Welcome to Siberia! Bigger, further, colder. This could be Siberia's motto, with its surface area equivalent to 1/7th of all the planet's land mass, its 14 million km² area linking the Urals, the Arctic and the Sea of Japan, and its temperatures ranging from -60°C to +40°C. But this accounting vision of Siberia does not take into account its extraordinary diversity, its dozens of indigenous peoples with thousand-year-old traditions that are still alive, its landscapes that alternate the densest forests, the most arid deserts, lakes, mountains and volcanoes. An ocean of land which, from taiga to tundra, was the place of the adventures of Michel Strogoff of Jules Verne, or the peregrinations of Doctor Jivago of Pasternak. Pasternak also raises the question of the other side of Siberia, that of deportation. In the houses of the 1825 exiles in Irkutsk, in the Perm Gulag Museum or in the port of Magadan, how can we not think of the millions of Russians who, from Dostoyevsky to Solzhenitsyn via Khodorkovsky, experienced the Siberian camp? But that would again reduce Siberia to a box too narrow for it.
The Trans-Siberian Railway, the pride and symbol of the whole country, is like a huge 9,000 km long vein that irrigates all Siberia and provides access to the major cities: the Cathedral on the Blood in Ekaterinburg (built on the site of the Romanovs' execution), the performances of the Novosibirsk Opera House, the wooden architecture of Irkutsk or Tomsk and the port of Vladivostok are all within easy reach by train. But you have to go off the beaten track to discover the best-kept treasures of Siberia: the fishing ports of the island of Olkhon on Lake Baikal, the peaks of the Altai, shamanic rites in Tuva, or trekking on the volcanoes of Kamchatka.
These are extraordinary adventures, during which we can experience the universal rule that, when nature is hostile, men help each other. This may be the final Siberian frontier. Referred to its infinitesimal size by so much space and diversity, one feels deeply connected to this warm and persistent humanity that welcomes you across distances and languages and proudly invites you to share its harsh but just life. Here more than anywhere else, the truth of a handshake is always preferable to a Facebook message.
The editorial team