Landscapes, areas and boundaries of Baikal

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The question about the natural complex of the Baikal region as one of the unique places in the world can be considered in its three interrelated aspects. Firstly, it is the aspect of geographical landscapes of the region and their characteristics; secondly, the aspect of zoning the Baikal natural territory for environmental and partly economic purposes; thirdly, it is the problem of the terrain features influence on the livelihood of the people and ethnic groups living on the shores of Lake Baikal in its historical and contemporary context.

In the Dictionary of Foreign Words the word landscape (German landchaft) has several meanings: “1) a general view of the terrain; 2) a painting of nature; 3) scenery – a natural geographical complex with all its major components: topography, climate, water, soil, vegetation and animal life. These components are intertwined in a complex interaction and interdependence, forming a single inseparable system.

Such an expansive interpretation of the word allows us to see interrelated but still very specific senses in its meaning. On the one hand, landscape is a large visible with the naked eye part of the surface, which differs from the neighboring areas by some distinctive individual traits. On the other hand, landscape is a set of areas which, although can not be embraced by the eye, correspond to somewhat common, geographically and geologically similar natural formations. In the latter case landscape it is to be psychologically viewed in close connection with the scale of survey, which allows a person to have a look at the terrain in a certain perspective. So a landscape viewed from the space is one thing; a landscape from an airplane height is another matter of things; and a landscape from a bird’s eye view is quite a different matter. The essence of this approach is well illustrated by the poem of the Japanese poet T. Takarabe “Flying over Siberia”:

Below is an incredible expanse

My country looks different from the plane:

Of taiga, Ocean of wood.

So many peaked mountains
That seem to have no names.
My place is not like this.

Every hill has a certain name,

Any hillock’s on the account.

Thus, landscape can be viewed as a gigantic array of mountains on the earth surface as well as a slight combination of "hills and hillocks" in certain areas. That is why, in our opinion, it is possible to use the notion landscape of Lake Baikal both in the meaning of a particular territory which represents a larger part of the Baikal region, and in the meaning of (in the word combination landscapes of Lake Baikal) its specific areas with their shape and structure, what scientists call the general character of the area.

We will use the word landscape as in the first so in the second meaning of it, thus emphasizing the unique character of both: the whole region and separate sites of the Baikal nature. Using psychological terms, we can say that the landscape of some sites is as unique and peculiar as an individual. Landscape is, so to speak, the individuality, originality of nature, and it is this individuality that makes it meaningful and close to particular people. On the one hand, every landscape evokes something special in thoughts and feelings of the individual by its peculiar combination of nature paintings. On the other hand, "in every soul there is its own landscape". This thesis reflects the specific features of human perception of the environmental uniqueness, and at the same time registers the importance of specific sites in the inner world of the individual. So, let me enumerate the common features of landscapes, taking into consideration their external parameters together with the elements of psychological human realities. Thus, the landscape is:

  • a part of nature that stands out for its spatial characteristics: size, shape, "set" of natural components and the possibility of being viewed;

  • a site different from other neighboring sites by the external natural heterogeneity and dissimilarity;

  • a part of nature standing out by a system of relationships not only of its external form (predominance of mountain, steppe or taiga areas), but also by some features of rainfall and wildlife;

  • a part of nature sensitive (or not sensitive) to the effect of human activity such as construction, soil and forest regulation works, etc.;

  • a location perceived by people as a special kind of region, usually with a name of its own.

The psychological significance of the landscape is well shown by a very popular in many countries procedure – landscape therapy, i.e., health improvement of a man with the impact of particular natural scenes. In recent years, the activity of creating a landscape design spreads more and more widely. It is directed to forming a mini-human natural environment which would be beautiful and elegant, refreshing the people’s eyes and cultivating their awareness of unity with the environment.

If you look at Baikal from the space, its landscape is a long and relatively narrow basin in the form of two "stacked" with its wide parts horns, framed by the arrays of high mountains in the northwest, northeast and south. In other parts of it there are relatively low (up to 1000 m) highlands and the so called hills, plains and steppe sites (the river deltas of the Selenga, Barguzin and the island of Olkhon). In some places you can contemplate woodlands going down to the lake.

In geological aspect the Baikal basin – a hollow – is a long, narrow and deep trench in the earth surface, which is considered to arise in the mid-Tertiary period of geological history of the earth about 25 – 30 million years ago. The impression that the hollow is fairly narrow is created by its steep and the height of mountain slopes more than by its cross size. For millennia the Baikal rivers discharge their water to the lake, the most significant of them are: the Selenga, Upper Angara, Barguzin, Utulik, Snezhnaya, etc.

Lake Baikal shores are extremely picturesque: covered mainly with coniferous trees (pine, fir, cedar, spruce, etc.); distinguished by their originality and uniqueness bizarre rocks of the Peschanaya Bay, Chivyrkuisky Bay, the Olkhon Island, and other places. There are numerous beautiful and peculiar islands in the Maly Sea at the Olkhon and Svyatoi Nos peninsulas – the so-called Ushkany Islands, and the islands and in the Chivyrkuisky Bay. The snow tops of the mountain ranges of the Hamar-Daban, Barguzin and the north-western part of the Baikal Range attract attention in any season.

The purity of air above the lake, water transparency, intensity of solar radiation and specific points on the hilly banks give an excellent opportunity to observe the opposite coast (80 km distance). One can see the island of Olkhon from the shore of the Gulf of Proval; the shore "ledges" located on both sides on the Katkov capes and the Gorevoy cliff in the east and capes Ryty and the Aral Sea in the west. The Baikal landscape distinguishing feature is a multi-dimensional perception of it: this side shore – the lake – the opposite shore.

Baikal is surrounded by mountains of over 2000 meters height above sea level and 1800 meters above the level of the lake. These are Hanula (2371 m.), Soher (2,316 m) mountains to the south of Lake Baikal, Davydov (1717 m) in the central part of it, Chersky (2588 m) in the north of the Baikal Range, etc. The Baikal Mountains are mainly granite and gneisses ones belonging to the oldest geological formations. White and pink marble, gray and red granite harmoniously match the evergreen coniferous plants of the coast.

The latitude position of Lake Baikal approximately corresponds to the territory between Kiev and Moscow, Leipzig and Copenhagen. The major part of England and Ireland is in the same latitude. And in America it is the distance between Canadian cities of Calgary and Peace River. The length of the lake from north to south logically causes the changing of landscapes according to the latitude peculiarities. There are diverse areas, each with its own distinctive features on the shore of the lake. If you travel on board or by foot from the westernmost tip of Lake Baikal – the Kultuk village – along the shore, you can see the characteristic for this part severity of landscape on west coast, where there is the chain of the Baikal and Primorsky mountain ranges. Mountains are separated by narrow creeks and rivers into distinct forested hills.

In the southwestern part of the lake there are many attractive places: the place where Angara River flows out of Lake Baikal; the majestic mountain nature in the areas of the Peschanaya and Homuty bays, in the lower reaches of River Goloustnaya, at the Baklany, Cadilny, Lisvennichny capes, etc. One can also see very interesting landscapes in the western and central parts of the lake, where the steppe of Tazheranskaya and the island of Olkhon are situated. There you can see almost all the typical Siberian landscapes: swamps, red bilberry, dark coniferous taiga thickets of cedar, mountain tundra, loaches with patches of snow, and in some places of the island and in the Tazheransk – parts of steppes and even semi-desert territories.

A variety of relief and vegetation, rich berry fields, fishing and hunting areas, abundant mineral and thermal sources, as well as a relatively easy availability – all these make the central part of Lake Baikal a "Mecca” for tourists.

The mountain ranges of the Northern, Eastern and Southern shores fan-shaped back down from the lake by sloping wooded terraces, interfusing with wide valleys of rivers Selenga, Turka, Barguzin, Verkhnyaya Angara, etc. With the regard of landscape peculiarities it is worth to mention a number of inland lakes in the Southern part of the Golondinsky ridge, one of them, the Kotokelskoe Lake with its picturesque island deserves special attention. In the north-eastern part of the Barguzin ridge there are plateaus and the basin of River Verkhnyaya Angara where middle taiga landscapes are common. A large part of the territory is characterized by pine and larch forests.

The east-middle part of Baikal is famous mainly for its high mountains and mixed forests of the peninsula Svyatoi Nos, rugged coasts and magnificent peninsulas of the Chivyrkuisky Bay; each of them can compete by its beauty with world-famous islands in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans. Here, between the chain of mountains Svyatoi Nos and island shore of Lake Baikal there is a group of lakes and marshland that lie between the Barguzinsky and Chivyrkuisky bays.

And again from the mouth of River Barguzin to the delta of the Selenga along the shores of Lake Baikal one can see pine and mixed forests at relatively low (about 1000 m) hills, and embedded in the endless green taiga blue "mirrors" of lakes Kotokelskoe, Dukhovoye, Lebyazhye, Kolok and others. In south-east the biggest influx, River Selenga, flows into Lake Baikal. Close to the river channel steppes and forest steppes with vast pine and mixed forests are situated. In its delta there is a huge amount of canals and islands. In summer these places are rich of bird broods, and an amount of fish enough for hundreds and thousands of fishermen. If there hadn’t been a dip of the land in 1862, there would have been an impressive valley here – the Tsaganskaya (sometimes also called Saganskaya) steppe.

Returning to the starting point of our journey, we can start from here by train or by car to pass through the wetlands and taiga in the areas of the Mountain Rivers Mishikha, Pereyemnaya and Snezhnaya; proceed past the majestic Khamar- Daban ridges; and view the marble quarries in the area of the town Slyudyanka. And we can’t help passing over the most famous "monster" of Lake Baikal – the Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill, the creation and activity of which caused the birth of the environmental movement in the region.

The pearl necklaces of high ridges and wooded plateaus, surrounding the lake; river valleys and forest steppes adjoining it, the waters of the lake stay non-freezing almost till the very middle of winter, and then in summer they remain cold almost for the whole period, thus creating a unique microclimate of Lake Baikal. Dryness of the middle part of the Sacred Sea, which characterizes mainly the Olkhon Island; soft and wet winters in the southern coast and the Ushkaniye islands; "cool" frosts on the northern shores – all these are only few of existing variants here.

In Russia there are two reasonable and patriotic approaches which provide a man with a good mood in any even the worst area. First, it is a well-known truth, which was expressed by the film director Eldar Ryazanov in the verses of a song in his film: "There is no bad weather; any weather is a bliss ..." The second approach reflects the habit of a man living in a particular climate region, to consider it to be the best one because this very climate "breastfed" him from the early childhood along with the milk of his mother. This idea is very well expressed by G. Chesterton: “But for my part I will praise the English climate till I die, even if I die of it. There is no weather better than English weather. Nay, there is no weather at all anywhere but in England. In France there’s much sun and some rain; in Italy – hot winds and cold winds; in Scotland and Ireland – rain, either thick or thin; in America – hells of heat and cold, and in the Tropics – sunstrokes varied by thunderbolts. Everything is strong, everything is brutal scale; and you settle down either into contentment or into despair. And only in our romantic country you do have a really romantic thing called Weather; as beautiful and changing as a woman”.

The English patriot has shown a man of any nationality what way he should love the climate of dearest places, and endow them with beauty and romance. It is even more true when we refer to the Siberians who live at Lake Baikal – our weather is even more healthy, attractive and romantic. The most remarkable feature of the Baikal that attracts people is the abundance of solar days. This is well described by G.I. Galaziya in his book "Baikal in Questions and Answers". On average there are 48,8 clear days in a year at the Baikal, on the Olkhon island – 64,2; the number of dull days at the Baikal is 125,3, on the Olkhon island – 74,9, at the village Listvenichny – 96,9 days. On the solar hours the Baikal is richer than the nearby Siberian territory, and even some western and southern regions of the country. For instance, in the north of the Baikalskaya trench (in Nizhneangarsk) there are 1948 hours per annum, in the south of the lake (in Babushkino) and in the middle part (Huzhir) – 2100 and 2277 respectively, but at the Rizhsky coast which is situated on the same latitude, the length of solar glow is at the average 1839 hours per annum, in Abastuman situated in the Caucasus – 1994 hours.

“The Sun, air and water are our best friends” says a well-known Russian proverb. There is a plenty of the Sun and beautiful fresh water on the holy sea. And a salutary taiga-sea air. Everybody who has ever visited these places feels this. The fresh, revitalizing winds on the lake have been always compared with atmospheric balsam of the best territories. The Baikal winds reminded the first Russian seafarers some other regions and atmospheric phenomena inherent to them, and thus got their names, for instance, the Belomorsky wind, like that on the north of the European Russia; Shelonik as on the White Sea, or in the Onezhsky region, or on Lake Ilmen in the Novgorodsky district. This is the wind of the southern direction; it is quiet and calm. The Kultuk wind is a south-western wind, blowing from the western Baikal bay, where a village with the same name is located. In itself the name Kultuk in the Turkic language means "dead end", "corner", "bay". The second name of the Kultuk wind is nizovik, nizovka, since it blows from the "lower", the southern extremity of the lake. Since the Kultuk "field of activity" is very vastly from the south-west to the north-east of the lake (about 600 km); it can generate enormous waves on the Baikal. In the area of Severobaikalsk, for instance, they reach the height of 6 meters. The Baikal winds the Sarma, Barguzin and Gorny winds stand out by their individual features. We shall talk about them later on.

Summing up our preliminary conversation about the main landscapes of Lake Baikal, I shall point out the most wide-spread of them: mountains, comparatively flat taiga arrays, forests and steppe, and significant coast bands. These landscapes influenced the life and economic activity of people who settled in this area; they couldn’t help having influence on a man psychology as well. To ground this let me recall the ideas of the famous Russian ethnologist known in the whole world L.N. Gumilev. The first is about the indigenous ethnic groups: “the landscape had a direct and indirect influence on the ethnic group; there is no doubt about it… On ethnic processes it has a forced influence". The second idea concerns possible changes of the ethnic psychology, members of which resettled at the Baikal in mass quantity: a person "occupying a new region does not change his anatomy or physiology of the organism, but his behavior stereotype. After all this signifies that he creates a new ethnic group!" (99, p. 178, 177). It is not difficult to comprehend that landscape does not influences the psychology of an ethnic group by itself, but by those main activities of a man which are predetermined by it in the given geographical zone.

Now, after the talk about the general landscape and its influence upon people, it is high time to discuss the ecological zoning of the Baikal territory, which is build up on the base of the federal law "About the Protection of Lake Baikal". At the end of 2006 the Government of Russian Federation confirmed the borders of three ecological zones of the territory: Central, Buffer and the Atmospheric Effect Zones. According to the decree the Central Ecological Zone (CEZ) covers the seaside and water part of the Baikal, and a water protection zone and a protected natural territory are also included. The external border of the Central Ecological Zone passes through the external borders of the Baikalsky, Baykalo-Lensky and Barguzinsky reservations, Zabaikalsky, Pribaikalsky, Tunkinsky national parks, Pribaykalisky, Snezhinsky, Frolikhinsky and Enkhaluksky nature preserves. As its borders the CEZ has main watersheds of eight main ridges surrounding the lake: the Baikalsky, Bagruzinsky, Verkhne-Angarsky, Golondinsky, Morskoy, Primorsky, Ulan-Burgasy, Hamar-Daban ridges. The total area of the CEZ is 88,500 sq. km.

The Buffer Zone is a territory outside the CEZ, in scale of which the Baikal takes its "water tribute" from fontanels, streams, creeks and rivers of the region, which, totally, are several tens of thousands. The Buffer Zone includes a part of the Irkutsk oblast, practically 90% of Buryatia, a part of the Zabaykalsky Krai which is situated in the basins of Rivers Chikoy and Khilok. The Buffer Zone geographically includes the tributaries of the Selenga, which are located in Mongolia: the Orkhon, Ider and others. Here from the tributaries of Lake Khubsugul enter it; River Egiyn-Gol flows from the lake and falls into the Selenga. Within Russia the Buffer Zone is 2227000 sq. km. – 57% of the Baikal natural territory.

The Atmospheric Effect Zone equals to 78,000 sq. km., and is situated basically in the Irkutsk Oblast where airstreams and dominating winds "install" the routes of polluting the Baikal especially with harmful industrial emissions of the Irkutsk-Cheremkhovo agglomeration. Thereby, the total Baikal natural territory in Russia is nearly 400,000 sq. km. – an area, equal to one tenth of the European territory.

As a large part of the Zabaikalsky Krai is in the Buffer Zone of Lake Baikal it is necessary to speak in more detail about this vast area of Siberia that has been having, speaking in modern language, a "branded" name for more than 150 years – Zabaikalye. This name appeared when the Zabaikalsky Krai was established in 1850 – 1851, and included the whole Selenginskaya Dauriya – a territory from the south-eastern coast of the Baikal to the Yablonevy Edge; and the Nerchinskaya Dauriya – a territory from the Yablonevy Edge to the border with the Amurskaya Oblast, including the pools of Rivers Onon, Ingoda, Shilka, Arguni and Zeya. The geographical notion of Dauriya was derived from the name of a folk – the daury, who used to live in these places. G.F. Miller considered the Daurian and Manchurian ethnic groups to be relative to the Tunguses, and in the Chinese chronicles it is found under the name of the Eastern Tartars (210, p. 185). Baikal is bound with the Selenginskaya Dauriya with its rivers and tributaries – the Selenga, Khilok, Chikhoy, Itanka and others which make their appreciable contribution to the recharge of the Sacred Sea. Since 2007 the Chitinskaya Oblast is united with the Aginsky Buryat National Okrug, and now they form the Zabaikalsky Krai.

No doubt, that "zoning" – the creation of three above mentioned ecological zones and special economic zones of tourist-recreational type in Buryatia and the Irkutsk Oblast will cause some consequences in livelihood of people in the region. On the one hand, the creation of the ecological zones limits the number of traditional employment spheres in the region, which negatively influences upon the lake protection. According to the preliminary estimates of experts, as a result of restriction of economic activities and the use of natural resources the budget losses of the Irkutsk Oblast will be about two billion rubles a year; the same amount of money the budget of Buryatia will lose every year. The preservation of living standards of the population remains the main problem in the region: today more than 140 thousand people live in hundred villages on the shores of Lake Baikal. Many of them lose a large part of the main income sources, if their everyday activity will be prohibited or limited to its minimum.

On the other hand the creation of special zones of tourist - recreational type, along with the development of mass tourism on the coast of Lake Baikal will encourage many people to engage in activities of tourist service, and thus change the nature of occupation and some values, style and way of life of people living here. And it means we have to talk about the changing of people’s psychology again and again.

Lake Baikal has at least three "big" owners and many of their assistants and agents. Those are, first of all the Russian Federation structures, and then the authorities of the Irkutsk Oblast and the governmental structures of Buryatia. On the part of the Russian Federation Government it is the service and scientific expeditions of the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Institute of Global Climate and Ecology, Hydrometcenter of Russia, etc., who constantly monitor the atmospheric conditions of Lake Baikal. The number of subjects of study, management and supervision on the part of the Irkutsk Oblast is also very large. These are the Limnilogical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Institute of Water Management, Hydrochemical Institute of Hydrometeorology, the Baikal branch of the Geophysical Survey SB RAS, Institute of Biology at Irkutsk State University, public limited company “Irkutskenergo”, research & production company "Typhoon" – more than fifty organizations, specialized and sometimes not. It is likely that on the Buryat Republic part there is almost the same number of similar and overlapping "nannies": Baykalrybvod, the Baikal Institute of Environmental Management, and the Buryat Branch of RAS. There are institutions of this kind in the Zabaikalsky Krai as well. According to the State report “About the Situation of Lake Baikal Region and Measures for its Protection in 2006”, 99 major organizations participated in the activities for the lake protection (96, pp. 326-332). The situation in which all these organizations were involved by objective and subjective circumstances, for several reasons can be characterized by the proverb too many cooks spoil the broth. Often it is not their fault, but their trouble, as many of them are not considered by the "owners"… And they all state one and the same: there is no improvement of the situation with Lake Baikal protection in recent years. Many of them write about this in their regular certificates and reports: in comparison with the previous years the state of Lake Baikal has not changed to the better in the early 21th century.

The problem of the Baikal territory division is a particular issue. Sometimes on political geographical maps the boundaries of the Baikal territory division pass not only "overland", but also within the very Sacred Sea. The Yelokhin Cape to the north-west of Lake Baikal and River Snezhnaya to its south are the points that show administrative division of the territory: the large north- and south-eastern part is the property of the Buryat Republic, while the rest is a property of the Irkutsk region. And from 1851 to 1917 the Baikal "was divided" between the Irkutsk Province and the Zabaikalskaya Oblast (that nevertheless administratively was a part of the Irkutsk General-Governorship). But that time the boundary between the parts of Lake Baikal was different: the Zabaikalskaya Oblast possessed the water surface and the territory from Rivers Khichera and Verkhnyaya Angara, i.e. a smaller part than "the Buryat" side represents today. During the formation of the Far Eastern Republic (FER)) in 1920, the Zabaikalskaya Oblast was not a part of it, and it did not possess any territory of the Baikal: the border ran along the river Itantse and the Barguzinsky Ridge. Thus, the Sacred Sea that time fully belonged to “Irkutsk”. All these facts confirm an entire conventional character of the conducted divisions. It is unlikely that today we can speak about any positive role of territorial borders. And their negative effect starts with the dissociation of efforts that are so necessary today to protect the unique and essentially indivisible places.

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

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Тематический указатель: Irkipedia English