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The size, scope, and scale of the Gulag slave-labour camps remain subjects of much research and debate.Many Gulag camps operated in extremely remote areas of northeastern Siberia.At these low elevations are numerous valleys, many of them deep and covered with larch forest, except in the extreme north where the tundra dominates. The active layer tends to be less than one metre deep, except near rivers.The highest point in Siberia is the active volcano Klyuchevskaya Sopka, on the Kamchatka Peninsula. The West Siberian Plain consists mostly of Cenozoic alluvial deposits and is somewhat flat.Worldwide, Siberia is well known primarily for its long, harsh winters, with a January average of −25 °C (−13 °F), same as Severia. He said that the neighbouring Chinese, Turks, and Mongolians, who have similar names for the region, would not have known Russian.He suggests that the name might be a combination of two words with Turkic origin, "su" (water) and "bir" (wild land).Many deposits on this plain result from ice dams which produced a large glacial lake.
The Verkhoyansk Range was extensively glaciated in the Pleistocene, but the climate was too dry for glaciation to extend to low elevations.Even though no crater has ever been found, the landscape in the (sparsely inhabited) area still bears the scars of this event.In the early decades of the Soviet Union (especially in the 1930s and 1940s), the government used the Gulag state agency to administer a system of penal labour camps, replacing the previous katorga system.The proto-Mongol Khitan people also occupied parts of the region.In 630 the Khan of Sibir in the vicinity of modern Tobolsk was known as a prominent figure With the breakup of the Golden Horde, the autonomous Khanate of Sibir formed in the late-15th century.