We went to Semyonov on a very special day. On that day the factory of khokhloma, which produces objects of traditional Russian culture had its doors open to everybody. When we visited this town last year we went to Khokhloma museum which describes history of khokhloma and also shows some of the best objects ever produced in khokhloma style. But it is a lot more interesting to see how these things are actually made, especially because the factory is open to public only twice a year. So we were very lucky that we arrived on that particular day. In addition, there was a local crafts fair in the town, my parents bought a few gifts there.
The factory was built during 1960s, and it has not been improved since then, so it represents a Soviet-era factory. There are barely no machines, the labor is almost entirely manual. It is such a sharp contrast with modern factories which are full of robots or at least have some degree of automation. The process by which Khokhloma is made seems unchanged since 19th century. Visiting this factory is a trip to the past. People working in this factory are getting rather low salaries, probably around 200 USD/month, despite the fact that their jobs require lots of skills (at least a college degree in painting, many have advanced degrees), and they work long hours.
Well, compared to these people software developers have much easier jobs and they get much higher salaries. Making money in arts is so much tougher than in computers.
My cousin and his wife and their baby are doing rather well, baby is growing up quickly. We have definitely enjoyed this trip!