A view from the back of the <i>Matvei Mudrov</i> medical train as it stops to offer care in the tiny Siberian village of Kenay
A view from the back of the Matvei Mudrov medical train as it stops to offer care in the tiny Siberian village of Kenay

Train for the Forgotten

For Siberia’s isolated villagers, the doctor is in the railway car.

The ailing and the injured await the train at every stop. In Khani, a village of 742 people wedged between the snowy peaks of the Stanovoy Mountains, patients emerge from concrete buildings and gather along the tracks. They all seek medical treatment. One man fell down a staircase while drunk and broke both of his ankles. A teacher at the only school in town wants a checkup for her 14-year-old daughter, who came down with appendicitis a month earlier and was, quite luckily, evacuated on a cargo train. She had her appendix removed in Chara, three anguished hours away.

These and other patients are waiting now to board the Matvei Mudrov medical train. This is Khani’s main lifeline—a mobile medical clinic with basic equipment, exam rooms, and 12 to 15 doctors. Run by the Russian state railways agency and named for a 19th-century physician who helped establish clinical practice in Russia, the Matvei Mudrov runs from village to village, stopping for a day to see patients, then continuing along the thousands of miles of track that stretch across the Russian Far East.

Khani is in many ways typical of communities along the rail line: A yard of rough gravel and stone ringed by five-story, prefabricated apartment blocks forms the center of town, which seems largely deserted. The people have no surgeon of their own, no specialists—just a small clinic with Soviet-era equipment and an all-purpose doctor who was educated as a dentist. For many, the Matvei Mudrov is the only expert attention they get.

Read This Next

Dolphins can identify their friends by taste, study shows
Tooth from mysterious human relative found in Laos
Their house has stood 130 years. A new fire era may change that.

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet