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Rediscovering Siberia

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Rediscovering Siberia


Svetlana Smetanina

This summer Russian and foreign travelers are taking on a new tour route—the Golden Ring of the Tomsk district. Andrei Efremov, a member of the working group for promoting the development of tourism in the Siberian Federal District, promises that this is only the beginning of opening up Siberia to mass tourism. Plans for the near future include the establishment of an even grander tour route: the Golden Ring of Siberia.

Photo: Evgeny Kozhevnikov/

The working name for our new tourism project is the Golden Ring of Siberia,” says Andrei Efremov. It is proposed that 12 regions will join itthat is, the entirety of Siberia. And this is, of course, a unique tour. As they say, we lay our cards on the table, and you will see the full extent of what there is to see.

In principle, this is a program for growing tourism within Siberia. Certain regions in Siberia are undoubtedly well developed in respect to tourismspecifically, Altai and Khakassia. But there is much to see in other places as well. And even we Siberians haven’t come close to visiting everywhere in our own region. But the beautiful sites there are simply unique. In addition to nature, there are also interesting historical routes.

The St. Nicholas Convent in Mogochino, Tomsk district. Photo:

As is well known, people came to Siberia for two reasons. Some came for the landthose are the free Siberians. And the unfree ones came to Siberia for exile. Both paths to Siberia have a rich history behind them. Siberia also has, as is well known, a significant concentration of oil and wood processing facilities. And this is also worth seeingits also included in the tour.

This summer the Golden Ring of the Tomsk District tourist route started runningtell us a bit more about it.

The tour route that provides the basis for developing our project is the Golden Ring of the Tomsk district, which was drawn up by the Tomsk division of the Russian Geographic Society. It already exists and is being put into action: the first boat that went along that route carried around two hundred tourists.

This tourist route traverses eight regions of the Tomsk district. Its total length is 1250 kilometers. It is calculated to take three full days, over the course of which tourists visit such interesting places as the St. Nicholas Convent in Mogochino, the Kolpashevsky regional museum, and the Church of the Resurrection in Togur, which turns 200 next year.

One of the major sites on the route is Narym. This is a village in the northwest of the Tomsk district (425 km from the city Tomsk). At one time it was founded as a military prisonlong ago, by the companions-in-arms of the ataman Yermak. Later, they started sending everyone who was disagreeable to the political authorities into exile here. By the way, in the tsarist period exiles began receiving a kind of salaryfor example, exiled Poles. We converted this sum into todays money, and it came out to something like 60 thousand rubles a month. I would certainly have gone there for this kind of money, because, I repeat once more, it is a stunning place.

Narym Museum of Political Exile. Photo:

Though the most famous Narym exile was Joseph Dzhugashvili (Stalin). Admittedly, he didnt spend long thereone month in alland then he ran or, more precisely, rowed away on an oblasok (a Siberian canoe). By the way, this oblasok is preserved in the Narym Museum of Political Exile.

Narym is essentially an island, as it is surrounded by swamps on one side and a river on the other. This is a place of striking energy and beautydespite its somewhat dark history. The fishing there is excellent. Right nearby there are radon baths, which are also a remarkable and popular place to visit.

Its important that practically all regions in the district are distinguished by both their natural and cultural features. For instance, in Kargask, you can become acquainted with Selkup culture, and in the Chainsky region you can learn about the Kulay, representatives of an ancient civilization, who lived in these places four thousand years ago.

People often think that tourism in Siberia primarily consists of encountering natural beauty. But judging by your stories, this place will be very interesting for history lovers as well…

Tourists vary widely. One person will be interest by historical events and will want to see the places of exile. Another will come to visit the grave of their ancestors. Last year, a single Asinovsky regional center in the Tomsk district had more than one hundred visitors whose ancestors were once sent there in exile.

In the Loving Cup Museum of Cossack Culture. Photo:

Incidentally, the planning of the tours also depends on the interests of the travelers. There is one focused purely on naturea certain part of this route consists of walking on foot across the Siberian taiga. Plans are being made not only for summer, but also for winter tours, which will be a bit different. And there is another possible version: a health tour on skis. There are also special regional study tours for schoolchildren, which should take three days.

And how are affairs with the infrastructurehotels, cafes?

Now we have a task before us: figuring out what kind of infrastructure there is. We have already done this in part. Now we have to organize some work to motivate businesses to develop a tourist infrastructure. Our working group should bring together government representatives, tour operators, and businesspeople.


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