Western Siberia has traditionally been defined as the area of land between the Ural Mountains and the Yenisei River. Much of it lies on the West Siberian Plain which is lower and slightly warmer than the higher Central Siberia Plain.
The forests are dominated by pine, spruce and fir. The hardier larch dominates on other side of the Yenisey. The large industrial cities of Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk and Kransoyarsk are on the Trans-Siberian Railroad. Some of the most interesting area are in the Republic of Altay and Tuva near the Mongolian border.
Western Siberia is also quite swampy and has a lot of mosquitos. Ian Frazier wrote in The New Yorker, “ The country’s swampiness did not manifest itself in great expanses of water with reeds and trees in it, like the Florida Everglades. There were wide rivers and reedy places, but also birch groves and hills and yellow fields. The way you could tell you were in the swamp was, first, that the ground became impassably soggy if you walked at all far in any direction; and, second, by the mosquitoes....Western Siberia has the largest swamps in the world. In much of Siberia, the land doesn’t do much of anything besides gradually sag northward to the Arctic. The rivers of western Siberia flow so slowly that they hardly seem to move at all.” [Source: Ian Frazier, The New Yorker, August 3, 2009, Frazier is author of “Travels in Siberia” (2010)]
On driving through the region, Frazier wrote: “Beyond Yekaterinburg, the road lay straight through grain fields like Nebraska’s or Iowa’s, and the sky unfolded itself majestically outward and higher. Vistas kept appearing until the eye hardly knew what to do with them—dark-green tree lines converging at a distant yellow corner of the fields, and the lower trunks of a birch grove black as a bar code against a sunny meadow behind them, and the luminous yellows and greens of vegetables in baskets along the road, and grimy trucks with only their license numbers wiped clean, their black diesel smoke unravelling behind them across the sky.
“And everywhere the absence of fences. I couldn’t get over that. In America, almost all open country is fenced, and your eye automatically uses fence lines for reference the way a hand feels for a bannister. Here the only fenced places were the gardens in the villages and the little paddocks for animals. Also, here the road signs were fewer and had almost no bullet holes. This oddity stood out even more because the stop signs, for some reason, were exactly the same as stop signs in America: octagonal, red, and with the word “stop” on them in big white English letters. Any stop sign in such a rural place in America (let alone a stop sign written in a foreign language) would likely have a few bullet holes.”
West Siberia Oil
West Siberia is Russia's main oil-producing region, accounting for about 6.4 million barrels per day of liquids production, more than 60 percent of Russia's total production in 2013.10 One of the largest and oldest fields in West Siberia is Samotlor field, which has been producing oil since 1969. Samotlor field has been in decline since reaching a post-Soviet era peak of 635,000 barrels per day in 2006. However, with continued investment and application of standard enhanced oil recovery techniques, decline at the field has been kept to an average of 5 percent per year from 2008 to 2014, significantly lower than the natural decline rate for mature West Siberian fields of 10-14 percent per year. [Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, July 2015 ~]
Other large oil fields in the region include Priobskoe, Prirazlomnoe, Mamontovskoe, and Malobalykskoe. While this region is mature, West Siberian production potential is still significant but will depend on improving production economics at fields that are more complex and which contain a significant portion of remaining reserves. ~
The Bazhenov shale layer, which lies under existing resource deposits, also holds great potential. In the 1980s, the Soviet government tried to stimulate production by detonating small nuclear devices underground. In recent years, the government has used tax breaks to encourage Russian and international oil companies to explore the Bazhenov and other shale reservoirs. However, most shale exploration activities in Russia have been suspended because of sanctions. ~
Meeting Babes and Hanging with the Locals in Western Siberia
On the segment of his journey in Tyumen oblast, Ian Frazier wrote in The New Yorker: ““I did not like being left in camp, but I had brought that duty on myself. What with my awkwardness in the language, and the fact that I didn’t drink, I sometimes preferred to stay in camp and read a book while Sergei and Volodya were hanging out and socializing with people they’d met along the way. But that does not quite describe the problem, either. By now we were in remote places where the arrival of a vehicle with St. Petersburg license plates was news. Even the highway police, when they waved us over at checkpoints, were a bit wide-eyed as they examined our documents—“Where do you live in America? What do you do?”—and so on. One young policeman, before he saw my passport, asked wistfully, “Is it expensive to live in St. Petersburg?” And this curiosity seemed to affect the local women even more strongly than it did the men. [Source: Ian Frazier, The New Yorker, August 10 and 17, 2009, Frazier is author of “Travels in Siberia” (2010)]
“I’m not saying that women paraded through our campsites wherever we happened to be; but they did show up occasionally, even when we were camped far from any village. A few nights before, in a glade well off the road, I had just got into my sleeping bag when Sergei rousted me out so that I could meet two women whom he described as schoolteachers eager to meet me. Dutifully, I got up and emerged and made conversation with the schoolteachers for a while. They had wanted to see the American, and I think Sergei had felt compelled to prove that he really did have one. Then he and Volodya and the schoolteachers went off—to a birthday party, Sergei said, at a picnic spot nearby. I demurred and returned to my tent. The idea of chasing women in Siberia would have made me nervous even had I not been married. Sergei and Volodya found my reluctance mystifying.
“Tobolsk, our local destination—a must-see as far as I was concerned—was about an hour and a half away. In the morning, Sergei announced that we would drive to Tobolsk now, spend the day there, then come back here and camp for another night. Rather tiredly, he and Volodya broke camp and packed the van. Then we drove off, with a first stop at the village, where three women were waiting for us. The youngest of them, a sturdy, round woman of about thirty with blond-streaked hair, came up to Sergei and took his hand. She seemed delighted with her luck in having met him. The other two women were in their late fifties or early sixties and did not appear to have been principals in last night’s socializing. These two were sisters. One of them was the blond-streaked young woman’s mother, the other her aunt.
“Both the aunt and the mother had brown, deeply weathered faces. The mother wore a brown cloth Lenin-type cap, a dark-gray overcoat-smock with holes in it, brown bloused pants with red-brown patches, and knee-high rubber boots. The aunt was dressed similarly, but she had a head of wiry hair dyed yellow-orange. Both carried big galvanized pails. They were on their way to pick berries, and we were going to give them a ride to the berry patch, a few kilometers away. The mother started right in talking to me. Sergei must have told her that I was interested in Yermak, because she informed me that Yermak and his men had camped at the exact spot where we were last night. I asked how she knew this and she said, “It’s a fact, everybody knows it,” adding that the aunt had even written a paper about this subject. The aunt nodded her head in confirmation. The mother went on to tell us about the aunt’s paper, and what it said, and where it was published. With more verifying nods, the aunt backed up each detail. I asked the aunt what her job was. “She’s a philologist,” the mother said. With matter-of-fact pride, the aunt nodded again.
“At the berry patch, the mother showed me what they were picking—a small, round berry growing close to the ground on a plant with leaves like strawberry leaves. It looked like a holly berry and was very sour but sweet, with a big stone. There were thousands of them. The mother said its name was kostyanika. (The name means “stone berry.”) She said they made a jam of it to put in tea.”
Kurgan Oblast is known as the gateway to Siberia. Crossed by the Baikal federal highway and the Trans-Siberian railway, it covers 71,000 square kilometers (27,000 square miles), is home to about 910,000 people and has a population density of only 13 people per square kilometer. About 60 percent of the population live in urban areas. The city Kurgan is the capital and largest city, with about 330,000 people.
Kurgan region is located at the junction of the Urals and Siberia, in the Tobol and Iset river basins. The regions is famous famous for healing saline lakes, healing mud and ancient kurgans (burial mounds) Winters are cold and with relatively little snow. The average temperature is around - 18°C. Summers are pleasant and dry, with the average temperature around 19°C. There are many places where you can enjoy hiking, cycling, horse riding, SUV driving, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing. Among the most popular destinations are Savin Sanctuary, the Trans-Ural Stonehenge in Belozersk, which scientists believe may have been an observatory in ancient times; and Tsarevo Gorodishche park,
Getting There: By Plane: The city of Kurgan has an airport. From Moscow it is a three-hours direct flight. Tickets are about from 8000 rubles. From St. Petersburg with a transfer in Moscow it takes about 7 hours. The ticket is around 15,000 rubles. (round trip for an adult). By Train: An alternative route of the Trans-Siberian Railway passes through Kurgan. From Moscow the trip takes about 34 hours and a one way ticket costs 10,000 rubles. From St. Petersburg with a transfer in Moscow the trip takes two days and costs 21,000 rubles round-trip for a berth in a compartment. By Car: The distance from Moscow to Kurgan by road is 2158 kilometers and can be driven in about a day and half of straight driving. Transport in the Region: The main forms of transport in the Kurgan region are trains and buses: Prices for places from Kurgan City: Shadrinsk: 476 rubles; Shumiha: 408 rubles; Kurtamysh: 284 rubles; Dalmatovo: 499 rubles; Kataysk: 567 rub; Petukhovo: 399 rubles; Lebyazhie: 238 rubles; Krestovskoe: 331 rubles.
History of Kurgan
The history of the city of Kurgan begins with the settlement Tsarevo Gorodishche, founded in 1679 by a peasant named Timofei Nevezhin at the foot of ancient burial mounds. At the beginning of the 18th century, the fortified settlement was called Tsarekurgan or Kurgan sloboda. In 1782, due to the formation of Tobolsk province on the order of Empress Catherine II, the settlement received the status of a city, and was called Kurgan (kurgan means “mound” in Russian).
In tsarist times, a small town became a place of exile; it saw the Polish insurgents, the Decembrists, the Narodnaya Volya. The Decembrist A. E. Rosen noted in 1832: “The city is built on the banks of the Tobol, has three streets longitudinal with cross lanes. All structures are wooden, except two stone buildings.”
The city's history took a sharp turn in the late 19th century: the first rails of the Great Siberian Railway were laid through Kurgan in 1894. By the beginning of the 20th century, Kurgan turned from a quiet county town into one of the major trade and industrial centers of the Urals and Siberia, known outside the Russian Empire. There were 49 enterprises in Kurgan by 1913. Kurgan butter was exported to Europe, America, New Zealand. Kurgan was called “the capital of butter”, “the London's kitchen”, “Siberian Italy”. By 1917, it had become one of the most developed cities of the Tobolsk province.
The Kurgan region took its place on the map of Russia in 1943 and got the status of a regional center at the same time. The construction of multi-storey houses was started, the economy and culture developed. Kurgan was awarded the Order of the Red Banner of Labor for success in economic activity in 1982.
Kurgan, a town on the east side of the Urals, is the gateway to Siberia. Settled by Russians in 1782 it became an important trade center when the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway began a century later. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, its population has been steadily declining from 355,517 (1989 Census) to 345,515 (2002 Census) to 333,606 (2010 Census).
In the center of the city you can find historical and architectural monuments of 18th-20th centuries: merchant houses and manors, monuments of wooden architecture and the cathedral of St. Alexander Nevsky. The architectural ensemble in Kurgan central square was created in the 1950s by Leningrad architects-designers. The G. A. Ilizarov, Scientific Center of Restorative Traumatology and Orthopedics is well-known in Russia for treating diseases and injuries of the musculoskeletal system, including the most complex ones. Transosseous osteosynthesis was pioneered at the center.
If you make it to Kurgan, visit the bronze postman, a monument to zero kilometer marker at the junction of roads to many placed check out the colorful 27-meter-high fire tower, and then go try the famous Shadrinsky goose and printed gingerbread cookies. Accommodation: The medieval-style Aivengo Hotel has rooms that start at 2700 rubles per night and has a fitness room, baths, and saunas. A less expensive option is Victoria Apartments with apartments starting at 1300 rubles per day. Not all attractions of the region can be reached by taxi or public transport. You can rent a car at Avalon for 1100 rubles per day.
St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral Church is considered one of the most beautiful buildings in the town; it is listed in the Encyclopedia Britannica as an outstanding monument of architecture. The construction of the church began in 1896,. The church was open for worship for a relatively short time: before it was closed in 1929 by the Soviets. Under the, it was a museum, then housed the Department of Mechanization of the Department of the Higher Agricultural School of the Communist Party, then the clothing warehouse of the 32nd Skying Regiment, and then again a museum. Later the museum moved to another building, and the church was returned to believers.
Mud Volcanoes of Erokhinsky Kvashny (near the village of Erokhina, 86 kilometers from Kurgan) is the name of interesting natural anomaly. Here dozens of mini-volcanoes produce hot mud which bubbles and flows out like “runaway dough.”Scientists do not sure what causes this phenomenon. Often the “kvashnya” is covered with a crust. When you pierce the shell-like film, blue, then yellow substances begins to come out. The surface of some “wells” are up to 5 square meters and their depth is more than 10 meters. Getting There: It takes about an hour by car to reach Erokhina from Kurgan. A taxi will cost about 1500 rubles. Buses leave from Kurgan bus station to Yurgamysh and cost 170 rubles. From Yurgamysh it is 18 kilometers to Erokhin village, which is three kilometers from the village of Gorokhovo.
Kurgan Babii Bugor (30 kilometers southwest of Kurgan) is one of the few “royal” kurgans (burial mounds) in the Trans-Urals. It has been known since the 18th century and is named after the nearby Lake Babie. The mound is about 80 meters in diameter and 10 meters high. There is a large cavity in the center and is surrounded by a circular trench with a width of 4.5 meters.
The first reference to the kurgan “by Lake Babie, where silver horse harnesses were found” was in 1786, according to P. S. Pallas. I.P. Falk, who calls the kurgan “Chogla”, gives the same time and provide more complete information. He also mentions “dug graves” around the kurgan. In 1824, the journal “Notes of the Fatherland” published an article about Babii Bugor. Historians and archaeologists continued to explore the area in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Lake Medvezhye: the Dead Sea of the Trans-Urals
Lake Medvezhye (200 kilometers east of Kurgan) has been called the Dead Sea of the Trans Urals and Siberia. The largest lake in the region, it spreads in a pine-linden forest and has an unusual shape: The lake consists of two parts connected by a narrow strait. The maximum depth is 120 centimeters, therefore, to swim, you need to go further. Diving does not work due to the concentration of salt. It is even higher than in the Dead Sea. You can just lie down, and the water will hold. Like water itself, the mud of the lake is said to have healing qualities.
Lake Medvezhye is a brine lake. The concentration of salts in the water is so great that salt deposits are generated thereIt is practically impossible to swim in it like in a regular lake, and it is almost impossible to drown — the water pushes the body out. But you could simply lie down on the water and read a book.
The Lake Medvezhye is divided into two unequal portions by six islands: Lesser Medvezhye and Greater Medvezhye. Its circumference exceeds 60 kilometers. The lake's area is 4.5 square kilometers, and it is never more than 1.2 meters deep. If one looks from the shore, the islands seem to comprise a narrow strip hidden in a light haze.
In the latter half of the 19th century, the lake was a source of table salt — over 800,000 poods of salt were extracted every year. By the end of the century the production stopped. Later it became the more popular for its medicinal waters. Every year, peasant wagons traveled to the shores of Lake Medvezhye for medicinal brine and mud. Some people came from long distances gather materials for mud therapy at their homes and baths. In the summer, peasants dug holes on the shores of the lake, filled them with the naturally heated mud and treated themselves. In 1925, a resort was opened at Lake Medvezhye.
The lake water contains minerals in the form of salts and ions. It is said to have anti-inflammatory, anesthetic, desensitizing, anti-allergic, and stimulating effect. It is used to treat the nervous and endocrine systems, bone and joint diseases, and metabolic problems. Also, the ambient atmosphere is saturated with vapors soothing the nervous system. Accommodation: The sanatorium “Lake Medvezhye” costs from 3440 rubles per day. Getting There: By car it takes a little more than 2 hours; by bus its one to four hours on bus number 576. It costs 454 rubles.
Dalmatian Dormition Monastery
Dalmatian Dormition Monastery (in Dalmatovo, 196 kilometers northwest of Kurgan) is one of the most famous and beautiful historical and religious monuments of the region. The monastery, founded in the 15th century on the banks of Iset River, includes three churches. Here you can worship at the shrines, check out the museum in the northern cells, look at art copying a workshop of the monastery and admire the wooden carvings and gold leaf in the carpentry workshop. You can a lunch with dishes with vegetables from the monastery greenhouses from 300 rubles. Cheeses from the monastery’s cheese factory are also good.
Dalmatian Dormition Monastery is named after its founder, the Venerable Dalmat Isetsky, who descended from a Cossack of Ermak’s militia. At the age of 48, after his wife's death, he retired, and left his estate and children, and took monastic vows at the Nevyansk Mshshtesky Epiphany Monastery, but soon chose to live as a hermit in a hut on the bank of the Iset, near a spring. Over time, brethren came to live next to him. Cells were built over his dug-out, as well as a chapel and a church in honor of the icon of the Dormition of the Mother of God that Dalmat brought with him there. Dalmatovsky Monastery began is believed to have been founded in 1644.
The wooden monastery on the southern borders of the state suffered from numerous raids: it was burned to the ground by the Tatars and the Bashkirs. That determined the architecture of the monastery: it is a real kremlin-like fortress, which once had a considerable arsenal of cannons and muskets. It took 50 years from the turn of the 18th century to build a 7-meter-tall fortress wall of bricks; the wall has arched niches with fire slits. Now visitors can walk over part of the wall, passing up and down through one of the fortress towers.
Researchers discovered that the monastery buildings were connected to the world outside the walls by a network of underground tunnels, which could be used as a safe shelter during sieges. The monastic citadel survived many sieges: the monastery's own peasants besieged it for nearly six months in 1763 and the rebellion went down in history as the “dubinschina”. In 1774, the monastery survived an aggressive attack by the forces of Pugachev; D. N. Mamin-Siberyak's long short story “Okhonya's eyebrows” depicts the events of those days. However, the Holy Dormition Monastery was famous not only for its military resistance: a rich library was collected here, as well as an impressive archive, and there was a carpentry workshop and icon painting studio.
The twentieth century saw the end of the prosperity of the trans-Uralian monastery-fortress: in the 1920s it was converted into an orphanage, then a museum, a theater, and a military school. After the war, the monastery premises were taken over by the Molmashstroy factory: some of the buildings were demolished, and factory facilities were erected amidst the churches. The Cathedral of the Holy Dormition, built in 1720, once the dominant feature of the monastery, suffered most as it was turned into one of the workshops of the plant. As a result of the reconstruction, the temple bears little resemblance to its original appearance.
Now the monastery has been revived. 18 novices live here, and the gatehouse church of St. John the Evangelist has been restored. A liturgy service is held in the church, consecrated in the name of the Mother of God Joy of All Who Sorrow icon, which was built in the 19th century; it is also a shrine where the main relic of the monastery is kept: a reliquary with the hallows of St. Dalmat Isetsky.
The history of Dalmatovo town is closely linked to the monastery. In 1781 the village of Nikolaev, formed around the monastery, received the status of a city and the name of its founder. Dalmatovo has preserved Nicholas Church and about 120 architectural monuments of the 19th century, mostly merchants' houses. Accommodation: Visitors can stay at the Pilgrim House at the monastery by prior arrangement a couple of weeks in advance. Getting There: By car from Kurgan its takes about two hours; by bus it takes about three hours and costs 499 rubles.
Tyumen Oblast is in the southwest of the West Siberian Plain. This is where explorers began to open up new territories in the 16th century and where many visitors today start their trip to Siberia. Tobolsk is home to the only stone Kremlin in Siberia. There are many different examples of wooden architecture, including baroque incarnated in wood. The region has even older artifacts: dinosaur bones and prehistoric human settlements.
Tyumen Oblast is Russia’s third largest oblast. It covers 1,435,200 square kilometers (554,100 square miles), is home to about 3.4 million people and has a population density of only 4.2 people per square kilometer. About 78 percent of the population live in urban areas. The city of Tyumen is the capital and largest city, with about 580,000 people.
Tyumen was the first city built by the Russians when Siberia was annexed. The official foundation date is 1586. However, the first time the name “Tyumen” is mentioned in the Chronicles of 1406. The town was situated on a section of the ancient caravan road between Central Asia and the Volga region. The city really took off when the Trans-Siberian Railway was built.
In the winter temperatures often reach -25 to -30°C; in the summer the average temperature is around 20°C . In the South, the summer is hot, but short. In the winter, you can ride on a dog sled or cross-country ski through a coniferous forest. In the summer you can drive a racing car. Three culinary treats associated with the region are the ear of perch, pike caviar with cranberries and venison steak. The culture and gastronomic preferences of the Tyumen people are influenced by peoples living in the giant spaces from Kazakhstan to the Arctic ocean.
Getting There: By Plane: There is an airport in Tyumen city. Flights from Moscow take three hours and cost 8,760 rubles one way; from St. Petersburg, from 19 621 rubles for a round-trip flight. By Train: Tyumen is a stop on the Trans-Siberian Railway. From Moscow the journey take 32 hours and costs from 8,765; from St. Petersburg it takes 42 hours and costs from 11,197 rubles (round trip for a berth in a compartment). By Car: from Moscow to Tyumen pass is 2 125 kilometers, which takes about 38 hours to drive straight; from St. Petersburg the distance is 2,624 kilometers which takes at least two days to drive.. Transport in the Region: The main modes of transport in the Tyumen region are trains and buses. Prices for buses from Tyumen: Tobolsk: 879 rubles; Yalutorovsk: 283 rubles; Ishim: 1082 rubles; Armizonskoe: 851 rubles; Abatskoe: 1326 rubles; and Vagay: 833 rubles.
Tyumen (kilometer 2144 on the Trans-Siberian Railway) is as the oldest city in Siberia and the regional capital of Russia's largest oblast. Founded in 1586 and home to 580,000 people, it is the administration area for an area rich in gas and oil fields. There isn't much to see other than a monastery currently being restored, the green-and white multi-domed Church of the Holy Sign and a fine arts museum. Rasputin was born and grew up un Pokrobskoe, a town about 45 kilometers from Tuyman on the Tura River.
Tyumen history is counted from the construction of the Russian Tyumen prison, But in fact people had along the banks of the Tyumen River long before the Russians arrived. At one time, the capital of the Tyumen Khanate was on the bank of the river. Also located here was a prison for the “Tyumen Volok”, the caravan route from Central Asia to the Volga region. Stone construction in the city began from the 18th century.
Tyumen boasts square dedicated to Siberian cats, the only four-level embankment in Russia and the a bridge of lovers. Metal cats are everywhere in the cat square. Children like try to count them. Tsvetnoy Boulevard emerges from the square. It is nice to walk here in the summer among greenery and fountains. The city’s streets, driveways, embankments total 1089 kilometers in length; Green spaces cover 39,000 hectares of plantations. Its total area is 47,000 hectares. Tyumen ranks nineteenth in terms of population, fourth in Siberia, and third in the Urals Federal District.
Tyumen is a scientific and cultural center of the Tyumen region. In the city, there are more than 30 organizations engaged in research and development, more than 150 educational institutions. There are three professional theaters, a concert hall of the philharmonic society, about 30 libraries — including the regional center-branch of the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Library. The largest among the museums of the city is the museum complex named after Ivan Yakovlevich Slovtsov. It consists of six branches: museum “City Duma”, museum of fine arts, museum-estate of Kolokolnikovs, museum “Masharov's House”, archaeological museum-reserve on Lake Andreyevskoye, and the center of applied creativity and crafts.
Tyumen is the most important transport hub of the region: there is an international airport, a river port, a railway and a car terminals. Railway and road communication is available with the settlements of the region, including the districts, with the European part of Russia and the Urals, Eastern Siberia and the Far East. The regional center is a large industrial city. The largest volume of shipped products falls on the production of petroleum products, the production of which is carried out by ZAO “Antipinsky Oil Refinery”. A significant share of the shipped products is accounted for by enterprises operating in the production of machinery and equipment, finished metal products and electrical equipment, electronic and optical equipment: OAO “Neftemash”, OAO Experimental Plant “Elektron”, OAO “GROM”, OAO “Sibneftegazmash Plant”, and others. For the regional scientific and technical innovation programs and projects, the West Siberian Innovation Center (Technopark) was opened in Tyumen. The Regional Business Incubator operates where state support is provided to entities in the sphere of scientific, technical and innovative activities.
Pokrovskoye: Rasputin’s Hometown
Pokrovskoye (45 kilometers from Tuyman on the Tura River and the Trans-Siberian Railroad)) is the village Grigori Rasputin — the famous weird svengali monk who played a role in the downfall of Nicholas II — was born and grew up. Rasputin was the third and youngest son of a village headman and relatively prosperous farmer named Efim Akovleich Rasputin. His mother, Anna Egorovna, may have been a Samoyed of Mongolian origin.
The details Rasputin’s early life are sketchy. According to various reports he spent more time communing with nature than with people; he healed sick people with his touch; The name Rasputin was a name given to him by fellow villagers. It means "libertine" or "debauched one." Rasputin married locally at 18 and had three children. As a young man he drank a lot and prayed a lot but was not a monk. When he was in his mid 20s, he had a life-changing vision of the Virgin Mary while working in the fields. He left his village and his young wife when an investigation into his practice was called for by the village priest.
Rasputin wandered from village to village like a holy man. His father once said, "Grigori became a pilgrim out of laziness—nothing lese." He left his villages to seek enlightenment and came to believe that the quickest way to become close to God was continually sinning (especially through sex) and repenting. Rasputin's daughter Maria later wrote, "I think it is fair to say that Efim was never to understand his strange son, although when, in later years, he saw him receiving attention and even adulation, of the aristocracy of St. Petersburg, he began to realize that there might be more to the boy than he thought”. Rasputin spent two years at the Russian Monastery in Mount Athos in Greece.
Rasputin’s Sex Life
If reports about his sexual exploits are to be believed, Rasputin was well endowed in terms of both size and endurance. He believed that his gifts were given to him by God and he became a member of the Khlisti sect, which practiced eroticism and erotic form of spirituality. Maria Rasputin wrote: "his female devotees...were drawn to the worship of his phallus, endowing it with mystical qualities as well as sexual ones, for it was an extraordinary member indeed, measuring a good 13 inches when fully erect...As their passions were aroused, there was a tendency to forget the ritualistic aspect...and the participants would fall into a general orgy...Invariably, after one of these rites, my father would spend long hours in meditation and prayer, and he would find that his concentration was undisturbed by any conflicting thought."
Rasputin called himself "The Holy Star" and referred to his bedroom as the "The Holy of Holies." He urged women to "try the flesh" and whip them into sexual-spiritual ecstacy by fondling their breasts during religious rituals. Husbands of the women he had sex with were not angered because believed that sex with Rasputin was an act of redemption willed by God.
Rasputin is believed to have had thousands of mistresses and partners, including peasant girls and aristocratic ladies, many of whom worshipped like a God. In the villages he visited, peasant women threw themselves at his feet and kissed the hemline of his kaftan, murmuring "Father Grigori, our Savior!" Rasputin said that he preferred aristocratic women to peasant girls because they smelled better. His wife Praskovia Fedorovna Dudrovina, a blond blue-eyed village girl, whom he married in 1891, appeared to not have been put off by the attention. "He has enough for all," she said.
House-Museum of Grigoriy Rasputin
House-Museum of Grigoriy Rasputin (in Pokrovskoye) is the first private museum in Russia dedicated to Rasputin. It was founded by the Smirnovs, a local couple, in 1990. The family house of Rasputin was demolished in 1980. The museum is housed in replica of the family house rebuilt based on photographs and drawings of the original Rasputin house. The platbands are genuine, and they are more than 100 years old. Personal belongings of Rasputin’s family such as dishes, furniture, icons survived and now form the kernel of the museum’s collection. Over the years, the collection has grown and now contains more than 5,000 archival documents and unique exhibits. Among them are unique photographs with donative inscriptions, personal notes and letters from Rasputin, shoulder straps from the greatcoat of Nicholas II, coronation plates with the image of the Romanovs couple made in France on the date of their engagement, a hodynka mug and more. The museum has been visited by journalists from Russian TV, the BBC and television stations from Munich and France and the Brazilian GLOBO film studio. In 2010, the museum was given the National Tourism Award in the category "Best Regional Museum of the Year."
One person posted on Trip Advisor in August 2018: “While taking the Trans-Siberian express to Tyumen I heard about this cool Rasputin museum and made a point to visit it. Even though it was supposed to be closed on the day I was there the people who ran it made a special trip to open it up and show it just for me. It's full of all kinds of historical photos and items related to Rasputin and the last Czar I was then treated to a great lunch at a wonderful new restaurant in the village of Pokrovskoye. The people running the museum give me a ride all the way to Tyumen and dropped me off my to hotel, they were so kind I can't say enough about how wonderful it was to meet them.”
On his effort to visit the museum with some Russian friends, Ian Frazier wrote in The New Yorker: “As we followed the banks of the Tura River going northeast, we came to the village of Pokrovskoye. I had wanted to check this village out because it was the home town of Rasputin—not Valentin Rasputin, the Siberian writer, but the original unhinged self-described holy man Rasputin, abettor of the downfall of the Romanov line. The village was all gray wood and stretched along the river for miles. Sergei did not care to look for Rasputin memorabilia—for an old church associated with Rasputin, perhaps, or a Rasputin museum. And Rasputin was not the kind of celebrity whose home place seemed eager to claim him; I saw no signs anywhere, including at either edge of town, that mentioned his name. Later, I heard that there is a small Rasputin museum in Pokrovskoye, but to visit it you have to make arrangements in advance. Sergei drove straight through the village without a pause while I fretted and said nothing. Rasputin, it was said, gave off a powerful odor of goat. What a museum you could make about a guy like that! Oh, well.” [Source: Ian Frazier, The New Yorker, August 10 and 17, 2009, Frazier is author of “Travels in Siberia” (2010)]
Archaeological Sites Near Tyumen
Ingalskaya Valley (100 kilometers douth of Tyumen) is on the borders of Isetsky, Zavodoukovsky, Uporovsky, and Yalutorovsky districts. The valley, with an area of 1,500 square kilometers, is a unique archeological site, the cradle of Siberian civilization. This area was found to have archeological sites from the Mesolithic to the Middle Ages, from the 5th to 7th millennium B.C., to the A.D. 15th century. These monuments belong to the Aryan and Ugric ancient civilizations and the Andronov and Ugric cultures.
Based on the findings in these places, archeologists concluded that the tribes living in Ingalskaya Valley more than 2,000 years ago traded with ancient Egypt and Central Asia, and participated in military campaigns in te Ancient Rome, the Transcaucasus, and the Greek colonies on the Black Sea. The Ingalskaya Valley is also known for being the source of many items in the world-famous Siberian Collection of Peter the Great.
Archaeological Conservation Area on Andreevskoe Lake (30 kilometers from Tyumen) is a unique archaeological complex: traces of vanished colonies, fragments of ancient settlements, burial grounds, and Mansi sanctuaries dated from the 9th-13th centuries have all been preserved here. The exposition includes preserved jewels and cult objects that enable us to reconstruct the traditional lifestyle of the native peoples of the north. The From Within Centuries exhibition displays archaeological findings, preserved fragments of ancient settlements, burial grounds, and sanctuaries of Finnic peoples. The earliest objects belong to the Stone Age and date back to the 5th millennium B.C. The site is open daily from 10:00am to 7:00pm except Monday when it is closed.
Yalutorovsk and Its Prison Museum
Yalutorovsk (75 kilometers southeast of Tyumen) moderate-sized town that began in 1659 as a Tatar settlement. Many Decembrists were exile here and there are a fair number of houses and other things associated with their in exile here, Museums and attractions include “Trade Rows”, “House of Nature” and a three-meter replica of pancake that weighs 200 kilograms and a six-meter sausage. Yalutorovsk is this city in world where you can drink tea from a two-meter-high samovar.
Yalutorovsky Ostrog (Prison) is a precise copy of the burg (prison) that used to stand here that houses prison-related as well cultural stuff. Opened in 2009 and constructed according to a building plan kept in the local archive, the burg territory features watchtowers, izba (house) of early settlers, a barn with household items and tools, a smith, and a well sweep. Here you can visit a craft house with workshops of patchwork, carpet weaving, pottery, willow weaving, and wood painting. The exhibition hall displays items from Yalutorovsk masters. A vault with archaeological diplays includes: a house from the Bronze Age, fragments of archaeological excavations, an armory, a torture chamber, and a chancellery. In addition, visitors are invited to a shooting gallery, observation deck, and souvenir shop.
The territory of Yalutorovsky ostrog regularly hosts events, including the Siberian Pancake Week folk festival (where people have been trying to bake a three-meter pancake for a few years), Christmas festivals, and August Savior Days. The ostrog offers excursions, master classes in decorative and applied art for adults and children, traditional Russian wedding ceremonies, and photo sessions. A historical reenactment club meets regularly. Accommodation: Rooms in the three-star “Retro” hotel in the city center start at 2,625 rubles a night. Getting There: From Tyumen by car (85 kilometers) per hour or By Train: for 1.5 hours-129 rubles.
Tobolsk (246 kilometers northeast of Tyumen) contains an elegant clifftop kremlin, an 18th century cathedral and a belltower with a huge bell with a imperial eagles. The kremlin is located where the Tobol river flows into the Irtysh. Tobolsk itself was founded in the 16th century and is a monument of stone and wooden architecture of Siberia, with more than 200 objects of history and culture. Among these including 16 place of pilgrimage are a cathedral, monastery and parish churches. At Resort Alemasova in the forested area Sushanti Tobolsk there is a rope park, shooting range, and places to play laser tag and paintball, In the winter, the region's longest ski run (not saying much) and a 320-meter cable car are available along with winter “banana” rides and extreme tubing.
Ian Frazier wrote in The New Yorker: “A few hours later, we came to a river I’d long wanted to see—the Tobol. This is the river that Yermak, the almost mythical conqueror of Siberia, travelled as he approached his decisive battle with the Khan of Sibir. The problem was, we could glimpse the river only off in the distance, because for most of its length it’s really more like a deeper part of a continuous swamp. Trying to get close to it in the late afternoon, we drove up on a small hill. Birch groves and a meadow of long grasses covered the hill, which on its far side ended at a cliff descending steeply to the Tobol itself. Here the view swept far around a long continuation of the cliff that enclosed a wide swath of water made by a sharply turning river bend. This seemed an ideal camping place. Sergei parked the van back from the cliff, in a clearing in the birch woods, and set up the tents for the night. [Source: Ian Frazier, The New Yorker, August 10 and 17, 2009, Frazier is author of “Travels in Siberia” (2010)]
“Along the cliff a kilometer or two away, the roofs and smokestacks of a village mingled with the silhouetted trees. According to somebody we had talked to on the road, the village was called Berezovyi Yar—Birch Cliff. A breeze was blowing, rendering our supper pleasantly mosquito-free. After the meal, as the light was declining, Sergei and Volodya proposed that they walk over to the village, buy some bread, and find out about the area. While they were there, I would stay and keep watch over the camp and the van.
“As for her information about Yermak, later I read in a Russian chronicle from the late seventeenth century that the Cossack leader and his men, having fought one battle with the warriors of the Khan of Sibir, “sailed on the 8th day of June down the river Tobol, fighting and living on the alert. When they reached the landmark of Berezoviy Yar [!] a great battle was fought lasting many days. The infidels were like sheep rushing out of their folds but with God’s help and the manifestation of heavenly hosts they too were defeated.”
Accommodation: A room in the stylized antique “Gostiny Dvor” of Tobolsk Museum-Reserve in the historical center starts at 2 300 rubles a night. Website: tiamz.ru/ru. Getting There: By car from Tyumen it is about three hours. By Train: four hours, 359 rubles.
Tobolsk Kremlin (in Tobolsk) is oldest stone fortress and the only kremlin in Siberia. Built of white stone and designed by Semyon Remezov, it is located on Trinity cape and towers above the lower suburbs of the town and the Irtysh river. Beneath the Dmitrievskie gates of the Kremlin runs the Pryamskoy vzvoz, a monument of engineering from the late 18th century connecting the Kremlin to the town below.
The Kremlin includes the bishop's courtyard, the province governor's courtyard (which housed the local administration), a shopping arcade, and a prison fortress. The main attraction of the Tobolsk Kremlin is the Sophia-Assumption Cathedral, built in 1686. It is the first stone building in Siberia. The observation deck offers a magnificent panoramic view of the town, including the legendary Knyazhy meadow, and the Chuvash Cape, where Ermak battled with Kuchum.
At the present time, the Tobolsk Historical and Architectural Museum-Reserve, the residence of Metropolitan of Tobolsk and Tyumen Dimitry, and the Tobolsk seminary are located in the Kremlin. Wall towers and bell towers are inaccessible, and the territory belonging to the Tobolsk Theological Seminary is also closed to visitors. At night, the territory of the Sofia courtyard (the inner part of the Kremlin) is closed.
Tobolsk Historical and Architectural Museum-reserve
Tobolsk Historical and Architectural Museum-Reserve was founded in 1870 and is one of the oldest museums in Siberia. The founder of the museum was Ivan Yushkov — an unselfish enthusiast, a connoisseur of history and ethnography of the region, secretary of the provincial statistical committee. Covering 18 hectares, the museum includes 62 historical buildings and a collection of 400,000 items.
The most valuable are collections of ethnography, archeology, palaeontology, manuscript and early printed books, photo collection, a collection of items belonging to the tzar's family, artistic bone carving. The structure of the museum includes the palace of the governor, the provincial museum, the provincial judicial board, the scientific library, the house of Kornilov, as well as the prison castle complex. In the future, it is planned to open a number of new branches of the museum and museum-structured architectural and landscape complexes.
The staff of the museum developed overview and thematic excursions to all the objects of the museum and historical monuments of the city and its environs. The museum regularly hosts scientific seminars and conferences dedicated to history, architecture, museology, etc. The publishing activity is organized: So, in 2011, the first issue of the journal “Reliquary” was published.
By the Decree of the President of the Russian Federation in 1995, the museum-reserve is included in the “List of Objects of Historical and Cultural Heritage of Federal (All-Russian) Significance”. In August 2007, a fragment of a prison wall dating back to 1688-1714 was found in Oktyabrskaya Street.
Tobolsk Prison Castle: Where You Can Stay the Night in Stalinist Prison Cell
Tobolsk Prison Castle vividly brings to life both tsarist-era and Stalinist-era prison life. It opened was opened in 2012 along with the unveiling of a memorial stone at the prison castle to commemorate the victims of Stalinist repressions. If they so choose visitors can be locked into a cell and stay overnight there. . Jamie Moore of the BBC wrote: “The Prison Castle, a strict-regime penitentiary in Tobolsk, recently opened its doors to inmates of a different kind. Travellers can now check into one of the cramped “sweat-box” punishment cells – spending the night in the prison where Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Tsar Nicholas II and Stalin’s victims did time. [Source: Jamie Moore, BBC, January 30, 2016
“Built between 1838 and 1855, and closed in 1989, the notorious Siberian prison was considered stricter than most. As many as 2,500 inmates considered enemies of the state were executed here during the Soviet Union’s political repression campaign of 1937-1938, and it’s believed that no one ever escaped.
“The sweat-box cells – sparse dormitory-style rooms with metal bunk beds, clunky iron locks and heavy doors – were originally used for prisoners who breached the conduct code. The rooms didn’t have lights; some weren’t even large enough for prisoners to stand fully upright.
“An enlarged mugshot outside each cell helps visitors get acquainted with the men who once walked these halls. Other photos in the Prison Castle’s adjoining museum offer a glimpse of what daily life was like: prisoners reclining in the sunlight wearing shackles and dirty prison garb, or chopping wood for the furnaces that never quite warmed the cells during February’s freezing nights.
“Photos in the museum offer a glimpse of daily prisoner life...In this bastille of crime and punishment, the photographs reveal a haunting range of emotion, something Dostoevsky knew all too well....Prisoners were locked up tightly behind heavy doors. Clunky iron locks are still fixed to cell block doors.” In one cell “an inmate mannequin has the right side of his head shaved – a practice that made it easy to identify escapees....Guests can now check into sparsely decorated “sweat-box” punishment cells Guests can take a tour that includes prison food and time in solitary confinement
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: Federal Agency for Tourism of the Russian Federation (official Russia tourism website russiatourism.ru ), 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