(redirected from Szibéria)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus.


(sībēr`ēə), Rus. Sibir, vast geographical region of Russia, covering c.2,900,000 sq mi (7,511,000 sq km) and having an estimated population (1992) of 32,459,000. Historically it has had no official standing as a political or territorial division, but it was generally understood to comprise the northern third of Asia, stretching roughly from the lowlands east of Urals in the west to the mountain ranges of the Pacific Ocean watershed in the east and from the Laptev, Kara, and East Siberian seas (arms of the Arctic Ocean) in the north to the Kazakh steppes, the Altai and Sayan mountain systems, and the border of Mongolia in the south. Lying off Siberia in the Arctic Ocean are the New Siberian Islands, the Severnaya Zemlya Archipelago, and other islands.

In 2000, however, Siberia was established as one of seven Russian federal districts, with the district administrative center at NovosibirskNovosibirsk
, city (1989 pop. 1,437,000), capital of Novosibirsk region and the administrative center of the Siberian federal district, S Siberian Russia, on the Ob River and the Trans-Siberian RR.
..... Click the link for more information.
. The administrative units of the district are the Altai, Buryat, Khakass, and Tuva republics, the Altai, Krasnoyarsk, and Transbaykal territories, and the Omsk, Novosibirsk, Tomsk, Kemerovo, and Irkutsk regions. The Russian Far EastRussian Far East,
formerly Soviet Far East,
federal district (1989 est. pop. 7,941,000), c.2,400,000 sq mi (6,216,000 sq km), encompassing the entire northeast coast of Asia and including the Sakha Republic, Maritime Territory (Primorsky Kray), Khabarovsk Territory,
..... Click the link for more information.
, most of which is commonly considered to be part of Siberia, is treated separately in regional schemes.


The region of Siberia may be divided, from north to south, into the zones of vegetation that run across Russia—the tundratundra
, treeless plains of N North America and N Eurasia, lying principally along the Arctic Circle, on the coasts and islands of the Arctic Ocean, and to the north of the coniferous forest belt.
..... Click the link for more information.
 (extending c.200 mi/320 km inland along the entire Arctic coast), the taigataiga
, northern coniferous-forest belt of Eurasia, bordered on the north by the treeless tundra and on the south by the steppe. This vast belt, comprising about one third of the forest land of the world, extends south from the tundra to about lat.
..... Click the link for more information.
, the mixed forest belt, and the steppe zone. Forests occupy about 40% of Siberia's land. Siberia is drained, from south to north, by the Ob, Yenisei, and Lena rivers (and their tributaries), which also provide the only means of longitudinal transportation. These rivers empty northward into the Arctic Ocean. East-west transportation depends largely on the Trans-Siberian RRTrans-Siberian Railroad,
rail line, linking European Russia with the Pacific coast. Its construction began in 1891, on the initiative of Count S. Y. Witte, and was completed in 1905.
..... Click the link for more information.
 (which follows the steppe belt), on the Baykal-Amur MainlineBaykal-Amur Mainline
(BAM), railroad line linking central Siberian Russia with the Pacific. The BAM parallels the Trans-Siberian RR but passes north rather than south of Lake Baykal. It is 1,928 mi (3,102 km) long, with 1,987 bridges.
..... Click the link for more information.
 (BAM), and to an increasing extent on the Arctic sea route.

Siberia is conventionally subdivided into the following four geomorphological areas: the West Siberian lowland; the Central Siberian plateaus, or uplands; the mountains of the south; and the northeast Siberian mountain systems. The lowland occupies the western third of Siberia; it stretches from east of the Urals to the Yenisei and is mainly a low-lying, often marshy, plain. It is drained by the Ob and Irtysh rivers, which are ice-free and navigable for about half the year. Situated far from vulnerable frontiers, SW Siberia contains about 60% of Siberia's population, major industrial complexes, and such important cities as Novosibirsk (the leading industrial and scientific research center of Siberia), OmskOmsk
, city (1989 pop. 1,148,000), capital of Omsk region, W Siberian Russia, at the confluence of the Irtysh and Om rivers and on the Trans-Siberian RR. It is a major river port and produces agricultural machinery and railway equipment.
..... Click the link for more information.
, TomskTomsk
, city (1989 pop. 502,000), capital of Tomsk region, W central Siberian Russia, on the Tom River. It is a major river port and freight transit point, and is a regional headquarters for oil exploration and production companies.
..... Click the link for more information.
, TobolskTobolsk
, city (1989 pop. 94,000), W Siberian Russia, a port on the Irtysh River near its confluence with the Tobol. Industries revolve around oil and gas from the W Siberian oil field.
..... Click the link for more information.
, BarnaulBarnaul
, city (1989 pop. 602,000), capital of Altai Territory, SW Siberian Russia, on the Ob River. A port and major railway junction, Barnaul is in the heart of the Kulunda steppe, an agricultural area where wheat, corn, and sugar beets are grown.
..... Click the link for more information.
, and NovokuznetskNovokuznetsk
, city (1989 pop. 600,000), S central Siberian Russia, on the Tom River. Steel, mining equipment, chemicals, and aluminum are produced. The old town of Kuznetsk was founded by Cossacks in 1617 and was a trading center until the 20th cent.
..... Click the link for more information.

The wooded steppe and fertile black earth of W Siberia favor agriculture and, especially in the Baraba SteppeBaraba Steppe
, agricultural district, SW Siberian Russia, between the Ob and the Irtysh rivers. Barabinsk, on the Trans-Siberian RR, is the region's chief town. It was founded in the 19th cent.
..... Click the link for more information.
, dairying. Wheat is the principal crop; rye, oats, potatoes, sunflowers, flax, and sugar beets are also important. Butter is the major dairy product. The Kuznetsk BasinKuznetsk Basin,
coal basin, c.10,000 sq mi (25,900 sq km), W Siberian Russia, between the Kuznetsk Alatau and the Salair Ridge. Its abbreviated name is Kuzbas. With extensive coal deposits, particularly of high-grade coking coal, the Kuznetsk Basin was second only to the Donets
..... Click the link for more information.
, in W Siberia, is one of the world's richest coal regions and also has modest iron deposits. It forms the basis for the region's iron, steel, and heavy metallurgical industries. Rich oil and natural-gas fields have been exploited in the West Siberian lowlands, from which a network of pipelines now serves European Russia and the E European republics.

E Siberia, which is drained by the Lena, extends from the Yenisei to a huge mountain chain, an offshoot of the mountains of Central Asia, comprising (from southwest to northeast) the Yablonovy, Stanovoy, Verkhoyansk, Kolyma, and Cherskogo ranges. In the center of E Siberia rise the Central Siberian uplands, which are separated from the northeastern mountains by the plateaus along the Vitim and Aldan rivers. South of the uplands lies Lake Baykal, the world's deepest lake, surrounded by mountains. E Siberia's important cities include KrasnoyarskKrasnoyarsk
, city (1989 pop. 913,000), capital of Krasnoyarsk Territory, W Siberian Russia, on the Yenisei River. A major river port and rail center, it has industries producing heavy equipment for the Trans-Siberian RR, building and mining equipment, and farm and shipbuilding
..... Click the link for more information.
, IrkutskIrkutsk
, city (1989 pop. 626,000), capital of Irkutsk region, S Siberian Russia, at the confluence of the Angara and Irkut rivers. It is an industrial center, a port, the site of a hydroelectric dam, and a major stop on the Trans-Siberian RR.
..... Click the link for more information.
, Ulan-UdeUlan-Ude
, city (1989 pop. 353,000), capital of the Buryat Republic, SE Siberian Russia, on the Selenga River near its confluence with the Uda. A major transportation hub, it is a river port, a junction on the Trans-Siberian RR, and the starting point of a railway to Ulaanbaatar
..... Click the link for more information.
, Cheremkhovo, YakutskYakutsk
, city (1989 pop. 187,000), capital of the Sakha Republic, E Siberian Russia, a major port on the Lena River. It is also a highway center and has tanneries, sawmills, and brickworks. Yakutsk was founded in 1632.
..... Click the link for more information.
, and ChitaChita
, city (1989 pop. 366,000), capital of Chita region, SE Siberian Russia, at the confluence of the Chita and Ingoda rivers and on the Trans-Siberian RR. Railroad and food-processing equipment are manufactured.
..... Click the link for more information.
; but most of the region is sparsely populated because of the extreme rigors of the climate and the difficulties of communication. VerkhoyanskVerkhoyansk
, town, Sakha Republic, NE Siberian Russia, on the Yana River, near the Arctic Circle. A river port, a fur-collecting depot, and the center of a reindeer-raising area, it lies in one of the coldest areas of the earth outside Antarctica.
..... Click the link for more information.
 and Oymyakon, the coldest permanently inhabited settlements on earth, with temperatures exceeding −58°F; (−49°C;) in winter, have summer hot spells where the temperature rises above 90°F; (32°C;).

E Siberia is Russia's leading producer of gold, diamonds, mica, and aluminum, and there are large reserves of iron ore, coal, oil, gas, graphite, and nonferrous precious metals. Exploitation of the region's rich waterpower resources began in the mid-1950s, and there are four giant hydroelectric power stations on the Angara River between Irkutsk and Lake Baykal. Forestry, like mining, is a major economic activity in E Siberia. Agriculture (wheat and oats) is practiced in the south, and animal husbandry is prevalent among the indigenous Siberian peoples. Reindeer breeding, fishing, sealing, hunting, and fur processing are important occupations in the Arctic north.


The great majority of Siberia's population is made up of Russians and Ukrainians. Non-Russian groups include Turkic-speaking nationalities in the Altai RepublicAltai Republic
or Altay Republic
, constituent republic (1990 est. pop. 190,000), 35,800 sq mi (92,722 sq km), SE Siberian Russia. Bordering on Mongolia in the south, it contains most of the Altai Mts. and is drained by the Biya, Katun, and Chuya rivers.
..... Click the link for more information.
, the Khakass RepublicKhakass Republic
or Khakassia
, constituent republic (1990 est. pop. 573,000) 23,900 sq mi (61,900 sq km), S central Siberian Russia, in Krasnoyarsk Territory. Abakan (the capital) and Chernogorsk (a coal-mining center) are the major cities.
..... Click the link for more information.
, the Tuva RepublicTuva Republic
or Tyva Republic
, constituent republic (1990 est. pop. 366,000), 65,830 sq mi (170,500 sq km), extreme S Siberian Russia, on the Mongolian border. Kyzyl is the capital. The area is a mountain basin, c.
..... Click the link for more information.
, and the Kemerovo Region; Buryat-Mongols in the Buryat RepublicBuryat Republic
or Buryatia
, constituent republic (1990 est. pop. 1,050,000), c.135,600 sq mi (351,200 sq km), SE Siberian Russia, N of Mongolia, extending between Lake Baykal and the Yablonovy Mts. Ulan-Ude is the capital.
..... Click the link for more information.
, the Irkutsk region, and Transbaykal Territory; Finno-Ugric Ostyaks (Khant) and Voguls (Mansi) in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous AreaKhanty-Mansi Autonomous Area
, administrative division (1995 pop. 1,326,200), 201,969 sq mi (523,100 sq km), W Siberian Russia. Khanty-Mansisk is the capital. The region, mostly forest and swamp with numerous lakes and peat bogs, is drained by the lower Irtysh and the Ob rivers,
..... Click the link for more information.
; Nenets (Samoyedes) in the Taymyr PeninsulaTaymyr Peninsula
or Taimyr Peninsula
, northernmost projection of Siberia, N Krasnoyarsk Territory, N central Siberian Russia, between the estuaries of the Yenisei and Khatanga rivers and extending into the Arctic Ocean.
..... Click the link for more information.
 of Krasnoyarsk Territory and the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous AreaYamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area
, administrative division (1995 pop. 479,700), c.290,000 sq mi (751,000 sq km), NW Siberian Russia, on both sides of the Gulf of Ob and including the Yamal peninsula.
..... Click the link for more information.
; and Tungus Evenki in Krasnoyarsk Territory. The largely nomadic Mongol and Turkic herders of S Siberia mostly settled down to agriculture under the Soviet government. The indigenous peoples of central and N Siberia remain mostly hunters and fishermen. The chief non-Christian religions are Islam and Tibetan Buddhism in the south, and forms of shamanism elsewhere.


Findings made in the late 1990s indicate that Siberia was inhabited as early as 300,000 years ago, rather than 40,000 years ago, as previously thought. In the historic period, S Siberia frequently served as the point of departure for several nomadic groups, such as Huns, Mongols, and Manchus, who conquered and lost immense empires. Among the political entities emerging after the breakup of the Mongol state of the Golden HordeGolden Horde, Empire of the,
Mongol state comprising most of Russia, given as an appanage to Jenghiz Khan's oldest son, Juchi, and actually conquered and founded in the mid-13th cent. by Juchi's son, Batu Khan, after the Mongol or Tatar (see Tatars) conquest of Russia.
..... Click the link for more information.
 in the mid-15th cent. was the Tatar khanate of Sibir.

Russian Conquest

Although Russian traders from Novgorod crossed the Urals as early as the 13th cent. to trade in furs with native tribes, the Russian conquest began much later. Czar Ivan IVIvan IV
or Ivan the Terrible,
1530–84, grand duke of Moscow (1533–84), the first Russian ruler to assume formally the title of czar. Early Reign

Ivan succeeded his father Vasily III, who died in 1533, under the regency of his mother.
..... Click the link for more information.
's capture of the Kazan khanate in 1552 opened the way for Russian expansion into Siberia. In 1581 a band of Cossacks under YermakYermak
or Ermak
, d. 1584?, Russian conqueror of Siberia; his name also occurs as Yermak Timofeyevich. The leader of a band of independent Russian Cossacks, he spent his early career plundering the czar's ships on the Volga and later entered the service of a merchant
..... Click the link for more information.
 crossed the middle Urals and took the city of SibirSibir
, former city, southeast of present-day Tobolsk, W Siberian Russia. Founded in the 11th or 12th cent., it became (early 16th cent.) the capital of the Tatar khanate of Sibir, which arose after the disintegration of the empire of the Golden Horde.
..... Click the link for more information.
 (near modern Tobolsk), capital of the Sibir khanate, which gave its name to the entire region. Russia's conquest of the Tatar khanate was completed in 1598 (see TatarsTatars
or Tartars
, Turkic-speaking peoples living primarily in Russia, Crimea, and Uzbekistan. They number about 10 million and are largely Sunni Muslims; there is also a large population of Crimean Tatar descent in Turkey.
..... Click the link for more information.
), and during the 17th cent. Russia annexed all of W Siberia.

The Cossacks rapidly penetrated eastward by land and on riverboats, building a string of small fortresses and levying tribute for Moscow from the sparse population in the form of precious furs. By 1640 they had reached the Sea of Okhotsk, an arm of the Pacific Ocean, and soon afterward they collided with Chinese troops. By the Treaty of Nerchinsk (1689), Russia abandoned to China the region later known as the Far Eastern Territory (Russian Far East), which was ceded to Russia only from 1858 to 1860. The Chinese still have claims over parts of the border, including islands in the Ussuri River.

Russian Settlement and Administration

Russian settlement of Siberia was spurred by groups of zemleprokhodtsy (literally, "crossers of land"), who came mostly from N European Russia and traversed the easy portages linking the east-west Siberian river systems to pioneer new forts and trading communities. A colony of the Russian Empire, Siberia was administered by a colonial office based first in Moscow and later (after its founding in 1703) in the new Russian capital of St. Petersburg.

Although military governors collected tribute, they interfered little with native Siberian customs and religions; while the smaller, weaker ethnic groups succumbed to Russian influence, larger tribes such as the Kazakhs and Yakuts thrived and reaped material benefits under Russian administration. Siberian furs constituted an important source of wealth for Russia and figured prominently in Russian trade with Western Europe. These furs, along with customs duties levied on all Siberian raw materials acquired by Russian entrepreneurs, more than reimbursed the state for the costs of its Siberian conquest and administration.

With the decline of the fur trade in the early 18th cent., mining became the chief economic activity in Siberia. The state was the chief entrepreneur, but wealthy private families were also involved. Silver, lead, and copper mining began around 1700; gold mining did not develop until the 1830s. Forced labor in the mines, often using convicts, proved generally unproductive; the gold miners were usually free laborers. Siberian agriculture was stimulated in the late 16th and 17th cent. by the needs of the Russian military and administrative personnel stationed there.

From the early 17th cent. Siberia was used as a penal colony and a place of exile for political prisoners; among the latter there emerged (especially after the exile of leaders of the Decembrist Conspiracy of 1825) a small but vocal Siberian intelligentsia, who agitated for an end of Siberia's colonial status. Meanwhile, Russian colonizers continued to push southward, establishing forts along the steppe to thwart nomadic raids. Newly emancipated (1861) Russian serfs were allowed to take free possession of Siberian land, but they received little state assistance and suffered intolerable hardships.

Russian settlement of Siberia on a large scale began only with the construction (1892–1905) of the Trans-Siberian RR, after which the eastward migratory movement reached major proportions. P. A. Stolypin, the interior minister under Nicholas II, made a special effort to reduce rural overpopulation in European Russia by encouraging Siberian colonization. The railroad also enabled European Russia to obtain cheap grain from W Siberia and butter from the Baraba Steppe. The railroad's needs spurred the development of coal mining and the opening of repair shops. Before the Russian Revolution, however, Siberia contributed only a minute fraction of Russia's industrial output, mainly in the form of gold.

During the Revolution

Siberia played a key role in the Russian civil war of 1918–20 (see Russian RevolutionRussian Revolution,
violent upheaval in Russia in 1917 that overthrew the czarist government. Causes

The revolution was the culmination of a long period of repression and unrest.
..... Click the link for more information.
). An autonomous Siberian government formed in early 1918 was soon superseded by the regime of the counterrevolutionary Admiral A. V. KolchakKolchak, Aleksandr Vasilyevich
, 1874–1920, Russian admiral, leader of the anti-Bolshevik forces in W Siberia during the civil war (1918–20). He distinguished himself in the Russo-Japanese War, and in World War I he commanded the Black Sea fleet.
..... Click the link for more information.
, who made his capital at Omsk. The White forces were aided by contingents of czarist political exiles and by the Czech Legion, a group of Austrian army deserters who had hoped to fight alongside the czarist army. In Aug., 1918, a U.S., British, French, and Japanese expeditionary force joined the anti-Bolshevik units in Siberia. The main purpose of this allied expedition was probably to prevent German use of Siberian resources in World War I. Most of Siberia was in White hands by late 1918, but Czar Nicholas II and his family were murdered by the Bolsheviks at Yekaterinburg (formerly Sverdlovsk) that year. Early in 1920, Admiral Kolchak's government collapsed, and he was executed.

Under the Soviets

Under the Soviet government, Siberia, especially the Ural-Kuznetsk complex, underwent dramatic economic development. Under the First Five-Year Plan (1928–33), forced labor was instrumental in mining coal and building the iron and steel complex of the Kuznetsk Basin. In addition, part of the agricultural colonization of Siberia was carried out by the forced resettlement of large segments of the Russian rural population, notably the expropriated kulaks (wealthier peasants). As a result, Siberia's population doubled between 1914 and 1946. Forced labor was also employed extensively in the E Siberian gold mines. Parts of the vast Siberian concentration and forced-labor camp network established by Stalin may still exist, but many of the political prisoners were released by Mikhail GorbachevGorbachev, Mikhail Sergeyevich
, 1931–, Soviet political leader. Born in the agricultural region of Stavropol, Gorbachev studied law at Moscow State Univ., where in 1953 he married a philosophy student, Raisa Maksimovna Titorenko (1932?–99).
..... Click the link for more information.

Siberia's economic development increased dramatically during World War II with the transfer of many industries from European USSR to the other side of the Urals, where they would be less vulnerable to German seizure. Siberian grain was essential in enabling the Soviet Union to resist the German wartime onslaught despite the loss of valuable agricultural areas in W USSR.

Postwar industrialization of Siberia continued at a rapid pace, with special concentration on SW Siberia and the Lake Baykal region. Siberian agriculture, which suffered during the Stalinist collectivization campaign, was revived in the mid-1950s by Premier Khrushchev's "virgin lands" program, focusing on cultivation in the steppes of SW Siberia and N Kazakhstan. The Seven-Year Plan (1958–65) emphasized construction of large thermal and hydroelectric power plants in Siberia and elsewhere.

The resulting destruction of natural areas and the gross waste of resources led to strong environmental opposition. Centered on the issue of the polluting of Lake Baykal, Siberian environmental groups became some of the first organizations to challenge the Communist party's decisions openly. Indigenous peoples also protested the destruction of their autonomous regions. With the fall of the USSR, Siberia became more open to foreign travel and trade, while local Siberians sought to distance themselves from the Russian government in Moscow. The region also suffered population losses that were more substantial than those suffered by Russia as a whole.


See H. Tupper, To the Great Ocean: Siberia and the Trans-Siberian Railway (1965); F. Mowat, The Siberians (1970); G. V. Lantzeff, Siberia in the Seventeenth Century (1943, repr. 1972); W. B. Lincoln, The Conquest of a Continent (1994); D. Beer, The House of the Dead: Siberian Exile under the Tsars (2017).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a territory occupying most of northern Asia and stretching from the Urals in the west to the mountain ranges of the Pacific Divide in the east and from the arctic coast in the north to the hilly steppes of the Kazakh SSR and the Mongolian and Chinese borders in the south. It has an area of about 10 million sq km. Within Siberia lie the Buriat, Tuva, and Yakut ASSR’s, the Altai and Krasnoiarsk krais, and the Tiumen’, Kurgan, Omsk, Novosibirsk, Tomsk, Kemerovo, Irkutsk, and Chita oblasts of the RSFSR. As a historical region, Siberia also includes the Far East.

Natural features. Siberia has a highly diverse natural environment. The principal natural regions are the Western Siberian Lowland (with an average elevation of 120 m), the Central Siberian Plateau, the mountains of Southern Siberia, and the mountain system of Northeastern Siberia. The mountains of Southern Siberia include the Altai, the Zapadnyi Saian, the Vostochnyi Saian, and the mountains of the Tuva ASSR, the Baikal Region, and Transbaikalia. The mountains of Northeastern Siberia are bounded by the Verkhoiansk Range and the Kolyma Highlands, which form a great arc enclosing chains of mountain ranges, high uplifted plateaus, and extensive lowlands along the lana, Indigirka, and Kolyma rivers.

Situated in the middle and high latitudes of the northern hemisphere, in the temperate and cold climatic zones, Siberia has a harsh and sharply continental climate over most of its territory. The difference between the mean temperature of the coldest month (January) and warmest month (July) varies from – 68° to 35°C. The continentality of the climate increases from west to east, with increasing distance from the mitigating influence of the Atlantic air masses. Almost everywhere the mean annual air temperature is below 0°C; in the northeast it drops to – 18°C. Winters are long and cold. The mean January temperature ranges from – 16° to –20°C in the southern part of the Western Siberian Lowland and from –40° to –48°C in the eastern Yakut ASSR, where the temperature may fall to – 70°C. Summers are relatively warm. The mean July temperature varies from 5°C on the northern coast of Siberia to 23°C on the steppes of Western Siberia. Most of the precipitation comes from the west. The total annual precipitation, 100–250 mm in the Far North, increases to 500–600 mm in the western taiga zone and to 1,000–2,000 mm in the Altai mountains. As much as 75–80 percent of the annual precipitation falls during the warm season, so that the winter snow cover is generally not thick, averaging 30–40 cm. Siberia’s severe climate causes the ground to freeze to a considerable depth and contributes to the formation of permafrost, which extends over more than 6 million sq km. The permafrost layer is as much as 200–500 m thick in the north, increasing to 1,500 m in the Markha River basin..

Most of the Siberian rivers, including the largest—Ob’, Ir-tysh, Enisei, and Lena—drain into the basins of the arctic seas. The annual discharge of the Siberian rivers exceeds 2,500 cu km. The rivers are fed mainly by rain and snow, and the discharge during the warm period is 80–90 percent of the annual total. High water occurs in the spring and early summer. The rivers are frozen five months out of the year in the south and eight months in the north. More than 100,000 km are suitable for navigation or floating timber. The most important rivers for transportation are the Ob’, Irtysh, Enisei, Lena, Angara, and Aldan. The major rivers of Siberia account for more than 50 percent of the USSR’s hydroelectric potential. The largest of Siberia’s numerous lakes are Baikal, Taimyr, Chany, and Telet-skoe.

The soil and vegetative cover of Siberia changes predominantly from north to south, forming distinct zones: arctic desert, tundra, forest tundra, forest (taiga), and, in the southern part of Western Siberia, forest steppe and steppe. In the tundra and forest-tundra zones, mosses, lichens, small or stunted shrubs, and perennial grasses grow on swampy-gley and gley-podzolic soils. The most typical Siberian landscapes are those of the taiga zone, up to 2,000 km wide in places. In the west dark coniferous taiga forests of spruce, fir, and Siberian cedar occupy areas with podzolic or soddy-podzolic soils: east of the Enisei, a light coniferous taiga of Dahurian larch flourishes on taiga-permafrost soils.

South of the taiga zone, within Western Siberia, lie forest-steppe and steppe zones with gray podzolized, meadow, leached, and typical chernozem soils; east of the headwaters of the Ob’ River these soils are encountered only in small isolated pockets. The vegetative cover of the steppes and forest steppes in the more densely populated regions has been greatly altered by man’s economic activity. The steppes have been plowed up. the swampy meadows have been turned into hayfields, and the forests have been partially felled.

Particularly varied are the soils and vegetation of the mountainous parts of Siberia, where altitudinal zonation is clearly discernible. The foothills of the mountain ranges in Southern Siberia are generally covered with steppe vegetation. At higher elevations it is replaced by mountain taiga on mountain-pod-zolic or (in the east) taiga-permafrost soils; mountain taiga occupies up to 60–70 percent of Siberia’s mountainous area. In the highest ranges, above the timberline, are found treeless alpine landscapes with shrub thickets, alpine and subalpine meadows, alpine tundra, and rock streams.

In the northern tundra zone there are numerous rodents, chiefly lemmings. Of the larger mammals, the most important are the reindeer and the arctic fox. Such aquatic birds as geese, ducks, sandpipers, and loons summer in Siberia. The richer and more diverse fauna of the taiga zone includes squirrels, sables. Siberian weasels, wolves, foxes, elk, brown bears, marals, and musk deer. About 200 species of birds, predominantly taiga species, inhabit the forest zone, among them capercaillies, hazel hen, woodpeckers, and crossbills. In the summer many aquatic birds are found around the lakes and swamps.

In the forest-steppe and steppe zones live numerous small rodents (voles, hamsters, jerboas, and susliks), as well as badgers, wolves, and corsac foxes. In Eastern Siberia, in addition to these animals, there are the weasel Mustela altaica, the cape hare, and the Mongolian marmot. The muskrat and mink have been acclimatized. Siberian rivers and lakes abound in such valuable commercial fish as the nelma, muksun (Coregonus muksun), whitefishes, arctic cisco, taimen (Hucho taimen), sturgeon, Siberian roach (Rutilus rutilus lacustris), ide, Eurasian perch (Perca fluviatilis), and pike perch.


Mikhailov, N. I. Sibir’: Fiziko-geografieheskii ocherk, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1956.
Zapadnaia Sibir’. Moscow, 1963.
Sredniaia Sibir’. Moscow, 1964.
Gvozdetskii, N. A., and N. I. Mikhailov. Fizicheskaia geografiia SSSR [part 2]: Aziatskaiachast’. Moscow, 1970.
Orlov, B. P. Sibir’segodnia: problemy i resheniia. Moscow, 1974.


Population. Until the end of the 16th century Siberia was thinly populated. It was only after Siberia became part of Russia in the 16th and 17th centuries that Russians began to settle Southern Siberia on a large scale. The zemleprokhodtsy (military servitors, traders, trappers), who explored large parts of Siberia, opened the way for the colonization of the region. The influx of settlers increased after the reform of 1861 and particularly during the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railroad from 1891 to 1905. After the October Revolution of 1917, the intensive exploitation of the region’s natural resources and the development of its economy stimulated large-scale migration. Siberia’s population has tripled in the postrevolutionary period, totaling 25,353,500 persons in 1970 (census).

Since World War II, both the size and social composition of the Siberian population have changed. The urban population increased almost three times between 1939 and 1973, when city dwellers constituted 65 percent of Siberia’s population and 73 percent of that of the Far East. Siberia has 182 cities, including 32 with more than 100,000 inhabitants. In 1939 industrial workers accounted for 40 percent of the population, white collar personnel for 19.2 percent, kolkhoz members for 38.8 percent, and others for 2 percent; in 1970 the proportion was 67.3 percent, 23.3 percent, 9.3 percent, and 0.1 percent, respectively.

According to the 1970 census, 89.2 percent of the population consists of Russians (21,470,500 persons), Ukrainians (943,700). and Byelorussians (193,500). These nationalities constitute the bulk of the population of the cities and of Central and Southern Siberia, particularly the areas along the Trans-Siberian Railroad, although they are also found in all the northern areas.

The indigenous inhabitants of Siberia, which constitute about 4 percent of the population, are scattered over the enormous expanses of the taiga and tundra. In terms of their culture and economy, they may be divided into two basic groups: livestock-raising and land-cultivating peoples (most peoples of the Yakuts and Buriats and all the peoples of Southern Siberia) and the minority peoples of the north (classified in the 1970 census as the nationalities of the North, Siberia, and the Far East), who are engaged primarily in reindeer breeding, hunting, and fishing. Among some peoples, notably the Nentsi and Chukchi, the main occupation is reindeer breeding; among others, it is hunting (most of the taiga peoples) or fishing (Nivkh).

The peoples of Siberia may also be divided into seven linguistic groups: the Finno-Ugrian, Samoyed, Turkic, Mongolian, Tunguso-Manchurian, Eskimo-Aleut, and Paleo-Asiatic. The Finno-Ugrian group includes the Khanty (21,000 persons) and the Mansi (7,600), who live between the Ob’ and the Enisei. The Samoyed group comprises the Nentsi (28,500), the Nganasani (800), and the Selkups (4,200), all of whom inhabit tundra west of the Khatanga River and the taiga area between the Ob’ and the Enisei. The Turkic-speaking peoples of Siberia are the Yakuts (295,200) and Dolgan (4,700) in the Yakut ASSR and the Khakas (65,400), Altais (54,600), Shors (15,900), Tofs (Tofalar, 600). and Tuvans (139,000) in the mountains of Southern Siberia. The Buriats (312,800), found throughout the Buriat ASSR and in parts of Irkutsk and Chita oblasts, are a Mongolian-speaking people.

To the Tunguso-Manchurian group belong the Evenki (25,100), the Evens (11,800), the Negidal (500). the Nanai (9,900), the Ul’chi (2,400), the Orochi (1,100), and the Udegei (1,400). They inhabit the vast expanses from the Enisei to the Pacific and from the arctic coast to the southern border of Siberia. The languages of the Eskimos (1,300) and the Aleuts (400) who live on the coast of the Chukchi Peninsula and on the Komandorskie Islands are related to the Eskimo-Aleut family. Various Paleo-Asiatic languages are spoken by the Chukchi (13,500), Koriaks (7,400), Itel’meny (1,300), and Iukagirs (Yu-kaghir; 600) found in the extreme northeastern part of the Far East. The Nivkh (4,400), who live along the lower reaches of the Amur and on the Island of Sakhalin, and the Ket (1,200), who inhabit the basin of the middle Enisei, also speak Paleo-Asiatic languages.

Several other nationalities are represented: Tatars (448,000), in Central and Southern Siberia, Germans (458,500), in the southwest, and Kazakhs (99,000), along the border of the Kazakh SSR. Koreans (65,000) live in parts of the Far East. Chuvash (130,000) and Mordovians (110,900) are found in small numbers in all the krais and oblasts of Siberia.


Narody Sibiri. Moscow, 1956.


Historical survey. The earliest traces of man’s ancestors in Siberia have been discovered in Southern Siberia, from the Gor-nyi Altai to the Amur River basin. Upper Paleolithic remains have been found in the basins of all the major Siberian rivers (Diuktaiskaia Cave on the Aldan River), as well as on the Kamchatka and Chukchi peninsulas. Ancient dwellings and artistic objects have been discovered in the Baikal Region, at Mal’ta and Buret’. The spread of metallurgy during the Aeneolithic caused major changes in the culture and social structure of the Siberian peoples. The earliest cultures—the Afanasiev and Okuniev—attest to a more intensive development in Southern Siberia and to the gradual emergence of crop cultivation and livestock raising. The development of farming areas in the Minusinsk Basin and elsewhere occurred simultaneously with the formation of nomadic tribes, which were roaming over large parts of Siberia by the beginning of the Common Era. At the end of the first millennium B.C., the Hsiung-nu formed a tribal confederation in Southern Siberia. The Turkic-speaking peoples withdrew from the confederation in the first half of the first millenniumAD. and the Mongolian-speaking peoples in the seventh and eighth centuries. Large states, notably the Turkic Kaganate and Bokhai, arose. At the beginning of the 13th century, Southern Siberia became part of the Mongol Feudal Empire. With the disintegration of the Golden Horde in the early 15th century, the Siberian Khanate was formed in the western part of the empire. The northern part of Western Siberia was known to the Novgorodians from the 11th century as Iugra Land, where the ushkuiniki (Novgorodian detachments organized by the boyars to seize lands in the north) went to hunt fur-bearing animals, to trade, and to collect the iasak (tax in furs).

In the 15th century the Moscow princes sent expeditions into Siberia, and by the end of the century they had established diplomatic relations with the Tiumen’ Khanate. Several Ugrian tribal confederations along the lower Ob’ paid tribute to the Russians. The development of commodity-money relations stimulated Russian trade with Siberia. At the end of the 16th century, the centralized Russian state had the military and economic capability of annexing the enormous and inhospitable territory of Siberia, inhabited by various peoples.

The Perm’ possessions of the Stroganovs served as a starting point for the annexation of Siberia. A band of cossack mercenaries organized by the Stroganovs and led by Ermak crossed the Urals in 1581 (according to some sources, 1579). This military campaign weakened the Siberian Khanate and opened up the Irtysh River valley to the Russians. The routes across the Urals and the new territory in Western Siberia were reinforced, and cities were founded (Tiumen’ in 1586, Tobol’sk in 1587). The defeat of Khan Kuchum in 1598 led to the disintegration of the Siberian Khanate, although Kuchum’s descendants continued to harass the Russian settlements adjoining the steppe regions in the 17th century.

In general, the Russians advanced northward and eastward. The city of Mangazeia was founded in 1601 and Tomskin 1604. Fort Eniseisk was established in 1619, and Fort Krasnoiarsk in 1628. From the Enisei, the Russians moved eastward along the Angara, founding Fort Ilim in 1630 and Fort Bratsk in 1631. After Fort Yakutsk was founded on the Lena River in 1632, most of the Yakuts became Russian citizens. At the same time, there was a further advance eastward and northward from Mangazeia. In 1639 the Russians reached the Sea of Okhotsk. Western Buriatia, Transbaikalia, and the Amur Region were annexed in succession in the mid-17th century. Founded in 1661, Fort Irkutsk became the center of a large military district. At the beginning of the 18th century, the Russian population of Siberia totaled more than 300,000, significantly exceeding the number of indigenous inhabitants.

In the wake of the sluzhilye liudi (military servitors), traders, and hunters came peasant colonists. The Russian settlers brought into Siberia a relatively high level of farming. The Siberian peoples adopted the Russians’ farming practices, as well as some of their livestock-raising and hunting techniques. The Russian feudal state exploited the indigenous population through the collection of the iasak. In the late 16th and early 17th centuries, the demand for manufactured articles was essentially satisfied by imports from European Russia; the domestic industries of the Russian and indigenous population supplied only a small part of the manufactured goods. Gradually, leather-footwear, woodworking, and metalworking shops were established. At this time, Siberia exported almost exclusively furs to European Russia. Most Siberian cities were founded as military and administrative centers, although a few of them, notably Tobol’sk and Eniseisk, were becoming artisan and trade centers as early as the 17th century.

In the 18th century much of the Russian population of Siberia migrated southward into the forest-steppe and steppe zones. In the late 1720’s and early 1730’s the first metallurgical enterprises of the manufacture type were built in the foothills of the Altai: the Kolyvan’ and Barnaul plants and the Zmeinogorsk mine. The establishment of cabinet lands (property of the imperial family) in the Altai in 1747 stimulated the development of mining and metallurgy in the area. Mining also became important in eastern Transbaikalia. Farming developed successfully, and the sown area expanded, particularly in the steppe and forest-steppe zones. Although almost everywhere the peasants were transformed into state peasants, they had significant economic independence and controlled the land (they could lease, mortgage, and sell land). Of great significance for the opening up of Siberia were the expeditions headed by V. Bering, D. Laptev, Kh. Laptev, I. G. Gmelin, G. F. Miller, S. P. Krash-eninnikov, and P. S. Pallas, all of them sponsored by the Academy of Sciences.

In the late 18th and the first half of the 19th centuries settlers continued to arrive in Siberia, among them a considerable number of exiles. In Western Siberia farming developed successfully in the Ialutorovsk, Kurgan, and Omsk okrugs. In Eastern Siberia grain production was concentrated in the southern part of Eniseisk Province; grain was also grown in northeastern Siberia. The main branch of livestock raising in the steppe regions was the breeding of horses for transport (the Moscow-Siberian route required as many as 50,000 horses) and for draft power in industry and agriculture.

Owing to the availability of land, the Siberian peasant communities did not adopt compulsory land reallotment or crop rotation. The middle-level peasant was the mainstay of rural Siberia. In such areas as the steppe Altai market production reached a high level on peasant farms, but the narrowness of the market and a shortage of hired labor impeded the development of capitalist relations. In the first half of the 19th century a new industry, gold mining, was established. The largest mines were in the Mariinsk taiga in Tomsk Province and in Eniseisk Province, which alone produced 60 percent of Siberia’s gold output between 1838 and 1860. Private enterprise of the capitalist type predominated.

Siberia was administered by the Posol’skii Prikaz (Foreign Office) until 1599, when it came under the jurisdiction of the Prikaz Kazanskogo Dvortsa (Kazan Palace Prikaz). The Siberian Prikaz was formed in 1637. In the 17th century local power was exercised by voevodas (military governors), who preserved the internal organization of the indigenous peoples and relied on the chieftains for support. The Siberian Province was created in 1708 with Tobol’sk as its administrative center. In 1764. Siberia was divided into the Tobol’sk and Irkutsk provinces, and in 1782–83, into the Tobol’sk, Kolyvan’, and Irkutsk vice-gerencies, subdivided into oblasts. In 1796 the provinces of Tobol’sk and Irkutsk were reestablished. Yakutsk Oblast was formed in 1805.

The Governor-generalship of Siberia was formed in 1803. From 1819 to 1822 it was headed by M. M. Speranskii, who in 1822 carried out a reform of the Siberian administration under which two governor-generalships, a western and an eastern, were created. The Western Siberian Governor-generalship (with Tobol’sk and, from 1839, Omsk as its administrative center) included Tobol’sk and Tomsk provinces and Omsk Oblast. The Western Siberian Governor-generalship, administered from Irkutsk, comprised Irkutsk and Eniseisk provinces, Yakutsk Oblast, and the administrative units of Okhotsk, Kam-chatka-Primor’e, and Troitsko-Savsk. The Siberian Committee was formed in St. Petersburg. The Charter on the Governing of Foreigners, promulgated in 1822, gave legal sanction to the tsarist policies toward the non-Russian population of Siberia.

The Siberian Cossack Host played a major role in the development of Siberia and the Far East and in defending the eastern territories of the Russian state. The Transbaikal Cossack Host was formed in 1851, and the Amur Cossack Host subsequently seceded from it. The Lower Amur Region, Ussuri Krai, and the Island of Sakhalin were incorporated into Russia in the 1850’s. The Kamchatka (1849–56), Transbaikal (1851), Pri-mor’e (1856), and Amur (1858) oblasts were created. N. N. Mu-rav’ev-Amurskii, the governor-general of Eastern Siberia, encouraged the exploration of the Far East. The Amur River, the Amur Region, Sakhalin, and Ussuri Krai were explored by G. I. Nevel’skoi. Vladivostok was founded in 1860. The Siberian Naval Flotilla, organized in the 18th century, was responsible for defending the Far East coast.

Siberian chronicles were compiled from the 16th century. The first secular school in Siberia was opened in Tobol’sk in 1701–02. The ecclesiastical school that was founded in the city in 1702–03 became a seminary in the 1740’s. Many monasteries established schools in the first half of the 18th century, and “counting” schools (state primary schools specializing in mathematics) were opened in the 1720’s and 1730’s. The Asiatic School was founded in Omsk in 1789 to train translators in Tatar, Kalmyk, Mongolian, and Manchurian. Vocational schools of navigation, surveying, and mining were established in the mid-18th century, and a school of mines was opened in Barnaul in the 1780’s. The first public schools were founded in 1788–90. The Tobol’sk School published the first Siberian magazine, called Irtysh, prevrashchaiushchiisia ν Ipokrenu (Irtysh Transformed Into Ipokrena, 1789–91). In the first half of the 19th century Gymnasiums were opened in Tobol’sk and Irkutsk, as well as district schools and the urban and rural parish schools. The Siberian historian P. A. Slovtsov published his Historical Survey of Siberia between 1838 and 1844. Exiled Decembrists made an important contribution to the development of Siberian culture. G. I. Spasskii, S. I. Guliaev, and other Siberian scholars began to collect ethnographic and folklore material.

In the second half of the 19th century capitalist relations spread over a wider area in the course of the large-scale colonization of unoccupied land. Between 1861 and 1895 some 750,000 persons migrated here, most of them settling in Western Siberia. Commercial farming was introduced in the Altai (excluding the Gornyi Altai) and along the Siberian highway and major navigable rivers. These developments had an adverse effect on peasant life. Under the expansionist system of landownership, regulated by the state and the peasant commune, the prosperous old settlers increasingly used the hired labor of new immigrants and exiles. Agriculture was combined with cottage industry and various trades.

The latter part of the 19th century saw the decline of state-controlled (crown) industry and the growth of private capitalist production. The gold industry expanded in the northeast, accounting for 75–80 percent of Russia’s gold output. Among other developing industries were distilling, flour milling, and the processing of hides and sheepskins. In the Far East the chief industries were fishing and the hunting of marine animals.

In Siberia the industrial revolution began in the I870’s and 1880’s and lasted until 1917. A Siberian proletariat emerged, numbering some 250,000 persons by the end of the century. Although the indigenous people were oppressed, their closer contact with Russian workers had a positive effect on their economic development, culture, and daily life. Owing to the absence of landowners in Siberia, the peasant movement was directed against the government and local administration. The workers’ movement, whose goals were economic, grew stronger, and from the 1890’s strikes were its primary weapon. The movement of the Siberian oblastniki (regionalists) gained momentum.

Siberia was the principal place of exile and hard labor in the Russian Empire. In the 19th century more than 1 million exiles and their families came to Siberia. In 1900 they numbered 287,200 persons, excluding those sentenced to hard labor. The system of political exile gave impetus to the revolutionary and social movement in Siberia. The exiles also participated in the study of Siberia and contributed to the development of scientific and cultural life. The Siberian Division of the Russian Geographic Society was founded in 1851 and the Minusinsk Museum in 1877. Siberia’s first university was founded in Tomsk in 1880; in 1894 it began publishing the daily newspaper Sibirskaia zhizn (Siberian Life).

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Far East became an arena of struggle between the imperialist states, including Russia, for control over the Pacific coast. The construction of the Trans-Siberian Railroad between 1891 and 1904 stimulated the economic development of Siberia. Monopolies appeared, the flow of foreign capital into the economy increased, and the formation of an industrial proletariat was accelerated. According to some sources, the proletariat numbered more than 500,000 persons by 1917. On the whole, however, Siberia was an underdeveloped part of the Russian Empire, producing about 2 percent of the country’s industrial output.

Migration to Siberia increased sharply in the early 20th century, particularly during the Stolypin Agrarian Reform. Between 1896 and 1914 more than 4 million settlers arrived here. The sown area and number of livestock increased, and Siberia became a leading butter-making region. Poor peasant farms accounted for 45–50 percent of all farms, and kulak farms, for 15–20 percent. Capitalist relations developed more strongly among the Buriats, Yakuts, Altais, and Khakas than among the other indigenous peoples, but even here feudal-patriarchal relations predominated.

Marxism spread to Siberia in the 1890’s. V. I. Lenin was in exile in Siberia from 1897 to 1900. The Siberian Union of the RSDLP was organized in 1901, and the workers’ movement shifted to political struggle. During the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–05, military supplies were shipped through Siberia. By the Treaty of Portsmouth (1905), southern Sakhalin was ceded to Japan. The working class of Siberia took an active part in the Revolution of 1905–07. Mass meetings, demonstrations, and strikes were held in January 1905, and almost all the Siberian towns, railroad stations, and worker settlements participated in the nationwide strike in October. The first soviets were organized at this time. At the end of 1905, the revolutionary movement developed into an armed insurrection that culminated in the formation of the short-lived Krasnoiarsk and Chita republics. Under the influence of the workers, the peasant movement spread, becoming strongest in the Altai and Transbaikalia. The Lena massacre in 1912 intensified the revolutionary upsurge not only in Siberia but throughout the Russian Empire.

During World War I (1914–18), Siberia was affected by the national economic crisis, and the workers’ living conditions deteriorated. The growth of the revolutionary movement enabled the Russian Social Democrats to revive old proletarian organizations (trade unions, mutual-aid funds) and establish new ones. The exiled Bolsheviks la. M. Sverdlov, G. K. Ordzhonikidze, V. V. Kuibyshev, and E. D. Stasova made an important contribution to the revolutionary movement.

After the February Revolution of 1917, dual power was established in Siberia. Organs of bourgeois power—committees of public safety and committees of law and order—coexisted with soviets of workers’ and soldiers’ deputies. Later, the counterrevolutionary Siberian Regional Duma was formed. In Siberia the struggle for Soviet power was long and difficult. Soviet power was established in Krasnoiarsk on Oct. 28 (Nov. 10), 1917; in Vladivostok, on Nov. 18 (Dec. 1), 1917; in Omsk, on Nov. 30 (Dec. 13), 1917; in Tomsk, Barnaul, and Khabarovsk, on Dec. 6 (19), 1917; and in Irkutsk, on Dec. 22, 1917 (Jan. 4, 1918). The victory of Soviet power in Siberia was reinforced by the Second All-Siberian Congress of Soviets, held in Irkutsk in February 1918. The Congress formed the directing body of the Siberian soviets, Tsentrosibir’, presided over first by B. Z. Shu-miatskii and later by N. N. Iakovlev.

The revolutionary changes in Siberia were interrupted by the intervention of the imperialist powers and the outbreak of the Civil War (1918–20). The mutiny of the Czechoslovak Corps and the actions of Siberian counterrevolutionaries caused the temporary downfall of Soviet power in the summer of 1918. A White Guard regime, the Kolchak government, was established in November 1918. Led by the working class and directed by the Communist Party, the working people of Siberia struggled to restore Soviet power. The middle peasantry’s acceptance of Soviet power in 1919 strengthened the national struggle against the White Guards and interventionists. Partisan armies under the command of I. V. Gromov, E. M. Mamontov, and P. E. Shchetinkin liberated vast areas of Siberia.

The Red Army, which began the liberation of Siberia in the autumn of 1919, played a decisive role in the defeat of the forces of Admiral A. V. Kolchak and the interventionists. In the spring of 1920 the Red Army was approaching the eastern parts of Siberia, occupied by Japanese troops. To avert war with Japan under difficult international and military circumstances, the Far East Republic (FER) was formed. In October 1922 the people’s revolutionary army of the FER completely defeated the White Guards, liberating Vladivostok on October 25. During the Civil War the Siberian party organizations were led by S. G. Lazo and P. P. Postyshev. Among outstanding Red Army commanders were V. K. Bliukher and I. P. Uborevich.

Economic reconstruction began immediately after the Civil War. Administrative-territorial changes were introduced, the provinces being replaced by two krais, the Siberian Krai (1925) and the Far East Krai (1926). In 1930 the Siberian Krai was subdivided into the Eastern and Western Siberian krais. In 1937–38 a number of oblasts were formed, as well as two krais, Primor’e and Khabarovsk. In the course of socialist construction, the former de facto inequality of the Siberian peoples was abolished, and the indigenous peoples acquired national statehood. Autonomous republics were set up: the Yakut ASSR in 1922 and the Buriat-Mongol ASSR in 1923, renamed the Buriat ASSR in 1958. The Oirot Autonomous Oblast was established in 1922, becoming the Gorno-Altai AO in 1948. National okrugs and raions were also created.

In the course of industrialization, the USSR’s second coal and metallurgical base, the Urals-Kuznetsk Combine, was established. Exploitation of the newly discovered Aldan gold mines began, and new industrial sectors arose, such as power engineering, machine building, and the production of chemicals and building materials. By the end of the second five-year plan, the gross output of large-scale industry in Western Siberia was 20 times that of 1913; in Eastern Siberia the output had increased 11 times and in the Far East, 8.9 times. The Trans-Siberian Railroad was equipped with double tracks. The Northern Sea Route and the Siberian regions of the Far North were developed. As a result of complete collectivization, the kulaks were eliminated as a class. In 1937, the kolkhozes included 93 percent of the peasant farms and 99.6 percent of the sown area. By the end of the 1930’s, Siberia had become one of the USSR’s developed industrial and agricultural regions.

During the Great Patriotic War (1941–45), Siberia, along with the Urals and the Volga Region, became a national arsenal. Of the 1,523 industrial enterprises that were transferred out of the European USSR between July and November 1941, 322 were relocated in Siberia. During the war years, Siberia manufactured aircraft, tanks, and tractors and expanded its production of ball bearings, new types of machine-tool equipment, tools, and instruments. The gross industrial output almost doubled. In 1945, Siberia smelted about 21 percent of the nation’s steel and 18 percent of its iron; it also produced 32 percent of the country’s coal and a large part of its armaments. Between 1941 and 1944 Siberia’s kokhozes produced 700 million poods of grain (1 pood = 16.38 kg) or 16 percent of the USSR’s total output. In 1946 the Siberian economy was for the most part restored to a peacetime footing.

Siberia has become a culturally and scientifically advanced region. During the prewar five-year plans, illiteracy was basically eliminated, and universal primary education was introduced (seven years of schooling in the cities). The number of schools and cultural-educational institutions has increased several times over since the war. In 1973, Siberia had about 19,000 general-education schools, more than 13,000 libraries, containing 150 million books, 16,300 clubs, and 21,500 motion-picture projection units. With the formation of the Siberian Division of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR in 1957, Siberia acquired many new scientific institutions. In 1974 there were 68 institutes (with 23,000 researchers) affiliated with the Academy of Sciences. Siberia has more than 100 higher schools and about 500 secondary specialized schools, as well as hundreds of research institutes in various fields. Many of the minority peoples have acquired writing systems. National cadres have emerged, and the literature and art of the various Siberian peoples are flourishing. The economic and cultural ties between the national regions of Siberia and other parts of the country are expanding.


Istoriia Sibiri s drevneishikh vremen do nashikh dnei, vols. 1–5. Leningrad, 1968–69.
Kiselev, S. V. Drevniaia istoriia luzhnoi Sibiri, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1951.
Miller, G. F. Istoriia Sibiri, vols. 1–2. Moscow-Leningrad, 1937–41.
Slovtsov, P. A. Istoricheskoe obozrenie Sibiri, books 1–2. St. Petersbur, 1886.
Shunkov, V. I. Ocherki po istorii kolonizatsii Sibiri ν XVII v.-kontse XVIII v. Moscow-Leningrad, 1946.
Gromyko, M. M. Zapadnaia Sibir’vXVIII v. Novosibirsk, 1965.
Karpenko, Z. G. Gornaia i metallurgicheskaia promyshlennost’ Zapadnoi Sibiri ν 1700–1860gg. Novosibirsk, 1963.
Vorob’ev, V. V. Formirovanie naseleniia Vostochnoi Sibiri. Novosibirsk, 1975.
Goriushkin, L. M. Sibirskoe krest’ianstvo na rubezhedvukh vekov (konets XIX-nachaloXXvv). Novosibirsk, 1967.
Dvorianov, V. N. Vsibirskoi dal’nei storone (Ocherki istorii tsarskoi katorgi i ssylki, 60-egody XVIIV.-1917 g.). Minsk, 1971.
Vetoshkin, M. K. Ocherki po istorii bol’shevistskikh organizatsii i revoliutsionnogo dvizheniia ν Sibiri. 1898–1907. [Moscow] 1953.
Tiukavkin, V. G. Sibirskaia derevnia nakanune Oktiabria. Irkutsk, 1966.
Shornikov, M. M. Bol’sheviki Sibiri ν bor’be za pobedu Oktiabr’skoi revoliulsii. Novosibirsk, 1963.
Krushanov, A. I. Bor’ba za vlast’ Sovetov na Dal’nem Vostoke i ν Zabaikal’e (Aprel 1918-mart 1920gg.). Vladivostok, 1962.
Stishov, M.I. Bol’shevistskoe podpol’e i partizanskoe dvizhenie ν Sibiri ν gody grazhdanskoi voiny (1918–1920 gg.). Moscow, 1962.
Stepichev, I. S. Pobeda leninskogo kooperativnogo plana ν vostochnosibirskoi derevne. [Irkutsk] 1966.
Gushchin, N. la. Rabochii klass Sibiri ν bor’be za sozdanie kolkhoznogo stroia. Novosibirsk, 1965.
Beliaev, I. K. Sotsialisticheskaia industrializatsiia Zapadnoi Sibiri. Novosibirsk, 1958.
Vasil’ev, Iu. A. Sibirskii arsenal. Sverdlovsk, 1965.
Aniskov, V. T. Kolkhoznoe krest’ianstvo Sibiri Dal’nego Vostoka —frontu, 1941–1945. Barnaul, 1966.
V. I. Lenin i sotsialisticheskie preobrazovaniia ν Sibiri (collection of articles). Moscow, 1974.
Rabochii klass i krest’ianstvo natsional’nykh raionov Sibiri [collection]. Novosibirsk, 1974.
Pis’ma iz Sibiri [collection]. Compiled by A. A. Likhanov. Moscow, 1974.
Pamiatniki Sibiri. Moscow, 1974.
Mezhov, V. I. Sibiriskaiabibliografiia, vols. 1–3. St. Petersburg, 1903.
Tomashevskii, V. V. Materialy k bibliografii Sibiri i Dal’nego Vostoka (XV pervaia polovina XIX V.). Vladivostok, 1957.
V. I. Lenin i Sibir’: Bibliograficheskii ukazatel’. Tomsk, 1969.

M. M. GROMYKO (to 1861), L. M. GORIUSHKIN (from 1861 to 1917), and N. IA. GUSHCHIN (since October 1917)

Economic survey. In the 1950’s and 1960’s there were major changes in the development and distribution of Siberia’s productive forces (data for the Western and Eastern Siberian economic regions are given below). Projects were undertaken to harness the hydroelectric resources of the Angara, Enisei, and Ob’ rivers. The newly built Novosibirsk, Irkutsk, Bratsk, and Krasnoiarsk hydroelectric power plants permitted the construction of large power-intensive industrial complexes producing aluminum, chemicals, and pulp and paper. A number of railroads were built, among them the Abakan-Taishet, Tiu-man’-Surgut, Ivdel’-Sergino, Tavda-Sotnik, Asino-Belyi lar, Achinsk-Abalakovo, Khrebtovaia-Ust’-Ilimsk, and Taishet-Lena. An oil pipeline was laid from Tuimaza to Angarsk, which became a major oil-refining and petrochemical center, as well as from Surgut to Omsk and Anzhero-Sudzhensk. A gas pipeline was built linking the northern part of Western Siberia with the center of the country. A diamond-mining industry was established in Yakutia on the basis of the diamond deposits discovered there.

After enormous reserves of oil and natural gas were discovered in the northern part of Western Siberia, an oil and gas industry developed in the area in a remarkably short time in the 1960’s. In 1974, Siberia contributed 25.4 percent of the USSR’s petroleum output, including gas condensate, and 10.2 percent of its gas output. The coal industry of the Kuznetsk Basin, the Kansk-Achinsk and Irkutsk basins, and Transbaikalia produced 225 million tons in 1974, or one-third of the national output of solid fuel.

Siberia’s plentiful coal is used to operate the large Nazarovo, Tom’-Usa, and South Kuzbas steam power plants. The steam and hydroelectric power plants together produced 179 billion kilowatt-hours in 1974, or 18 percent of the national output of electric power. In the southern part of Siberia, the power plants have been integrated to form the Unified Power Grid, which in the near future will be linked with the power grids of the Urals and the Far East. The steady expansion of oil and gas production in Western Siberia and of coal mining in the Kansk-Achinsk Basin, as well as the construction of new hydroelectric power plants on the Angara River (Ust’-Ilimsk and Bogucha-ny) and the Enisei (Saian-Shushenskoe), is transforming Siberia into one of the country’s major fuel and power bases, supplying a significant portion of the demand of the European USSR and permitting the development of large local centers of power-intensive industry.

The USSR’s third base of ferrous metallurgy has been established in Siberia. It includes the full-cycle Kuznetsk Metallurgical Combine and the Western Siberian Metallurgical Works. These enterprises are supplemented by conversion plants with rolling mills in Novosibirsk, Krasnoiarsk, and Petrovsk-Za-baikal’skii. The existence of major reserves of iron ore and coking coal and the growing demand for metal point toward the construction of other bases of ferrous metallurgy in Eastern Siberia. Machine building has expanded in such cities as Novosibirsk, Irkutsk, and Krasnoiarsk. In 1974, Siberia produced 26 percent of the country’s grain harvesting combines, 34 percent of its tractor-drawn plows, 7.4 percent of its tractors, 14.8 percent of its radios and radio-phonographs, 13.1 percent of its refrigerators, and 12 percent of its washing machines.

Siberia’s nonferrous metallurgy industry, based in Noril’sk, Bratsk, Krasnoiarsk, Novokuznetsk, Shelekhov, and Belovo, is of national importance. The chief products are nonferrous and rare metals, asbestos, mica, graphite, and fluorspar.

In 1974, Siberia supplied 26 percent of the country’s timber, 22 percent of its lumber, and 15 percent of its pulp. The Bratsk Lumber Industry Complex is the largest such enterprise in the USSR. Wood-processing complexes are being established at Ust’-Ilimsk and Lesosibirsk, and a pulp plant has been put into operation at Baikal’sk.

Based on petroleum refining, Siberia’s large chemical industry is producing nitrogen fertilizers, synthetic alcohol, and synthetic rubber. The main centers are Kemerovo, Omsk, and Barnaul. A large petrochemical combine is being built in Tomsk.

The large volume of capital construction has necessitated the development of large centers of the building industry, as well as of the building materials industry. In 1974, Siberia produced 10 percent of the country’s cement and 11 percent of its window glass.

The industrial output of the Siberian regions has been increasing at a rapid rate. In comparison with 1940, their industrial output was 12 times greater in 1965 and 27 times greater in 1974, constituting 9 percent of the industrial production of the USSR.

There have also been significant achievements in agriculture. Most of the sown area is found in the southern part of Siberia. Between 1954 and 1960 vast tracts of virgin land were developed (in Western Siberia about 7 million hectares). In 1974 the sown area was four times that of 1913, totaling 26.7 million hectares, or 12.3 percent of the sown area of the USSR. Siberia produces 3.8 percent of the country’s commercial grain (chiefly spring wheat), 16 percent of its meat, and 10 percent of its butter. Its livestock population includes about 11 million head of cattle and more than 16 million sheep and goats (11 percent of the national total).

Since the war, much attention has been given to the development of all types of transport. The length of Siberia’s railroads has doubled in the postrevolutionary period, now totaling more than 14,000 km of track, half of which is electrified. The Trans-Siberian Railroad has been electrified from Moscow to Pe-trovsk-Zabaikal’skii. In 1974 construction began on the 3,145-km Baikal-Amur Main Line (BAM), which will provide a second outlet to the Pacific coast and will permit the development of the natural riches of Eastern Siberia. Pipelines and major seaports (Dikson, Dudinka, Igarka) have been built.

The prospects for the further expansion of Siberia’s productive forces are linked to the development of nationally significant territorial production complexes: the Middle Ob’, Bratsk-Ust’-Ilimsk, and Saian complexes, as well as new complexes in Transbaikalia and the Amur Region, which are dependent on the construction of the BAM.


Ekonomicheskie problemy razvitiia Sibiri: Metodologicheskie problemy razvitiia i razmeshcheniia proizvoditel’nykh sil. Novosibirsk, 1974.
Morozova, T. G. Ekonomicheskaia geografiia Sibiri. Moscow, 1975.
Vorob’ev, V. V. Formirovanie naseleniia Vostochnoi Sibiri. Novosibirsk, 1975.
Sokolikova, V. V. Saianskii narodnokhoziaistvennyi kompleks. Moscow, 1974.
Nekrasov, N. N. Problemy Sibirskogo kompleksa. Novosibirsk, 1973.
Kosmachev, K. P. Pionernoe osvoenie taigi. Novosibirsk, 1974.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


place of banishment and exile. [Geography. NCE, 2509–2510]


frozen land in northeastern U.S.S.R.; place of banishment and exile. [Russ. Hist.: NCE, 2510]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


a vast region of Russia and N Kazakhstan: extends from the Ural Mountains to the Pacific and from the Arctic Ocean to the borders with China and Mongolia; colonized after the building of the Trans-Siberian Railway. Area: 13 807 037 sq. km (5 330 896 sq. miles)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005