June 30, 2020

Russia's Stone Belt: The Urals

Russia's Stone Belt: The Urals
A stunning natural resource. Image by ugraland via Wikimedia Commons

The Ural Mountains are sometimes called “Russia’s stone belt,” and it is perfectly clear why when searching for photos of the region. This fascinating mountain belt stretches for 2,500 miles from the Arctic Ocean to the deserts of Kazakhstan and runs through nine Russian regions.

In addition, it divides Europe and Asia, the European part of Russia from western Siberia. There are several obelisks and commemorative signs designating this fact, the oldest of which is a wooden pillar near the city of Pervouralsk from 1837. In 2008, a large column with a two-headed eagle on top and a pedestrian walkway were erected to commemorate the area, where you can walk back and forth between Europe and Asia as many times as you want.

In terms of height, the Ural Mountains are not as high as the Caucasus, Altai, and Sayan ranges, but they are older, estimated at about 600 million years old. As you travel further south, the height of the mountains decreases into a plateau. The highest peak is Mount Narodnaya at 1,895 meters (6,217 feet) above sea level, which is located in a very difficult to reach area where the Komi Republic borders the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug. The entire mountain range is divided into five geographical zones: the Polar, Subpolar, Northern, Middle, and Southern Urals.

The Ural Mountains became part of Russia during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Beginning in the eighteenth century, metallurgy and mining ore and gems became a powerful industry in the middle region of the Urals. The construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway helped the southern region of the Urals develop. The mountain region was originally considered part of Siberia, but about 200 years ago, differences between the mountain region and settled Siberia were deemed so stark that the Ural Mountains was separated into its own region.

A diverse ethnic makeup is characteristic of the Urals. Ethnographers believe that there were three waves of immigration to this region: Old Believers, who fled to the area in the seventeenth to eighteenth centuries, peasants and farmers from the European part of Russia, who were transferred to work in factories, and Ukrainians in the nineteenth century who were attracted to the region by work opportunities.

There are several superstitions and beliefs associated with certain mountains in the Urals. Of course, there are the typical bigfoot and UFO sightings, but there are also areas believed to be “places of power” that operate based on sacrifice. In the olden days, this meant a blood sacrifice, but now leaving a ribbon or small token is acceptable.

Mount Iremel is one of these such places of power, proven by the name, which comes from Turkish and means "a place that gives a person strength." There is a village at the top of the mountain named Tyulyuk, which translates as “desire.” Thus, there is a legend that your most important dreams will come true if you make sacrifices to the mountain. So, why not take a trip out to this gorgeous natural wonder and make your dreams come true!

Tags: SiberiaUrals

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