Barnaul and Altai Krai
Last week we painted Altai Krai in broad strokes, with a smattering of geography and demographics, plus a little cultural history to boot. This time I’m curious to examine the region’s capital: Barnaul and its surroundings, situated North East of central Altai Krai on the Ob river.
This great water-way is the product of over 20,000 tributaries that coil down from the mountains of the Altai Republic (…not Altai Krai). They funnel progressively into the Katun and Biya rivers until their junction in turn creates the Ob inside Altai Krai itself, emptying ultimately into the Artic Ocean. The combination of the Ob and the Irtysh (the Ob’s major tributary) produces a river-system of just over 5400 km in length: the seventh longest in the world and the third longest in Asia.
Interestingly, although it is a life-giving artery to the region: used for fishing, hydro-electricity, drinking water and irrigation… it’s role as a channel of transportation was diminished somewhat by the arrival of the Trans-Siberian Railway.
At first inspection that would appear to make little sense… given that the flow of the Ob is crudely; South to North against the Trans-Siberian’s West to East. However, the multitude of snaking tributaries allowed for round-about zig-zagging – lateral navigation born of necessity (and extreme patience). Incidentally, the Ob also serves Novosibirsk, which we virtually-visited (briefly) earlier.
Climatically, Barnaul and its locale are not for the faint-hearted, sporting a temperature differential of 80 degrees Celsius: down to minus 40 degrees in the winter and peaking at 40 in summer, which itself is a period of only a few weeks around July! Averages approximately halve those extremes. In other words, a typical winter’s day may only reach a positively balmy minus 20, nothing compared to the worst that Northern Siberia can offer at minus 60. I think it’s safe to say that for us Brits, the whole region redefines the word: cold!
The city’s origins date back to the 1730s, and as I’ve discovered before: it’s another of those places that are not as old as you’d think … from a Western-European perspective, of course. The original site was established by Akinfiy Nikitich Demidov, of the powerful and enterprising Demidov dynasty, attracted by the mining potential of copper deposits in mineral-rich Altai. Silver was found shortly after, prompting the government to take over the mining of site in 1747. The area soon became renowned for its valuable metals and minerals, attracting settlers and facilitating the town’s expansion. This continued until, in 1771, Barnaul was given the status of “mining city”, and after braving the storms of changeable fortune, continues flourishing as a centre of manufacturing and scientific education today.
More next time.
Next time: Trips and Tales (Part 49) Heading east to the city of Tomsk
[Photo by sashapo]