Several Armas readers responded last week that they especially enjoyed the video on how to dress for winter in Yakutia. None of them were individuals likely to ever set foot in Yakutia, but that’s well beside the point. There’s something for everyone out there these days.
There is in fact a surprisingly robust subgenre of life-in-Yakutia videos on YouTube. The one from last week was from the Kiun B channel, and there’s another simply called Life in Yakutia which is sort of the country-girl counterpart to Kiun B’s city-girl milieu. For example, here’s a charming short piece on making ton küörchekh — or, for the Anglophone audience, Yakut ice cream:
Alert viewers will immediately recognize this as something beyond the Yakutia / Sakha sphere. It is a soft example of cottagecore, the aesthetic centering upon crafts, gardening, and vaguely retro-rustic design. Its premier practitioner, to my mind, is unquestionably Liziqi (李子柒), a young woman living in rural China with her grandmother, who created her own entrepreneurial empire with achingly beautiful videos of pastoral life in the hinterland. Her 2021 Chinese New Year video is a sublime example of her work, which achieves the nearly unthinkable feat of making the viewer yearn for life in a small Chinese village:
Liziqi’s popularity drew the attention of the Communist Party, which knows soft power when it sees it, and promptly made her both a Party member and an ersatz cultural ambassador. To that end, after a certain point — it isn’t clear when — her videos became part of a broader Party effort to sell life in the PRC to both foreign and domestic audiences. It’s quite interesting, and betrays a marketing savvy otherwise mostly missing from Xi-era PRC propaganda. No one really enjoys the belligerent ravings of Hu Xijin, but everyone (including me!) loves Liziqi.