Half abandoned town. Empty streets. Dark windows. In such a place you least expect to hear children laugh and to see bright jackets and some fuss in the playground. But you do. It’s Nenets kids who were recently taken from their parents in tundra and taken by the helicopters to the boarding school.

The town of Sovetsky used to be one of the richest miner towns in the Soviet Polar North. But after 1991 the mine was closed and now it’s just blocks of empty buildings, covered with snow. The only state institution left is this boarding school for Nenets kids. 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.

The only teacher who can speak their mother tongue is Elena Laptander, the dean of the school. She’s also Nenets, born in tundra, Elena got her 2 higher educations and returned back to her people to work with them. She really believes that 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 doesn’t care about native culture and is ashamed to use her Nenets surname. Lena’s story is a classic example of a city swallowing up a village and a civilization swallowing up a native culture.

A 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. His teacher 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 and to develop two life stories – the story of Elena, the Nenets teacher, and the story of her pupil Maxim 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?

The project is already supported by Russian Ministry of Culture.