30 Sep What do you know about Siberia?
No matter whether you are going to make the Trans-Siberian railway trip or you are just interested in the Russian landscapes, geography and nature, Siberia remains for most a remote place somewhere in Russia.
What comes to your mind when you hear “Siberia”? Cold, winter, snow, and that it’s far, far away…? All true! But Siberia is much more than this! It has amazing wildlife, stunning landscapes, fantastic people, diverse culture and dramatic history. It’s mysterious and tempting. Boost your Siberian knowledge with the list of 13 most important, fun and interesting facts we prepared for you!
1. Where is Siberia?
Siberia may refer to Siberian Federal District (of Russia) or Russian Siberia but the widest definition and most common use is the geographical region, in which Siberia extends from the Ural Mountains in the west to the Pacific Ocean in the east and southward from the Arctic Ocean to the hills of north-central Kazakhstan and the borders of Mongolia and China. Siberia is, definitely, on the list of the must-see places to visit in Russia.
2. How big is Siberia?
13.1 million square more than 3/4 of the Russian territory. It’s 20 times bigger than France and 50 times bigger than the United Kingdom! The territory of Siberia is bigger than any country on a map. Siberia is covering almost 10% of the world’s landmass.
Siberia literally is the same size as Canada! Do you still have any doubts that it is a great place to visit in Russia?
3. How many people live in Siberia?
Although Siberia is 77% of Russia, it has only 27% of its population – a bit less than 40 million people. Living conditions in Siberia are pretty tough and many young people often move to other parts of Russia or abroad, so the population is expected to gradually decrease.
4. What does “Siberia” mean?
Some claim that the word “Siberia” originates from the old Turkic word for “sleeping land” or “beautiful land”, others say it means “wild land” and some suggest it comes from Russian “sever” (North).
We personally like the “beautiful land” 🙂 The beauty of Siberian nature certainly makes it one of the best places to visit in Russia.
5. Since when is Siberia part of Russia?
The process of Russians conquering the Khanate of Siberia and the whole North of Asia (an area much larger than the old khanate, which is now known as Siberia) took place in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Russians reached the Pacific Ocean in 1639.
6. What is the weather in Siberia like?
Think Siberia think cold. Yes, winter lives up to its reputation. From November to February the whole Siberia is covered with snow, even 80 cm deep.
Lake Baikal is completely frozen for a few months, so not only you can walk there, but it’s common to drive on Baikal with a car. Siberia among all the places to visit in Russia stands out for its weather challenges.
The temperature in Siberia drops to -40 degrees Celsius and in some parts it reaches even -60, for example in Oymyakon, the world’s coldest permanently inhabited town. But guess what, Siberia has summer too! It’s short (lasts max 3 months) but the temperature can reach up to 40 degrees Celsius, giving the region one of the world’s greatest temperature variations. Probably no one can appreciate summer as much as people from Siberia do!
7. What is the highest point in Siberia?
There are several mountain ranges in Siberia, including Ural Mountains (which separate Europe from Asia), Baikal Mountains over the northwestern shore of Lake Baikal and the Altai Mountains, where Irtysh and Ob have their headwaters, popular among mountain climbers.
The highest point in Siberia is, however, the active volcano Klyuchevskaya Sopka, on the Kamchatka Peninsula (4,649 meters). This makes Siberia one of the great places to visit in Russia for any mountain lover.
8. What is the deepest lake in Siberia?
Lake Baikal is the deepest lake in Siberia but it’s not the only record that Lake Baikal is famous for. Lake Baikal is also the deepest and the oldest one in the world. Just imagine if we measure the depth of Lake Baikal from the top of the mountains surrounding Lake Baikal to the thick bottom of the lake, it will 12,977 meters!
Lake Baikal has the thickest bottom silt in the world – 8500 meters! It contains 20% of the world’s total unfrozen freshwater reserve and this fact also makes Lake Baikal so special. When the lake freezes during the winter, an amazing phenomenon takes place: the ice is transparent, giving the amazing appearance of turquoise ice.
These are some incredible facts about the Pearl of Siberia as most of the people call Lake Baikal, but for some people, these facts are not as important as the feeling of infinite freedom, unity with the wildlife and contemplation of the eternal realm of primeval wisdom that can be found while traveling across Lake Baikal.
9. What is the longest river of Siberia?
The longest river in Siberia, and in the whole Russia, is the Yenisei-Angara-Selenge River system, which is 5,539 km long. According to the legend, Angara is a daughter of Lake Baikal. One day Angara run away to her boyfriend – Yenisei. Her father became so angry that he hit her with a rock, she stumbled and fell. Angara asked for forgiveness but her father said, she would only get his tears. That’s why waters flowing from the Angara into the Yenisei are as clear as tears, and lonely Father Baikal became grey and suffering.
10. What’s the biggest city in Siberia?
The biggest city in Siberia is Novosibirsk (with 1,5 million population), followed by Omsk, Krasnoyarsk, Tyumen, Barnaul, and Irkutsk. Novosibirsk is also the fastest growing city in the world, and for sure one of the places to visit in Russia.
11. Who lives in Siberia?
Most Siberians are Russians and Russified Ukrainians. Apart from them, about one-twentieth of the population consists of aboriginal groups.
The largest indigenous group in Siberia are the Buryats, mainly concentrated in their homeland, the Buryat Republic. We also shouldn’t forget about all the animals inhabiting the area.
Siberia is a hotspot for biodiversity and wildlife! Numerous species live there, and unfortunately, many are endangered ones, including tigers, leopards, bears, eagles, sheep, salmon.
12. What is katorga, ssylka and Gulag?
You have probably heard all these words before – katorga, ssylka and Gulag are terms associated with exile and forced labor camps in the Soviet Russia, many located in Siberia.
Gulag was the governmental agency, which administrated the Soviet forced labor camps, and was the main instrument of political repression in the USSR.
Katorga was forced labor or penal servitude, the harshest punishment, usually with a sentence of a decade or more, which often meant death.
Ssylka (exile) involved different types of banishment, for example it required the victim to live in one of the towns in Siberia under police control. If you’re interested in this topic, read “The Gulag Archipelago” by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, winner of the Nobel Prize.
13. When was the Trans-Siberian Railway constructed?
The Trans-Siberian Railway (Transsibirskaya Magistral) was built at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th centuries, under the supervision of Tsar Alexander III and Nikolas II. It is the longest railway line in the world, connecting Moscow with the easternmost points of Russia and the Sea of Japan.
The journey from Moscow to Vladivostok takes one week. The Trans-Siberian Railway is, until today, one of the most convenient and most reliable means of transportation in the region.
Read more about one of the most scenic railway rides in the world in our Essential guide for Trans-Siberian Railway trip.
14. Why should you visit Siberia?
Siberia occupies a huge territory, which includes almost every kind of habitat found in the northern latitudes with a wide variety of climatic conditions and geographic landscapes. Which means – there are countless reasons to come and countless things to do there! Siberia is great for nature and active tourism.
You can do mountain climbing in Altay Mountains, rock climbing in Stolby, volcano climbing in the Kuril Islands or Kamchatka, wildlife tracking in national reserves or hiking across the frozen waters of Baikal. Learning from Siberian life directly from Buryats, discovering shamanism, spending cold evenings in Russian banya (sauna) and tasting local delicious food will also make your stay unforgettable!