Russian Language Blog

Russian Outback? Posted by on Jan 28, 2015 in Culture, History, Russian life, Soviet Union, when in Russia

What do you call the area of Russia that stretches between the Ural Mountains and the Pacific Ocean from east to west? It reaches as far south as northern Kazakhstan and as far north as the Arctic Ocean. It also borders with Mongolia and China and makes up about 77 percent of Russia’s total landmass. Ironically, with regards to Russia’s total population, this part only accounts for about 40 million people or 27 percent of the total. Bandy, which is Russia’s national sport, is even more popular here than in European Russia. In case you haven’t guessed yet, I am talking about Siberia. What follows are some facts about this great Russian “Outback” that I hope you’ll find entertaining.

Siberia has a few negative stigmas attached to it that may make it unappealing to some. The most obvious being that it is a very cold, desolate place, one where the Communists used to send “bad people” or those they deemed to be.

The Trans-Siberian Railway actually takes people from Moscow across Siberia to Vladivostok. Wild dogs, bears, and wolves rule the land and mankind has yet to establish total domination like elsewhere in the world. There is much more to this beautiful land than many of us know. It contains some of the world’s largest deposits of gold, coal, nickel, lead, silver, and diamonds. A plethora of oil and natural gas has also been helping the local and national economy for years.

Here is a short video about some cool facts about a part of Siberia made by a native:

Siberia also contains Lake Baikal which has been reported to be the oldest and cleanest lake in the world. This lake is about the size of the Netherlands and contains about twenty percent of the world’s freshwater.

The Tunguska event happened near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River on 30 June, 1908. Nearly 800 miles of forest were flattened by a meteorite that is believed to have exploded 3-6 miles above the Earth’s surface. The size of the meteorite has been estimated at between 200-600 feet and this event has been considered the largest impact event on or near Earth in recent years. Unfortunately, Russian dashboard cameras were not around to capture it:-(

Apparently, there isn’t an exact location called Siberia. Sure you can find it on a map and in an atlas, but according to Ian Frazier, author of the book Travels in Siberia, “Officially, there is no such place as Siberia.” It is labeled as a region, but you cannot find it connected to any specific place name. He suggests that it is more a state of mind than the name of a specific place. Some believe that the word “Siberia” comes from a Tatar word for “sleeping land.”

It is true that some of Russia’s least desirables and political prisoners have seen their last sunrise in gulags found scattered throughout Siberia – mainly toward the north east. These gulags even date back to before Stalin and the Soviets. If you think about it, it is so cold and desolate in Siberia that even if prisoners were to escape, where would they go? Surely, they’d freeze to death before they reached their first town. This made Siberia a natural choice for building these camps.

The coldest city on the planet, Yakutsk, can be found in eastern Siberia. Yakutsk is built upon permafrost – this means that the ground never thaws. In January, the average high temperatures reach a balmy -40 degrees centigrade. According to some, this is a great place to send your mother-in-law on vacation.

Hope you enjoyed these few facts about Siberia. If any of you have ever visited there, I would love to hear about your trip :-).

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About the Author: Jenya

Born in Russia, I spent the first twenty years of my life in Orenburg, Russia and Mogilev, Belarus. For the last eleven years, I've lived in New Hampshire and Michigan, US. While I continue to absorb and adapt to American culture, I am always thrilled to share my Russian heritage with those who find it interesting. Travel, photography and art play a special part in my life. Twitter: @iamnx2u


  1. Drew:

    After graduating university I spent a year teaching English in Irkutsk, right next to Baikal. I had previously only been to Moscow, so I had a few surprises over the course of my year in Siberia. Way too many amazing memories to cover in only one post, but I will say that I absolutely loved my time there and was genuinely sad to leave the amazing people I met there in Siberia.

  2. Moonyeen Albrecht:

    I have been to Siberia and the Far East 6 times: 1) I traveled in a group of 6 Americans with a Russian and an American tour guide to join the workers of Project Aid Siberia in the summer of 2000. This project was to deliver food staples and oil packages to people who lived along the Yenesei River. We flew from Moscow to Krasnoyarsk where we boarded the small boat the Zarya and traveled up the Yenesei to Turukhansk. Later we went as far as Igarka. A doctor who ministered to people in villages took us on two helicopter rides: a) into the lower Tunguska River valley for a fishing trip and then ON (we landed on) the top of the Putarana Plateau. An unforgettable experience. b) the second helicopter trip was to the Ket Village of Farkovo. 2) the second trip was in winter on the regular trans-Sib. train from Moscow to Irkutsk. At Lake Baikal we rode in our small van ON frozen Lake Baikal from Listvyanka to Port Baikal. 3) a three week trip in the fall starting in Moscow but the goal was Siberia. We were on the regular trans-Sib several times between various cities. We visited Perm in the Urals and them Omsk, Tomsk,Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk from which we flew up to Norilsk. Then we drove to Dudinka where we boarded a boat and came south on the Yenesei and disembarked at Yeniseisk. Then drove to Krasnoyarsk and flew back to Moscow. 4) A two week summer trip on the Private Trans-Siberian train the Golden Eagle from Vladivostok to Moscow. Also visited Mongolia on this trip. 5) A summer trip on the Lena River starting and ending in Yakutsk. 6) a visit to Vladivostok as a stop on a cruise from Alaska to China. I LOVE Siberia. It is not always cold there. We had great weather but I especially loved the winter trip. It was amazing. The family we visited in Siberia was adamant that we call the area The Far East (and not Siberia.) Although I have been to Siberia this many times there are still places I have not seen. I hope I will be able to return there someday.

  3. Moonyeen Albrecht:

    Correction to the post above: The family we visited in VLADIVOSTOK insisted we call it The Far East.

  4. hugo ly:



  5. Moonyeen Albrecht:

    A technical comment: I have found that sometimes I cannot open the videos in the original blog. In this blog, I could only open the video if I clicked on the comments section. Only then would it open. I don’t know if anyone else has experienced this.

  6. Jenya:

    Thank you everyone for your responses! Moonyeen, I bet you know more about that part of Russia than I ever will :-). I applaud your dedication and spirit of adventure!

  7. Richard Lowery:

    Siberia –“The other Russia” (Cold climate –warm people)

  8. Joe Pesterey:

    Hello to all of you. I read your blog Moonyeen Albrecht and you mentioned the village of Farkovo. My Father was born in that` village and we are trying to find his family.He was captured near Stalingrad during ww2 and because of Stalin’s edict 21; was never able to return to his homeland.He fought in the Italian resistance and ended up in Australia where he died.That is where we are. An incredible story.~I would like to know something about his village. Cheers

  9. Moonyeen Albrecht:

    This is for Joe Pesterey: I would love to share my story about and photos from Farkovo.
    Please contact me or leave your e-mail address in the Comments section and I’ll write about my trip to Farkovo and send you some photos.

  10. Joe Pesterey:

    Hello Moonyeen, thank you for the information you gave me on Farkovo and letting me view your travel journals. Beautiful pictures and interesting texts. I enjoyed talking to you and thanks to you I have a clearer understanding of the geography of Siberia and the beauty of the area, including the people, which your emphasize so much in your journals. I hope to visit Siberia and Farkovo one day, I am slowly talking my wife into it. When we do, I also hope to meet the members that are left; of my Father’s family , hence the search for them. Most of all a big thank you for being a friend to the Russian People. Joseph Pesterey (Pesterev).

  11. Randi:

    Haha! My friend Tolya is from Yakutsk…but he still complains about the cold here in Novosibirsk. 😉