This post is part 2 of my mini series on the 10-day trip I took with my son Kerith in August of 2021. In part 1 I described the road we took to get to our destination, because yes, the road itself deserves its own post. Here I want to go into the land itself more. My first trip to Siberia was exactly 30 years ago in August of 1991, putting me there just in time to experience the coup attempt on Gorbachev. My host family at the time joked that had it succeeded, I would still be there in some gulag.
Indeed Siberia is the land of gulags. Igor, the missionary with whom we traveled, even told me he found evidence of gulags near the area we visited – abandoned trains on abandoned train tracks, built by the slave labor of political and religious prisoners, captured to create the utopia that Papa Stalin dreamed of. But his dreams largely died with him in 1953. Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago is a must read for us today to remind us how we yearn for a worldly savior to make life “safe” for us, and so are willing to give over our inherited freedoms in exchange for mere pottage. But I digress….
The Siberia I had known was the land of Taiga – coniferous evergreen forests of subarctic land, picking up just to the south of where the tundra leaves off. As was explained to me by a reindeer herder we lived with, the Taiga starts just south of the Ob River, which we had crossed at the capital city of Salekhard. They have the deer pasture in the Taiga during the winter, and they move up north to the Kara Sea for the summer. The start of the tundra, coincides here with the start of the Arctic Circle. Our destination was an interesting little (in Siberian terms) corner of land just inside the Arctic Circle and just to the right of the Ural mountains. Siberia is, after all, all of Russia east of the Urals, which go pretty much the entire north-south distance, fading out at the other end at the border with Kazakhstan. In fact, at our northern-most point in our journey, we could see the Ural mountain range fading into nothingness just before the Kara Sea beyond. How far north were we? Notice from the map I made that St. Petersburg is on the 60th parallel, pretty much where Anchorage is. We were close to the 68th parallel.
Most of the time when you think of Siberia, you think of winter. Sure, it can be dramatic, but it gives the impression that there is nothing really to see but the color white. There is, however incredible and beautiful diversity in Siberia. First, some pics of the small part of Siberia that we saw (you can click on any photo to enlarge):
Some close-up shots reveal even more that is unfamiliar to our eyes:
Even though we did not get to see any reindeer during this trip (since they go further north for the summer) I figure you’d like a few cool pics to get another view on life there, but these are just shots I found online.