Siberia's administrative units are the Altai, Buryat, Khakass, and Tuva republics, the Altai, Krasnoyarsk, and Transbaykal territories, and the Omsk, Novosibirsk, Tomsk, Kemerovo, and Irkutsk regions. Lying off Siberia in the Arctic Ocean are the New Siberian Islands, the Severnaya Zemlya Archipelago, and other islands.
Siberia may be divided, from north to south, into the zones of vegetation that run across Russia—the tundra (extending c.200 mi/320 km inland along the entire Arctic coast), the taiga, the mixed forest belt, and the steppe zone. Forests occupy about 40% of Siberia's land. Siberia is drained, from south to north, by the Ob, Yenisei, and Lena rivers (and their tributaries), which also provide the only means of longitudinal transportation. These rivers empty northward into the Arctic Ocean. East-west transportation depends largely on the Trans-Siberian RR (which follows the steppe belt), on the Baykal-Amur Mainline (BAM), and to an increasing extent on the Arctic sea route.
Siberia is conventionally subdivided into the following four geomorphological areas: the West Siberian lowland; the Central Siberian plateaus, or uplands; the mountains of the south; and the northeast Siberian mountain systems. The lowland occupies the western third of Siberia; it stretches from the Urals to the Yenisei and is mainly a low-lying, often marshy, plain. It is drained by the Ob and Irtysh rivers, which are ice-free and navigable for about half the year. Situated far from vulnerable frontiers, SW Siberia contains about 60% of Siberia's population, major industrial complexes, and such important cities as Novosibirsk (the leading industrial and scientific research center of Siberia), Omsk, Tomsk, Tobolsk, Barnaul, and Novokuznetsk.
The wooded steppe and fertile black earth of W Siberia favor agriculture and, especially in the Baraba Steppe, dairying. Wheat is the principal crop; rye, oats, potatoes, sunflowers, flax, and sugar beets are also important. Butter is the major dairy product. The Kuznetsk Basin, in W Siberia, is one of the world's richest coal regions and also has modest iron deposits. It forms the basis for the region's iron, steel, and heavy metallurgical industries. Rich oil and natural-gas fields have been exploited in the West Siberian lowlands, from which a network of pipelines now serves European Russia and the E European republics.
E Siberia, which is drained by the Lena, extends from the Yenisei to a huge mountain chain, an offshoot of the mountains of Central Asia, comprising (from southwest to northeast) the Yablonovy, Stanovoy, Verkhoyansk, Kolyma, and Cherskogo ranges. In the center of E Siberia rise the Central Siberian uplands, which are separated from the northeastern mountains by the plateaus along the Vitim and Aldan rivers. South of the uplands lies Lake Baykal, the world's deepest lake, surrounded by mountains. E Siberia's important cities include Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk, Ulan-Ude, Cheremkhovo, Yakutsk, and Chita; but most of the region is sparsely populated because of the extreme rigors of the climate and the difficulties of communication. Verkhoyansk, the coldest permanently inhabited settlement on earth (-56°F;/-49°C; on average in winter) has summer hot spells where the temperature rises above 90°F; (32°C;).
E Siberia is Russia's leading producer of gold, diamonds, mica, and aluminum, and there are large reserves of iron ore, coal, oil, gas, graphite, and nonferrous precious metals. Exploitation of the region's rich waterpower resources began in the mid-1950s, and there are four giant hydroelectric power stations on the Angara River between Irkutsk and Lake Baykal. Forestry, like mining, is a major economic activity in E Siberia. Agriculture (wheat and oats) is practiced in the south, and animal husbandry is prevalent among the indigenous Siberian peoples. Reindeer breeding, fishing, sealing, hunting, and fur processing are important occupations in the Arctic north.
The great majority of Siberia's population is made up of Russians and Ukrainians. Non-Russian groups include Turkic-speaking nationalities in the Altai Republic, the Khakass Republic, the Tuva Republic, and the Kemerovo Region; Buryat-Mongols in the Buryat Republic, the Irkutsk region, and Transbaykal Territory; Finno-Ugric Ostyaks (Khant) and Voguls (Mansi) in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area; Nenets (Samoyedes) in the Taymyr Peninsula of Krasnoyarsk Territory and the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area; and Tungus Evenki in Krasnoyarsk Territory. The largely nomadic Mongol and Turkic herders of S Siberia mostly settled down to agriculture under the Soviet government. The indigenous peoples of central and N Siberia remain mostly hunters and fishermen. The chief non-Christian religions are Islam and Tibetan Buddhism in the south, and forms of shamanism elsewhere.
Findings made in the late 1990s indicate that Siberia was inhabited as early as 300,000 years ago, rather than 40,000 years ago, as previously thought. In the historic period, S Siberia frequently served as the point of departure for several nomadic groups, such as Huns, Mongols, and Manchus, who conquered and lost immense empires. Among the political entities emerging after the breakup of the Mongol state of the Golden Horde in the mid-15th cent. was the Tatar khanate of Sibir.Russian Conquest
Although Russian traders from Novgorod crossed the Urals as early as the 13th cent. to trade in furs with native tribes, the Russian conquest began much later. Czar Ivan IV's capture of the Kazan khanate in 1552 opened the way for Russian expansion into Siberia. In 1581 a band of Cossacks under Yermak crossed the middle Urals and took the city of Sibir (near modern Tobolsk), capital of the Sibir khanate, which gave its name to the entire region. Russia's conquest of the Tatar khanate was completed in 1598 (see Tatars), and during the 17th cent. Russia annexed all of W Siberia.
The Cossacks rapidly penetrated eastward by land and on riverboats, building a string of small fortresses and levying tribute for Moscow from the sparse population in the form of precious furs. By 1640 they had reached the Sea of Okhotsk, an arm of the Pacific Ocean, and soon afterward they collided with Chinese troops. By the Treaty of Nerchinsk (1689), Russia abandoned to China the region later known as the Far Eastern Territory (Russian Far East), which was ceded to Russia only from 1858 to 1860. The Chinese still have claims over parts of the border, including islands in the Ussuri River.Russian Settlement and Administration
Russian settlement of Siberia was spurred by groups of zemleprokhodtsy (literally, "crossers of land"), who came mostly from N European Russia and traversed the easy portages linking the east-west Siberian river systems to pioneer new forts and trading communities. A colony of the Russian Empire, Siberia was administered by a colonial office based first in Moscow and later (after its founding in 1703) in the new Russian capital of St. Petersburg.
Although military governors collected tribute, they interfered little with native Siberian customs and religions; while the smaller, weaker ethnic groups succumbed to Russian influence, larger tribes such as the Kazakhs and Yakuts thrived and reaped material benefits under Russian administration. Siberian furs constituted an important source of wealth for Russia and figured prominently in Russian trade with Western Europe. These furs, along with customs duties levied on all Siberian raw materials acquired by Russian entrepreneurs, more than reimbursed the state for the costs of its Siberian conquest and administration.
With the decline of the fur trade in the early 18th cent., mining became the chief economic activity in Siberia. The state was the chief entrepreneur, but wealthy private families were also involved. Silver, lead, and copper mining began around 1700; gold mining did not develop until the 1830s. Forced labor in the mines, often using convicts, proved generally unproductive; the gold miners were usually free laborers. Siberian agriculture was stimulated in the late 16th and 17th cent. by the needs of the Russian military and administrative personnel stationed there.
From the early 17th cent. Siberia was used as a penal colony and a place of exile for political prisoners; among the latter there emerged (especially after the exile of leaders of the Decembrist Conspiracy of 1825) a small but vocal Siberian intelligentsia, who agitated for an end of Siberia's colonial status. Meanwhile, Russian colonizers continued to push southward, establishing forts along the steppe to thwart nomadic raids. Newly emancipated (1861) Russian serfs were allowed to take free possession of Siberian land, but they received little state assistance and suffered intolerable hardships.
Russian settlement of Siberia on a large scale began only with the construction (1892-1905) of the Trans-Siberian RR, after which the eastward migratory movement reached major proportions. P. A. Stolypin, the interior minister under Nicholas II, made a special effort to reduce rural overpopulation in European Russia by encouraging Siberian colonization. The railroad also enabled European Russia to obtain cheap grain from W Siberia and butter from the Baraba Steppe. The railroad's needs spurred the development of coal mining and the opening of repair shops. Before the Russian Revolution, however, Siberia contributed only a minute fraction of Russia's industrial output, mainly in the form of gold.During the Revolution
Siberia played a key role in the Russian civil war of 1918-20 (see Russian Revolution). An autonomous Siberian government formed in early 1918 was soon superseded by the regime of the counterrevolutionary Admiral A. V. Kolchak, who made his capital at Omsk. The White forces were aided by contingents of czarist political exiles and by the Czech Legion, a group of Austrian army deserters who had hoped to fight alongside the czarist army. In Aug., 1918, a U.S., British, French, and Japanese expeditionary force joined the anti-Bolshevik units in Siberia. The main purpose of this allied expedition was probably to prevent German use of Siberian resources in World War I. Most of Siberia was in White hands by late 1918, but Czar Nicholas II and his family were murdered by the Bolsheviks at Yekaterinburg (formerly Sverdlovsk) that year. Early in 1920, Admiral Kolchak's government collapsed, and he was executed.Under the Soviets
Under the Soviet government, Siberia, especially the Ural-Kuznetsk complex, underwent dramatic economic development. Under the First Five-Year Plan (1928-33), forced labor was instrumental in mining coal and building the iron and steel complex of the Kuznetsk Basin. In addition, part of the agricultural colonization of Siberia was carried out by the forced resettlement of large segments of the Russian rural population, notably the expropriated kulaks (wealthier peasants). As a result, Siberia's population doubled between 1914 and 1946. Forced labor was also employed extensively in the E Siberian gold mines. Parts of the vast Siberian concentration and forced-labor camp network established by Stalin may still exist, but many of the political prisoners were released by Mikhail Gorbachev.
Siberia's economic development increased dramatically during World War II with the transfer of many industries from European USSR to the other side of the Urals, where they would be less vulnerable to German seizure. Siberian grain was essential in enabling the Soviet Union to resist the German wartime onslaught despite the loss of valuable agricultural areas in W USSR.
Postwar industrialization of Siberia continued at a rapid pace, with special concentration on SW Siberia and the Lake Baykal region. Siberian agriculture, which suffered during the Stalinist collectivization campaign, was revived in the mid-1950s by Premier Khrushchev's "virgin lands" program, focusing on cultivation in the steppes of SW Siberia and N Kazakhstan. The Seven-Year Plan (1958-65) emphasized construction of large thermal and hydroelectric power plants in Siberia and elsewhere.
The resulting destruction of natural areas and the gross waste of resources led to strong environmental opposition. Centered on the issue of the polluting of Lake Baykal, Siberian environmental groups became some of the first organizations to challenge the Communist party's decisions openly. Indigenous peoples also protested the destruction of their autonomous regions. With the fall of the USSR, Siberia became more open to foreign travel and trade, while local Siberians sought to distance themselves from the Russian government in Moscow. The region also suffered population losses that were more substantial than those suffered by Russia as a whole.
See H. Tupper, To the Great Ocean: Siberia and the Trans-Siberian Railway (1965); F. Mowat, The Siberians (1970); G. V. Lantzeff, Siberia in the Seventeenth Century (1943, repr. 1972); L. I. Shinkarev, The Land beyond the Mountains: Siberia and Its People Today (1973); H. DeWindt, The New Siberia (1976); J. M. Kaul, Siberia and the Soviet Economy (1984); A. Wood, Siberia: Problems and Prospects for Regional Development (1987); W. B. Lincoln, The Conquest of a Continent (1994).
Siberia (Сиби́рь, Sibir) is the name given to the vast region constituting almost all of Northern Asia and for the most part currently serving as the massive central and eastern portion of the Russian Federation, having served in the same capacity previously for the U.S.S.R. from its beginning, and the Russian Empire beginning in the 16th century. Geographically, it includes a large part of the Eurasian Steppe and extends eastward from the Ural Mountains to the watershed between Pacific and Arctic drainage basins, and southward from the Arctic Ocean to the hills of north-central Kazakhstan and the national borders of both Mongolia and China. It makes up about 77% of Russia's territory (13.1 million square kilometres), but only 30% of Russia's population (42.2 million people).
Some sources say that it originates from the Turkic for "sleeping land." Another version is that this name was the tribal name of the Sibilla, Turkic nomads later assimilated to Siberian Tatars. Dr. Pamela Kyle Crossley, a professor of history at Dartmouth College, asserts that the Russians named Siberia after the Sibe/Xibe. Shaman Akkanat, from the Sibirga indigenous people, one of the last shamans in Western Siberia and a leading figure in the indigenous society in Western Siberia, said that Siberia got its name from his Nation, the Sibirga people. The modern usage of the name appeared in the Russian language after the conquest of the Siberia Khanate.
The term Siberia has a very long history. Its meaning has gradually changed during ages. Historically, Siberia was defined as the whole part of Russia to the east of Ural Mountains, including Russian Far East. According to this definition, Siberia extended eastward from the Ural Mountains to the Pacific coast, and southward from the Arctic Ocean to the border of Russian Central Asia and the national borders of both Mongolia (which included Tuva) and China.
Soviet-era sources (GSE and others) and modern Russian ones usually define Siberia as a region extending eastward from the Ural Mountains to the watershed between Pacific and Arctic drainage basins, and southward from the Arctic Ocean to the hills of north-central Kazakhstan and the national borders of both Mongolia and China. Correspondingly, Siberia includes the federal subjects of the Siberian Federal District, and some of the Urals Federal District, as well as Sakha (Yakutia) Republic, which is a part of the Far Eastern Federal District. This definition also includes geographically (not administratively) subdivisions of several other subjects of Urals and Far Eastern federal districts. This definition excludes Sverdlovsk Oblast and Chelyabinsk Oblast, both of which are included in some wider definitions of Siberia.
Other sources may use either somewhat wider definition that states the Pacific coast, not the watershed, is the eastern boundary (that includes the whole Russian Far East) or somewhat narrower one that confines Siberia to the Siberian Federal District (that excludes all subjects of other districts). However, in Russian the word Siberia is never used to substitute the name of the federal district.
|Urals Federal District|
|Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug||Khanty-Mansiysk|
|Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug||Salekhard|
|Siberian Federal District|
|Republic of Khakassia||Abakan|
|Far Eastern Federal District|
|Sakha (Yakutia) Republic||Yakutsk|
|Far Eastern Federal District|
|Chukotka Autonomous Okrug||Anadyr|
|Jewish Autonomous Oblast||Birobidzhan|
|Urals Federal District|
Major cities include:
The growing power of Russia to the west began to undermine the Khanate in the 16th century. First, groups of traders and Cossacks began to enter the area, and then the Russian army began to set up forts further and further east. Towns like Mangazeya, Tara, Yeniseysk, and Tobolsk sprang up, the latter being declared the capital of Siberia. By the mid-17th century, the Russian-controlled areas had been extended to the Pacific.
Siberia remained a mostly unexplored and uninhabited area. During the following few centuries, only a few exploratory missions and traders inhabited Siberia. The other group that was sent to Siberia consisted of prisoners exiled from western Russia or Russian-held territories like Poland (see katorga). In the 19th century, around 1.2 million prisoners were deported to Siberia.
The first great change to Siberia was the Trans-Siberian railway, constructed in 1891–1916. It linked Siberia more closely to the rapidly-industrializing Russia of Nicholas II. Siberia is filled with natural resources and during the 20th century large scale exploitation of these was developed, and industrial towns cropped up throughout the region.
By analogy, one working-class district of downtown Stockholm, Sweden, earned the name Sibirien (Siberia) in the late 19th century, referring to its low-cost tenement houses being built in outlying areas.
With an area of 13.1 million km² (5.1 million square miles), Siberia makes up roughly 77% of the total area of Russia. Major geographical zones include the West Siberian Plain and the Central Siberian Plateau. Note that Siberia covers almost 10% of all land surface (148,940,000 km²) of our planet.
The West Siberian Plain consists mostly of Cenozoic alluvial deposits and is extraordinarily low-lying, so much so that a sea level rise of fifty metres in would cause all land between the Arctic Ocean and Novosibirsk to be inundated. Many of the deposits on this plain result from ice dams; having reversed the flow of the Ob and Yenisei Rivers, so redirecting them into the Caspian Sea (perhaps the Aral as well). It is very swampy and soils are mostly peaty Histosols and, in the treeless northern part, Histels. In the south of the plain, where permafrost is largely absent, rich grasslands that are an extension of the Kazakh Steppe formed the original vegetation (almost all cleared now).
The Central Siberian Plateau is an extremely ancient craton (sometimes called Angaraland) that formed an independent continent before the Permian (see Siberia (continent)). It is exceptionally rich in minerals, containing large deposits of gold, diamonds, and ores of manganese, lead, zinc, nickel, cobalt and molybdenum. Much of the area includes the Siberian Traps which is a large igneous province. The massive eruptive period was approximately coincident with the Permian-Triassic extinction event. The volcanic event is said to be the largest known volcanic eruption in Earth history. Only the extreme northwest was glaciated during the Quaternary, but almost all is under exceptionally deep permafrost and the only tree that can thrive, despite the warm summers, is the deciduous Siberian Larch (Larix sibirica) with its very shallow roots. Outside the extreme northwest, the taiga is dominant. Soils here are mainly Turbels, giving way to Spodosols where the active layer becomes thicker and the ice content lower.
Eastern and central Sakha comprise numerous north-south mountain ranges of various ages. These mountains extend up to almost three thousand metres in elevation, but above a few hundred metres they are almost completely devoid of vegetation. The Verkhoyansk Range was extensively glaciated in the Pleistocene, but the climate was too dry for glaciation to extend to low elevations. At these low elevations are numerous valleys, many of them deep, and covered with larch forest except in the extreme north, where tundra dominates. Soils are mainly Turbels and the active layer tends to be less than a meter deep except near rivers.
|Vegetation in Siberia is mostly taiga, with a tundra belt on the northern fringe, and a temperate forest one in the south.|
Almost all the population lives in the south, along the Trans-Siberian railroad. The climate here is continental subarctic (Koppen Dfc or Dwc), with the annual average temperature about and roughly average in January and in July. With a reliable growing season, an abundance of sunshine and exceedingly fertile chernozem soils, Southern Siberia is good enough for profitable agriculture, as was proven in the early twentieth century.
The southwesterly winds of Southern Siberia bring warm air from Central Asia and the Middle East. The climate in West Siberia (Omsk, Novosibirsk) is several degrees warmer than in the East (Irkutsk, Chita). With a lowest record temperature of -71.2 °C (-96.1 °F), Oymyakon (Sakha Republic) has the distinction of being the coldest town on Earth. But summer temperatures in other regions reach +36...+38 °C (97-100°F). In general, Sakha is the coldest Siberian region, and the basin of the Yana River has the lowest temperatures of all, with permafrost reaching 1,493 metres (4,900 ft). Nevertheless, as far as Imperial Russia plans of settlement are concerned, the cold was never viewed as an issue. In the winter, Southern Siberia sits near the center of the semi-permanent Siberian High, so winds are usually light in the winter.
Precipitation in Siberia is generally low, exceeding only in Kamchatka where moist winds flow from the Sea of Okhotsk onto high mountains — producing the region's only major glaciers — and in most of Primorye in the extreme south where monsoonal influences can produce quite heavy summer rainfall. Despite the region's notorious cold, snowfall is generally extremely light, especially in the east of the region.
Agriculture is severely restricted by the short growing season of most of the region. However, in the southwest where soils are exceedingly fertile black earths and the climate is a little more moderate, there is extensive cropping of wheat, barley, rye and potatoes, along with the grazing of large numbers of sheep and cattle. Elsewhere food production, owing to the poor fertility of the podzolic soils and the extremely short growing seasons, is restricted to the herding of reindeer in the tundra — which has been practised by natives for over ten thousand years. Siberia has the world's largest forests. Timber remains an important source of revenue despite the fact that many forests in the east have been logged much more rapidly than they are able to recover. The Sea of Okhotsk is one of the two or three richest fisheries in the world owing to its cold currents and extremely large tidal ranges, and thus Siberia produces over 10 percent of the world's annual fish catch, though fishing has declined somewhat since the collapse of the USSR.
Industry, developed during the interwar period (1920s and 1930s) and increased vastly during World War II, has declined greatly since the collapse of the USSR. At one point there were huge factories in Western Siberia and many even around Lake Baikal but these have largely ceased operation since the USSR collapsed.
Siberia has population density of about three people per square kilometer. Most Siberians are Russians and Russified Ukrainians. Ethnic Russians are descended from Slavs who lived in Eastern Europe several hundred years ago. There are approximately 400,000 ethnic Germans living in Siberia. Such Mongol and Turkic groups as Buryats, Tuvinians, Yakuts, and Siberian Tatars lived in Siberia originally, and descendants of these peoples still live there. Other ethnic groups include Kets, Evenks, Chukchis, Koryaks, and Yukaghirs. See the Northern indigenous peoples of Russia article for more. There are an estimated one million Chinese and over 55,000 Sakhalin Koreans in the Russian Far East.
About 70% of Siberia's people live in cities. Most city people live in apartments. Many people in rural areas live in simple, but more spacious, log houses. Novosibirsk is the largest city in Siberia, with a population of about 1.5 million. Tobolsk, Tomsk, Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk and Omsk are the older, historical centers.
There are a variety of beliefs throughout Siberia including Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Tibetan Buddhism, and denominations of Christianity. An estimated 70,000 Jews live in Siberia. The predominant group is the Russian Orthodox Church. However, native religion dates back hundreds of years. The vast terrority of Siberia has many different local traditions of gods. These include: Ak Ana, Anapel, Bugady Musun, Kara Khan, Khaltesh-Anki, Kini'je, Ku'urkil, Nga, Nu'tenut, Numi-Torem, Numi-Turum, Pon, Pugu, Todote, Toko'yoto, Tomam, Xaya Iccita, Zonget. Places with sacred areas include Olkhon, an island in Lake Baikal.