“There are so many beauteous towns in the world;
But every heart has got its own most loved;
The one that is your home;
The one that is so known;
The town that you love even more and more”
If you look at the map and search for towns in the Baikal region, you will se that it is possible to divide them into three main categories: 1. towns situated directly on the Baikal shore, such as Baikalsk and Severobaikalsk, as well as Sludyanka and Babushkin; 2. towns situated 60 km away from the Baikal so that their citizens can get to the Sacred Sea very quickly, like Kamensk and Selenginsk in Buryatia, Irkutsk and Shelekhov; 3. towns situated 100 and more km (up to 150 km) away from the lake: Ulan-Ude, Angarsk, Usolye-Sibirskoe. If you go through the taiga of Khamar-Daban you can make the town of Gusinoozersk situated 70 km away from the Baikal town Babushkin, but if you go on the asphalt road the distance will a bit more than 200 km. Official statistics makes it possible to put Cheremkhovo to the list of the Baikal towns, because in annual State reports it is always mentioned as a town that affects the lake ecology with its harmful emissions. All in all they distinguish 13 close-to-Baikal towns, among them only two, Ulan-Ude (former Verkhneudinsk) and Irkutsk have a centuries-old history. It is interesting to mention that the rise of three towns is conditioned by the railway building: Sludyanka, Babushkin and Severobaikalsk; two towns were iniciated by the pulp and paper industry: Baikalsk and Selenginsk; five other cities are stipulated by different branches of economy: Angarsk – petroleum chemestry, Shelekhov – aluminum industry, Kamensk – cement and slate industry, Gusinoozersk – lignite and heat power system, Usolye-Sibirskoe – salt and chemical industry.
If we range the towns according to their habitancy than the first five will be: 1. Irkutsk, about 600, 000 inhabitants; 2. Ulan-Ude, more than 400, 000; 3. Angarsk, 250, 000; 4. Shelekhov, about 40, 000; 5. Usolye-Sibirskoe, more than 90, 000. All the rest Baikal towns have the population of less than 3,000 – 4,000 citizens.
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