The Republic of Buryatia (Buryatia) is a republic in the Russian Federation. It became a part of Russia in the 17th century when pioneers came to Siberia in search of gold and furs. Having a population of 1,049,000 people and area of 135,600 sq. miles, Buryatia stretches along the eastern shore of Lake Baikal and thus holding bragging rights to the best beaches surrounding the lake. The republic’s economy is based on agriculture, the timber and food industries and fur farming.
The Buryats, numbering approximately 350,000, is the largest ethnic minority group in Siberia. They are mainly concentrated in their homeland – the Republic of Buryatia. Buryats are of Mongolian descent and share many customs with their Mongolian cousins including nomadic herding and setting up yurts for shelter. Today, the majority of Buryats live in and around the capital of the Republic, although many live more traditional lives in the countryside.
The capital of Buryatia is Ulan Ude. Originally the city was called Verkhneudinsk, and only in 1934 it got its present name – Ulan Ude, which means Red Uda in Buryat language. The city is located in a valley formed by the Selenga and Uda rivers, approximately 45 miles from Lake Baikal. With a population of 430,000 people, it is the third largest city in Eastern Siberia.