Babushkin is a town that in 1941was named after the revolutionary I.V. Babushkin who died while transporting arms during the revolutionary events of 1905. It is also the railway station Mysovaya. But initially in the XVIII and XXth centuries the village was called Mysovsk, and across it there was a road from the shore of Lake Baikal to Kyakhta. This traffic artery across the Khamar-Daban was much shorter than the modern road to Kyakhta via Ulan-Ude, so it was used to transport goods and drive cattle from China and Mongolia. Being busy with this transport activity, peasants of the village Mysovsk made quite a sum of money. When the railway was being built around Lake Baikal, Mysovsk became a town, and the dock for receiving the icebreaking ferry “Baikal” was equipped there. Road building and works in the port increased the population of the town and raised its significance. In 1909 they started investigations for building the railway between Mysovaya and Kyakhta. The residents of Kyakhta intended to build that road using the concession method, assuming that it will initiate a Trans-Asian road from Petersburg to Beijing that will be much shorter than the Trans-Siberian Railway. The project was accepted in 1910, but the beginning of the World War II did not allow carrying it out. Today Babushkin is an ordinary station of the East-Siberian Railway, and it undergoes a difficult social and economic situation.
Tankhoy is a settlement that had a significant function before the railway around the Baikal was built: the dock was equipped so as to receive the icebreaker “Baikal” that here unloaded carriages moved across the lake. The famous singer of the Soviet Union and Russia Valentina Tolkunova considered this settlement to be her homeland as this is the place where her mother, grandmother and numerous relatives were born and lived for a long time. In the surroundings of Tankhoy a cleft between the mountains on the other side of the lake is clearly seen; it is the head of River Angara. The name of the river arouse from the word hangar that means “a crack, cleft, crevice, distant shore” (Mongolian, see 214). This crevice that is a channel of the Angara goes on the straight to Irkutsk, and lets the townspeople see the snowy peaks of the mountains near Tankhoy on nice days.
At River Mishikha there is a place where the associate professor of Irkutsk University N.A. Epova came to a tragic end in the summer of 1960. Nina Afanasievna was studying the nature of Lake Baikal in the region of the Khamar-Daban for almost 15 years. She discovered and described several endemic plant associations of these places, and a remarkable haven of tertiary relic deciduous forests. A woman, who was passionately devoted to the nature of Lake Baikal, N. Epova came to the conclusion that it was necessary to single out a special territory of the Khamar-Daban, and first of all its Mysovsk-Murinsky region as a protected zone. It was her attempts that assisted in the establishment of the Baikal State Reserve in 1969 that occupies an area of 174,000 hectares. Now the territory of the reserve is a part of the environmental network of Eurasia and serves the purposes of conservation of natural populations and biodiversity of species.
In the southernmost part of Lake Baikal, in the bay with an unusual name “Mamai” there are three rivers with the same name: the Left, Small and Big Mamai that flow into the lake. Perhaps, this pure Mongolian name is associated in some way with the fate of aborigines. Mamai is the name of a stone image on an ancient grave, a burial place of Nomads. In fact this name is a common noun, originated from the name of a Mongolian Khan. As we mentioned above, not far from these places along River Manturikha there were passages to the land of Mongols. Some routes might have passed somewhere nearby and deadly cases could have happened on the routes. Such understanding of these names is connected with the legends that say that near the peaks of the Khamar-Daban, oboo ("holy" stone mounds) of the Genghis Khan were situated, and he at his time visited these places and declared them to be tribal reserves (see 17). As for the Russian perception of the word Mamai it is the name of the Mongolian warrior – the Genghis Khan’s descendant – and from time immemorial it reminds of something irrepressible, destructive, dashing aside all obstructions in its way. These rivers seem to produce the same impression, when in spring they "come out” of the spur of the Khamar-Daban; they are filled with tremendous force and caused a lot of destructions.
The places on the territory of the Baikal Reserve are especially unique and original. Here in the interfluves and on the banks of Rivers Snezhnaya and Vydrinnaya, as well as between Rivers Babkha and Utulik, you can find sample places of the taiga with relic specimen of cedar, fir, poplar, blue spruce, and rare species of herbaceous plants, fungi and lichens. There are also some isolated populations of the wild northern deer, long-tailed ground squirrel and the Altai mole here; in the Khamar-Daban highlands dotterel are nesting.
Midway between the villages of Baikalsk and Vydrino, flows a river with an attractive name Khara-Murin. It is interesting to mention that this name is associated with the name of River Amur that in Mongolian sounds as Khara-Muren. Mongols gave each large river the name Muran, and this name was used for many water arteries, including the Amur River. The Khara-Murin or Khara-Muren means a "big black river" or “black water”.
Baikalsk is a town that sprang up on the shore of the lake in the late 50s – early 60s of the XXth century. It is this town that creates the main problems of the Baikal ecology, and is constantly discussed in mass media. First of all it is connected with the activity of the pulp and paper mill which is located on the coast and is believed to be causing enormous damage to the Sacred Sea (we shall discuss the essence of the issue in the chapter on ecology of Lake Baikal). It is remarkable that in the first years of its existence the problem of the foundation unreliability of the town was very acute. Thus, they spoke much about the poor choice of location for the town. The writer B. Chivilikhin, the author of the remarkable essay "Bright Eye of Siberia" noted that local soils were weak and unfit to build houses, and concluded that "the city would not exist". But no matter how dire predictions were, the city sprang up, and all the peripeteia about the closure of the pulp and paper mill in 2008 – 2010 only exacerbated the struggle for its existence. It will be discussed later in detail.
When in the southern part of Lake Baikal, one cannot help recalling the road to Kyakhta. Located at the modern Russian-Mongol border, many thousands of miles remote from the center of the country, Kyakhta in the XVIII – XIXth centuries was not at all a godforsaken provincial back of beyond. It was known all over Russia as the main center of the Russian-Chinese exchange trade. It also served a gateway to Central Asia, through which many carts passed with Chinese tea for Russia and Europe. At the time when there was no Great Siberian Way, strings of fifty and one hundred carts each dragged from Kyakhta to Irkutsk at the beginning of each winter. There were tea chests sewn into goatskins on the sleighs. In such a way they were transported to Nizhny Novgorod, Moscow, and Petersburg. The Russian part of the caravan way Moscow – Beijing ended in Kyakhta and from here the Central Asian part started. Here merchants or their commissioners from many local cities traded. The Central Asia peoples’ culture was mysterious for Europe, and attracted many Russian and foreign scholars and travelers here. To stay in Siberia without visiting Kyakhta was considered to be a bad form.
Utulik is a place where there is a bridge built in the late 18th century for the first road Irkutsk – Kyakhta, running around Lake Baikal. The road was built by convicts along the route from Kultuk to the Khamar-Daban, its sections were emergency steep and hard to pass. The writer I. Kalashnikov, the author of the novel "Daughter of the Merchant Zholobov”, who had to ride along that road, said the following about it and its builders: “One cannot help feeling some surprise to see the human hand trying to conquer, so to speak, the impregnable Khamar-Daban. The road running to it seems to be hanging in the air. It is attached to the mountain in some places and has the form of a meander, because a straight uplift along the extreme steepness was almost perpendicular”. But there are other opinions about the road. P.A. Kropotkin, who, nevertheless, recognized that he hadn’t ridden along that road, called it the Krugobaikalskaya footpath and didn’t consider it to be a road. Despite such difficulties of the route, the road served people for over half a century, and was abandoned in 1866 owing to the building of an animal-drawn rout to Posolsk. Before one reaches from the east the large railway station Slyudyanka he can come across a junction called Muraviyov-Amursky with several houses standing there. It is the place where, apparently, an authoritative Governor of Eastern Siberia of mid-19th century stopped. He is known for his service to Russia in joining the Amur River to the native land. Besides, he was an outstanding, creative, and courageous man. Here is one of the most interesting episodes of Muravyov-Amursky’s behavior during the peasant religious revolt in the Trans-Baikal village of Old-Believers called Bichura that took place in 1859. Having arrived there the governor urgently came out to a crowd of dissenters armed with guns, axes, boar-spears and bludgeons, and shouted sternly: "Attention, throw your arms!” The rioters quieted down, and put their weapon on the ground. "Bend your knees!" – cried the count. The whole crowd got down on their knees and bowed to the ground. Such an action of the regional head greatly contributed to the pacification of the rebellion .
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