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Yakutsk Travel Guide

Yakutsk History

Yakutsk was founded in the fall of 1632. First it was a small fortress that sheltered a group of Yenisei Cossacks headed by Peter Beketov. In August, 1638, the Moscow Government formed a new administrative unit Yakutsky with a center in Lensky stockade. That is how a very distant "small town" became the center of huge territory under the command of the Moscow government.

Peter Golovin implemented the strict policies in taxation, which later caused people's rebellion. The result of the rebellion was dramatic. Golovin was disposed of his position and was later convicted. The period of his governing was probably the worst in Yakutsk' history.

The city of Yakutsk played a great role in Sakha' history. It was a starting point for many other Cossack expeditions: Dezhnev expedition, which in 1648 discovered a strait between Asia and America; Atlasov - the discoverer of Kamchatka; Poyarkov and Khabarov - discoverers of Amur River. Due to these discoveries, in twenty years the borders of the Russian empire expanded from Baikal and Yenisei to the Pacific Ocean' coasts.

In the 18th - 19th Centuries many of the world famous scientists and travelers visited Yakutsk, and gave extended descriptions of the nature, climate, landscape, history and language of the peoples of Yakutia. Some of these noble people, who are the pride of many nations and countries, are Archbishop Innokentii Veniaminov, ethnographer Vatslav Seroshevski, researchers F.Vrangel, A.Middendorf. The incorporation of Sakha's territory into Russian Empire caused great impact on all Yakutia's future development.

Yakutsk History

It is clear from what has been said before, that Sakha were experiencing some sort of the Russian influence since the 1630. Catherine the Second established Russian domination in a more formal way, but Sakha enjoyed far-reaching autonomy, even under and after Catherine. Right to the end of the 19th century, Russia practiced, in many ways, a policy of non-intervention in Yakutia in both a good and a bad sense.

In 1922 former "Yakolskaya land" was proclaimed the Yakut Autonomous Soviet Republic and in 70 years i.e.  The movement was subdued, its members exiled and later executed. In the 1930's the waves of repression reached the republic. Many members of the intelligentsia were denounced. Among many others were the writers Kulakovskiy, Sofronov, and Neustroev, who were accused of bourgeois nationalism. The same happened to the statesmen Ammosov and Ojunskiy. The rehabilitation process of the 1990's re-established the names of these people.

In the end of the 1930s Yakutia became one of the main components of the Gulag system. In those days the KGB had no problems with laborers, who worked mostly on forest clearance. There are still some Gulag establishments near Zhigansk on the Lena.

In the 1960s the official policy towards the northern regions was slightly modified. Under Khrushchev, the youth was strongly advised to 'go north'. The average pay in the USSR was reckoned to be 155 roubles per month while in the Far North monthly earnings from 300 to 650 roubles were the rule. This triggered a wave of migration to Yakutia in the quest for the so called "long rouble".

The biggest problem of the period, which stays rather acute even nowadays, was poor infrastructure. Since there were no railways in the Yakut A.S.S.R., river and road transport had to do the bulk of the work. Both forms of transport in Yakutia have to overcome great difficulties. River navigation means primarily navigation on the river Lena and its branches, and the navigation period on the Lena is shorter than on most other Siberian rivers. It lasts not more than 135 days on the sector Vitim-Yakutsk, and even less on the sector stretching from Yakutsk to the Arctic Ocean.

The development of the region was somewhat triggered by the discovery of the diamonds in the 1950s. Although the first diamond in Sakha territory was found in August of 1949 by the geological expedition of G.Finestein, the development of Sakha diamond industry started in the second half of the 1950s, after the 1954 L.Popugaeva's discovery of the first diamond site in the USSR. Sakha produces an estimated 98% of Russia's diamonds while Russia is the world's single largest producer by value.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, there was a fundamental change in Sakha's relationship with Russia. In 1992 it became the sovereign Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) as a part of the Russian Federation with its own elected President.  For more than two centuries Yakutsk served as a base for different expeditions headed by famous land discoverers and explorers, who became famous for important geographical discoveries in the north-east of the Asian continent.

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