About the Bajkal Sea:
The Place Where It All Began

The Bajkal Sea covers 31,500 square km. and is 636 km. long, at its widest point it is 79,4 km. Its water basin occupies about 557,000 square km. and contains about 23,000 cubic km. of water. This adds up to about one fifth of the world's reserves of fresh water and more than 80 per cent of the fresh water reservoir in the former Soviet Union. The Bajkal Sea is the deepest lake in the world. The presently known maximum depth is 1,642 m. However, this is far from the whole story, as approximately 7000 meters of sediment lie under the bottom. Bajkal's inscrutable depths may hide underwater voids which are connected to channels that run deeply into the underworld. 

Bajkal is situated in Eastern Siberia, in the Buryat Autonomous Republic and Irkutsk Region of Russia, and is the natural boundary between Russian Siberia and present-day Mongolia. It plays a momentous role in Mongol history. The Secret History of The Mongols relates, through its ancestral myth, how the Mongol people came into being: The blue-gray wolf and his wife, the reddish-brown deer, came from Northern Siberia with its vast Tundra and Taiga areas and travelled together across the "inland sea" - that is the Bajkal Sea.

When these two had reached the Onon river on the Eastern side of Bajkal, their first son, Batachikan, was born. Batachikan was then the first human ancestor of Chingis Khan. Mythologically speaking, travelling across water is symbolic of transcendence, of reaching new stages. The Bajkal Sea was thus the catalyst of the emergence of the Mongol nation, and also the bridge between the two main constituents of the spiritual ancestry of the Mongols: The Northern, Siberian forest element, and the grassland and plain element. Consistent with this significant role of the Bajkal Sea in Mongol history: In the vicinity of the Bajkal Sea were born two key figures of the history of the Mongols: Chingis Khan, the founder of the Mongol Empire and the greatest politician who ever lived, and Subedei of the Urianqai or Reindeer People, his forever faithful and most gifted general. It merits mention that "chingis" in all probability comes from Turkish tengiz, which means "large body of water, sea." The meaning of Chingis Khan will then be "Khan from the Sea." We can easily guess from which sea Chingis Khan took his name, and this implies that the real meaning of his title is "Khan from the Bajkal Sea," once more emphasizing the crucial role of Bajkal in the Mongolian spiritual universe. As for the sea herself, water is a feminine element, and the name of the goddess and ruler of Bajkal is Bajkal-eke. "Eke" means "mother" in Mongolian. Also significant when we know the feminine principle in the world as one marked by receptivity is the fact that no less than 330 - three hundred and thirty - rivers deliver their content loads into the Bajkal.

Only one single river, the Angara, serves as an outlet from this unique Sea.

The area around the Baikal Sea is mind-bogglingly diverse. Around it we find the Northern, dark Taiga, which is the endless Siberian conifer belt, as well as grassland steppes mainly concentrated in its southeast areas. The mountains contain abundant mineral resources, so every kingdom of Nature is represented here - the animal, the avian, the botanic, the aquatic and the mineral, and here they have found a natural meeting-ground not found anywhere else on Earth. Not surprisingly, the whole Bajkal region is an extraordinarily fertile one. Accordingly, many types of animals roam in the mountains, valleys and forests. Bajkal is unlike all other lakes in the world by virtue of its extreme depth, great volume, the high quality of its water and its very old age. In average lakes exist for no more than some tens of thousands of years, whereas the Bajkal Sea has been present in Central Asia for at least between 20 and 30 million years, and she is of course incomparably the oldest lake on Earth. Likewise the Sea herself, as well as the numerous rivers, streams and lakes around, is plentifully filled with fish. The Bajkal Sea is distinguished by virtue of her unparalleled wildlife. The numbers of different plant and animal species in and around Bajkal are incredibly high, at least 1,085 different plants and 1,550 types of animal life have been found by and are known to humans. In the immense depth of Bajkal dwell forms of life not found anywhere else on Earth, many of which certainly undiscovered. To add to all this natural diversity, even hot springs are found around this sacred Siberian inland sea.

During winter, which effectively lasts from mid-September to the end of May, the Siberian nature is at the peak of its powers. Snow remains in the areas around the Bajkal until the end of June, and only July and August can be considered sommer months. Toward the end of August frost sets in during nights, and the deep Siberian winter approaches. Above and in the immediate vicinity of the Bajkal water basin the average temperature lies at around -20 C during the coldest periods, but temperatures of -40 and below are far from uncommon particularly in the dark winter nights. Just a few kilometers away from the sea the Siberian winter deepens still further, and temperatures around -70 C have occasionally been recorded in this area. These conditions create a special atmosphere and a special type of life, a special mindset, which has to be experienced in order to be fully appreciated.

Lake Bajkal is the true repository of the spiritual principles of Chingis Khan and the Mongol Empire, and it was its combination of the different forces and powers of Nature that gave the Mongols their matchless versatility and flexibility to successfully meet any new circumstances.

The first sight of the numinous Lake Bajkal instills in you a profound and indelible impression of an enigmatic powerfulness, unforgiving purity, dignity, nobility and grandeur. You mysteriously perceive the presence of the divine, and immediately sense why indigenous people from Siberia and Mongolia have always spoken reverently of her as "the Sea." They rightfully consider her a conscious being, and they believe she might take umbrage if they showed the affront of calling her a lake instead of a sea. She is the deepest, purest and, in light of her uniquely multifaceted surroundings and wildlife, and the otherworldly atmosphere she radiates, a one-of-a-kind lake-sea in this world.

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Last Updated November 04, 2010 by Per Inge Oestmoen