Often when an average foreigner or sometimes even a resident of Moscow thinks about Siberia a kind of miserable picture may first come to mind. For a long time the territory of Siberia remained nearly a blank spot on the world map, generating a great number of fantasies and legends. Some of them were true and remain so, but only partially. Punishment, hardships, and despair are normally associated with Siberia. But times have changed. While there are some horrific historic details like GULAG concentration camps involving Siberia in the past, despite of its reputation for barren landscapes and harsh conditions there are many glorious things about both past and present Siberia. And there is simply no way to accurately describe Siberia with simple facts. We need to count first its superlatives which will also take some time.
Siberia is a land of great superlatives. It is the largest single region on the planet (comprising over 75 percent of modern day Russia it roughly makes up one-twelfth of all dry land), home to the world's largest forests locally called the Taiga-woods, the vastest steppes and tundra, the world's largest freshwater lake and Blue Eye of the Earth-Lake Baikal ( also the world’s deepest and oldest lake), home to the largest number of permanently living nationalities and shamanist believers, land of the largest hydro power stations and lowest world temperatures ( though Siberia mostly is far from that freezingly cold and not at all severe as most foreigners perceive) , the land largest not only in number of labor camps (historical ones in that number), but volcanoes, rivers, lakes and fantastic natural resources unmatched by their varieties, and much more…
For us Siberia does not bear that much a meaning of geo-political sort that signifies administrative and economic division of the Russian Federation. Siberia for us to a much greater extent means its history, its people and nature. It’s the land of our ancestors – both indigenous people and Russian Cossacks who came here as early explorers and managed within shortest period of time – unsurpassed in the history of the world – cross Siberia pioneering it from the Ural mountains and finally reaching the Pacific ocean.
Our ancestors managed to achieve in Siberia good balance between their needs and interests, on one hand, and the balance between nature and humans, on the other. Huge expanse of Siberia allowed preserving most local ethnic cultures and the true Orthodox religion of Russians. That’s why most Old Believers and shamanists are here, in Siberia.
Shamanism and Christianity co-existed peacefully side by side somehow even enriching each other. Because, at the core of Siberian shamanism and Russian primordial faith is reverence for Mother Earth and Father Heaven, for all of nature and ancestral spirits; and the goal of life was to live in balance with the world. The first Lamaistic temple of Russia under the Tsar was also founded in Siberia and remained functioning as the center of Buddhism even during the Soviet period. Nowadays Siberia continues to impress by the number of religions practiced.
One of the contemporary Siberians who extensively traveled around the world once said “If you want to see the vast forests of Canada, the huge glaciers of Greenland, the beautiful lakes of Switzerland, the picturesque mountains of the Alps, unmeasured distances of Mongolian steppes and still something more - come to Siberia, we have them all.”
We would add that “ yes, we have them either all or much similar on a huge spot of beautiful land called Siberia, the land of extraordinary history and excellent hospitality offered by absolutely wonderful , generally open-hearted and friendly people.”