Baikal as Burden of the World Heritage

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Baikal is not only Russia’s but also the world’s unique place. Its official status was confirmed in 1996 when the lake was included in the list of monuments of cultural and natural heritage of the humanity.

It is necessary to mention that the Convention on conservation of such kind of objects was adopted on November 23, 1972 during the UNESCO General Conference in Paris. The creation of this list had a noble purpose; it was detection, study and preserving the monuments, complexes and places, created by people and nature, and that possess an outstanding value from the historic, artistic, scientific, naturalistic, archeological or ethnographical points of view. To be put on the List of the World’s Natural Heritage a geographical zone has to meet at least one of the following criteria:

1. To be an exceptionally valuable sample of one of the stages of the Earth history, evincing evidence of primitive forms of life, important current geological processes, involvement in a territory’s morphological evolution, and having important morphological characteristics.

2. Its territories have to be involved into the significant ecological and biological processes of evolution and development of ground, withcoastal, marine and freshwater ecosystems, as well as plant and animal communities.

3. It has to represent natural phenomena or zones of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic value.

4. It has to contain the most significant and important from the nature preservation point of view species, which stand out in the biological diversity, including the territories, inhabited by endangered species, and which need protection and whose scientific value is widely recognized.

The readers will be interested to learn the text of the decision, which has been made by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee on December 5, 1996: “Lake Baikal is a classic example of World Heritage area that satisfies all the four criteria. The lake is situated in the central part of the area. The peculiar areas of the lake, mostly hidden under its waters, represent the major value to science and environmental protection. The lake is surrounded by mountains and taiga, that are protected areas, most of which has been preserved in its natural state and possess an additional value. Lake Baikal is a limnological wonder and a territory which possess the following outstanding features:

1. The geological rift system that gave birth to Lake Baikal had formed in the Mesozoic period. Lake Baikal is the oldest and the deepest one in the world. Different tectonic processes still go on in the lake and around it, which is confirmed by the thermal flows from the bottom of the lake.

2. The evolution of aquatic organisms, that has been taking place throughout the period of the existence of the lake, has led to the formation of exceptionally unique endemic flora and fauna. Lake Baikal is a “Russia’s Galapagos Islands”; it has a great value for the study of evolution.

3. The picturesque landscape around the Baikal basin with its mountain ranges, Boreal forests, tundra, lakes, islands and steppes provides a non-conventional beautiful surrounding of Lake Baikal. The Baikal is the largest reservoir of fresh water on the planet (20% of the world supply), which adds to its unique status.

4. Lake Baikal is one of the most biologically diverse lakes on Earth, it is inhabited by 1340 animal species (745 of which are endemic) and 570 plant species (150 of which are endemic). In the forests around the lake there are 10 species of plants that are included in the Red Book of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The forests also represent a full content of typical Boreal species”.

We can also add some more priorities and evidences of merits, which distinguish the sacred sea in the natural world community:

• It is the oldest fresh water source on the planet: its age is about 25 – 30 million years, whereas the average age of a lake is 10 – 15 thousand years.

• It is also the deepest lake according to the official depth mark – 1637 m (1640 meters according to the data obtained during the descent of “Mir” bathyscaphe on June 1 and 2, 2009), whereas the “average” depth of a lake is 730 meters.

• It is the largest ground water source of the high quality fresh water reserves – 23.6 thousand cubic kilometers.

• It has the most diverse world of flora and fauna endemic species: out of more than 2000 species and varieties of Baikal animals and plants from 30 to 60% in different habitat are recognized as endemic, i.e. existing only in this particular area.

• It is in the sixth place by the size of the planet fresh water basins: the bigger lakes are only the African lakes Victoria, Tanganyika and the three Great Lakes of North America (excluding Aral and Caspian, which are often called seas).

And these are not the only priorities of the lake; probably these are the most wide scale ones.

Since Baikal is a natural heritage as well as a cultural one, let us view this aspect as well. According to the international criteria, each cultural object to be included in the List of World Heritage has to:

  • be a masterpiece of a creative man of genius; or

  • demonstrate the importance of the process in time or cultural geographical area transition of values common to all mankind in the field of culture, architecture, monumental art, town planning or landscape design; or

  • be a unique or exceptionally important evidence of a particular civilization or cultural tradition existence or disappearance; or

  • be an exceptional example of architectural or landscape ensemble, characterizing one of mankind development historical periods; or

  • be an outstanding sample of man-made landscape formation or settlement, typical for a particular culture, especially if this culture has become defenseless in the face of nonreversible historical changes; or

  •  be connected directly or indirectly with events, traditions, beliefs and artistic acts of outstanding international value…

If we consider the originality and uniqueness of values, cults and customs of the Buryat, Evenki, Tofalars, Soyots, Yakuts, Russian old-timers, majorly Siberian kazaks and Old-believers – Semeyskiye, then it can be stated without doubt that the Baikal social and cultural community matches these criteria as well.

Including Baikal in the list of objects, affirmed by the UNESCO Convention “On the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage”, brings up an important task of different nations cooperation in the area to preserve “the sacred sea”, as well as any other “object” of the Convention.

Let us remind you, that in the preliminary statement of this international document, adopted on the 17th session of the UN General Conference, which was devoted to the problems of education, science and culture (Paris, November 6, 1972), the following aspects were especially emphasized:

• we state that cultural and natural heritage is more and more at risk of destruction, caused not only by conventional causes, but also by the evolution of social and economic life, which makes it even worse by more malicious and devastating phenomena;

• we should take into consideration that the damage or disappearance of any objects of cultural or natural heritage represents a harmful impoverishment of the global community heritage;

• we should also keep in mind that preservation of this heritage on the national level is often insufficient due to heavy expenses that it demands, and shortage of economic, scientific and technical resources of the country on the territory of which the object to preserve is located;

• we remind you, that the Charter of the Organization provides its help towards supporting progress and spreading knowledge, ensuring conservation and preservation of the humanity heritage, and recommend the interested nations adequate international conventions;

• we consider that the existing international conventions, recommendations and resolutions in favor of cultural and natural values testify the importance of preservation of unique and irreplaceable values to all the mankind, no matter what nation they belong to;

• we take into consideration that some of the values of cultural and natural heritage are of an exceptional interest and thus shall be preserved as a part of the heritage of all the mankind;

• we also take into account the scope and real challenge of the new perils threatening cultural and natural heritage; and the international community shall take part in preserving them, providing collective help that will effectively complement the activity of the state concerned, on the territory of which the object of value is located, without substituting it;

• we realize that it is vital to adopt new regulations in the form of conventions, establishing an effective system of corporate protection of the objects of outstanding universal value, organized on the regular basis in accordance with modern scientific methods…

The convention outlined the main aspects of the problem discussed above, showed the importance and prospects of its solution, of preservation and protection not only of human but also natural world. On the scale of the Baikal region solving of many serious problems, identified by the Convention, presupposes at least convergence, but preferably an integration of different nations’ positions and points of view on the essence and correlation of economic, spiritual and ecological problems. In order to bring together and unite national and international interests it is important to understand not only general but also particular questions of man and environment interaction. And this is important to do not only towards the nature in general but also towards its specific objects, the Baikal in our case. People that live on its shores have to realize that the world status of the Sacred Sea is not only the matter of honor and respect, but also of daily responsibility of a master and a burdensome duty of a caring son. 

See also


  1. A.D. Karnyshev "The Many Faces of Multilingual and Mysterious Baikal"© BSU Publishing House, 2011

Выходные данные материала:

Жанр материала: English | Автор(ы): Karnyshev A.D. | Источник(и): The Many Faces of Multilingual and Mysterious Baikal. Ulan-Ude. 2012 | Дата публикации оригинала (хрестоматии): 2011 | Дата последней редакции в Иркипедии: 30 марта 2015

Примечание: "Авторский коллектив" означает совокупность всех сотрудников и нештатных авторов Иркипедии, которые создавали статью и вносили в неё правки и дополнения по мере необходимости.

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Тематический указатель: Irkipedia English