Severobaikalsk, the most important centre of the region, has only 25,000 inhabitants, who came mainly in the 1970s to build the Baikal-Amur railway. The first arrivals were workers from Leningrad and near the railway station there is a monument commemorating their pioneering role in the founding of the city.

Located in the taiga, on the northern tip of the lake, and made up mostly of prefabricated houses, the town retains an unfinished character. Several temporary buildings make up an entire district called "the old town". Severobaikalsk is still searching for its vocation. Since the region's tourism infrastructure is non-existent, the town could turn to tourism and become the centre of the lake's northern operation.

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