Siberia is an extensive geographical area in Eurasia. The region is known for its harsh, brutal, and long winters. Siberia is divided into eastern and western regions by the Yenisei River. Though Siberia region accounts for 77% of the land area of Russia, only 27% of the population resides there. With a population density of 3 people per square kilometers, the region is one of the most sparsely populated territories on Earth.
Geography of Siberia
Siberia is a vast territory in Russia that borders the Arctic Ocean in the North and the Pacific Ocean to the East. Siberia then extends from the Ural Mountains in the West to China, Kazakhstan and Mongolia to the south. The region is divided into West Siberia plains, Central plateaus and Siberia federal district. The whole region covers 5,100,000 million square miles or 10% of the world’s land surface.
There are mountain ranges in central and eastern Sakha region which extend for over 9,800 feet. Extensive glaciation occurred on the Verkhoyansk Range in the Pleistocene but it did not extend to lower elevations due to dryness. Larch forest covers the valleys while tundra dominates the extreme north region. Klyuchevskaya Sopka is the highest point with the peak at 15,580 feet. Other high elevations are Altai, Koryak, Ural, and Baikal mountains. Lakes and rivers include Angara, Indigirka, Kolyma, Baikal, Lena, and Tunguska.
The climate varies dramatically with extremes from desert to montane forests. Summers are very short while winters are long and harsh. Southern part has Humid continental climate suitable for agriculture. The widely spread climatic condition is continental subarctic. Average annual temperature is −5 °C (23 °F). The west is warmer than the east but the north is extremely cold. Sakha is the coldest region. Precipitation in the region is low.
Demographics and Religion
Siberians are Russian citizens. The majority of residents live in the southern part of Siberia along the great Trans-Siberian Railway. Over 70% of the population dwells in cities. The total population is over 36 million people and the population density is about 3 people per square kilometer. The greater population is made of Slavic groups, Russified Ukrainians, non-Slavic groups, and other indigenous ethnic communities. Orthodox Christianity, Tibetan Buddhism, Islam, Jewism, and traditional sacred beliefs co-exist across Siberia.
Major Cities and Towns
Novosibirsk is the largest city in Siberia with over 1.5 million residents. Other urban centers are Krasnoyarsk, Barnaul, Kemerovo, Novokuznetsk, Omsk, Tomsk, Irkutsk, and Tyumen.
Siberia has a vast deposit of valuable metals such as lead, gypsum, gold, coal, silver, nickel, lead, diamonds, and molybdenum. Unexploited oil and natural gas are extensive. Wheat, potatoes, and barley are grown in the Southwest region. Grazing of cattle and sheep is done in the Southwest region. Reindeer herding is still practiced by the indigenous communities. Timber is a major source of revenue in the East while fishing is done in the Sea of Okhotsk.
Administration of Siberia
Siberia is administered by the Russian government. The administrative regions are Siberian Federal district, Ural Federal district, and the far eastern Federal district. The Siberian Federal district has 12 federal subjects while Ural Federal district 4 federal subjects.
Prisons and Detention Camps in Siberia
During the Soviet Union rule, the GULAG agency was mandated to set up penal camps. Siberia was chosen as the region to set up prisons and deportation centers. Over 14 million prisoners passed through the penal camps between 1929 and 1953. Over 7 million people were completely deported to remote parts of Siberia. Many prisoners died due to crude living conditions, starvation, and slave labor.
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