Tripinformation More information about Siberia Basic facts  Svensk version
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Siberia, in russian Sibir. The name comes from the Mongolian Altay language and means "Sleeping Land".

Siberia is often connected with deportations, labour camps, prisons and severe coldness. The only thing left from that image is the severe coldness, which is causing a lot of suffering for humans as well as plants and animals.
Few tourists have, so far, visited this previous so closed area. Now it is possible to travel around in this beautiful and interesting region. 


The definition of Siberia and Russian Far East is often ment the area east of the Ural mountains to the Pacific Ocean. An area covering almost 14 millon square kilometers, which means 31 times larger than Sweden. Here flowes 53 000 rivers and you can find more than 1 million lakes! The majors rivers are, from west to east, Ob, Yenisey, Lena and Amur. The most important lake is the beautiful Lake Baikal, the world´s deepest lake, also called "Siberias Blue Eye". It holds almost one-fifth of all the world´s lake water. The deepest spot is 1 741 meters. Lake Baikal is considered as the oldest lake in the world, more than 70 million years old. 


The first known Siberians were early stone age tribes living around the shores of Lake Baikal, and the headwaters of the Ob and Yenisey rivers. During the 3rd century BC the Huns took control of what today is southerns Siberia. Descendants to them later moved west and terrorized Russia and Europe. In the first centuries AD turkish tribes moved in from Central Asia. During the late 11th century the first russians arrived, who were furtraders from Novgorod. In the early 13th century one of the most famous persons in history Jengis Khan showed up.Together with his troups he created the history´s largest land empire. In 1558 the tsar Ivan the Terrible authorised the Stroganov family to open a trading post east of the Ural under the protection of cossacks. When plunderings started of the settlements in Siberia the tsar appointed a man called Yermak to stop the them. He also gave him the title "Conqueror of Siberia". After that Siberia opened up and many new settlements were created. 


From about 1650, the authorities began to send criminals to Siberia. During the 1700s, when Siberias natural wealth became obvious, these criminals were forced to help to build up the area. By 1890 some 3 400 exiles a week arrived in Irkutsk. Here they met a hard life, most of them in camps or prisons. The most celebrated exiles were the "Decembrists", a group of young officers who tryed to stop the coronation of tsar Nicholas I in December 1825. Five of them were executed, 116 of them were sent to Siberia together with their wives or bethrothed. 

The exile system was abolished at the turn of the 20th century, but Stalin brought it back. During his "era" the GULAG was created, a system of labour and concentration camps as well as special physiatric hospitals all over Russia. During this period Siberia became synonymous with death and between 20 to 50 million people were killed. 
After Stalins death in 1953 2/3 of the prisoners were freed.

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Siberias development

To attract work force to Siberia salaries, three times higher than in European Russia, were offered as well as bonus schemes, longer holidays and tax exemptions. 

The collapse of the Sovietunion has changed this, but resulted in greater degree of self-determination for people living in Siberia. Unfortunately it has also left them underdeveloped, with little support. 

Siberia is rich in natural resources as oil, gas, coal, gold, diamonds, timber etc which should give the inhabitants good hope for the future.


Siberias climate is continental. The winters are severe, with temperatures down to minus 50-60 degrees Celcius. The summers are pleasant, with temperatures up to 25-30 degrees Celcius. In some areas there are more than 300 sunny days annually!

Flora and Fauna

Siberia is divided into three distinct, broad east-west bands of vegetation types. 

In the Arctic area is the icy tundra with its permanently frozen ground, in places to a depth of 1 450 meters, creating hard circumstances for people, plants and animals. There are very few species that can survive its climate and desolation. Some animals that live here are reindeer, fox, lemmings and wolf.  

Siberias taiga is the largest forest in the world. It covers about 5 million square kilometers, representing approximately 25 % of the world´s wood reserves. The living conditions here are less severe than on the tundra, but it is still harsh and very cold in winter. Some of the animals living here are elk, wolf, brown bear, deer and sable.

Beyond the taiga, close to the borders with Kazakhstan, Mongolia and China the nature becomes a treeless, undulating grassland, or steppe.

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Population and People

Out of Russias 146 million inhabitants only about 30 million live in Siberia, which is just 22 % of the population. That on 75 % of Russias total area. The population includes over 30 indigenious peoples. These are only 4 % of the total population. The majority of the people living in Siberia are russians.

The minority peoples are of different origin and speaks many languages. The most numerous peoples are the Buryats, the Yakuts, the Tuvans, the Khakass and the Altay. Few of these people have lived in harmony with the russians since their arrival. There were riots and violence against the russians in Tuva in the early 1990s, which resulted in killings and that many russians left Tuva. 


Christianity was was introduced in Siberia in the 1570s when the russians started to baptise the natives with force. This probably led to resistance against the religion among them. 

After the reforms in the Russian church in 1653 there were people who couldn´t accept the changes and continued to worship as in the old ways. These Old Believers became subject to persecution and many fled to Siberia. Their beliefs still survive in some siberian villages.

Long before the coming of christianity, the common religion of the indigenous tribes  was shamanism, a form of pagan earth-worship dating back to the stone age. All natural objects were belived to have a spirit. Tuva has more than 300 active shamans today.

Buddhists in the Russian Federation count over half a million now. The religion has been increasing since glasnost began. All buddhists in Russia are members of the "Yellow Hat"-sect of Tibetan Buddhism, whose spritual leader is the Dalai Lama. Buddhism was introduced here in the 17th century.





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The Ivolginski Datsan. 
Ulan Ude

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Selling milk.
Ulan Ude

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Ulan Ude

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The world´s biggest Lenin head.
Ulan Ude

Irkutskt, Lake Baijkal

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Berries for sale. Irkutsk

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Meat shop at the market. Irkutsk

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Beuatiful house. Irkutsk

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Sergeij Volkonskys house. Irkutsk

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Morning at Lake Baijkal

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The village Nicolaj

Republic of Tuva

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Lenin statue and the theatre. Kyzyl

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Russian calculator. Kyzyl

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Tuvan man. Kyzyl

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Female shaman. Kyzyl

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The beautiful village Sizim

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Exciting Siberia. Sizim

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Western Sayan mountains

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Jurta, nomad tent 

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Nomad woman

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Horseman with goat 

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Throatsinger. Kyzyl

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"Middle of Asia"- monument. Kyzyl


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Kazanovka village

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Khakassian horseman

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Lenins house. Shusenskoye

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Russian man. Market. Minusinsk

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Khakassian girls. Kazanovka

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Salbyk - "The Siberian Stonehenge"

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Leera, russian student. Abakan

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Khakassian man. Askiz

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Lenin mausoleum at the Red Square

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The beautiful metro

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The Vasilij Cathedral at the Red Square

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"By nigth"

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Basic facts (Russia):

Conventional longform:  Rossiyskaya Federatsiya

Area, total: 17 098 242 sq km
138 740 000
Population/sq km:
Coastline: 37 653 km
Moscow / 10 224 000

Lowest point:  Caspian Sea -28 m
Highest point: Gora Elbrus (5 633 m)
Largest rivers:
Lena, Volga, Yenise, Amur 
Largest lakes:
Ladoga, Onega, Azovska, Baikal

Pop. growth rate: -0.47 %
Infant mortility rate: 
(deaths / 1 000 live births)
Life expectancy at birth (years):
Male / Female  63 / 75

Ethnic groups: Russians 79.8 %, Tatar 3.8 %, Ukranian 2.0 %, Chuvash 1.1 %, Bashkir 1.2 %, other ethnic groups and unspecified 12.1 %
Religion: Christian 15-20 % (majority russian orthodox), Muslim, Buddhists, other and ateists
Russian, other
Literacy; % pop. over 15 years:
Male / Female: 99.7 / 99.2


Independence: August 24, 1991 from Sovietunion
National holiday:
June 12, Independence day

GNP/capita: USD 10 522
Population below poverty line:
13.1 %
Currency: Rubel (RUR), 1 RUR = 100 kopeks
Tourists (annually): 23 676 000

Mobile telephones: 238 000 000
40 853 000
Railways: 87 157 km
982 000 km

Source: CIA World Factbook 2012/02

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The crest with the doubleheaded eagle was introduced in autumn 1993.


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For more information about Russia click one of the links
Facts: Lonely Planet  World Factbook
More links: Friends of Tuva  Geographic Bureau
Todays weather in Russia:
Russian Weather

This page is updated 2012-03-14

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