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What does Siberia mean

The Siberia region of Russia is a fascinating land of contrasts and while many see it as a frozen, inhospitable wasteland it is on the other hand, an area rich in minerals and some fascinating wildlife that make it a truly diverse mix.

The literal meaning of Siberia

When you ask what does Siberia mean, there are one or two theories as to the literal translation of the word. Generally however, it is accepted that it derives from the Turkic term meaning sleeping land and that rather neatly sums up how many people view Siberia as a whole.

The wider sense

If you look at the question from a wider perspective, you could ask what Siberia conveys when you see the word? Does it mean a barren area of snowy wasteland or is it synonymous with the many Gulags that were situated here throughout the years?

Extreme cold

It is fair to say that vast areas of Siberia are barren and remote to say the least. This is underlined by the presence in Siberia of the coldest city on earth.

Yakutsk is built entirely on permafrost and at the height of winter, temperatures reach an average high of around minus forty degrees centigrade – a figure that is impossible to comprehend if you haven’t experienced it at first hand.

A vast unexplored area

While it may not necessarily be unexplored, Siberia is certainly big. The region makes for over 75% of the total area of Russia itself and in plain terms it contains 9,653,000 square kilometres (5,998,096 square miles) of land.

Although incredibly big, Siberia is sparsely populated and the overall population here contribute to just 28% of the overall Russian population.

The contrast

In such an inhospitable expanse, you could be forgiven for thinking that the land itself is of little use but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Siberia is rich in mineral deposits and diamonds, gold and timber are popular industries here. The geography and climate of the region do present a whole host of problems for the companies responsible for sourcing its rich bounty but with such a huge array of natural resources, the work has certainly been worth it.


There’s no denying the fact that for many people, Siberia means Gulags and the huge network of prison camps that came to prominence under the cruel leadership of Stalin.

Millions of people were deported here for a whole host of reasons and forced to work in unbearable conditions. Many people perished here and this was a terrible period in Soviet History.

An abundance of life

By contrast once again, Siberia is home to some fascinating wildlife including the iconic Siberian Tiger and the Siberian Husky.

There are many other unique species here besides and for wildlife lovers, a Siberian safari is a surprisingly entertaining spectacle.

Overall, the term ‘sleeping land’ sums up a great deal about Siberia but in other aspects it doesn’t do this fascinating region any justice. This really is a land of contrasts and while Siberia may not top every tourist’s wish list’ there is plenty to see and do here that will live in the memory forever.


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