Olkhon Island

Olkhon. Brouckhaus and Efron Encyclopaedic Dictionary

“Brouckhaus and Efron EncyclopeadicDictionary is the largest pre-revolutionary Russian universal encyclopaedia published by the Editing House “F.A. Brouckhaus – I.A. Efron”. It consists of 86 volumes published between 1890 and 1907. It was valued as one of the best universal encyclopaedias of the world.

Olkhon, the most significant island of Lake Baikal, Irkutsk Province, Verkholensky Okrug, is situated on the north-western coast of the lake separating from it by Olkhon Gate Strait and Maloye More. Olkhon is a natural extension of the southern part of the Primorsky Baikal Mountains interrupted by a transverse valley of Olkhon Gate Strait. The maximal length of the island is 73 versts and 14 versts wide. Olkhon is a mountainous ridge with the gentle north-western and abruptly steeping south-eastern slopes near which there are highest peaks of the ridge like an uninterrupted crest with rounded or blunt angular contours. This crest near Olkhon Gate Strait reaches 1182 feet above lake level. Then it gradually rises to the northwest and at Mount Izhimey reaches its highest point, 2407 feet above Lake Baikal level, decreasing then to 790 feet in the north-eastern part of the island in a form of terraces. The north-western shore of Olkhon is gentle. There are a lot of bays the bottom of which is sandy. The most picturesque bays of them are Ulakh-Irginskaya, Kharansa, Khuzhirtuy, Elgay, Shibetskaya, Dolon-Nargunskaya, and Khargaiskaya. Both shores and capes of the island in bays are high, rocky and steep reaching some tens of sazhens in height. Rocky islets Khybin, Uganchay, Zumugchay, Kharansa, Madota and Yador are situated near the north-western shore. Forest vegetation is very poor on Olkhon, three fifths of the length of the highest crest of the ridge is covered with it, whereas the rest part of the island surface is covered with scant grass. The surface is stony or sandy. Forests, nevertheless, occupy rather vast areas consisting of coniferous trees, poplar, aspen, and birch. Some bushes such as willow, bird cherry tree, dwarf (Arctic) birch, alder, dog rose, ledum, golden rod, meadowsweet, mountain cranberry, and blueberry may be referred to wood species. Woodless areas resemble steppes of Zabaikalye. There are small areas near the shores of Maloye More between settlement Kharansa and Nyurgene suitable for farming where the soil is black earth. About 60 dessiatinas of crops are sown which do not always ripen. Manchurian deer, chamois, fox, wolf, polecat, ermine, and hare, as well as ground squirrel and vole are found on the island. There are a lot of birds on the island, particularly aquatic birds which build their nests in abundance on the island rocky coasts – cormorant, seagull, scoter and others. Near the shores of Olkhon a lot of fishes are caught, especially in Maloye More (omul and grayling), on the eastern shore seals lie in abundance. The population of the island is up to 1000 people, mainly Buryats inhabiting 18 uluses, they are divided into two Abyzaev clans and subordinate to the Olkhon Steppe Duma which is located on the mainland near Mokhor Bay of Olkhon Gate Strait. The main activities of the inhabitants are cattle breeding and fishing; fishes are sold to Russian cattle dealers who come to the island in summer. The first Russian who visited Olkhon was semi-sotnik Kurbat Ivanov missioned in 1643 to find Lake Baikal; getting over to the island with his team he defeated resistant Buryats and laid them under tribute. In the previous century, a scientist-researcher Georgi visited the north-western shore of the island. In 1852, Shchukin, then Meglitsky and Radde visited the island. Olkhon was studied in detail by Chersky and Obruchev in 1879 and 1889, respectively; the latest visitor of the island was Prein. Remains of Mongolian constructions in a form of fortified walls are found on the island. The local Buryats keep a belief that herds of Genghis Khan were grazing on Olkhon and he left a cauldron on one of the mountains. The largest settlement is ulus Dolonargun in which there are about 25 yurtas and over a hundred of citizens.

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