Nature of Buryatia

The nature of Buryatia is a notable variety of landscapes, geological conditions and peculiarities of the climate. The major part of its territory is included into the water-protected zone of Lake Baikal.
The surface of Buryatia mostly consists of gently sloping highlands about 1200-1700m high in the southern part of Buryatia and mountains with sharp peaks 2200-2300m high in the north-west and in the north of the Republic.
Hollows where the bottom is 500-600m high separate mountain ranges and highlands.
The lowest place in Buryatia is the level of Baikal Lake (456m) The highest place is the mountain Munku-Sardyk, 3491m high.

The climate of Buryatia is extremely continental. Winter is long, frosty and windless with little snow except for the coast of Baikal Lake. You can feel an influence of a great volume of water here: average temperature in January is 24-25°C below zero. Summer is short but warm and sometimes even hot. Average temperature in July is 17-18°C above zero, sometimes it reaches 35-40°C above zero.
At the coast of Baikal summer is cooler. The maximum amount of precipitations is 250-300 mm per year, in the mountains - 300-500mm.

Water resources
Buryatia is rich in water resources. There are about 9000 small and large rivers that belong to the Baikal Lake water area and to the drainage basin of Siberia’s largest rivers of - the Yenissey and the Lena. The basin of Baikal Lake also includes the largest river of Buryatia, the Selenga and such peculiar rivers as the Barguzin, the Upper Angara, the Snezhnaya (Snowy), the Turka, the Chikoy, the Khilok and others.

The drainage- basin of the Yenissey includes four large rivers: the Oka, the Kitoy, the Belaya (White), the Irkut. Fast mountain rivers, the Vitim, the Tsipa, the Muya flow into the drainage basin of the Lena river.

The republic also has several lake groups: Gusino-Ubukunskaya, Eravninskaya, Bauntovskaya, North-Baikal, Barguzinsky and others. The main water resource for those lakes is Baikal Lake.
Buryatia has plenty of mineral springs that differ in their chemical and physical properties. More than 360 springs are known. Some of them have been studied and explored. There is medical silt and mud in lake Kiran, Bormashevskoye and Kotokel.

Buryatia is located on the borderline of two different regions: East-Siberian mountainous taiga (4/5 of the territory) and Central-Asian steppe. This is the reason for a great diversity and peculiar character of trees and plants on its territory. Northern slopes of mountain ranges are covered with deciduous forests and thick moss, with cedars and silver firs in some places. Pines and thicket of bushes grow on the southern slopes of mountains. Steppes covered with feather grass rise up to 900-1000m high. The region of forests is above it with the upper line of 1500-1600m to 2000m high. Pines grow in Predbaykalye, on the slopes of Primorskoye and Baikalsky ranges. Deciduous forests grow mainly in the northern part of Zabaykalye. Cedar forests are concentrated in the highlands. Silver fir is not so widely spread as fir or birch tree.

About 1800 species of plants have been discovered in Buryatia, there are bird-cherry tree, sweet-brier, Siberian apple, medical plants, black berry, marsh cranberry and Altay woodbine, currant, raspberry and so on. Some of them are endangered.

Mammals inhabiting the territory of the republic have 4 areas of habitat: mountain-tundra, mountain- steppe, steppe and meadow swamp. 6 species of amphibian, 8 species of reptiles, about 100 species of mammals and more than 384 species of birds are known. Hunting animals include sable, squirrel, fox, Siberian weasel, ermine, lynx, Manchurian deer, wild boar, brown bear and others. There are also some endangered species - red wolf, otter, wild cat, snow panther, polar deer, Siberian goat.

348 species of registered birds include 260 species of nesting birds, 34 species that fly through the territory, 7 species that spend winters here, 47 species that fly from other areas and nest here, 16 of them are endangered (black stork, steppe eagle, erne, black griffon, cancan, dauer crane, black crane, great bustard, jacksnipe, Mongolian land sparrows). The great number of animals and their wide variety gives a great opportunity for bird-watchers.

Siberian species inhabit coastal zone of Baikal, they are carp, perch, pike, bream, sazan, sheatfish, and others Siberian-Baikal species are grayling, lake white fish, sturgeon. Red fish inhabits Frolikha Lake, this fish is a relic from the ice-age period. Specialists are interested in the presence of “crossopferygii” fish from lake white fish family. Baunt Lake has endemic Baunt white fish “vendace”.

The History of Buryatia

The history of BC
Since ancient times the territory adjoining to Baikal Lake in the east is apart of Central-Asian historic and cultural area. During several millennia Zabaykalye was included into the orbit of great historic events taking place in the Euroasian continent. People inhabiting this territory during the Middle Paleolithic (150thousand years ago) were from two areas: the first one from the southeast of Asia and the second one from the southwest. The process of formation of races was completed by the end of the Middle Paleolith.

The present geographical landscape, flora and fauna were formed during the period of Neolith. The Stone Age was replaced by the Bronze Age, then followed the Iron Age followed. Archeologists founded here a great number of finds including burial-places left by the tribes known to our science as the culture of gravestones. Zabaykalye is also known by the culture of the Khereksury and Olenny (Deer) Stones and the culture of Skif-Siberians. During this period there was also a Nephrite Road and goods made of nephrite were transported on this road from the East to the West.

The state of Khunnu
One of the most important turning points in the history of Euroasia was the III-rd century BC. In this period the first nomadic state of Khunny was founded on the territory of Cenral Asia with the Centre in Mongolia. Since that time Central Asia began to form as a nomadic civilization. Wars and its invasions took place far to the west and to the east. The wars against China weakened Khunnu and they were ousted from Central Asia.

Great Steppe
After leaving Khunny for Europe during the Great Migration of Peoples, numerous tribal units and states of nomads appeared and then many of them were destroyed for a millennium on this territory. The largest were the state of Syanby, Zhuzhansky Kaganat, Great Tyurksky Kaganat, Ujgur Khanstvo (Kingdom, Kirghiz Kaganat. They seeked to conquer enormous lands of Eurasia and to subordinate neighbouring tribes. At that very time new geographical and political concept appeared. i.e Great Steppe.

The Mongol Empire
By 1206 nearly all-Mongolian tribes had been united by Chingis-Khan. The Book of Prohibitions (“ Yasa-name”) was issued representing specific common state code of steppe people.

Baikal Lake and the territory of contemporary Buryatia belonged to legendary country Bargudzhin tokum, that was included in its turn into the native ulus of the nomadic Mongolian state. Barguzin-tokum was declared by Chingis-khan the reserved land of ancestors. “ Ikh-Khorig” was issued then. Here Chingis khan made the first military campaingns against the Merkits, which were followed by the epoche of great Mongolian conquests ended in creating of the most enormous empire in the history of the world. The nomads founded the civilization, which not only made wars, it transmitted achievements of culture from people to people uniting them within the common frontier and so they became the founders of the united Eurasian civilization.

After the Empire had disintegrated the Mongolian State torn by feudal contentions existed until the xvi century.

The nomadic tribes from Zabaikalye and Prebaykalye remained in its structure. The first information about people who gave the name to this part of Zabaikalye referred to the time of the Mongolian State. These people were called the Buryats and the territory got the name of “ Buryatia”

The information about the Kurykans also dated back to this time, their descendants are the contemporary Evenks.

Tea Road (Chayny put)
In the XVI century the Russian Empire began intensively to expand its boundaries to the East establishing diplomatic and trade relations with Mongolia and China. It influenced greatly the destiny of people living on the territory of Buryatia/ Russian Cossacks founded the first ostrogy (fortresses) and one of the great trade ways of mankind” Tea road’ passed through the territory of Buryatia.

The history of Buryatia
The establishment of Russian-Mongolian border caused the definite isolation of the Buryat tribes from Mongolia.. In the XVII century the Buryat people without having heir own state voluntairily came into the structure of Russia. However this isolation didn’t result in the destruction of established for centuries-usual spiritual, religious, cultural, tribal, trade and economic relations between Buryatia and Mongolia. The tsar government of Russia conducted flexible policy concerning local aristocracy and established in Buryatia administrative-managering system in which the system of internal self-governing worked (it was Buryat Steppe Duma) .The struction of Transsiberian Railway Road had also a great influence on the economic development of Buryatia

After the October Revolution of 1917 in Russia the process of integration of Zabaykalye and Far East in the structure of Russia was very intensive. Here in 1920 the Far East Republic (Dalnevostochnaya Republika) with the center in Verkhneudinsk was founded. In 1923 the Buryat-Mongolian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was created/ In 1958 Mongolia became an independent state. Due to the reorganization of the administrative arrangement of East-Siberian Area in 1937 a number of districts were excluded from the structure of the Republic and two Buryat Autonomous okrugs (areas)were formed on their basis coming into the neighbouring administrative oblast (regions) Agisnsky national okrug (district) in the structure of Chita oblast and Ust Ordynsky national okrug in the structure of Irkutsk oblast. In that year the Republic was renamed as the Buryat Autonomous Socialist Republic.

During the soviet period the developed agriculture was created in the Republic. Large enterprises nearly in 60 branches of economy were built including aircraft industry, machine-building, energy power, coal and ore-mining, timber-processing and other kinds of industry connected to all economic regions of the USSR. The major part of factories on the territory of Buryatia belonged to military-industrial complex that caused the certain isolation of Buryatia. The Republic was forbidden for foreign citizen until the 80s of the XX century.

At this time the systems of education, health service and science were created. The Buryat scientific center of the Siberian department of the Academy of Sciences with its scientific-research departments, more than 20 technical and vocational schools were founded.

In 1990 the state sovereignty of the Buryat Soviet Socialist Republic was proclaimed and the status of Autonomous Republic was given up. Now it is called the Republic of Buryatia and is the subject of the Russian Federation.

Culture of Buryatia
Culture of Buryatia represents cultures of people of Asia and Europe. It started to form at the same time with the development of Zabaikalye region. Many tribes and ethnic groups have contributed to this culture, replacing each other during thousands of years. This culture includes cultural values, ideals and norms of nomadic civilization, northern forest hunters, and European tribes. These cultures became closely bound, which reflects in life, habits, public moral and art. Different religions were mixed into one, the same thing happened with culture. At the same time main features of national cultures remained the same.

National cultures
One of the most interesting cultures of Buryatia is the culture of its native people - the Buryats. The major part of the culture belongs to the Buddhist tradition brought to Buryatia from Tibet and Mongolia. The Buddhist doctrine includes philosophy, Tibetan medicine and astrology, Buddhist painting. Writing and publishing were developed in Buryatia on this basis. Nikolay Rerih (a famous Russian philosopher, scientist and artist) made a great contribution to the development of relations between Buryatia with Tibet.
Forest hunters – the Evenks, have lived in Zabaikalye since long time ago, despite strong influence of other cultures, have managed to keep their culture. Nowadays the original culture of the Evenks revives.
The culture of the Russians in Buryatia has kept traditional features due to, first of all, one of the representatives of Russian population - Semeiskiye (Old Believers). Zabaikalian Cossacks culture is also very peculiar.

The modern culture of Buryatia
Current culture of Buryats is represented in its literature, opera, ballet, theater, cinema, musical, sculpture, painting, circus. National art of other ethnic groups living in Buryatia is represented by folklore ensembles of Koreans, Armenians, Azerbaijanians, Poles, Germans, and Ukrainians. National cultural centres and associations work in Buryatia.
The most interesting samples of art and culture are exhibited in museums, you can see classical and modern art presented in theatres, clubs, Buryat state philarmonic orchestra.
The culture of Buryatia is always developing, but still preserves the heritage of the previous times.

Culture of the Buryat people
One of the most interesting part of Buryat culture is philosophical ideas about the world essence and human’s place in it. It is expressed in Buryat shamanism and mythology. One of the most outstanding samples of mythology is the heroic epos "Abai Gesser" created more than a thousand years ago.
Folklore has absorbed plenty of Buryat fairy tales, legends, proverbs and sayings, uligers (tales), songs, dances, throat singing, which is also a significant part of Buryat culture.
Big part of Buryat culture is represented with traditions of household culture that were established by nomadic way of life. Many of them are still interesting and fit modern way of life. The Buryat houses, cuisine, family traditions, customs, such holidays as Sagaalgan and Surkharban, national games, calendar, horoscope, wishes-yurols, costumes, ornaments color are elements of the most valuable cultural heritage. Ideas about special place of the sacred land near Baikal and people living here have been reflected in all these forms. Traditional art craft of the Buryats, such as weaving from horsehair, blacksmith and jewelry have developed under the influence of these ideas. Life of nomads in constant movement and wars, became the basis for the development of the Buryat military arts.

Language of the Buryat people, having undergone influence of other languages, nevertheless, has not lost its structure, agility and expressiveness. Nowadays it is the second official language in the Republic.

The culture of the Buryat people is gradually becoming known in Russia and other countries. It is promoted by the vigorous activity of the Buryat people and societies of the Buryat culture which exist in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Kiev, Irkutsk, China, Mongolia, America, Europe, Australia and other countries.