Anders Bekeken

100 Places To Remember: Siberia, Russia

Geschreven op 22-2-2010 - Erik van Erne. Geplaatst in Natuur Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

100places to rememberFrom Gulags to Modern Cities. Until the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway between 1891 and 1916, the vast region of Siberia remained virtually unexplored. Covering almost 10% of the Earths land surface, or 13.1 million square kilometres, Siberia extends eastwards from the Ural Mountains all the way to the strait between the Pacific and Arctic oceans.

A brutal chapter of Russias history unfolded in the harsh arctic and subarctic climate of Siberia. For long periods of time, except for a few explorers and traders, the population of Siberia consisted mainly of prisoners exiled from western Russia.

A system of labour camps, known as Gulag, was established during the Stalin era. The deportation of the prisoners reached staggering proportions and, between 1929 and 1953, at least 14 million people were sent to the camps, including criminals, political enemies of the state and sometimes even entire nationalities. The Gulag served as a source of labour for the mines of the remote Siberian plateau, which is rich in natural resources such as oil, gas, coal, lead, gold and diamonds.

Some of the camps of the Gulags have turned into major industrial cities, e.g. Norilsk, Vorkuta, and Magadan in the Kolyma Region to the east. However, Siberia is still sparsely populated, with a density of only three inhabitants per square kilometre.

Many of the 36 million people in the region may soon face new problems. The Siberian oil and gas complexes, pipelines, roads and railways are all built on top of the permafrost that covers large parts of the region. In Yakutsk, the worlds largest permafrost city, everything apartments, hospitals, factories is built on top of wooden piles hammered into the permafrost.

Forty years from now, it is projected that global warming will have caused the permafrost in the northern hemisphere to decline by 20-35%. If the permafrost thaws under the sites of oil and gas facilities, it could lead to leaks and cause extensive damage to the infrastructure. In some places, buildings are already less stable due to the thawing permafrost. By 2030, whole cities may have been lost, forcing people to rebuild their lives elsewhere.

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