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  1. Siberia is a concept rather than a strict geographical area. Many people, especially foreigners, consider Siberia everything that extends beyond the Ural Mountains eastward, i. e. the whole northern part of the Asian continent. For those who have never been there, the cities, taiga, seas, rivers, lakes, and swamps of that vast area merge into the traditional stereotypes of snow, frost, wilderness, and enormous distances.

    In fact, Siberia is not at all homogeneous. Its division into areas is rather tenuous: Western and Eastern Siberia, Altai, Tuva and Khakasia, the Sayans and the Trans-Baikal Area, and Yakutia. Sometimes the Far North is also considered to be a part of Siberia. 7,000 kilometers (4,500 miles) from east to west, 3,500 kilometers (2,200 miles) from north to south, 10 million square kilometers (4 million square miles), which makes it an area 18 times the size of France. That is Siberia!

    The first foreigners who came to Siberia were northern Russians. Their first towns were Obdorsk, Tyumen, and Tobolsk, which grew from fortresses that were built during the military campaigns of the Cossack leader Yermak in the second half of the 16th century.
    This area is extraordinarily rich in natural resources but hasn??t yet been developed in many respects. As long as three centuries ago Mikhail Lomonosov, a famous scientist and ???enlightener??? foretold: ???With Siberia will Russia??s might increase.??? Oil, gas, wood, diamonds, peltry, animals, fish, and the purest fresh water reserves are found here; the world??s largest power stations are built on mighty Siberian rivers. Everything is vast in Siberia: the Ob, Irtysh, Yenisei, Angara and Lena Rivers; the Altai and Sayan Mountains; the Baikal and Teletskoye Lakes. The longer part of the Trans-Siberian Railroad, built at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, goes through Siberia: its total length exceeds 9,000 kilometers (5,600 miles) (from Chelyabinsk to Vladivostok).

    The Siberian frost is also something to note: sometimes the thermometer reaches ??40 or even ??50 ?C (??40 or ??60 ?F), so ???a mere??? ??25 or ??30 ?C (??10 or ??20 ?F), considered here to be normal winter temperature, remains unnoticed by the local residents. On the other hand, summer in the south of Siberia is quite hot, up to 30 ?C (90 ?F). One can swim in local rivers and lakes, although the water stays cool: even in July it warms up only to 18 ?C (60 ?F). There are also artificial ???seas??? in Siberia ?? the reservoirs of numerous hydroelectric stations. The cities of Omsk, Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, and Irkutsk, the largest ones in Siberia, are located in the southern part of the region.

    The Altai Mountains are a very attractive sight featuring the Teletskoye Lake that local residents call the ???Golden Lake???. This area is very popular among tourists who like hiking, horseback and bike riding, skiing, rafting, and mountain-climbing. Complicated water routes, where one can test his or her fitness and bravery, are found on the Katun, Bashkaus, Chuya, and Chulymshan rivers. Any climber would be proud to have climbed to the highest summit of the Altai Area, the Belukha Mountain (4,506 meters or 14,783 feet). There are well-developed skiing slopes in the Mountainous Shoria near the city of Mezhdurechensk (Kemerovo Region).

    Ugra. It is the historical name of the vast Siberian region between the Polar Urals and the Arctic Ocean. The people of Khanty and Mansi have lived in this region since prehistoric times. Substantial oil reserves were discovered here in the middle of the last century. The Khanty-Mansiysk Region supplies over half of Russia??s oil, about 8 % of the world consumption.
    Visitors to Ugra call it ???Europe in the center of Siberia??? because of the advanced contemporary architecture of the region??s cities. The locals proudly show tourists not only the luxurious new structures, but also the town??s older parts, now transformed into parks and ethnographic museums. Once you are in Khanty-Mansiysk, the region??s capital city, you need to visit the Samarovsky Hill, the city??s ancient founding place. The Hill is marked by an 80 meter tall pyramid, a monument to the pioneers of the Ugra lands.

    All of the visitors, without exception, are fascinated by the unique culture and daily life of the aborigines: the Khanty, the Mansi, the Selkup, and the Nenents. Some of the most popular tours include trips to the remote settlements, reindeer herders?? camps, and fishermen and hunters?? camps. The visitors to the region??s many ethnographic parks, the most famous of them Torum-Maa (the Holy Land in Mansi), located hear Khanty-Mansiysk, always enjoy the rides in deer or dog-drawn sleighs and love taking part in folk sports competitions and games that the locals arrange specially for the guests. Competitions include deer-drawn sleigh, ski, and deer-hide races, jumping over sleighs, cross-country skiing on hunting skies, and axe throwing. Sampling of dishes from the traditional cuisine is always a hit.

    The rivers and lakes of Ugra abound with fish ?? this, of course, attracts fishermen from all over the world. Ukha, the delicious fish soup, is the main course of any fishermen camp dinner. There are dozens of recipes for ukha ?? everything depends on the chef??s imagination. Another local delicacy is patanka, thinly sliced frozen fish (usually sterlet, muksun, or inconnu) served with spices and berries.

    A trip to Ugra is worth the time just to see the real Siberian winter. Tourists can take ski-excursions into the snow-covered taiga. They have a blast rolling around in the pure-white snow and taking pictures in front of enormous centuries-old cedars.

    The city of Khanty-Mansiysk is, without a doubt, one of the most active centers for winter sports, for example, biathlon has a cult-following here. A new Ski Sports Center was recently built on the hills near the city. An impressive panorama of confluence of two great Siberian rivers, the Ob and the Irtysh, can be enjoyed from the Center. The complex includes a biathlon stadium, well-lit slopes, ski lifts, comfortable hotels and cabins for VIP visitors. Some of the most prestigious sporting events take place here, including national and international championships.

    Indigenous peoples of the area, namely the Buryat, Yakut, Khakas, Tuva, and some other nations, live in Southern Siberia along the banks of the Yenisei. There are only about 80,000 Khakas and about 200,000 Tuva people in the entire world. These nations have developed a unique art of so-called ???throat singing??? (two voices sound when one person sings). The singer doesn??t pronounce any words, rather the sounds of an entire orchestra, or the patter of hoofs, or an animal??s hoarse groaning can be heard in these songs. One must be trained in this art from early childhood, but only very few can master this most complex singing technique. It is also interesting that women do not perform in a throat-singing manner.

    The reindeer is and has always been of the highest value for the native peoples of the North. They harness and ride it, sew clothes and footwear from its skin, as well as cover their houses (chums) with it. Deer meat remains the basic food in the North, as it has been for hundreds of years.

    The Republic of Buryatia is situated to the south and east of Lake Baikal. This is a centre of Buddhism in Russia, and about three dozen datsans (Buddhist temples) are located here. As all nomadic steppe peoples, the Buryats have always worshiped the horse. Wranglers always know every one of their horses ???by sight.??? The Friendly Horse is the main character of Buryat legends and myths. The healing power of a mare's milk, called koumiss, is highly appreciated here.

    The geographical centre of Asia is situated in the neighboring Republic of Tuva and is specially marked. There are few roads here and the terrain is rough, but travelers are attracted by the fabulous nature of this area.

    Within the endless taiga, there is the mysterious Putorana Plateau, the highest point on the Central Siberian Plateau. In the Tungusic language, the word putorana means a ???country of lakes with steep banks.??? Valleys of up to 1000 meters (3,300 feet) deep cut through the plateau, forming lakes. A thousand-kilometer (600-mile) panorama opens from the Kamen (???Stone???) mountain, the plateau??s highest point. Water currents go down the valleys?? precipitous descents, forming chains of waterfalls. Naturally, there are no roads here, so tourists are flown in by helicopter from hundreds of kilometers away.
The Master of the Arctic
The ???Stolby??? (???Columns???) National Park in the Krasnoyarsk Region (Southern Siberia)
Altai. Lake Teletskoye
???An airplane is good, but a deer is better,??? ?? a saying of Siberian indigenous peoples, the Chukchi and the Tungus
Ugra??s aboriginal peoples prefer to live like their ancestors used to: in chooms, hide-covered portable dwellings
Summer in Ugra is the fine time to travel over taiga. Although, the one bad thing is that there are plenty of mosquitoes in summer, so if you are going to go deep enough in taiga, don??t forget to take a mosquito net with you
Tobolsk Kremlin
Wooden architecture in the old Siberian city of Irkutsk
Summers in Siberia are short but hot. This picture was taken in early June on Baikal Lake
An ancient stone idol in the Tuvinian steppes
Buryatiya. Inside one of the Buddhist temples
Geographical centre of Asia in Tuva
Huge canyons with waterfalls create a typical landscape of the Putorana Plateau
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