On the 9th June in Irkutsk, a round table discussion took place in one of the city's main libraries on the theme 'Humanity. Literature. Ecology', which was attended by, amongst others, a group of well-known French writers who are taking part in a project with celebrates 2010 as the year of international friendship between Russian and France. The idea of the project is that 17 well-known French writers would embark on a trip from Moscow to Vladibostok on the fabled Trans-Siberian Railway, stopping off at seven important Russian Cities along the way.
The French delegration had already had the opportunity to visit Baikal and assess for themselves the Lake's overwhelming beauty before the meeting.
The opening words of Irina Tyabutova, Director of the Region's Youth Library and chairman of the discussion, firmly focussed on the main issue surrounding Baikal; that is to say, the relaunching of the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill. Irkutsk writers presented their points of view on the problem of the Paper Mill, one of whom was the famous Siberian writer and renowned ecologist Semyon Ustinov. Leonid Borodin highlighted that 'the pollution of Baikal is a problem of the whole of human civilization which has chosen the technological route'.
The guests from France one by one expressed their view on the mutual connection between ecology and politics, not suggesting that there is anything disturbing in this- 'For me, responsibility for the environment should be, first and foremost, political' said writer Daniel Salnav, laureatte of a number of Prestigous literary awards. 'Ecology, if it exists seperately and independently from politics, resembles nothing more than praying to the heavens',
The discussion then moved on to more broader themes about the influence of humanity on nature, man's coexistence with nature, and also about Baikal itself and the writers' impressions of the Lake. On the whole, the french guests in one voice proclaimed that Baikal had come to summarize their experiences of travelling across Russia, realising in them all the different emotions they had felt thus far. In the evening, the delegation embarked on the next leg of their journey east. They will visit Ulan-Ude and Vladivostok.
You can learn more about the projject here: http://www.blaisecendrarexpress.com