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Tradition, Culture and History in Buryatia

With Mongolia to the south, Zabaykalsky Krai to the east, Tuva to the west and Irkutsk to the northwest, the Republic of Buryatia is a federal subject of Russia and a fascinating place to visit. The scenery is beyond spectacular and the people of Buryatia truly value their culture, traditions and history, being willing to share these with visitors. Among the attractions Buryatia has to offer is the largest Buddhist monastery in the Russian Federation – Ivolginsky Buddhist Datsan – located around 23 kilometers outside of the republic's capital city Ulan-Ude, while the city itself has a number of historical and cultural attractions, including the Ulan-Ude Ethnographic Museum and the Odigitrievsky Cathedral.

The Ulan-Ude Ethnographic Museum covers an area of 37 hectares, making it one of Russia's largest open air museums. It was opened to the public in July 1973 and features more than 11,000 exhibits, including forty architectural monuments. The museum is divided into seven categories, including the Archeological Complex, the Evenkiyskiy Complex, the Buryat Complex and the Baikal Complex.

The Russian Orthodox Odigitrievsky Cathedral is dedicated to the icon Theotokos, the Greek title for Mary, the mother of Jesus. The term literally means, 'God-bearer'. The cathedral was built between 1741 and 1785 and was reportedly used as an anti-religious museum during the Soviet era. Today the white-washed, blue roofed building has been completely restored.

Ulan-Ude is located at the confluence of the Uda and Selenga Rivers about 100 kilometers southeast of Lake Baikal – the largest and deepest freshwater lake in the world. The history of the now bustling modern city goes back to 1666 when it was settled by Russian Cossacks as a fortress, but there is evidence that Evenks were the first settlers in the area many years prior to the Cossacks. Its geographical position near the border between Russia, China and Mongolia made it a vital trade center, and even more so when the Trans-Siberian Railway reached the city in the year 1900.

Although Ulan-Ude is a bustling modern city, visitors will not have to travel far to find villages where age-old traditions are continued, love of the land is evident and the worship of the spirit of nature is routine. Geothermal springs caused by the tectonic fracture which created Lake Baikal are prized for their therapeutic properties; further reinforcing the local belief in nature's healing powers. Certainly, there is plenty to discover and enjoy on a visit to Russia's Republic of Buryatia.

Picture attribution: SAKRI (Wikimedia Commons)


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