The Maloe Sea is a water area between the coast of the Baikal and the Olkhon Island; its total area is over 1000 square kilometers. It is the largest water surface area of the Sacred Sea. The two major bays – Chivyrkuiskyi and Barguzinskyi – make up the square equal to the space the Maloe Sea acquires.
Is the Maloe Sea a bay or a sea? It’s not just an idle question. Once I saw the notes in the Internet where I was blamed of not knowing the Baikal and confusing the notions I apply to in the question stated above. This inclined me to include these little natural geographic reflections into this part. Actually this problem is viewed differently in works of researchers in this field. Thus G.I. Galazii in his book “Questions and answers about Lake Baikal” used the notion “strait” in application to this area, but at the same time while explaining its meaning he used the notion “water area” and regretted that the natural expansion of the area by the Mukhor Bay would be groundlessly thrown off from the book. In our point of view, the notion “water area” lets us stick to the mentality of the natives of the Baikal – the Buryat and Evenk – for whom the Maloe and Bolshoe Seas are not bays or straits but two parts of the Sacred Sea not unequal in size but equal in their essence; and the boundary between them is the Olkhon Island.
S. Volkov, a very well-known explorer of the Baikal, defines the Maloe Sea as a strait but in one of his guide-books we see a contradiction when he writes: “The Maloe Sea ends with a shallow bay with sandy beaches, and on its opposite side it joins the Baikal”. The inconsequence lies in the fact that a strait can’t be limited by anything from one side of it. The discord is brought with the fact that the Strait Maloe Sea is separated from the Bolshoe Sea by the Strait Olkhonskie Gates. So there can be no well-defined answer to the stated question.
The Olkhon Gates Strait is the “entrance” to the Maloe Sea and at the same time it is the water area that separates the Olkhon Island from the “continent”. This strait borders with several capes and bays from the southwestern coast of the lake and from the island. Even in the narrowest places the Gates are more than 1 – 2 kilometers wide. The length of the strait on the whole is at least 7 kilometers. As suggest its name the Olkhon Gates Strait performs the appropriate function and has the appropriate symbolic character. First, by analogy with Janus, the two-faced God of gates and doors, in certain periods of time the Olkhon Gates permit or deny admission to the island to people striving to get there and on the contrary – to the islanders striving to get out of the island toward the “big land”. Usually this happens in springtime and autumn when the ice depth makes it impossible to reach any of the sides neither on foot nor by boat. Second, people are admitted in and out of the island in a limited number; in summertime people have to stand in a queue for hours in order to ferry to the other side.
All this lets us assume that for many centuries the Olkhon Gates have complicated an access to the sacred places of the Baikal, to the territory of the Olkhon Island in particular. That’s why it became the storage of traditions and mentality of the natives and some original objects and ancient rites survived there. There are quite a number of legends, myths, and mysteries, sacraments you can find nowhere else. One can also get a magical energy nourishment of the Olkhon Island, enjoy wonderful sandy beaches, beautiful island landscapes (See the part “It’s not easy to be an island”).
Since ancient times when a man went through some door it signified familiarization with some certain verities, customs, and norms. To enter the gates means to become a member of some community, to get an access to bright events, to become concerned with exceptional territories and festivities and simultaneously to become cleansed of ills and sins. It is not occasionally that in the majority of notable places in the whole world people built triumphal arches, through which guests, winners, celebrities and even modern stars pass. The Olkhon Gates Strait residing in the very middle of the Sacred Sea is that very place that one has to pass to become denoted into the legends, precepts, and discoveries of the Baikal.
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