Lake Baikal-The Pearl of Siberia

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    Kanook Tlingit Nation

    May 2010

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    Sitting in one of the deepest rifts in the earth crust is the massive fresh water

    Lake Baikal, a lake that in recent history was known as the North Sea in historical

    Chinese records during the Xiongnu period of history, and now is known as the

    single largest fresh water lake in the world containing approximately 20% of the

    Earths fresh water surface, and it is large enough to hold all the water in the United

    States' Great Lakes. It is the world's deepest lake as well as oldest; at 25 millionyears old, it predates the emergence of humans. Its surface is 1,497 feet above sea

    level with its deepest section at 3,896 feet below sea level and has an average

    depth of 2,442 feet. It contains over 23,000 cubic kilometers of freshwater (5,518

    cubic miles), and is fed from a drainage basin with over 220,464 square miles, a

    little smaller than France.

    Kurbat Afanasyevich Ivanov a Yenisei River Cossack was the first non-native to

    discover Lake Baikal, whereas on June 21st, 1643 along with 74 men and a Tungus

    prince named Mozheul sailed south on the Lena River in search of a rumored large

    body of water at the head waters of the Lena. Through the upper Lena and its

    tributary the Ilikta they reached and crossed the Primorsky Ridge and following the

    Sarma River descended to the Lake reaching its shores near Olkhon Island, the 3rd

    largest lake bound island in the world building some boats they sailed over to the

    Island.

    The lakes age is estimated at 25-30 million years, making it one of the most

    ancient lakes in geological history, whereas beneath the lake bottom exists another

    4.35 miles of sediment, placing overall the Baikal Rift Floor 6.84 miles below themean surface, in other words the deepest continental rift on Earth. Geologically the

    rift is very active widening 0.79 inches per year, causing a pretty active fault zone.

    Evidence of this shows up in the numberous hot springs in the area and notable

    earthquakes every few years.

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    The sediments are found to be unique among large-high-latitude lakes in that they

    have not be scoured by overriding continental ice sheets in the 1990s combined

    Russian and United States studies produced a finely detailed record of climatic

    variation over the past 250,000 years whereas longer and deeper sediment cores

    are expected in the future. In addition to the uniqueness of the Lake it is the only

    confined fresh water lake where direct and indirect evidence of gas hydrates have

    been found.

    Shaman Rock (consider a holy site)Lake Baikal is completely surrounded by mountains, with the Baikal Mountains on

    the north shore and the taiga technically protected as a National Park. The lake

    contains 27 islands; with its largest being Olkhon some 44.7 miles long and is

    consider either the 3rd or 4th (take you pick) largest lake-bound Island in the world.

    The lake draws its waters from over 360 inflowing rivers and streams, with a

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    number of primary sources such as the Selenga River (636 miles long) [60% of the

    water into the Lake], the Barguzin River (298 miles long), the Upper Angara River

    (199 miles long), the Turka River (+93 miles), the Sarma River (un measured), and

    the Snezhnava River (un measured). It drainage is through a single outlet, the

    Angara River (1,105 miles long). The time between one molecule of water in to the

    same molecule out is over 300 years.

    In ancient times the place (one story relates) where Lake Baikal is now, was

    covered in a dense forest. There was so much game that it was difficult for man to

    pass through it. And among birds there was one, as big as a sturgeon. Its wings

    were huge and strong, and if it touched a tree, the tree would fall down with its

    roots up, and if it touched a rock the rock would fly to bits. The people were afraid

    of the bird, but they could not kill it as when it flew by, hot rays it eradiated, madehunters fall in a dead faint.

    But a man was born. He grew before the people's eyes. Soon he grew up as strong

    as Hercules and feared nothing. The people came and asked him to save them and

    kill that monstrous fiery bird. The hero listened to them. From 100 trees he made a

    bow, from 200 stems he cut out an arrow and set off hunting. Shortly after the

    Earth shuddered. And the bird fell down and a fire broke out, and it was hot in the

    skies. The people left the taiga for the mountains and saw water columns through

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    the flames. And a sea appeared on that place. While the Earth and the taiga were

    burning, the people "were crying out: "Baikal, Baikal". Since that time the place has

    been called Baikal. Nobody knows for sure what the people meant by that word,

    either that bird, or the big fire, or the word meant "much water"... All the people

    remember that the place is called Baikal. Others maintain the lakes name is

    from a Turkic word bay-kul which means a rich lake.Such is one of the legends found in and around Lake Baikal, a legend dating back

    to the 1st millennium AD when the Pribaikalia region was inhabited by a tribal union

    that consisted of three families the Turks, the Evenki and the Protoburyats that

    carried a common name, Kurykans. Over 6 to 11 centuries these ancient tribes

    developed a distinctive culture that spread along the Lower Selenga, in the valleys

    of Barguzin and Tunkinsky and up onto the shoreline of

    the Upper Lena and the river Angara.

    They enjoyed a semi-settled nomadic way of life, where

    their principal survival activity was cattle-breeding that

    supplemented the fishing and game products. As time

    passed they eventually became breeders of camels, goats

    and what came to be known perfect horses that they

    exported to the court of the various Chinese Emperors

    and furthered their skills of wild animal domestication. Evidence found shows that

    they used Olkhon Island as one of their primary agriculture locations where it has

    been found they constructed elaborate irrigational systems, these being found also

    in the Kudinsky steppe region.

    Along with their skills in farming, they developed a large

    knowledge base in the extraction and processing of metals and were

    skillful manufactures of crude iron, household hardware, such as

    horse gear, arrow-heads and daggers they also had well foundskills in making their required tools from bones and rocks, and

    kitchen utensils and well-made clothing. Their skill in art is well

    evidenced in rock paintings found near the Upper Lena, whereas

    youll find paintings depicting horsemen with banners, camels and

    people in long-cloths and according to the script carved into the rock

    possessed a comprehensive writing system.

    In death they had elaborate funeral monuments that were distinguished from

    another by its inner and external arrangements some of the most famous

    monuments are found in the form of miniature tents on Olkhon Island and it is told

    that their burial locations were regarded as places for holding diverse rites, somemention a strong cult tendency. Why not, anytime that modern man finds a varied

    deviation from standard practices today he has a tendency to call in the cults.

    Over the years because of the constant invasion of their land from the south by

    the Tungus of Manchuria, the Uygurs, and the Kirgis of the Enisey they were forced

    to build special fortifications in the valleys of the Angara, the Lena, the Osa and the

    Kuda, whereas they were dug out and were usually situated uphill and were

    surrounded with deep moats and rock walls. To no avail, in the 10th Century the

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    Mongolian tribes from the south invaded the territory of the Pribaikalia following an

    extended period of war the Kurykans were defeated with the largest remaining

    part of the tribe moving North where they eventually caused the formation of the

    Yakutias people, while the rest assimilated into the Mongols and were the

    forefathers of the Western Buryats. Human remains dating back 30,000 years have

    been found around the Lake.The Buryats, numbering today around 436,000 are the largest ethnic minority

    group in Siberia are mainly concentrated in their homeland, the Buryat Republic

    with its western boundary on the eastern shoreline of Lake Baikal. In the days

    before the Russian invaded their territory they were known as a people whose

    hospitality and love of fellow-men would put to shame the highly civilized cultures

    of even today. Interesting Yuliy Borisovich Bryners (Yul Bryner) grandmother on his

    father side (Natalya Iosiphovna Kurkutova, was from Irkutsk) and was of Buryat

    ancestry.

    The Buryats had their own social clan organization; the head of each settlement

    (Ulus) was the big boss, whereas the actual tribal administration was run by tribal

    council that was led by the big boss. The big boss was called the Knyaztsy and

    were the big landlords and headed the feudal top of the Buryat society they were

    regarded as the absolute owners of the Uluss.

    Whether they adopted ways of the Kurykans, or the assimilation between the two

    caused the effect, the Buryats farm or ranch was mainly cattle-breeding, this

    applied to the semi-nomadic (western tribes) and nomadic (eastern tribes) as well.

    Their life-style provided them with their food, clothes and material for their living

    and overall subsistence including the construction of the felt yurts. Cattle breeding

    requires a tremendous amount of fresh grass consequently they roamed the land

    constantly in search of food for their cattle, horses, camels, along with their sheep

    and goat herds.As with their close cousins to the south of them in Mongolia the horse was sacred

    to them, as the number of pure-bred horses they owned increased their families

    status amongst the tribe and permitted high value in their trading. Their custom of

    hanging a horse-shoe at the doorway of each Yurta was done to attract happiness

    to their home, and a horse-hair possessed a magic power that kept away all evil

    spirits. Horse-meat was considered to be the most exotic dish, and horse-hair was

    used in making ropes and in net manufacturing, whereas footwear was made from

    horse-hide, and its tendons served them well in reinforcing their long-lasting

    clothes. To have expensive silver adorning on the saddle was a very large status

    symbol for its owner.They were talented hunters, whereas they hunting season for squirrel, sable and

    ermine began in the middle of October and ended at the beginning of February and

    the entire winter they hunted fox, wolf, lynx, otter and glutton in the summer the

    primary game was Manchurian deer. Their techniques consisted of trapping and the

    extensive use of the bow and arrow.

    Land domestication (farming) was not a high priority to the Buryats until the

    Russian people came, as it was, of the type that had been taken after the Kurykan,

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    where they used mostly hoes and mattocks sowing their rye, oats, wheat and hemp

    as well (hashish). They made use of the ancient irrigation systems established by

    the Kurykans and it wasnt until later that they adopted the Russian iron plough,

    wooden harrows and wooden ploughs which all increased their swing toward

    farming. The Buryat traditional dwelling was a roaming Yurta, which consisted of

    the easy-transportable trellised walls that were tied with horse-hair cords and theframe-work was covered with felt pieces sewn together. The doors were always

    on the southern side and the interior was divided in two sections. One side for the

    men, with all his tools of survival the other for the women and their kitchen tools

    and its condiments, there was a hearth at its center.

    Today most descendents are found in the Buryat Republic, in the Ust Ordynsky

    Buryat region and other districts of the Siberian Far East.

    The Evenki are the aboriginals of the Russian Far East (Transbaikalia) and since

    Neolithic times lived in and around the Baikal region, whereas their origin is said to

    be a result of some complex processes, that evolved over time with their

    intermarriage with different ancient aboriginal cultures from the Siberian north.

    Their language is related to the Turks and Mongols where over the centuries the

    language of these tribes took precedence over their language.

    Elements of their culture from the Neolithic period are

    still evident today, these include the conical tent

    dwellings, bone fish-lures, and birch-bark boats these

    ancient finds have been found from the Lake Baikal area

    to the Amur and the Okhotsk Sea, the Lena Basis and

    the Yenisey Basin.

    Overall their culture was spread over some 2.7 million

    square miles, from the Enisey River up to the Far East as

    well as from the Arctic Ocean to China and Mongolia. Inthe Lake Baikal area they settled along the shoreline of

    the lake, the Lena River and the Angara River.

    Historians label them as the taigas Gipsy, this in

    reference to their nomadic lifestyle. Previously society

    called them the Tungus for their roaming of the taiga

    (tundra) in their search for game.

    They did not adopt the settled lifestyle until the Soviet government came into

    their life, in spite of this change, most today maintain the same lifestyle they

    practices for hundreds of centuries.

    Within their society they had three principal sects, 1) the Lamuchony thehunters, 2) the Orochony reindeer herders/breeders, 3) and the Khamnigany the

    horse-breeders. The Lamuchony were proficient in hunting sable, lynx, fox, squirrel,

    and ermine, whereas the Orochony roamed great distances increasing their

    reindeer herds, and the Khamnigany in their raising horses and large flocks of sheep

    lived in their felt-yurtas in Mongolia and the Transbaikalia. There reputation as deer

    herders is world renown, and they have an old proverb that says, The Evenki are

    alive while the deer are living!

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    Their way of life was based on clans, with each clan led by a chief and the clan

    lifestyle spread their survival across a collective division of labor and mutual

    assistance. As in the clans and families of the Native Americans a hunter gave a

    part of his hunt to the members of his family.

    The Evenki, as with most nomadic, pastoral and subsistence people spend a great

    deal of their lives in very close contact with nature and naturally developed anecological ethic, whereas they sustained a strong system of responsibility to their

    surroundings and what they considered their spirit masters, and their family and

    neighbors. In other words, they were in touch with all aspects of their existence,

    having a strong stringent respect for their world. Modern scholars who live amongst

    steel and concrete were the horseless carriage runs rampant, label their way of life

    as animistic coloring their way of life as hunter-gathers in a tone that is almost

    negative. Today, albeit they have been forced by s...

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