Siberia (Russian: Сиби́рь, common English transliterations: Sibir, Sibir'; possibly from the Mongolian for "the calm land") is a vast region of Russia and northern Kazakhstan constituting almost all of northern Asia. It extends eastward from the Ural Mountains to the Pacific Ocean and southward from the Arctic Ocean to the hills of north-central Kazakhstan and the borders of both Mongolia and China. All but the extreme southwestern area of Siberia lies in Russia, and it makes up about 75% of that country's territory.
Geographically, Siberia includes the federal subjects of the Urals Federal District, Siberian Federal District and Sakha (Yakutia) Republic, which is a part of the Far Eastern Federal District (see a list of subjects below). From the historical point of view, the whole Russian Far East is considered a part of Siberia.
- Buryat Republic, capital — Ulan Ude
- Chita Oblast, administrative center — Chita
- Irkutsk Oblast, administrative center — Irkutsk
- Republic of Khakassia, capital — Abakan
- Kemerovo Oblast, administrative center — Kemerovo
- Koryakia Autonomous District
- Krasnoyarsk Krai, administrative center — Krasnoyarsk
- Novosibirsk Oblast, administrative center — Novosibirsk
- Omsk Oblast, administrative center — Omsk
- Sakha (Yakutia) Republic, capital — Yakutsk
- Tomsk Oblast, administrative center — Tomsk
- Tuva Republic, capital — Kyzyl
Major cities include:
Main article: History of Siberia
Siberia was occupied by differing groups of nomads such as the Yenets, the Nenets, the Huns, and the Uyghurs. The Khan of Sibir in the vicinity of modern Tobolsk was known as a prominent figure who endorsed Kubrat as Khagan in Avaria in 630. The area was conquered by the Mongols in the 13th century and eventually became the autonomous Siberian Khanate.
The growing power of Russia to the east began to undermine the Khanate in the 16th century. First groups of traders and Cossacks began to enter the area, and then the imperial army began to set up forts further and further east. 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 were sent to Siberia were prisoners exiled from western Russia.
The first great change to Siberia was the Trans-Siberian railway, constructed in 1891 - 1905. It linked Siberia more closely to the rapidly-industrializing Russia of Nicholas II. Siberia is filled with natural resources and during the 20th century these were developed, and industrial towns cropped up throughout the region.
Geography and geology
With an area of over 9,653,000 km2, Siberia makes up roughly three-quarters of the total area of Russia. Major geographical zones, include the West Siberian Plain and the Central Siberian Plateau.
The West Siberian Plain consists mostly of Cenozoic alluvial deposits and is extraordinarily flat, so much so that a rise of fifty metres is sea level would cause all land between the Arctic Ocean and Novosibirsk to be inundated. Many of the deposits on this plain result from ice dams reversing the flow of the Ob and Yenisei Rivers and 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. 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. Soils here are mainly Turbels, giving way to Spodosols where the active layer becomes thicker and the ice content lower.
Eastern and central Sakha is comprised of numerous north-south mountain ranges of varying age. These mountains extend up to almost three thousand metres in elevation, but above a few hundred metres they are extraordinarily 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. 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 metre except near rivers..
Lakes and rivers
A harsh climate has limited Siberia's development and population growth. The region has an abundance of natural resources, including many minerals, vast oil fields, rich forests, and grasslands in the extreme southwest that are good for farming. However, the winters are long and bitter. Ice and snow cover most of the region for about six months of the year. The temperature can drop below -90°F (-68°C). Most of the coastal waters, lakes, and rivers freeze for much of the year.
Siberia has a population density of only 3 persons per square kilometer. Most Siberians are Russians and Russified Ukrainians. Ethnic Russians are descended from Slavs who lived in Eastern Europe several thousand years ago. Such Mongol and Turkic groups as Buryats, Tuvinians, and Yakuts lived in Siberia originally, and descendants of these peoples still live there. Other ethnic groups include: Evenks, Chukchis, Koryaks, Yukaghirs. See Northern indigenous peoples of Russia article for more.
About 70% of Siberia's people live in cities. Most city people are crowded into small 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, Irkutsk and Omsk are the older, historical centers. With a lowest record temperature of -71.2 Celsius, Oymyakon has the distinction of being the coldest town on Earth.