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Encyclopedia > Siberian

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 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.


Administrative subdivisions

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.

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 Uighurs. 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.


With an area of over 9,653,000 km2, Siberia makes up roughly three-quarters of the total area of Russia. Much of it is swampland ill-suited to agriculture; other large areas, such as the taiga, are forested. The northernmost parts comprise extremely cold tundra. Major geographical zones, aside from the tundra, include the West Siberian Plain and the Central Siberian Plateau.

Lakes and rivers include:

Mountain ranges include:

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 -90F (-68C). 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.

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