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see BaykalBaykal
or Baikal
, lake, 12,160 sq mi (31,494 sq km), SE Siberian Russia. It is the largest freshwater lake of Eurasia, with a width up to 50 mi (80 km) and a length of c.395 mi (640 km), and it contains roughly a fifth of the world's fresh water.
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an urban-type settlement in Sliudianka Raion of Irkutsk Oblast, RSFSR, on the shore of Lake Baikal at the source of the Angara River. It is a railway station, 66 km to the southeast of Irkutsk. Population, 1,500 (1967). The settlement is a transshipping point from the railway to the Baikal ships and vice versa. Ship repair is also done here.



a lake in the southern part of Eastern Siberia, in the Buriat ASSR and Irkutsk Oblast of the RSFSR. The lake has an area of 31,500 sq km, a length of 636 km, an average width of 48 km, and a maximum width of 79.4 km. The drainage basin of Baikal covers around 557,000 sq km. The lake has a water volume of 23,000 cu km. Lake Baikal contains around one-fifth of the world’s reserves of surface fresh water, and more than 80 percent of the fresh water in the USSR. The average water level in the lake is at an absolute elevation of 456.0 m. Lake Baikal is the deepest continental body of water in the world, with an average depth of 730 m and a maximum depth in the middle of the basin of 1,620 m.

Some 336 rivers and streams flow into Lake Baikal, with the largest being the Selenga, Barguzin, Verkhniaia Angara, Turka, and Snezhnaia. Only one river flows out of Lake Baikal; this is the Angara (Nizhniaia Angara), which flows into the Enisei.

Lake Baikal lies in a deep tectonic basin surrounded by mountain ranges up to 2,000 m and more above its water level. The basin of Lake Baikal is located almost in the middle of the Baikal system of rifts. According to geophysical research, in various areas of the Baikal basin, sedimentary beds up to 6,000 m thick lie beneath the water.

Many scientists consider the late Paleocene and the Lower Neocene as the beginning of the formation of the Baikal down warp and its filling with water—that is, the absolute age of Lake Baikal is approximately 25 million years. Tectonic movements have continued into modern times, as can be seen from the numerous earthquakes in the area of the lake. These earthquakes are sometimes accompanied by the subsidence of significant areas of the shores and bottom of Baikal (as a result of one of them in 1862, in the northern part of the Selenga Delta, about 200 sq km of shoreline sank beneath the water to a depth of up to 10 m, and at this point a bay of Lake Baikal was formed called Proval [cave-in]).

The basin of Lake Baikal is marked by an asymmetric cross section with very steep subaerial and submerged slopes on the western shores, and gentler slopes on the eastern shores with a small area of shoal water. Littoral areas up to 50 m in depth constitute around 8 percent of the bottom area. The shoreline is slightly winding, and its length is around 2,100 km. The major curves of the shorelines form bays such as Barguzin, Chivyrkuiskii, and Proval, inlets such as Aiai and Frolikh, and also Sviatoi Nos Peninsula. There are 27 islands on Lake Baikal, with 22 being permanent and five periodically flooded. The largest islands are Ol’khon (around 730 sq km) and Bol’shoi Ushkanii (9.4 sq km).

The basic role in the lake’s water balance is played by the following factors: influx of river water (58.24 cu km), precipitation on the lake’s surface (9.26 cu km), drainage from the lake by the Angara (60.07 cu km), and evaporation from the lake’s surface (9.45 cu km). The discrepancy in the balance is due to the failure to count the influx of underground water (around 2 cu km). The Selenga River is responsible for around 50 percent of the influx of water from all the rivers. The highest levels are in August-September, and the lowest are in March-April. The annual average fluctuation in the water level of the lake is around 0.8 m, and change over a century has been around 3 m.

The basin of Lake Baikal is located in the center of Asia, with a harsh, sharply continental climate. The enormous mass of water in the lake has a mitigating effect on the climate along the Baikal shore. The seasonal and daily fluctuations in the air temperature and humidity are somewhat lessened. In comparison with the surrounding territory, the winter is milder and the summer cooler on Lake Baikal. The mean January-February air temperature is around -19° C, and in August around 11°C. The water temperature (on the surface) during August in the open part of the lake is 9–12° C, and along the shores sometimes up to 20° C. Seasonal temperature fluctuations can be noted to a depth of 250–300 m. Deeper, to the bottom, the temperature is relatively constant at 3.2–3.5° C. In the benthic levels, at the great depths, a certain warming of the water is noted, caused by the interior warmth of the earth. Baikal usually freezes in January and is open again in May. The thickness of the ice is from 70 to 115 cm. The annual amount of precipitation in the middle and northern Baikal is 200–350 mm, and in the south 500–900 mm. The Baikal region is characterized by a complex wind system, with westerly and northwesterly winds prevailing, blowing from the shore onto the lake (the “mountain” wind, and in the region of Ol’khon Island, the sarma). In the autumn and the beginning of the winter, these winds reach a hurricane force of 30–40 m/sec. A southerly and southeasterly wind is known as the shelonnik. Longitudinal winds from the northeast are known as verkhovik or barguzin, and kultuk from the southwest. Wind-caused waves on Lake Baikal are 1–3 m high, and sometimes reach 4–5 m and more. Convective and turbulent movements each year stir up the upper water layers on the whole to a depth of 250 m, while in the deeper layers the movement gradually dies out. In the summer, under the influence of the winds, the warm surface waters are driven toward the opposite shore, and along the lee shores, the cold abyssal waters are lifted to the surface.

The water of Baikal is extremely clear (one can see to 40 m), it is little mineralized, slightly base, and the total salt content does not exceed 105 milligrams per liter (mg/1). The ion composition is close to that of the waters of the tributaries.

The Baikal water is rich in oxygen at all levels, down to the greatest depths. Oxygen content does not fall below 9–10 mg/1.

The plant and animal world of Lake Baikal is also rich and

Table 1. Chemical composition of water from Baikal and tributaries (perennial mean in milligrams/liter)
 Bicarbonate HCO3Sulfates SO4Chlorides ClCalcium CaMagnesium MgSodium NaPotassium KSilicon SiIron FeOrganic matter
Baikal ...............
Tributaries ...........

diverse. The waters of the lake, from the surface to the very bottom, are inhabited by around 600 species of plants and more than 1,200 species of animals. Some three-quarters of the species are endemic. Among the algae, the diatoms are the most diverse. Of the single-celled animals, the species of Infusoria are numerous (about 300). The Baikal sponges are unique. There are large numbers of various species of worms, mollusks, caddis flies, and particularly crustaceans. The latter play an important role in the food supply of the fish. Seven families of fish comprising 50 species inhabit Lake Baikal. The most numerous group is the gobies (25 species). Of the Salmonidae, the omul is of commercial significance, making up two-thirds of the total annual catch. In addition there are graylings and lake whitefish. The largest representative of the ichthyofauna is the sturgeon, reaching a length of 180 cm and weighing 100–120 kg. Of the noncommercial fish, the golomianka (Comephorus) is of interest. This is a viviparous fish belonging to an endemic family. Of the mammals, a representative of the pinnipeds, the Baikal seal, or nerpa, also lives in Lake Baikal.

Ore-mining, cellulose and paper, shipbuilding, and fish canning and fishing industries have developed in the Baikal region. There are numerous hot springs, with some of them in use (Goriachinsk and Khakusy). The lake is navigable, and lumber rafting is also carried out. In January 1969, the USSR Council of Ministers approved a special decree on the conservation and rational utilization of the natural complexes in the Lake Baikal Basin.

Sliudianka, Baikal’sk, and Babushkin are the major towns on the shores of Lake Baikal. Some of the ports and settlement points are Baikal, Tankhoi, Vydrino, Ust’-Barguzin, Nikhneangarsk, and Khuzhir. Most of them are located along the southern and southeastern shore. The Limnological Institute of the Siberian Division of the USSR Academy of Sciences is located in the settlement of Listvianka, and the hydrobiological station of the University of Irkutsk is in the settlement of Bol’shie Koty. There are also tourist facilities.

The usual explanation for the derivation of the name Baikal, from the Turkic Baikul’,“rich (in fish) lake,” has not been substantiated. Possibly the word is a Mongol one.

Baikal has long attracted attention. The first information about the lake appeared in the middle of the 17th century (Kurbat Ivanov, Vasilii Kolesnikov, Ivan Pokhabov, and others). In the second half of the 17th century the first geographical descriptions of Baikal and attempts at compiling maps were made (Nikolai Spafarii, FedorGolovin, Izbrandt Ides, Semen Remezov, and others). In 1771–1772,1. Georgi and A. Pushkarev, participants in the expedition of the Russian Academy of Sciences, carried out the first instrument survey of the lake, and in 1773 compiled a map. The founding of the Eastern Siberian section of the Russian Geographical Society (1851) played an important role in the diversified study of Baikal. The section directed the research in Siberia and the Baikal area, including the well-known work of V. Dybovskii, V. Godlevskii, I. Cherskii, and others. From 1896 to 1902, a hydrographical expedition under the leadership of F. K. Drizhenko compiled an atlas and navigational directions for Baikal. In 1916, a permanent commission for the study of Baikal was founded under the Academy of Sciences (N. V. Nasonov, V. Ch. Dorogostai-skii, I. I. Mesiatsev, and G. Iu. Vereshchagin). Systematic

and comprehensive research on Baikal started in 1925 with the organization of a permanent base for the Baikal Expedition of the USSR Academy of Sciences in Maritui. In 1928, the base was reorganized as the permanent Limnological Station in the settlement of Listvianka, and on the basis of this station the Limnological Institute of the Siberian Division of the USSR Academy of Sciences was created in 1961.


Berg, L. S. Baikal, ego priroda i znachenie v narodnom khoziaistve. Moscow, 1948.
Vereshchagin, G. Iu. Baikal. Moscow, 1949.
Pavlovskii, E. V. Geologicheskaia istoriia i geologicheskaia struktura Baikal’skoi gornoi oblasti. Moscow, 1948.
Rossolimo, L. L. Baikal. Moscow, 1966.
Lamakin, V. V. Neotektonika Baikal’skoi vpadiny. Moscow, 1968.
Dumitrashko. N. V. “Osnovnye voprosy geomorfologii i paleogeografii Baikal’skoi gornoi oblasti.” Tr. In-ta geografii AN SSSR,1948, vol. 42.
Geomorfologiia dna Baikala i ego beregov. Moscow, 1964.
Afanas’ev, A. N. “Vodnyi balans Baikala.” Tr. Baikal’skoi lim- nologicheskoi stantsii,1960, vol. 18.
Verbolov, V. I., V. M. Sokol’nikov, and M. N. Shimaraev. Gidrometeorologicheskii rezhim i teplovoi balans ozera Baikala. Moscow-Leningrad, 1965. Votintsev, K. K. Gidrokhimiia ozera Baikal. Moscow, 1961.
Kozhov, M. M. Biologiia ozera Baikala. Moscow, 1962.
Ryby i rybnoe khoziaistvo v basseine ozera Baikal[collection of articles]. Irkutsk, 1958.
Martinson, G. G. Vpoiskakhpredkovfauny Baikala. Moscow, 1959.
Tr. Baikal’skoi limnologicheskoi stantsii,1931–61, vols. 1–20.
Tr. Limnologicheskogo in-ta SO AN SSSR, 1962–68, vols. 21–30.
Florensov. N. A. “Mezozoiskie i kainozoiskie vpadiny Pribaikal’ia.” Tr. Vostochno-Sibirskogo filiala AN SSSR: Ser. geol..1960, vol. 19.
Atlas Baikala. Irkutsk-Moscow, 1969.




literary and artistic magazine, and organ of the Writers’ Union of the Buriat ASSR. The magazine is published in Ulan-Ude and appears six times a year. The number of copies printed is 10,500 (1970). It was founded in 1955, initially under the name of Baigalai tolon (Light over Baikal), and since 1961 as Baikal. It is also published in the Buriat language (Baigal). From 1947 to 1954 the Baigal almanac was published (in Buriat), and from 1949 to 1954 the Baikal almanac (in Russian).


Lake. a lake in Russia, in SE Siberia: the largest freshwater lake in Eurasia and the deepest in the world. Greatest depth: over 1500 m (5000 ft.). Area: about 33 670 sq. km (13 000 sq. miles)
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Summary: Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has taken a submarine tour of the famous Baikal lake.