• Alex

What Is Siberia

Updated: Sep 20, 2019

I've been asked so many times whether Siberia is an indepedndent proud little country. Not independent, and definitely not little. Keep reading to find out what Siberia really is.

Siberia is a unique place of wild nature and a harsh climate. Contrary to the frequent misconceptions, Siberia is not a separate country, but a region in Russia: it takes a lion’s share of the country’s territory from the Ural Mountains almost to the Pacific ocean.

Territory in numbers

Siberia accounts for over 9 billion square kilometers, including the Russian Far East. Siberia represents about 60% of the Russian territory and is almost as big as Canada, the second world’s largest country. Despite huge territories, Siberia only hosts ¼ of the Russian population, with the majority living in the western part of the country.

Image source: http://www.siberiatrekking.com/siberia

Yes, this part of Russia differs a lot from western Russia by the landscape, climate, and even people’s mentality, and many locals proudly call themselves Siberians and not Russians. Thus, Siberia is not just a spot on the map, it is a certain type of character and philosophy of life, based on the rigors of the weather and remoteness from other parts of Russia, let alone the outer world.

For centuries, Siberians have always been considered real friends. No joke.

When I just started traveling around Russia, I would often be approached by people who told me that it was nice to meet me, as they heard Siberians are the best friends you get. No wonder, winters take up to nine months, and in some regions daylight comes only for some seasons. You just have to be nice to people around you and be wary of those whom you don't know.

Such climate must have laid the basis for the famous Siberian personality type: a tough guy on the outside, kind and hearty on the inside.

The winter temperatures in Siberia vary between -20 and -40ºC and can drop to -70ºC in several regions.

Siberia accounts for many landmarks such as Baikal, the world’s deepest lake, Altai, the mountain chain where Russia borders China, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan, the Yakutia region with its huge diamond deposits, and more.

The Russian “Red Book” features several rare species of birds, such as Black Crane, Great Bustard, Eastern imperial eagle, Peregrin Falcon and more, as well as some mammals like Amur tiger, Eurasian beaver, etc.

What does the word “Siberia” mean?

Well, it doesn’t mean anything now, just like thousands of other placenames around the globe. But, there are a few versions of its origin:

  • By “Shibir’”, Mongolians mean marshland with many birches and shrubs. It is believed that under the ruling of Genghis Khan, Mongolians used to call that the northern territory, where the forest-steppe turns into the taiga.

  • Another version dates back to the XVIth century, the time when Ivan the Terrible was conducting expansionary politics. Developers stumbled upon an ethnic group called “Sypyr” with a locality “Sybyr”, belonging to Mongolians. After the addition of new lands, the czar updated his title and among many other names should have been referred to as “the Siberian czar”.

  • Some researchers believe that the word “Siberia” comes from the Turkic ethnicity and signifies locals “scattered across this territory”.

  • Iranian maps of the XIII century include the word “Sebur” referring to the northern territories, as can be found on a Catalonian map of 1375.


Siberia has been the place of residence for many ethnical groups, including the Turkics, Mongolians, Finno-Ugric and several groups of Paleosiberians such as Chukchi, also known as Eskimo.

Image source: https://travelask.ru/articles/chukchi-hraniteli-vekovyh-traditsiy

Resources: the natural heritage of Siberia

Siberia is rich in natural resources and it accounts for 85% of Russian lead and platinum reserves, 80% of copper, 71% of nickel, 69% of copper, 44% of silver and 40% of gold. Despite such big numbers, natural resources of Siberia and Far East are still considered unexploit by many researchers, so we still have no idea how much reserves are hidden underground. For example, Gazprom, the Russian leading oil and gas producer, mentiones that the geological assessment of the regional gas deposits constitutes 7.3% for land reserves and 6% for the shelf.

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