and returned back to work with her people. She believes adaptation is needed for Nenets to survive but saving old traditions is no less important. No matter how hard she tries to find this balance her own daughter attends Russian school and is ashamed to use her Nenets surname.
An 8-year-old Maxim is a rowdy-dowdy. He feels more natural in tundra with the deer but there are lots of troubles for him at home: the family is one of the poorest and father beats him when he gets drunk.Elena dreams that Maxim stays away from tundra and goes on with education, but can he really adapt to the alien environment? The first day the Nenets came to children camp at the Black Sea Maxim fought with Russian boys.
We are going to follow our two characters till the end of an academic year. Maxim will have to choose: either to go back to tundra or to move to bigger city for further studying. This problem doesn’t have an obvious solution. Does our civilization have a right to take away the Nenets kids and to adapt them? What does adaptation mean? And what values does our civilization bring?