In Siberia, former city dwellers find harmony in cheesemaking

SIZAYA, Russia (Reuters) - When Alexei Dubovets and his wife Natalia Kurochkina yearned for a change from Russian city life, they moved to a village in Siberia and began to dabble in the art of cheesemaking.

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“We wanted to change something in our lives, and we moved as a family to live ‘on the land’,” Dubovets said at his farm home in the southern Siberian village of Sizaya.

Their cheesemaking exploits have since blossomed into a business and the couple sell 10 types of cheese, from their home in the foothills of the Sayan mountains that range from southern Siberia to northern Mongolia. These include a type of Cheddar, Emmental, Edam, and Lambert.

Their business comes with Russia trying to localise food production under an import-substitution drive amid spiralling sanctions between Russia and the West.

Russia banned imports of a range of Western foodstuffs, including most dairy products, in response to Western sanctions imposed against Russia for its role in the Ukraine crisis.

The couple had in the past worked in television, at an aluminium manufacturer and at a hydroelectric power firm in the cities of Moscow and Krasnoyarsk, and the town of Sayanogorsk.

Their transformation to cow-tending cheesemakers did not happen overnight.

“It had seemed we would be eating our own Brie, Mozzarella and Edam in no time at all, but... there were actually years of trial and error!” Dubovets said.

But they are content.

“It’s become clear that (making) cheese is precisely the kind of craft that gives full satisfaction and harmony,” Dubovets said.

Reporting by Ilya Naymushin; Writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Alexandra Hudson