Happy People: A Year in the Taiga

Taiga life is tough. Directed by Werner Herzog, the “Happy People” doc invites us to Bakhta, a remote Siberian village.

It’s 2010. Winter lasts seven months. Temperatures plunge to -50°F. Crazy, huh?

Meet Gennady Soloviev, a trapper.

He constructs wooden skis. By hand.

He also trains his dog like a sage schooling a protegé. “My dog is my companion,” he says. No big-city technology. Just dogs, skis, and a knack for survival.

Fish and furs? Currency here. Gennady traps sables. One trap equals two bottles of vodka. Simple economics.

During January’s “Ice Parade,” the river’s 12-inch ice gives way… suddenly. No warning. Tricky stuff.

Seen a mosquito cloud? Happens here every summer. Gennady grins. “You get used to it”.

As for society’s “conveniences”? Please… “What would I do with a phone?” Gennady scoffs.

Trailer for “Happy People: A Year in the Taiga”

Where to Watch “Happy People: A Year in the Taiga”

Right now, it looks like you can watch Happy People for free on YouTube across these 4 separate videos:

Stream for free on YouTube:

If those embedded videos above dont’ work, here are the links (note: The intro is the same for each of them so you can skip to about 1 minute 40 of part 2, 3 and 4):

Stream for free on Kanopy

You can also watch it for free on Kanopy (with a library or university card) at https://www.kanopy.com/en/product/happy-people-year-taiga

Stream on Amazon Prime Video

Click https://www.amazon.com/gp/video/detail/0G9DYG0IX4BIU76P4GFI69UNNF/

Stream for free (with ads)

Stream on Other Places


  • Genre: Ethnographic, Nature
  • Release Date: January 12, 2010
  • Director: Werner Herzog, Dmitry Vasyukov
  • Narrator: Werner Herzog (“Grizzly Man”)
  • Runtime: 94 minutes

My Favorite Parts (Includes Spoiler Alerts!)

Here are some notes I jotted down about my highlights:

  • Gennady crafts skis from birch wood, traps from bark.
  • In Autumn, hunters fish in various ways, including night fishing with a torch to attract and spear fish.
  • Food gets stowed high in Autumn to avoid bears; trappers use ladders and high platforms.
  • Trappers have a “base hut” and maintain various outlying huts throughout the year.
  • Mosquitoes are a huge problem in spring and summer; trappers use tree bark tar as repellent.
  • Come early winter, bears hibernate; trappers wrap tree posts with plastic to deter mice.
  • Winter traversing involves snowmobiles and 190km of sable-trap checking, gun on shoulder.
  • Trappers return to the village for New Year’s Eve; the 150km journey sees dogs running non-stop behind snowmobiles.
  • Siberia’s Yar-Sale: A 600-people village.
  • Gennady Soloviev (56) endures -58°F winters.
  • Gennady’s philosophy: “Simplicity equals happiness.”
  • Siberian Huskies pull sleds, carry up to 100 lbs.

A Cool Scene

GENNADY: “This river, it’s our lifeblood.”

FILMMAKER: “Isn’t it perilous during winter?”

GENNADY: “Peril makes it essential.”

[Long pause]

FILMMAKER: “You never consider city life?”

GENNADY: “Cities confine. Here, I breathe.”

Thank you for reading!

-Rob Kelly