AEGEE in Siberia? “Peo­ple are very skep­ti­cal when they hear about some Euro­pean NGO”, says Anya Bog­dano­va, trea­sur­er of AEGEE-Tyu­men. On the oth­er hand, Tyu­men is prob­a­bly the most Euro­pean-mind­ed city in Rus­sia, despite being as far as 1700 kilo­me­tres East of Moscow. In the sev­enth seg­ment of the Gold­en Times series “AEGEE on the edge of Europe” we take a clos­er look at AEGEE-Tyu­men, geo­graph­i­cal­ly the most East­ern anten­na of the net­work. One of the biggest prob­lem for this incred­i­bly enthu­si­as­tic young local is obtain­ing visa.

Anya Bogdanova
Anya Bog­dano­va

Gold­en Times: How Euro­pean-mind­ed are nor­mal peo­ple and stu­dents in your city on a scale from 0 (not Euro­pean-mind­ed at all) to 10 (extreme­ly Euro­pean-mind­ed)?
Anya Bog­dano­va: It is a dif­fi­cult ques­tion. I was afraid to be not objec­tive and so I made a sur­vey. As a result we got 5 out of 10, mid­dle. There are proac­tive peo­ple who are real­ly Euro­pean-mind­ed, and there are peo­ple who are pas­sive and con­ser­v­a­tive and don’t want to open their minds. To my regret the sec­ond group is big­ger. To change it we need to show to these peo­ple oth­er ways of liv­ing, make them want to devel­op them­selves, see new oppor­tu­ni­ties, widen their hori­zons. The best way to do it is to go to oth­er places, oth­er coun­tries. That is one of the aims of AEGEE-Tyu­men. Any­way, I need to say that in com­par­i­son to a lot of oth­er cities of Rus­sia the peo­ple of Tyu­men are much more Euro­pean-mind­ed and pro­gres­sive. By the way, for the last sev­er­al years Tyu­men has been in the top of cities with high stan­dards of liv­ing. When the sur­round­ing is com­fort­able it is eas­i­er for peo­ple to be a lit­tle more open-mind­ed.

GT: How many mem­bers do you have? And when was your anten­na found­ed?
Anya: AEGEE-Tyu­men has 21 mem­bers. We’ve been found­ed in Octo­ber 2014.


GT: Is it hard to find mem­bers?
Anya: Yes. Peo­ple are very skep­ti­cal when they hear about some Euro­pean NGO. A bunch of ques­tions that we’ve faced: “So who is your boss?” “Who pays for all these and tells the asso­ci­a­tion what to do?” “Are you being paid for recruit­ing us?” The idea of a ful­ly vol­un­teer and at the same time not state-bud­get­ed orga­ni­za­tion seems weird to peo­ple, we are not used to this.

GT: What do you tell poten­tial mem­bers when they say: “AEGEE sounds nice, but all the events are far away…”?
Anya: Hon­est­ly, well, we are tar­get­ing the peo­ple who are ready to go to trav­el: those who already are adven­tur­ous, or are just in the right moment to start to explore the “big world”.  We are show­ing all the ben­e­fits that they will get mak­ing such an effort as trav­el­ing far away.


GT: How much does trav­el­ling cost to Cen­tral Euro­pean loca­tions, such as Munich or Vien­na?
Anya: To these direc­tions a one-way price will be min­i­mum 100 to 250 Euros, depend­ing on the sea­son. Of course if you need to trav­el to not so cen­tral and big cities the price goes up pret­ty much. And anoth­er chal­lenge for Tyu­men trav­el­ers is time. To trav­el almost any­where, at first we need to fly to Moscow, which takes three hours, and then going on with pos­si­bly more stops to Europe. So for me per­son­al­ly 16 to 20 hours of trav­el­ing to the final des­ti­na­tion is nor­mal. Despite the fact that we need to buy expen­sive flight tick­ets we have real­ly well-devel­oped trans­port con­nec­tions, more than ten flights to Moscow every day — and then the world is yours.

GT: Is get­ting visa for events a big prob­lem for your mem­bers?
Anya: Yes, it is. As we don’t have any con­sulate offices in Tyu­men we need to go to the near­est one in Eka­ter­in­burg, which means five hours trav­el­ling by train or car. They work only on work­ing days and you need to be there in per­son both for giv­ing your doc­u­ments and receiv­ing the visa when ready. So you need to spend at least two days of your work or study, plus of course all trans­port expens­es. An alter­na­tive is only a tourist agency with which you don’t spend time to go to anoth­er city, but the prices start from 280 Euros.

AEGEE-Tyumen cooperates closely with AEGEE-Moskva.
AEGEE-Tyu­men coop­er­ates close­ly with AEGEE-Mosk­va.

GT: Are there also pos­i­tive aspects from your geo­graph­i­cal loca­tion? If yes, which ones?
Anya: We are sit­u­at­ed in the heart of Rus­sia on the Transsi­ber­ian rail­way! A  more seri­ous answer, yes, for the con­nec­tion with AEGEE and logis­tics we are not in a good loca­tion. But our geo­graph­i­cal posi­tion makes us an impor­tant city in Rus­sia: we are a trans­port hub between cap­i­tals and the oil-gas fields as well as Kaza­khstan. For AEGEE our main advan­tage is that we are kind of an exot­ic anten­na: locat­ed far from the geo­graph­i­cal Europe and very far from the EU, some­where in Siberia, but still with strong Euro­pean val­ues.

GT: Rough­ly how many for­eign mem­bers are attend­ing your events per year?
Anya: As AEGEE-Tyu­men is a real­ly young local we had only one event, our New Year’s event “Mean­while in Siberia”, which just fin­ished. Hon­est­ly we all — AEGEE-Tyu­men and AEGEE-Mosk­va — feel proud of our PR pro­gramme dur­ing the Ago­ra Cata­nia 2017. We got 64 appli­ca­tions for our New Year’s event – for 24 places. Actu­al­ly, our par­tic­i­pants were amaz­ing!

The New Year's event of AEGEE-Tyumen was a great success.
The New Year’s event of AEGEE-Tyu­men was a great suc­cess.

GT: Did you coop­er­ate in 2017 with oth­er anten­nae or do you plan that for 2018?
Anya: We have a strong con­nec­tion with AEGEE-Mosk­va; we have been coop­er­at­ing for three years in a row for the TSU “Transsi­ber­ian Dream” and this year made a whole event togeth­er — our epic New Year’s event. For sure we are going to con­tin­ue our good part­ner­ship.

GT: Which inter­na­tion­al events are you plan­ning for 2018?
Anya: We are plan­ning to par­tic­i­pate again in the TSU “Transsi­ber­ian Dream” to be their host for a cou­ple of days on the way to Baikal Lake. And now after our suc­cess­ful New Year’s event we are real­ly think­ing to make a sec­ond edi­tion this year.

AEGEE-Tyumen is waiting for you!
AEGEE-Tyu­men is wait­ing for you!

GT: Do you some­times wish your anten­na was more cen­tral or do you enjoy being at the edge of Europe?
Anya: We like our loca­tion. Our region is sup­port­ed by our local gov­ern­ment and is eco­nom­i­cal­ly devel­oped. Though we don’t have a good lev­el of tourism in West Siberia, it gives us this chance: to open our region to for­eign­ers and to help our region through this. Also, think­ing prag­mat­i­cal­ly, it means that we can get sup­port of the Tyu­men depart­ment of cul­ture and tourism, they are inter­est­ed in inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ca­tion. So, liv­ing at the edge of Europe is chal­leng­ing, but gives oppor­tu­ni­ties, and we are going to use it!