Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug is usually called Yugra or Ugra for short. It is named after two indigenous groups native to the region — the Khanty and the Mansi, known collectively as Ob-Ugric people. It covers 534,800 square kilometers (206,500 square miles), is home to about 1.53 million people and has a population density of 2.9 people per square kilometer. About 91.5 percent of the population live in urban areas. Khanty-Mansiysk is the capital, with about 80,000 people. The largest cities are Surgut, Nizhnevartovsk, and Nefteyugansk.

As of the early 2010s, about 51 percent of the oil produced in Russia and 7.3 percent of the world’s supply came from Khanty–Mansi Autonomous Okrug, making the region very important economically. More than 10 billion tons of oil has been was recovered from the okrug’s fields so far . The okrug contains around 70 percent of Russia’s developed oil fields, about 450 in total, including Samotlor, which is the largest oil field in Russia and the sixth largest in the world. Gas was first found in the region in 1953 and oil began to be produced in 1960.

As far as tourism is concerned this autonomous okrug combines unique historical, cultural and natural resources, the most important of which is the way of life of its indigenous peoples. If you visit a nomad camp, you can ride on a reindeer sleigh, live in a chum tent, learn to harness a deer, ride a sled and taste stroganina (slices of frozen meat) and patanka (thinly sliced frozen fish). In the Sub-Arctic Ural Mountains, it is popular to climb Mount Narodnaya — the highest peak of the Urals — and go fishing.

The winter in Khanty-Mansiysk is cold. Snow lies on the ground about 200 days of the year and temperature of -50 degrees, C are not unusual. The summer are short but sometimes can get surprisingly hot, with temperature over 30 degree heat. The best time to visit is May or or September, when it is not yet cold and the annoying mosquitos, no-see-ums and midges are not out in full force.

Getting There: By Plane: The flight Moscow or St. Petersburg to Khanty-Mansiysk is about three hours. To Surgut, three and a half. To Nizhnevartovsk, four hours. The cost of an adult round-trip economy class ticket is from 8,000 to 12,000 rubles, depending on the airline. The airport of Nizhnevartovsk. Website: / Phone +7 (3466) 49-21-75. By Train: you can reach Surgut, Nizhnevartovsk, Yugorsk, Nyagan and Kogalym. Trains do not reach Khanty-Mansiysk. The nearest station to it, Demyanka, is located 240 kilometers away. From it to the capital of Ugra there are minibuses. A round-trip ticket for a berth in a compartment from Moscow to Surgut is 14,000 rubles. The trip takes two days.

By Car: Two roads lead to Yugra. The main one is the Federal highway R404 Tyumen-Khanty-Mansiysk. This is convenient if you are going to the eastern part of the okrug. If you need to go to the western part or to the capital, it is better to go by the Northern route — through Perm, Serov, Ivdel and Yugorsk. The road quality on both routes is pretty good, but there is much less traffic on the northern one. If you are traveling in Ugra by car, do not forget to refueling. The distances gas stations can reach 200 kilometers or more. It is a good idea to have a canister of fuel in the trunk just in case. Regional Transport By Bus: From Khanty-Mansiysk to Surgut is 300 kilometers, Bus tickets range from 1100 to 1400 rubles. From Surgut to Nizhnevartovsk — 220 kilometers — bu bus costs about 1000 rubles. From Surgut to Kogalym — 80 kilometers — is about 500 rubles. The bus station in Nizhnevartovsk. Website: Phone: 8 (3466) 45-72-97.

Accommodation in the Region: In all major cities there are a lot of hotels. The level of service is high everywhere, but the prices are also high: starting from 5,000-6,000 rubles for a standard price double room. It is much cheaper to rent apartments, at 1,500 to 2,500 rubles.

Khanty and Mansi

The Khanty (pronounced HANT-ee) are a group of Finno-Ugric-speaking, semi-nomadic reindeer herders. Also known as Ostyaks, Asiakh, and Hante they are related to the Mansi, another group of Finno-Ugric-speaking reindeer herders. Only about 60 percent of Khanty speak their native language and a much smaller percentage live in the forest. In the Khanty-Mansiisk District they are fa r outnumbered by other ethnic groups. [Source: John Ross, Smithsonian; Alexander Milovsky, Natural History, December, 1993]

There are about 23,000 Khanty. They live primarily in Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug , a region along the northern tributaries of the Ob River in northwestern Siberia about 1,100 miles northwest of Moscow and 200 mile south of the Arctic Circle. Their cousins, the Mansi, also live there. The region has been damaged by oil and natural gas exploration and production.

The Mansi, known in the old days as the Voguls, are close relatives of the Khanty and live primarily in Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug.. There are around 8,000 or so Mansi. The Mansi have traditionally survived by fishing, hunting and gathering, The hunting methods they employed and the animals they went after was determined by what was available. Often they relied chiefly on fishing and dried enough fish during the summer to last through the winter. They hunted elk, bears, wild reindeer with spears, bows and arrows and traps until the 19th century when the began using firearms. Elk were caught with a system of traps and triggered bows.

Many Mansi still hunt. They use dogs and firearms and go chiefly after muskrats and squirrels. Sable are hunted with nets and guns by a pair of hunters: one who flushes the sable from its den into the net and the other who shoots the animal. Their traditional religion is often aimed at securing a successful hunt.

Oil and Natural Gas in Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug

Oil was prospected in the West Siberia from the beginning of the 20th century. Local people reported finding discharges on the surface from time to time. The first Soviet prospectors arrived to Ugra in 1935. They confirmed the presence of natural oil seeps on the Ugan river in the Surgut area. Over 2.5 tons of equipment were delivered to the drilling pad by air. Other supplies were hauled by horses, since the nearest railroad ran about 1,000 km away from the prospecting site. The place was very remote and was only accessible during the winter. The early workers lived in a camp under extremely cold conditions. [Source: Technologies Department of Ugra]

In 1953, natural gas was found for the first time in Western Siberia, in Berezovo, about 300 kilometers northwest of Khanty-Mansiysk. in Berezovo. In 1960 the first oil was found in the vicinity of Shaim. Soon after oil fields were discovered in Megion, West Surgut, Pokur, Vatinsky, Mamontovo, Salym, Pravdino and other places. The biggest discovery was in 1965, when the first oil gushed out from the marshland at Samotlor. One of the largest oil fields in the world, it has already produced 2.67 billion tons of oil.

Oil quality in the region is quite high. Some is light, some is black, but most of it is brown. Its characteristics and composition can differ significantly even within the same field. In 2013 255.1 million tons of oil were produced in Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug and eight new fields were brought into development. Total gas production in Ugra was 33,0 billion cubic meters in 2013. This was mostly associated petroleum gas.

Owing to its explored and proven raw hydrocarbons resources, production capabilities, industrial infrastructure and oil fields commercial viability Yugra will remain Russia’s main strategic raw hydrocarbons resource base for the next several decades. Over 475 oil and gas fields have been discovered in the territory of the Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug. Total length of the region's pipelines network is 107,000 kilometers.

Ob River

Ob River (flowing northeast of Novosibirsk and Tomsk) is the forth longest river in the world if you include its major tributary the Irtysh River and the seventh longest without it. The westernmost of three great rivers of Asiatic Russia, the Ob is 3,650 kilometers (2,270 miles) long and is an important commercial waterway that transports goods back and forth between the Trans-Siberian Railway and the resource rich regions of northern Siberia. Since it is frozen over half the year activity on the river is concentrated mostly in the summer months. The Ob-Irtysh is over 5570 kilometers (3461 miles) long

The Ob and the Irtysh River begin in the Altay Mountains, a range located near where Russia, China, Kazakhstan and Mongolia all come together, and flow northward. Although the Ob and the Irtysh begin at points within a couple of hundred miles of one another the two rivers don't join until the Irytysh has traveled over 1,600 kilometers (1000 miles). Once the two rivers have dropped down out of the highlands the meander lazily through open steppes, then rich farmland, and meet in flat, swampy plains, where the width of river ranges between a half a kilometer and a kilometer and a half. The Ob then passes through fir and spruce forests of West Siberia, then through Arctic tundra before finally emptying into the Kara Sea, an arm of the Arctic Ocean. The Ob is one of the great Asiatic Russian rivers (the Yenisei and the Lena are the other two). According to the Guinness Book of World Records, it has the longest estuary (550 miles long and up to 50 miles wide) and is widest river that freezes solid. The mouth of the river on the Arctic Ocean is ice free only a couple of months a year. Huge flood sometimes form in the spring when high waters fed by melting snow and ice meet still frozen section of the river.

The main city on the Ob is Novosibirsk. Parts of the Ob are very polluted and nearly void of life. At the mouth of the river so much land has been degraded by gas exploration that huge chunks of permafrost land have literally melted into the sea. [Source: Robert Paul Jordan, National Geographic, February 1978, ♬]

Traveling on the Ob and Irtysh Rivers

There is a regualr ferry the Ob and Irtysh Rivers that travels between Omsk – Tobolsk – Khanty-Mansiysk – Berezovo and Salekhard (Yamal Nenets Autonomous Region). Omsk and Tobolsk both have train stations on the Trans-Siberian Railway. Khanti-Mansiysk is accessible by bus from Tyumen, which has a train station. After Khanti-Mansiysk you are beyond the road network. As well as the major stops listed on the route above, the boat also stops at plenty of isolated indigenous villages in between them. Salekhard is the only city in the world located exactly on the Arctic Circle.

The name of the ferry is the Rodina. It travels three times a month in June and September and four times a month in July and August. Going from Salekhard to Omsk: Day 1): departs Salekhard at 5:00pm; Dat 2) stops at Berezovo for 30 minutes ay 7:30pm; Day 3) stops at Oktobraskaya Market for one hour. Day 4) stops at Khanty-Mansiysk for two hours at 8:00am; Day 6) one hour stop in Tobolsk at 7:30. Day 9) arrive in Omsk at 3:00pm. Traveling the other direction, with the current, takes one third less time.

On the Salekhard - Tobolsk - Omsk trip on person posted on Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree forum in 2013: “I'll start by saying that this boat is amazingly good value for money. Here some example prices. The first is for beds in the common area, similar to platzkart on the train, the second is for a bed in a private 4-, 6-, or 8 bed cabin and the third is for a bed in a private 2 bed cabin. 1) Salekhard - Omsk (8 days): 1162 / 1437 / 3926 roubles; 2) Salekhard - Tobolsk (5 days): 774 / 969 / 2632 roubles; 3) Tobolsk - Khanty-Mansiysk (2 days): 429 / 526 / 1394 roubles. Children go half price!

“Tickets can be bought in advance at the airport in Salekhard or on the boat itself an hour before departure (it's apparently never full). Most people get off at one of the stops in the first 24 hours when going south from Salekhard, leaving only one or two people in most of the cabins for most of the route. The beds are comfortable , both longer and wider than on trains. Everything is cleaned several times a day, there's a shower, laundry, restaurant with simple but tasty meals and alcohol. Breakfast about 70 roubles, lunch and dinner 150 - 300, beer 50 - 80, wine, vodka and so on also available. Theres also a small room where films are shown starting in the afternoon and a shop selling all sorts of useful stuff such as toiletries, mugs, books.

“You can walk around on deck as much as you want or sit and read a book on the benches up there. The scenery is more or less the same all the way - endless taiga forest with absolutely no sign of civilisation. There are a few villages such as Pitlyar for which the boat is their only access to the outside world and a couple of towns where you can get off the boat and walk around - Beryozovo 24 hours after Salekhard and Khanty-Manskiysk 3 days from Salekhard. From Khanty Mansiysk there are regular buses to Tyumen on the Trans Siberian which take 8 hours. At Tobolsk the boat stops next to the stunning kremlin, the only one in Siberia.

“Anyone can freely sail the whole route between Omsk and Pitlyar, a small village of 500 and the last stop before Salekhard. Salekhard and areas north are closed to outsiders, Russian or otherwise, unless they get a temporary permit. See the Yamal Peninsula link in my signature line for how to get this permit. Permit in hand, you can continue the journey north from Salekhard a further two days to Antipayuta, well beyond the Arctic Circle, with a similar level of comfort and price.

“It sails the whole route from June to September and once in October from Khanty-Mansiysk to Omsk. Check for timetables and fares. Only about half the boats from Salekhard go as far as Omsk, the rest stopping in Tobolsk. Eg in July and August, the most frequent sailing months, 6 boats go from Salekhard - Tobolsk each month but only 3 continue to Omsk. Check the timetable carefully when planning if you want to sail all the way to Omsk!”

Khanty-Mansiysk City

Khanty-Mansiysk is the capital of the Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug and home to about 80,000 people. Despite its remote location and relatively small size, it has a Norman Foster skyscraper, world-leading medical center that is free and has hosted international film festivals, major sports events and political summits. How is this possible?: Oil wealth and close ties between local politicians and Russian President Vladimir Putin doesn’t hurt.

Khanty Mansiysk has showy headquarters for Russia’s main oil companies: Rosneft, Lukoil and Gazprom-Neft. Not far away enormous drilling towers rise and gas flares burn above the birch forests and pipelines cut through the landscape. Around 90 percent of the city’s economic revenues are tied directly to the oil and gas industries.

The city is located in a picturesque area of the West Siberian lowland, where steep hills overgrown with age-old dwarf pine, rise up from the right bank of the mighty Irtysh River. Two of the largest rivers of Siberia — the Irtysh and the Ob — merge twenty kilometers from the city. Not far from town the “Coniferous Urman” ski complex with a cable car. The cedar forest of the Samarovsky Chugas Park has trails for cross-country skiing and hiking. For children there is a water park and a small zoo in the village of Shapsha 20 kilometers from the city. In the summer, there are boat tours to the confluence of the Ob and Irtysh, where you can see the floating chapel-lighthouse.

Places of interest to tourists the gold domes of the Church of Christ’s Resurrection; the gallery of the artist Gennady Raishev; the Geology, Oil and Gas Museum, which traces the history of Western Siberian oil and gas development; and the open-air Archeopark, which has bronze sculptures of Pleistocene animals like mammoths and woolly rhinosl a sporting venue that hosts international ice and skiing events. A new triple concert hall dominates the center of the town. Servicing villages that cannot be reached by road, is an ultra-modern hospital ship that cruises Ob and Irtish rivers treating the sick on board. Complex operations are supervised by surgeons from the central hospital in Khanty-Mansiysk using TV monitors that relay pictures by satellite.

Accommodation: There are several hotels of different levels in Khanty-Mansiysk. The best service and, accordingly, the highest prices at the Ugra valley Valley Complex. At the Tarey business hotel prices start from 4800 rubles per night; at the Olympics Hotel, from 3000 rubles per night. If you want to save money, it is better to rent an apartment: a one-bedroom can be found in the area of 1500 rubles per day.

History of Khanty-Mansiysk City

The first written mention of the town of the Khanty Prince Samara, where the modern city of Khanty-Mansiysk is located, dates back to 1582. In 1637, a settlement of Russian coachmen was formed in the place of this town. It was named after the Prince Samara — Samarovsky Yam.

By the beginning of the 19th century, Samarovsky Yam turned into a large village of Samarovo and became the center of crafts and trade thanks to the favourable location on the river trade routes. In 1931, a few kilometers from the village of Samarovo, a workers settlement Ostyako-Vogulsk was built, which became the district center of the Ostyako-Vogulsk national district. The settlement began to be built up with new industrial enterprises, administrative buildings, apartment houses, public and cultural institutions. By the end of 1950s, pebble roads were laid in the settlement.

In 1940, Ostyako-Vogulsk was renamed Khanty-Mansiysk, and the district was renamed Khanty-Mansiysk, since at that time Ostyak tribes began to be called Khanty, and Voguls tribes — Mansi. In 1950, Khanty-Mansiysk received the status of a city, including Samarovo village. Since 1977, Khanty-Mansiysk has become the administrative center of the Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug formed from the national district.

Sights in Khanty-Mansiysk

Torum Maa Open Air Museum (Ulitsa Sobyanina, 20, Khanty-Mansiysk) is located on one of the seven holy hills, in the Samarovsky Churas Nature Park, and features authentically reconstructed buildings and dwelling of indigenous peoples of the North, including a Mansi winter camp and traditional Khanty residential and household structures dating to the early-mid-19th century. You can learn more about hunting culture of the Khanty and Mansi on a special hiking trail.

At the museum you can find a 15th-17th century smithy, reconstructed using materials from archaeological excavations of Emder city; displays of idols and protectors of this land. The museum is especially active during traditional holidays of the Ob river Ugric people when Khanty and Mansi come from all over to celebrate. The most popular of these are: Tylasch pori (the Rite of Offering to the Moon), which takes place in February or March when the moon is waxing; Crow Day, which symbolizes the beginning of spring and is celebrated in April; the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, which is celebrated globally on August 9; and the main holiday for the museum staff and visitors — the anniversary of the Torum Maa Museum on October 30.

Archeopark Cultural and Tourist Complex (in Khanty-Mansiysk) covers 3.5 hectares near a rock outcropping and includes a geological monument, the Samarov Villiage Archaeological Monument (dating from the 11th-18th centuries), and a the Sculpture Park with giant bronze sculptures of mammoths and other Pleistocene-era animals and Paleolithic humans.

The park was set up where the bones of mammoths and other pre-historic animals have been found. The first large bones and tusks were found in the 19th century, when the northern region came to be called the “elephant homeland.” For local inhabitants, the archaeological findings along the river banks were not so uncommon. The bones had been in demand as a decorative material and therapeutic powder.

All the sculptures were created in cooperation with paleontologists, who made sure that the ancient inhabitants of this area look as authentic as possible. Some of the sculptures, for instance, rhinoceroses, were made in life size, while others are two to three times larger. The height of the largest sculpture in the Mammoth composition is eight meters. The sculptures are lit up at night. The little mammoth is named KoJourka. The sculpture probably has the world's only sign that prohibits mammoth climbing.

Sights Near Khanty-Mansiysk City

Floating Chapel-Beacon in Honor of Saint Nicholas (20 kilometers Khanty-Mansiysk) opened in 2013 near the confluence of two mighty Siberian rivers — the Ob and Irtysh. Blessed by Bishop Pavel of Khanty-Mansiysk and Surgut and consecrated by Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus, it is Russia's first floating chapel-lighthouse. The chapel is eight meters high, it weighs 10 tons and is fixed on a pontoon. Below the cross crowning the chapel there is a beacon light. There are eight illuminated alcoves with icons. The chapel is not intended to hold a service inside. Only maintenance personnel looking after the power supply can moor to it.

Originally the idea of building the chapel was suggested by S. Sandulov, president of the local branch of the Association of Ports and River Transport Owners. For river transport workers the Ob-Irtysh confluence is a special place. And for the local people — Khanty and Mansi — this is a sacred area. However, for a long time there was no monument or sign to mark the place. At the confluence of the Ob and Irtysh people have traditionally made a wish by throwing a coin into the water. The water here is considered to be sacred and many tourists wash themselves with the water of the two rivers.

Silava Ethnographic Center (near Uray, 250 kilometers east of Khanty-Mansiysk) and the Ela Hoth community of indigenous peoples "was founded in 2008 to preserve features of the traditional culture and way of life on the site of the former village of New Silava. Visitors can participate in Mansi ceremonies and celebrations and Mansi cooking and engage in recreational activities such as skiing, sledding, tubing, ice sliding and riding a snowmobile "Buran" in the winter; and pick mushrooms, berries, medicinal plants and go boating in the summer. The center may difficult to get to.

Swimming is possible in the cold Konda River. You can also go hiking on eco-trails and participate in various types of fishing and children's entertainment programs. The community has assembled a small museum of household items and fishing items. You can see how fishing camps were set up and a functioning bread oven and a machine for weaving mats and try grinding flour at the mill and baking bread.

Priobskoye Field

The Priobskoye field (65 kilometers east of Khanty-Mansiysk, and 100 kilometers west of Nefteyugansk) is an oil field that occupies an area of 5,466 square kilometers (2,110 square miles. It is located along both banks of the Ob River, and is serviced by the town of

The field was discovered in 1982. The northern three-quarters of the field was controlled by YUKOS via unit Yuganskneftegaz, and began oil production in 2000. In 2004, Yuganskneftegaz was bought by Rosneft, which is now the operating company of that portion of the field. The southern quarter of the field was controlled by Sibir energy, which began a joint venture with Sibneft to develop the field, with volume production beginning in 2003. Sibneft subsequently acquired complete control of the field via a corporate maneuver to dilute Sibir's holding. Sibneft is now majority controlled by Gazprom and renamed Gazprom Neft.

In 2007, the field was producing 675,000 barrels per day: 550,000 barrels per day in the northern Rosneft area and 125,000 barrels per day in the southern Gazprom Neft area. For 2008, Rosneft reported a growth of production to 680,000 barrels per day, while Gazpromneft's share grew slightly. In 2009, Gazprom Neft produced 160,000 barrels per day in its share of the field. In September 2019, Russia’s finance ministry approved tax breaks for developing the Priobskoye oilfield, Russia’s largest, to oil giants Rosneft and Gazprom Neft, Alexei Sazano.


Surgut (300 kilometers east of Khanty-Mansiysk by road) located on the Ob River and is one of the few cities in Russia that has a larger population than the capital of its federal subject. It is home to about 375,000 people compared to 80,000 in Khanty-Mansiysk. Surgut is home to the largest port on the Ob River, the largest road-railway junction in northwest Siberia. Two of the world's most powerful power plants — the SDPP-1 (State District Power Plant 1) and SDPP-2 (State District Power Plant 2), which produce over 7,200 megawatts — are also there supply most of the region with relatively cheap electricity.

Surgut's economy is tied to oil production (the city is known as "The Oil Capital of Russia") and the processing of natural gas. The most important enterprises are the oil firm Surgutneftegaz and Surgutgazprom (a unit of Gazprom). The Surgut-2 Power Station providing Energy for the city is the largest gas-fired power station in the world. In addition, there are factories: gas processing, stabilization of condensate, motor fuel. Enterprises food (meat processing, dairy, etc.) industry, timber industry. Manufacture of building materials (production of reinforced concrete structures, etc.).

The city is served by the Surgut International Airport, which offers flights to Moscow, St. Petersburg, Dubai, Irkutsk, and a number of other cities. Through Surgut are trains to the east (in Novy Urengoy, Nizhnevartovsk), to the south-west (in Tyumen, Moscow, Novosibirsk, Ufa, Chelyabinsk, Yekaterinburg). Road P-404 connects Surgut with Tyumen. Places to stay in Surgut include the Ob, Den, Ark, and Center hotels

Old Surgut is a historical and ethnographic complex with 14 restored copies of wooden houses that once stood in the city. Among them “house of nature”, “House of local historian”, “house of Cossacks”, “House of indigenous peoples of the North” and others. Every winter, the center hosts a festival of ice sculptures.

Barsova Mountain Tract (west of Surgut) is located he state natural and archaeological park. Barosova Gora stretches for eight kilometers along the right Bank of the Ob river. Along the tract there are remains of ancient buildings, sanctuaries, burial grounds, some dating back to the Stone Age. In total, there are more than 400 archaeological sites on Barsova Mountain. It is better to visit this place in the summer or early autumn. The standard tour lasts about three hours.


Nefteyugansk(30 kilometers west of Surgut) is located to south of the Ob River and is home to about 125,000, people. It was founded on October 16, 1967, after an oil field had been discovered on a small forest clearing in the middle of the taiga marshland in 1961. The main and the only big enterprise in the city, Yuganskneftegaz, was founded in February 1966. The name 'Yugansk' comes from the indigenous Khanty name of a small river near the city, neft' means oil in Russian, and gaz is natural gas.

The economy of the city remains petroleum-based, and was a major center for the Russian oil enterprise YUKOS, which owned Yuganskneftegaz. In fact, the "Yu" in "YUKOS" comes from the "yu" in "Nefteyugansk" and therefore from "Yuganskneftegaz". The other three letters come from the oil-refining factory "Kuibyshev-Org-Sintez", situated in Samara.

Nefteyugansk has been at the center of violence and drama involving YUKOS. On June 26, 1998, city mayor Vladimir Petukhov was shot dead on the way to his office. Before his murder, Petukhov had been on a hunger strike demanding that the chairmen of municipal and district tax offices be dismissed from their positions and a criminal case against Yukos be filed on counts of tax evasion. Petukhov's widow later on called for an investigation into Mikhail Khodorkovsky's role in events. Back then Khodorkovsky was head of Yukos. On September 20, 2005 Dmitry Yegortsev, acting mayor of Nefteyugansk, was assaulted and wounded with a knife. After the stabbing of Yegortsev, Igor Gribanov took over City Hall as acting mayor. Just a few months later, he died of carbon monoxide poisoning at his home on January 6, 2006. Since January 2005, Yuganskneftegaz has been owned by the state-owned oil company Rosneft. [Source: Wikipedia]

Hay Al Ruv Ethnographic Center of Indigenous Peoples of the North is an 1.5-hectare open air ethnographic which recreates the Khanty camp and has a house, storage shed, traditional tent, "red" tent for visitors and a bread oven.


Nizhnevartovsk (220 kilometers east of Surgut) is home to about 250,000 people. Since the 1960s, the town has grown rapidly in the coat-tails of the Western Siberian oil boom due to its location beside the Samotlor oil field along the right bank of the Ob River. The presence of the petroleum industry has made it one of the wealthiest cities in Russia. Accommodation is available at the Hope, Aviator, Venice and Waters hotels.

Nizhnevartovsk is situated in the Sredneobskaya Lowland of West Siberian Plain, in the middle course of the Ob River on its northern bank. It remained a relatively small settlement until the 1960s when the Soviet authorities began widespread prospecting for the petroleum industry in the Western Siberia region, discovering the Samotlor oil field, one of the largest oil fields in the world, beneath the nearby Lake Samoltor to the north of Nizhnevartovsk. During the early boomtown years, Komsomol volunteers were brought in from across the country to construct the city, whose population soared from 2300 people in 1959 to 15,663 in 1970.

Lake Samotlor is the home of the massive Samotlor oil field. A visit to the lake is part of a local oil tour, during which you can see how oil is produced, and study the history of the development of fields in Western Siberia. Tourists visit the Samotlor oil field, the school of drilling masters and eat in the dining room with the oilmen. The tours are hard to arrange on the spot, They need to booked in advance through a travel company. Oil tours can be combined with a visit to a Khanty camp.

Samotlor Field

Samotlor Field (near Nizhnevartovsk) is the largest oil field of Russia and the sixth largest in the world. Owned and operated by Rosneft, it is located at Lake Samotlor in Nizhnevartovsk district and covers 1,752 square kilometers (676 square miles). The field was discovered in 1965; development began in 1967 and first oil was produced in 1969. Nearby Nizhnevartovsk went from being a small village into a booming oil city as Samotlor became the most important oil production base of the Soviet Union. After breakup of the Soviet Union the field was owned by Samotlorneftgaz and TNK-Nizhnevartovsk, which later formed TNK-BP.

At Samotlor Field a total of 2,086 well clusters (containing more than 17,000 wells) have been built and about 2.6 billion tons of oil has been produced. The peak production occurred in 1980 when Samotlor produced 158.9 million tons of oil. Production has been in decline ever since, although according to TNK-BP the field production has stabilized over the past few years.

The proven reserves are approximately 44 billion barrels. The field is 80 percent depleted with water-cut exceeding 90 percent. At the end of the 1990s, production rate dropped to 300,000 barrels per day. However, through an aggressive exploration program and application of cutting-edge technologies TNK-BP had raised production up to 750,000 barrels per day. TNK-BP plans to invest US$1 billion per year for maintaining oil production at the level of 30 million tons per year. The production of oi in 2012 was 332,782 barrels per day. The estimated oil in place is 4 billion barrels. The oil comes from Cretaceous formations.

Ural Mountains

Ural Mountains are the traditional dividing line between Europe and Asia and have been a crossroads of Russian history. Stretching from Kazakhstan to the fringes of the Arctic Kara Sea, the Urals lie almost exactly along the 60 degree meridian of longitude and extend for about 2,000 kilometers (1,300 miles) from north to south and varies in width from about 50 kilometers (30 miles) in the north and 160 kilometers (100 miles) the south. At kilometers 1777 on the Trans-Siberian Railway there is white obelisk with "Europe" carved in Russian on one side and "Asia" carved on the other.

The eastern side of the Urals contains a lot of granite and igneous rock. The western side is primarily sandstone and limestones. A number of precious stones can be found in the southern part of the Urals, including emeralds. malachite, tourmaline, jasper and aquamarines. The highest peaks are in the north. Mount Narodnaya is the highest of all but is only 1884 meters (6,184 feet) high. The northern Urals are covered in thick forests and home to relatively few people.

Like the Appalachian Mountains in the eastern United States, the Urals are very old mountains — with rocks and sediments that are hundreds of millions years old — that were one much taller than they are now and have been steadily eroded down over millions of years by weather and other natural processes to their current size. According to Encyclopedia Britannica: “The rock composition helps shape the topography: the high ranges and low, broad-topped ridges consist of quartzites, schists, and gabbro, all weather-resistant. Buttes are frequent, and there are north–south troughs of limestone, nearly all containing river valleys. Karst topography is highly developed on the western slopes of the Urals, with many caves, basins, and underground streams. The eastern slopes, on the other hand, have fewer karst formations; instead, rocky outliers rise above the flattened surfaces. Broad foothills, reduced to peneplain, adjoin the Central and Southern Urals on the east.

“The Urals date from the structural upheavals of the Hercynian orogeny (about 250 million years ago). About 280 million years ago there arose a high mountainous region, which was eroded to a peneplain. Alpine folding resulted in new mountains, the most marked upheaval being that of the Nether-Polar Urals...The western slope of the Urals is composed of middle Paleozoic sedimentary rocks (sandstones and limestones) that are about 350 million years old. In many places it descends in terraces to the Cis-Ural depression (west of the Urals), to which much of the eroded matter was carried during the late Paleozoic (about 300 million years ago). Found there are widespread karst (a starkly eroded limestone region) and gypsum, with large caverns and subterranean streams. On the eastern slope, volcanic layers alternate with sedimentary strata, all dating from middle Paleozoic times.”

The fauna of the vertebrate animals in the Reserve includes 19 fish, 5 amphibian and 5 reptile. Among the 48 mammal species are elks, roe deer, boars, foxes, wolves, lynxes, badgers, common weasels, least weasels, forest ferrets, Siberian striped weasel, common marten, American mink. Squirrels, beavers, muskrats, hares, dibblers, moles, hedgehogs, voles are quite common, as well as chiropterans: pond bat, water bat, Brandt's bat, whiskered bat, northern bat, long-eared bat, parti-coloured bat, Nathusius' pipistrelle. The 174 bird bird species include white-tailed eagles, honey hawks, boreal owls, gnome owls, hawk owls, tawny owls, common scoters, cuckoos, wookcocks, common grouses, wood grouses, hazel grouses, common partridges, shrikes, goldenmountain thrushes, black- throated loons and others.

Mount Narodnaya: the Highest Mountain in the Urals

Mount Narodnaya (700 kilometers northwest of Khanty-Mansiysk) is the highest mountain in the Urals. Also known as Naroda and Poenurr and "People's Mountain", it is 1,894 meters (6,214 feet) high. It lies in in Khanty–Mansi Autonomous Okrug but is only 500 meters east from the border of Komi Republic. The name is derived from the nearby Naroda River.

Mount Narodnaya is the highest point in European Russia outside the Caucasus and rises 1,772 meters (5,814 ft) above the landscape. Narodnaya is located in the Ural mountains water divide, and therefore on the border between Europe and Asia: The mountain is formed with quartzites and metamorphosed slates of the Proterozoic Eon and Cambrian Period. There are some glaciers on the mountain. Also, there are sparse forests of larch and birch in the deep valleys at the foot of the mountain. The slopes of the mountain are covered with highland tundra.

Mount Narodnaya was identified in 1927. If you ascend from the territory of Ugra, you first need to get to the village of Saranpaul (by helicopter from Berezovo, in the winter you can snowmobile), then about 180 kilometers to overcome by all-terrain transport to the camp site “Desired”, where you can climb Narodnaya and Manaragu. The cost of the tour, depending on the time of year, transport and service varies from 15,000 to 200,000 rubles, with a lot of the cost depending on whether you use a helicopter or not..

The easiest route to the summit is a technically easy hike on the moderate north-west slope. Depending on snow and ice conditions, crampons may be required. The south wall of Narodnaya is steeper and less commonly used to reach the summit. Accommodation: The cost of living at the camp site “Desired” — from 2300 rubles per day. In the forest in tent-for free.

Numto Natural Park

The Numto Natural Park (400 kilometers north of Surgut) is in the center of the Western-Siberian plain. The park covers 7,217 square kilometers and was created in 1997 to preserve the unique natural complexes of the Siberian Uvaly and protect the places where the the northern Khanty and forest Nenets live and work. The area is also inhabited by many animals and birds included osprey, white-tailed eagle, golden eagle, red-footed falcon, gyrfalcon, and others.

Because of its remoteness and difficulty to access, the Numto lake area remained a “blank space” during the development of Siberia. It was explored properly only in the early 20th century. It was first described by A. Dunin-Gorkavitch, who reached the place with reindeer teams in November 1901. He wrote: “Thus, during this journey I was able to explore the Kazym River and the watersheds of four other rivers: Kazym and Nadym on one side, Pima and Trom-Yugan on the other, as well as the Samoyed Lake Numto, known as “the lake of God”. The lake is located at the following coordinates: 63°30'N 41°30'E. It's oval in shape and has a narrow sandy spit from the northwest”.

The traveler gives a rather detailed description of some of the area's features: “ the south from the lake, some 35 kilometers away, there is a watershed of four- rivers, from which the Kazym River begins. The watershed area is actually a tundra with huge hills up to 64 meters high with bogs in between. And these very bogs have springs and that is where the rivers Kazym, Nadym, Pim, and Trom-Yugan begin”.

Numto Lake was a kind of a sanctuary for peoples of the northern Ob. It was worshiped like a living creature. Even fishing was prohibited there. Some of these religious bans still exist; for example, it is not permitted to chop ice with an axe, fix anchoring poles in the lake bottom or block the connection between the lake and the Ukhlor Gulf with nets. With the coming of the winter, the Khanty and Nenets people come to Holy Island to offer a deer in sacrifice.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Federal Agency for Tourism of the Russian Federation (official Russia tourism website ), Russian government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Yomiuri Shimbun and various books and other publications.

Updated in September 2020

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