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    Republic of Buryatia

The mountainous Buryatia Republic, spreading around the north and east of Lake Baikal, has a number peculiarities that distinguish the region from other parts of Russia. First of all, for most of its history the region has been under Asiatic influence, something clearly visible in the facial features of indigenous Buryats. Secondly, Buddhism used to be the officially recognised religion in pre -revolutionary Russia. Presently, the Buddhist temples (datsan) are under reconstruction and may present exhaustive information concerning the history of Buddhism in Russia. And, lastly, Buryatia is also the home to Old Believers, the descendants of conservative 17th century Russian Orthodox breakaways who fled into precipitation in northern Russia.

The region is famous for its unique location and natural reserves. Many mammals live in the Taiga including the brown bears, elks, mooses and deers. Brown bears, the worlds largest flesh-eating land mammal and the "Lords of the Taiga," are found throughout the region, and can be spotted along the shoreline. Elk and deer can be seen more readily, and during the winter, country people set up feeding troughs, almost treating them like domestic pets.

If you are eager to see a piece of Buryats native art and culture, to enjoy picturesque views of taiga and Lake Baikal, to feel the atmosphere of the mysterios Siberia from which foreign travelers used to be banned, the Republic of Buryatia is an ideal place.

Population

Buryatia has a population of about 1,059,000 people (1992 estimate), among which there are 249,500 Buryats (23%), and 726,200 Russians (68%). The population density is 2-3 persons per sq km (while average figures for Russia is 8,7 persons per sq km). At present, some 390,000 people live in Ulan-Ude, the republics capital. Different religions coexist in the city: Buddhism and shamanism, Orthodox Christianity and Old Belief. The center of Buddhism in Russia is situated here.

National flag

National flag of Buryatia combines blue, white and yellow colors, which symbolizes the sky, the purity and the eternity.

Religious Festivals

Every year the monastery becomes a place for special religious festivals. In February, according to the Eastern Calendar, the New Year celebration is taken place. The most notable among the summer festivals is the Maitreya holiday. It is believed that Maitreya was chosen by the Buddha as his successor, and that he will come to the Earth as the future Cod. The celebration lasts for several days and culminates with the procession around the temple to the sounds of drums, horns and bronze bells. The procession is headed by the Maitreyas chariot and his statue, which symbolizes love, compassion and expectations for the better future.

Tamchinski dazan is one of the oldest Buddhist monasteries in Russia and it is famous for its religious festivals. Annual religious and theater performance take place here, which attracts a lot of visitors and believers.

Altan-Segre dazan is notable for a legendary archaeological monument the deer stone (Altan-Segre means the golden tether). According to the archeologists this stone is 3,5 thousand years old. Images of deer cover the stone. The legend has it, that the stone stele in the front of the main temple of the monastery served as a tether for the sacred horses of the celestials, who came down for the festivals.

Nature and Recreation Facilities

Buryatia enjoys unique nature and extended recreation facilities. There are up to 360 curative springs in the republic. The most well known resorts are Arshan and Goryachinsk. For the 1st of January of 1999 there were counted 3 reserves, 2 national parks, 21 preserves and 286 natural objects of note.

The Old Believers Village

(Saratovka, Kunalei, Tarbagatai)

For those, who are interested in unique cultures, excursions to the Old Believers villages are organized. In the 18th century about 20,000 Russian families of the Old Believers were exiled to Siberia. These people founded their settlements in Buryatia, where they managed to preserve their religion, traditional ceremonies and a distinctive dialect. At present, guests in such villages are welcomed with traditional hospitality and can enjoy local food specialties and different aspects of folk culture.

Tags: Russian tourism Russian regions Republic of Buryatia Russian history  


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