// GENERAL INFORMATION
Irkutsk Region is located in the southern part of Eastern Siberia in the upper basins of the Lower (Nizhnyaya) Tunguska, Angara, and Lena rivers. Lake Baikal is located in the southeastern part of the region. Irkutsk Region has a total area of 775 000 km2 (4.6% of the RF) and extends 1500 km from west to east and 1400 km from north to south. It is located in the very center of the continent and borders on the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) in the northeast, Chita Region and the Buryat Republic in the east and south, Krasnoyarsk Territory in the northeast, and the Republic of Tuva in the southwest. It is part of the East Siberian economic district.
Most of Irkutsk Region is situated on the southeastern part of the Central Siberian Plateau surrounded by the Eastern Sayan Mountains and the mountain ranges of the area west of Lake Baikal (Pribaikalye). High levels of seismic activity have been recorded in the eastern part of the region. Two-thirds of the region is located at elevations of more than 500 m above sea level.
Irkutsk Region has a population of 2 804 500 people. It includes 33 districts, 22 cities, and 59 towns. The city of Irkutsk (pop. 594 500) is the region's administrative center.
Large cities with a population of more than 100 000 include Angarsk (267 000), Bratsk (253 600), Usolye-Sibirskoe (104 300), and Ust-Ilimsk (107 200); cities with populations of 50 000 to 100 000 include Cheremkhovo, Ust-Kut, Tulun, and Shelekhov. There are also 13 cities with populations of up to 50 000 and 59 towns.
Lake Baikal is unique. It has a volume of 23 000 km3 or 20% of the world's freshwater reserves, a surface area of 31 500 km2, and a maximum depth of 1637 m. The region's river network belongs to the basins of two of Siberia's largest rivers, the Lena and the Yenisei.
The region's great extent and rugged relief are the reasons for the varied climatic conditions. Temperatures consistently remain below 0 °C for 160 to 180 days of the year. Winters are cold (January temperatures range from -17 °C to -33 °C); summers are hot and dry in the first half (July temperatures range from +17 °C to +33 °C) and rainy in the second half.
Irkutsk Region has abundant mineral resources. Some of the country's largest mineral-bearing areas are located here, including the Lenskaya (gold), Mamsko-Chuiskaya (mica), Angarskaya (iron ore), Vostochno-Sayanskaya (rare metals) provinces and the Irkutsk coal basin. The Vostochno-Sibirsky saliferous (salt-bearing) basin is the largest in the world. About 11 tons of gold per year are produced in the region.
The most important mineral resources are hydrocarbons, gold, mica, iron, brown and bituminous coal, and table salt. The region also has abundant deposits of nonmetallic raw materials for ferrous metallurgy.
Irkutsk Region is one of the most economically developed areas in the eastern part of the country. The leading industrial sectors are mining, the power industry, aluminum smelting, petrochemicals, engineering, and building materials. The forest, woodworking, and pulp and paper industries are currently undergoing intensive development.
People began settling Pribaikalye at the end of the Paleolithic, about 25 000-15 000 years ago. Migrations of Old Mongolian (Proto-Buryat) tribes went on from the 3rd century B.C. to the early Middle Ages. Turkic-speaking Kurykans driven from the area east of Lake Baikal (Zabaikalye) by the Huns appeared in Pribaikalye in the 3rd and 2nd centuries B.C. Afterwards, the local early Mongolians (Proto-Buryats), Turks, and the remainder of the Tungus lived here side by side, forming a strong alliance.
In the 8th and 9th centuries, the Baikal area became part of the Uighur Khanate; the main tribes living here were Kurykans, and Baiyrku-Baiegu. A new phase began when the Kidan Empire formed in the 10th century. This was the beginning of the expansion of Mongol tribes into Pribaikalye and the area's Mongolization.
A common tribal alliance made up of Khori-Tumats and Buryat-Kurykans formed in the 11th century. According to one version, the ethnic term "Buryat" first appeared in the time of the Kurykans. At that time, a Turkic-speaking tribe called the Burut, who were members of the Kurykan alliance, inhabited the area of the Angara River. Over time, they assimilated with the Khori-Mongolians and began calling themselves Buryats. At first, this term was used for the tribes of Pribaikalye, and then of Zabaikalye. Much later, in the 17th century, the Mongol-speaking tribes of Pribaikalye began to call themselves Buryat-Mongols.
In the 12th and 13th centuries, the region was already within the sphere of political influence of the Mongol tribes themselves, and the Buryat tribal alliance came under their control. The Buryats in this alliance immediately sided with Genghis Khan, and the Baryats and Oirats voluntarily joined them. They forcibly subdued the Tumats, Khoris, Merkits, and forest dwellers of Pribaikalye.
Up to the end of the 17th century, there were no state borders in Pribaikalye. Along with scattered Buryat tribes (Bulagats, Ekhirits, Khongodors, Khori, etc.), the area was inhabited by various related Mongolian-speaking tribal groups of Turkic and Tungus origin. The tribes migrated freely within the territory from Lake Baikal to the Gobi Desert until the Russian-Chinese border was established in 1727, which created the conditions for the formation of the Buryat nation. Many researchers believe that this process of formation and consolidation of the Buryat nation began in the 17th century. This opinion is confirmed by archeological and ethnographical data, which show that by the 17th-18th centuries, most of the native tribes of Pribaikalye had become part of the emergent Buryat nation.
The arrival of Russians in the area and the annexation of Pribaikalye to Russia occurred in the mid-18th century. The pace of development was such that by the latter half of the 18th century, there were already some well-settled districts, whereas the adjoining territories to the north and west were still sparsely populated by comparison. About 40 000 people lived here in 1710; but by 1772, this number had increased to 102 000, and by 1858, to 247 000 (at this time, Nizhneudinsky District had 47 000 residents, and Kirensky District had 34 000). The population of Pribaikalye formed in its own distinctive way. One of the main features was that, unlike many other parts of the country, growth and development of both the Russian and Buryat populations went on in a single area that was small by Siberian standards. These two national groups occupied territories on both sides of the Angara River, although the areas inhabited by Russians and Buryats were not clearly demarcated. Buryats predominated only in the Tukinskaya Valley, on Olkhon Island, and on the shores Lake Baikal. On the left bank of the Angara River, they lived in steppe areas along the Unga, Alar, and Kitoi rivers, while on the right bank of the Angara, Buryat settlements were located along the Osa, Ida, Murin, Kuda, Khodonets, and other rivers, as well as along the upper Lena River. Buryats occupied territories that were more favorable for extensive pasturing of livestock, whereas Russian farmers were primarily interested in settling areas along rivers that were suited to growing crops. The Buryats generally remained on the lands they had settled earlier, but since the territories adjoining Lake Baikal on the west were sparsely populated, there was plenty of land for large numbers of Russians. As a result, by 1800, the Russian population equaled the Buryat population.
The region has large fuel and energy, mineral, forest, and water resources, which favor large-scale economic development in Irkutsk Region.
Forests consisting mainly of pine and deciduous species cover about 66.8 million hectares in the region. Fur-bearing animals, such as Siberian weasel, muskrat, sable, squirrel, and ermine are abundant in these forests. The region also preserves tracts of steppe vegetation, along with elfin cedar forests and alpine tundra in the mountains. Timber reserves exceed 8.3 million m3 (11% of Russia's total reserves), about half of which consists of softwood timber and 57%, of mature and overmature timber. The region's flora includes 1733 species of higher vascular plants, 605 of them having medicinal value.
Irkutsk Region has 77.5 million hectares of available land. Most of this land (86%) is covered with forests; another 2.2% is used for industry and production infrastructure and 6.6% is used for agricultural purposes (this includes 1.88 million hectares of cropland and 2.69 million hectares of other farmland). Taiga soils predominate in the region.
The region's animal life is abundant and varied. It is represented by 68 species of mammals, 300 species of birds, 6 species of reptiles, 5 species of amphibians, and 57 species of fish. The most important commercial fish are omul, bream, peled, pike, whitefish, Manchurian trout, and roach. The annual catch is more than 1000 tons, two-thirds of it coming from Lake Baikal.
Irkutsk Region is one of a number of unique natural areas in Russia in terms of mineral reserves. The most important mineral resources are hydrocarbons, gold, mica, iron, brown and hard coal, and table salt. There are also abundant subsurface deposits of nonmetallic raw materials for ferrous metallurgy.
Proved geological diamond-bearing areas have been identified in the region. One of these prospective districts on the southern Siberian Plateau is Prisayanye and the adjacent Chuno-Biryusinskaya diamond-bearing area of the Rybinskaya basin. Diamonds and their associated minerals have been identified in the basins of the Oka, Uda, and Biryusa rivers.
Coal reserves within the region include those of the Irkutsk basin, the extreme eastern part of the Kansk-Achinsk basin, and the southern part of the Tunguska basin. Most of these reserves are concentrated in Cheremkhovsky, Zalarinsky, Kuitunsky, and Tulunsky districts. The predominant types of coal in the explored reserves are cannel (bituminous) coal (47.3%) and brown coal (30%). Bituminous coal is noted for its high strength and durability under long-term storage, whereas brown coal is unsuitable for transport or storage. The seams vary in thickness from 4-5 to 7-12 m; and the overburden, from 30 to 50 m. Nearly all (96%) of the explored reserves can be worked by open-pit methods; therefore, Irkutsk coal has some of Russia's lowest production costs.
Eleven oil and gas fields have been discovered and explored in Irkutsk Region. Geological hydrocarbon reserves consist of 1960 million tons of oil, 5960 billion m3 of gas, and 390 million tons of condensate. Four oil and gas condensate fields and three gas condensate fields are ready for production; four more fields are at the exploration stage. Oil reserves amount to 260 million tons, and natural gas reserves, to 1119.7 billion m3.
Ferrous metals include iron, manganese, and titanium ores. Iron ore reserves are concentrated in the Angarskaya ore province, where two iron ore areas stand out: Angaro-Ilimsky and Angaro-Katsky, which have large reserves and sizable estimated probable reserves.
The Korshunovskoe and Rudnogorskoe deposits of the Angaro-Ilimsky area are operating and are a raw material source for the West-Siberian Steel Corporation (ZapSib). Total iron ore reserves of the Korshunovskoe deposit down to a depth of 1700 m are estimated at 1.5 billion tons.
High-grade manganese ores are concentrated in the Nikolaevsky deposit located in the Prisayanskaya manganese province (total probable reserves of 151.7 million tons).
Titanium ores are concentrated in two placer deposits and one primary deposit. The nonferrous, rare, and precious metal group includes the gold of the Lensky gold-bearing area and Biryusinsky District. The platinoid metal deposits of Bodaibinsky District have estimated probable reserves of nearly 800 million tons.
The region is one of the country's leaders in development-ready reserves and probable reserves of rare metals, especially niobium, tantalum, lithium, and rubidium. The Beloziminskoe and Vishnyakovskoe deposits of the Sayanskaya rare metal province are notable for their large probable reserves of metals like lithium, cesium, magnesium, and strontium, as well as other elements like bromine and potassium, contained in the highly mineralized brines of the Angaro-Lensky salt basin. The basin has no equal among subsurface platform water resources in the country.
Nonmetallic minerals in the region are divided into five subgroups, depending on their industrial use: chemical, auxiliary metallurgical, semiprecious, other industrial, and natural building materials.
High-grade rock salt of the Angaro-Lensky salt basin is an important chemical raw material. Total explored industrial-grade rock salt reserves amount to 22 876 million tons (14.2% of RF reserves). Other chemical materials include apatite of the Beloziminskoe deposit; phosphorites of the Sarminskoe deposit; rock salt and bromine of the Nepskoe deposit; mineral pigments of the Melzanskoe, Malo-Bystrinskoe, and Motskoe deposits; and limestone of the Tsagan-Khodinskoe deposit.
Nonmetallic materials for metallurgy include crystalline and amorphous magnesites, refractory clay, dolomite, foundry sand, fluxing limestone, and raw quartz.
The Savinskoe crystalline magnesite deposit is among the nonmetallic metallurgical material resources that are still undeveloped. The deposit contains 52% of Russia's industrial-grade reserves of this mineral. One distinguishing feature of the Savinskoe deposit is the high magnesium oxide and low calcium oxide content of the magnesites.
The Onotskoe amorphous magnesite deposit in the immediate vicinity of the Savinskoe deposit has been explored. Its reserves require preliminary concentration before they can be used to manufacture refractory products.
The region has large reserves of dolomite used to manufacture converter brick and for fettling (lining) open-hearth furnaces. Dolomites are widespread in Cambrian deposits in the region.
Forty-seven kinds of semiprecious and industrial stones represent the region's resources of this subgroup. The most economically important resources are lazurite, charoite, ophicalcite, onyx marble, and beryl-aquamarine. Lazurite and charoite are especially important on a world scale. The region's lazurite deposits are second only to Afghanistan's world-famous Sari-Sang deposit in terms of reserves and quality; and the Sirenevy Kamen deposit of gem-quality and industrial charoite is the only one in the world. The Alzagoiskoe deposit contains commercial reserves of ophicalcite; the Tsagan-Khodinskoe deposit has first-class commercial reserves of onyx marble; and the Suprunovskoe deposit has commercial reserves of beryl-aquamarine.
The subgroup of other industrial materials includes muscovite mica, talc, graphite, fluorite, wollastonite, diopside, quartz abrasive materials, pegmatites, and zeolites. The most notable material in this subgroup is the muscovite mica of Mamsko-Chuiskaya province, which contains 81.2% of total Russian industrial-grade reserves.
The talc of the Onotskoe deposit is of great significance for the regional economy. It is characterized by an especially pure chemical composition that meets the stringent requirements imposed on this raw material for the electroceramics, porcelain, cable, and other industries. The deposit contains 12.6% of Russia's industrial-grade reserves and produces 83.3% of all talc in Russia. The region also has enormous reserves of talcite, mainly in Western Pribaikalye and the soapstone deposits of the Eastern Sayan (total probable reserves are estimated at 500 million tons).
The large Sayanskaya and Baikalskaya graphite-bearing provinces located in the region have both been insufficiently studied. The Bezymyannoe deposit is among the known deposits that are of commercial interest.
Irkutsk Region has all forms of natural building materials necessary for successful development of industry and civil engineering, and a large raw material reserve has been established for producing every kind of building material.
Mineral Reserves of Irkutsk Region
|Oil||260.0 million tons|
|Gas||900.0 billion m3|
|Iron ore||2.0 billion tons|
|Coal||15.0 billion tons|
|Zeolites||900.0 million tons|
|Potassium salts||627.07 million tons|
|Muscovite mica (% of RF reserves)||80|
|Magnesite (% of RF reserves)||75|
|Rare metals (% of RF reserves)NiobiumTantalumLithium||654550|
|Rock salt||20.0 billion tons|
Lake Baikal is one of the world's largest lakes. UNESCO has declared Lake Baikal a possession of all humanity and included it in the list of World Heritage Sites. Lake Oron, with a surface area of 51.3 km2, is also located in Irkutsk Region.
There are nearly 72 000 river systems in the region, although 99.9% are small or very small. All of them belong to the Lena and Yenisei river basins. The Angara reservoir system, the world's largest, is also located in the region. The system includes the Irkutsk, Ust-Ilimsk, and Bratsk reservoirs; the Bratsk Reservoir is the second-largest in the world in volume and the fourth-largest in area. The reservoirs are used in power generation.
Water resources generated annually within the region are estimated at 175-180 km3; and those coming from outside its borders, at 135-140 km3. Average annual underground freshwater resources are estimated at 1067 m3/s.
Irkutsk Region is a major industrial area whose production is very important for the economy of Eastern Siberia; certain sectors are of great importance to the Russian economy. In the level of industrial and natural resource development and specialization and concentration of production, Irkutsk Region has surpassed many other regions of Siberia and the Far East. It plays an important role in the national economy as a producer of power, aluminum, various kinds of power and heating equipment, chemicals and petrochemicals, wood products, and engineering products. The region generates 6.5% of all power in Russia, produces nearly 20% of all pulp and more than 10% of all cardboard, and refines about 9% of all oil. It has substantial hydroelectric power resources and huge timber reserves, which provide an excellent base for expanding logging.
The most developed industrial sectors in Irkutsk Region include forestry, woodworking, and pulp and paper (22.0% of production); mining and fuel (6.1%); nonferrous metallurgy (24.2%); power (16.0%), engineering (12.2%); chemicals (8.6%); food (5.9%); and ferrous metallurgy (2.6%). The region's mineral resources are a major factor in industrial development. Industry is concentrated mainly in Irkutsk, Bratsk, Angarsk, Ust-Ilimsk, Usolye-Sibirsky, and a few other cities.
Irkutsk Region belongs to the high-risk agricultural zone. Livestock farming, reindeer herding, fur farming and trapping, fishing, and grain cultivation comprise the region's agricultural industry.
Animal products account for about 46% of all agricultural production. Production is sufficient to meet only about half of regional demand for food; the rest is imported from other regions (about 42% of meat products, 17% of dairy products, and about 55% of bread grain).
The private sector accounts for 96% of all agricultural production. This includes 924 000 tons of potatoes, 740 000 tons of grain, 483 000 tons of milk, 140 000 tons of vegetables, 122 000 tons of meat and poultry, and 510 million eggs. However, agriculture remains in a difficult financial situation, with the accompanying wage arrears.
The main lines of activity in the housing and public utilities sector of Irkutsk Region are restructuring of municipal heat and power utilities and implementation of energy-saving measures. Due to outdated management practices and obsolete equipment, the region's government housing policy is currently undergoing reform with the aim of creating a balanced housing market and dividing responsibility among various market participants. Irkustk Region was one of the first Russian regions to use a mortgage loan system to solve the existing problem of providing citizens with housing. This housing system has promoted the development of the banking sector, helped attract extrabudgetary funds to the housing sector, and increased the financially solvent population.
The region has a fairly well developed system of air, water, rail, and motor vehicle transportation. Railways, represented by the Trans-Siberian Railway, are the main form of transportation. Nearly 70 million tons of freight per year are transported by rail. The region also has a fairly extensive road system, with a total length of more than 10 000 km. The Anagara, Lena, and Nizhnyaya Tunguska rivers have favored the development of water transport, which accounts for about 10% of all freight traffic. Air transport is carried out through the Irkutsk and Bratsk airports, which have international status. These airports handle flights to Japan, China, South Korea, Mongolia, and several European countries.
Communication services including document communication and data transfer, cellular communications and the telephone network as well as radio broadcasting points are also available in the region.
District and city administrations and the regional administration headed by the Governor exercise executive authority in Irkutsk Region. The Regional Duma and Legislative Assembly of Irkutsk Region exercise legislative authority.
CULTURE AND ART
The cultural traditions of Irkutsk, the capital of Eastern Siberia, originated in the distant past, as shown by 2923 unique archeological sites discovered in the region. The most important sites are the Glazkovsky necropolis, the Military Hospital, Verkholenskaya Mountain, the Shishkinskie carvings, and Burkhan. All of these sites date approximately from the 5th to the 2nd millennium B.C. In addition to identified sites of ancient settlements, there are 560 historical and cultural monuments, including 97 monuments of federal value. As a result, a number of cities and villages in the region have historical status. These include the cities of Nizhneudinsk, Kirensk, and Usolye-Sibirskoe, and the villages of Aleksandrovskoe (Bokhansky District), Belsk (Cheremkhovsky District), Verkholensk (Kachugsky District, and Urik and Ust-Kuda (Irkutsk District). Wooden buildings of the 19th and early 20th centuries in Irkutsk have special value. Sites dating from the time of Russian settlement of Siberia in the 17th century, for example, the guard towers of Belsk (1647) and Bratsk (1654), are protected by federal law. Another unique monument of federal importance is the 100-km-long Circumbaikal (Krugobaikalskaya) Railway, built on the shores of Lake Baikal between 1902 and 1905. The buildings of 114 churches constructed in the 18th and 19th centuries have been preserved in Irkutsk Region. Today, as in the past, they attract attention with their originality and diversity of styles. There are also two special architectural and ethnographic museums: Anagarskaya Village near Bratsk and Taltsy at km 47 on the Baikal highway, which have gathered together rare and valuable examples of Angara wooden architecture.
Books are perhaps the most popular cultural item. The region's 707 libraries hold 14 200 447 editions on every possible subject, including children's literature, special topics, and the arts. Museums function as repositories of historical and cultural values. The region's largest museums are the art museum and local history museum located in Irkutsk. In the 1970s, Vladimir Sukachev, who was mayor of Irkutsk at the time, as well as being a connoisseur of art, began to assemble a collection of paintings that served as the foundation of the art museum. The museum's collection includes 16 000 masterpieces of foreign and national classics. The local history museum, founded in 1782, was the third museum in Russia after the Kremlin Palace in Moscow and the Kunstkamera in St. Petersburg. The museum has a collection of more than 300 000 historical and architectural objects of world significance.
Irkutsk fully merits its reputation as the cultural capital of Eastern Siberia. Eleven Russian departments and organizations unite the cream of Irkutsk culture, such as professional writers, artists, designers, composers, filmmakers, photographers, architects, theater and concert figures, and journalists. They are continuing to develop the creative traditions of past generations. The Siberian school of painting took shape here, and the first provincial art gallery opened in Irkutsk. The works of Irkutsk writers are known throughout the country. Valentin Zarubin wrote the first Soviet novel Two Worlds here, and dramatist Aleksandr Vampilov is famous as the founder of a new theater. The regional young people's theater, which recently celebrated its 70th anniversary, is named after him. Irkutsk has become the capital of the All-Russian theater festival known as "Baikal Meetings at Vampilov's".
A large number of professional and amateur theaters represent the theater arts in Irkutsk. The oldest of these theaters is the Okhlopkov Regional Drama Theater, founded more than 150 years ago. Plays by famous Irkutsk dramatists, such as Pavel Malyarevsky, Ignaty Dvoretsky, and of course Aleksandr Vampilov, have premiered on its stage. The Irkutsk Musical Theater, which has toured in more than 100 cities, is also widely known. The repertoire of the theater company includes all genres from opera and operetta to ballets and musicals. The Irkutsk City Folk Theater has admirers both in Russia and far beyond its borders. The Irkutsk Regional Philharmonic is more than 60 years old. Its largest group is the symphony orchestra founded by Igor Sokolov. Famous conductors have performed with the orchestra, and major choral ensembles and soloists of the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow and the Mariinsky Opera and Ballet Theater in St. Petersburg work with it.
The works of Irkutsk masters are becoming increasingly popular outside the region and abroad.
Irkutsk Region's unique natural and climatic conditions favor the development of tourism and recreation, while mighty and majestic Lake Baikal has drawn travelers to it for a long time. Some areas on its shoreline have more sunny days per year than the southern coast of the Crimea. Since ancient times, people have called Baikal a "sacred sea" that astonishes with its size and beauty. You can take a pleasant trip around it on the old Krugobaikalskaya Railway. Pribaikalsky National Park is located on Baikal's western shore, with its numerous cliffs, points, and bays. The national park plays an important role in preserving Lake Baikal's biodiversity. Nearly 300 species of birds, 50 species of mammals, and about 1000 species of plants are found here.
In addition to abundant natural resources, Irkutsk Region also has many talented people. Here you can acquaint yourself with the works of Irkutsk artists like Lev Serikov, Igor Shirshkov, Evgeny Turunov, Vladimir Sokolov, Natalya Shaparova, Sergei Osintsev, and Sergei Zhilin, as well as the works of local poets and songwriters who founded the Full Moon (Polnolunie) Studio. Meanwhile, Irkutsk students are not idle, as shown by the Irkutsk Club of the Jolly and the Resourceful.
The Baikalsk International Youth Music Festival is held annually and includes contemporary music competitions, competitions for composer-performers, theater programs, exhibitions of the works of young artists, sports contests, and many other interesting events.
Site of the Administration of Irkutsk Region: