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Diamond-Mining Centre of the Sakha Republic (Yakutia)

The Museum of Flora and Fauna

[ Photo ]

Sakha (Yakutia) is the largest republic within Russia. It occupies 3103.2 square km, which constitutes one/fifth of Russia's territory. By its size Yakutia exceeds France, Australia, FRG, Italy, Sweden, England, Finland and Greece taken together. The area of Yakutia is 5.5 times as large as the area of France, 10 times as large as the area of Italy, more than 12 times as large as the area of England. The distance between the northern and southern most points of Yakutia constitutes 2000 km. From west to east, the length of Yakutia is 2500 km, hosting 3 time zones.

The climate of Yakutia is sharp-continental and severe. Winter lasts from 6 to 10 months a year. The lowest temperature falls to 60°C below zero in winter. The highest summer temperature goes up to 40°C above zero. There are no other places on the globe, except Yakutia, where the difference between the highest and lowest temperature reaches 100°C.

The whole territory of Yakutia is considered to be continuous permafrost. In some places the permafrost layer is 1.5 km. The average yearly quantity of atmospheric fall-out is 200 mm per annum (for comparison, in the Sahara desert it is 340 mm per annum); that's why, if there were no permafrost, a specific source of water nourishment for plants, there would be a waterless wilderness here.

80% of Yakutia's territory is under taiga, 10% is under forest-tundra, 10% is an icy desert. A great part of Yakutia lies beyond the Polar Circle, and winter brings long Polar nights. In the basin of the Indigirka River, in Oimyakon, there is the Pole of Cold of the Northern Hemisphere. The lowest temperature of 71°C below zero was registered there.

Yakutia is a land of great rivers and numerous lakes. There are more than 700,000 lakes and more than 200,000 long and short rivers in it. Our republic boasts to have one river or lake for every one inhabitant.

More than 1000 plant species grow in the Yakutian taiga, where 250 animal species live. 20 species of them are fur animals; that's why Yakutia is known as the area of "mild gold". Our republic is also rich in fish and birds. There are 53 fish species in its rivers and lakes, such as salmon-trout and white salmon, sterlet, perch, pike, burbot (eel pout), chir, ryapushka and muksun (types of white-lake fish).

The greater part of our republic is covered by forests. Preponderant woody species are daurskaya larch, pine, fir (spruce), birch.

Mosses and lichens occupy a wide distance in Yakutia. We can see them in great variety. Mosses and lichens are sometimes called pioneers. They start growing in places of such severe climate where other plants cannot survive. Most common is reindeer moss. Some lichens live up to 500 years. We have a small collection of mosses and lichens in our museum. The insects of the Mirny region are also represented by a small collection.

Yakutia is rich in medicinal plants. It is thought that the herbs of Yakutia, which manage in a short (2 months) period to bloom and bear fruit, have increased content of active substances. Here, in the museum, we have displays of juniper, rosebay, valerian, and some others. Pharmaceutical chemists say that if you eat 3-5 juniper berries a day, you will not fall ill during an epidemic of influenza. In earlier times, when there were no doctors in Yakutia, sick people were treated by folk healers ~ "ottosuts". There were many ways of treatment including the application of medicinal herbs. Even operations were performed by ottosuts. They used women's hair to put stitches into cuts (slits). Cauterization of points and acupuncture were also used.

Some kinds of the rich Yakutian fauna are represented in the museum: sable, squirrel, wolverine, polar fox, fox, ermine, bear. Sable is a beast of prey. It has very nice fur when it eats a lot of fresh eggs. It also likes young nestlings. Lovely ermine is also a beast of prey. It likes to destroy others' nests and settle in them. It has been noted that this beast usually has a large friendly family, where the father is distinguished by great concern for its tiny cubs (sometimes a family has about 20 of them).

Muskrat is a beast that came into Yakutia from Canada in the late '30s. Only a few specimens were brought. They liked the conditions of Yakutia and spread over large areas. At present there are about 4 million muskrat in Yakutia.

Ornithofauna estimates are at more than 260 species. 230 of them are nesting, and the rest are birds of passage (migrating). In our museum, two types of owl, a loon, several types of ducks are shown.

Bear, wolf, and reindeer are represented in our exhibits. Here is a bear cub, "Mashen'ka", which has been preserved. Cubs live with parents till the age of two years. There might have been a tragedy. Mashen'ka went out into a clearing in the forest and was shot. Later a partially built lair was found, where it probably was going to stay in winter.

In another display is a festive adornment for a Yakut horse. Yakutian horses are special animals which feed in winter by finding food from under the snow.

The Yakut people are very talented and poetic and like to decorate their everyday life. In the showcase, we can see Yakutian plates and cooking utensils decorated with carving. They say that, in early times, a good hostess had about 40 types of plates and utensils. They were mainly made of wood, bark. Food could be preserved for a long time in them. They possess antiseptic properties.

The museum's collection of traditional Yakutian toys was presented to us by an old teacher. The toys were made not long ago. When he was a child, he used to play with such toys.

Among the Yakutian wood carvings, we can see a herd of cows. We can also see a Yakutian cradle made of wood. Fine Yakutian chorons have been collected in the museum. [These are wooden, stemmed, carved drinking cups, or chalices.] Some of them have been made at the factory "Sardaana" in Yakutsk, which specializes in Yakut art.

Years before the Russians came to Yakutia (they came to Yakutia in 1632), the Yakuts could mine and melt metal. In another display in our museum is a decoration made of cupro-nickel. They say that, in earlier times, a bride had to put on metal decorations weighing up to 30 kilograms. Metal aside, articles made of fur, beads, and so on, which we can also seen in this display case, are very popular with the people of the North more generally.

In a miniature replica of a Yakutian dwelling (yurta), we see that the house was made of logs put together vertically. On the outside, the yurta was covered with clay mixed with manure. Instead of glass, pieces of ice were inserted as windows. The door of a yurta usually opened in the direction of the outbuilding for cattle, so that it was warmer for people.

A small replica of an Evenk hut is also available for us to see here. It is covered on the outside with the skins of reindeer. This is a reduced model. A real hut is considerably larger. Here we also see two devices for processing skins. One is made of wood, the other is made of the jaw of a horse. The millstone is a device of stone for making flour. The Yakuts started growing wheat only when Russians came. For a long time, the wood of some coniferous trees was a vital product for the Yakuts. A family used to store 300-350 kg of it for winter. They would grind it into a pulp and would add this substance into mixtures for bread, noodles and porridge. Milk was often combined with particular sorts, also.

Yakutia is rich in natural resources, and the most important of them are ores and minerals hidden in the depths of the earth. Geologists used the method of pyrope survey when they were looking for diamonds. Here, in our museum, we can see the crystals of pyropes. These are indicator minerals of diamonds. If a geologist found pyropes that meant that diamonds were close by. There are other indicator minerals in the museum display, also: chrizolites, chrome-diopsides, grossulars.

The territory of Yakutia is the first on the map of the natural resources of Russia. Our museum possesses a collection of minerals gathered in western Yakutia and also a small set of fossils and the remains of extinct animals.

Copyright ©Mirny Lyceum-School 2002. All rights reserved.
Project by 11th Year Students of the Lyceum-School in Mirny
Project Supervisor: Maikova T. N.