A village teacher in Russia

He had a top salary and all the amenities – now Nikolai Stopnevich teaches geography and English in the countryside

Nikolai Stopnevich has had a dream career. In Moscow, he was a manager in an international company. High salary, company car, many trips abroad. A life on a predetermined path, a dream job for many young Russians. But he quit two years ago. Now he is a teacher in Alekseevka, a village with 573 inhabitants, around 500 kilometres south-east of the Russian capital. For a tenth of his previous salary.

Nikolai is taking part in the “Teachers for Russia” programme, which has been running since 2015 and aims to bring education to the villages. Educational opportunities in Russia depend heavily on where you live; if you live in the village, it is difficult to get into university. The programme places young teachers – including career changers like Nikolai – in remote schools for up to three years. For little money, but with the opportunity to discover a new perspective for themselves.

Arte RE: accompanies Nikolai in his everyday life in the Russian province. He enjoys his lessons. But in the two years he has been living in the provinces, Russia has changed. Following the invasion of Ukraine, the country has become even more isolated from the West. But Nikolai teaches English and says: “You have to motivate the children, tell them about the wide and interesting world, which is globally networked and in which they also have a place.”

Nikolai’s neighbour died in the war. They buried him in the village. But: “Nothing has changed for most people. They still get up at 5 a.m., feed the cattle and then go to work.”