Whenever you think of Siberia, your mind inevitably turns to thoughts of a barren wasteland with hostile terrain and freezing temperatures. And, while there are some pretty inhospitable parts of Siberia, overall this is a fascinating region. If you’d like to know more, here are some interesting facts.
No-one knows how it came to be named ‘Siberia’
One of the more unusual Siberia facts is that nobody seems to know how it acquired its name. One theory suggests that it derives from the Turkic word for sleeping land, while other opinions claim that it is an assimilation of the name for the ancient Sabir and Turkic nomads.
Siberia is big
This is a very well known fact but the size of Siberia is certainly worth considering. In plain terms, Siberia consists of over 9,653,000 square kilometres of land or, if you prefer, 5,998,096 square miles.
Perhaps it’s easier to get some grasp of the overall size of Siberia by saying that it compromises over 75% of the total area of Russia and it is bigger than Canada.
While it may be big, it is pretty barren and even though it makes up over 75% of the actual size of Russia, Siberia contributes only 28% of the total population of the country. The total population of Siberia is currently only around 38 million people.
While it may be true that there are perfectly habitable areas of Siberia, most of the region is pretty inhospitable and not well suited to sustaining a human population.
It’s very cold here
There’s no denying the fact that it is extremely cold here and in fact, the coldest city on earth can be found in Siberia.
Yakutsk, in eastern Siberia is built entirely on permafrost and in January, average high temperatures reach a numbing minus 40 degrees centigrade. This is, quite simply, the coldest city on the planet.
Industry thrives in Siberia
Despite the extreme temperatures in some parts, Siberia as a whole is home to some vast mineral deposits and there is a healthy mining industry here which has grown considerably since the fall of the Soviet Union.
Typical industries here include oil, gold, timber and diamonds and the growth since the early 1990’s has seen an increase in population in cities such as Irkutsk.
Sadly, Siberia will always be remembered by many for the many gulags that existed here. While Stalin’s gulags are the most well known, these forms of prisons camps existed long before the Soviet Union came into existence – in the 19th century alone, around 1.2 million people were dispatched here.
Siberia’s terrain made it ideal for the Gulag and even if a prisoner were to escape, they could have been several hundred miles from civilisation and would have died in the harsh environment.
There are happier sides to Siberia and there is an abundance of fascinating wildlife here. Perhaps the Siberian tiger is the best known of these, but the Siberian Husky is another common inhabitant.
You will also find numerous species of birds such as the rubythroat and indigenous fish such as the sturgeon. Lake Baikal, which is perhaps most famous as the world’s deepest freshwater lake, is also home to many species that cannot be found anywhere else in the world, such as the Nerpa seal, or the Omul fish.