THE BLEMISHLESS SUPERMODELS in the glad-rag mags and the haute runways of the London, Paris, New York and Milan fashion weeks are among the most photographed women in the world. Increasingly, these girls originate in Siberia, that legendarily vast Cold War wasteland associated with the terrifying Stalinist Gulag, which today houses a hyper model-casting industry and training schools for kindergarteners to midteens.
Stalin’s paranoid regime, and those that came after, exiled into northeast Russia entire ethnic groups, the spetsposelentsy (special settlers): Volga Germans (the Russlanddeutsche, invited in the 18th century to immigrate by Catherine the Great), Chechens from the Caucasus, Baltic Latvians, Mongol tribes, Inuit, Tatars, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz....
Today, little more than three generations after the first exile brought together reciprocally suspicious ethnic peoples, the result of natural subethnic miscegenation is utterly captivating: the girls with huge eyes, elfin ears, cascading bronze hair and snow-flushed skin (the consequence of an annual average temperature of a subarctic -5 ºC) seem straight out of infantilist Japanese manga. These teenyboppers have in spades every characteristic that Milan and London and New York first toast, and then camouflage with thickest maquillage and mica.
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