CHITA, EASTERN SIBERIA: Irina, 22, was hanging out with her friend - also named Irina - in front of a Chita university dormitory on a weekday afternoon. Both said they were studying to become teachers. Irina, left, said she grew up in a small village situated on a hill in Chita region and from the age of seven would go skiing with her cousin. "We would pretend to compete with each other," she recalled. "That is probably why I chose physical education." Irina said she will finish her teacher studies next year, but will not pursue education because "teachers don't earn much." Instead, Irina said she will enlist in the army and that her family supports that idea, pointing out that women aren't sent into hot spots to fight. Russia has raised wages of teachers, doctors and military significantly over the past decade. But according to locals in Chita, where there are many military personnel living, the armed forces have seen a bigger increase. This, the locals say, may explain why there is a lot of housing construction at the moment in the city.
ULAN-UDE, EAST SIBERIA: Light snow was falling as Medegma, 18, waited for a bus in the shadows of the largest Lenin head in the world. Sporting a New York winter hat, Medegma said she moved to Ulan-Ude from a town about 800 kilometers away to study economics. However, she said economics isn't her passion, so she thinks she will join Russia's armed forces after graduation, mentioning the interior ministry. Medegma said she studied Buryat national dances, loves melodramas and reading, adding that she will reread some books. Her favorites are War & Peace and Quiet Flows the Don.