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Lake Baikal, Siberia, Russia

Lake Baikal, Siberia, Russia

Russian expansion into the Buryat area around Lake Baikal in 1628–1658 was part of the Russian conquest of Siberia. It was done first by following the Angara River upstream from Yeniseysk (founded 1619) and later by moving south from the Lena River. Russians first heard of the Buryats in 1609 at Tomsk. According to folktales related a century after the fact, in 1623, Demid Pyanda, who may have been the first Russian to reach the Lena, crossed from the upper Lena to the Angara and arrived at Yeniseysk. Vikhor Savin (1624) and Maksim Perfilyev (1626 and 1627–1628) explored Tungus country on the lower Angara. To the west, Krasnoyarsk on the upper Yenisei was founded in 1627. There were a number of ill-documented expeditions eastward from Krasnoyarsk. In 1628 Pyotr Beketov first encountered a group of Buryats and collected yasak from them at the future site of Bratsk. In 1629 Yakov Khripunov set off from Tomsk to find a rumored silver mine. His men soon began plundering both Russians and natives. They were joined by another band of rioters from Krasnoyarsk but left the Buryat country when they ran short of food. This made it difficult for other Russians to enter the area. In 1631 Maksim Perfilyev built an ostrog at Bratsk. The pacification was moderately successful, but in 1634 Bratsk was destroyed and its garrison killed. (The story goes that the Buryats did not know how to use firearms, so they decided to burn the muskets along with the dead Cossacks. The fire caused the guns to go off, killing a few people which made the Buryats think that the Russians were still fighting after they were dead.) In 1635 Bratsk was restored by a punitive expedition under Radukovskii. In 1638 it was besieged unsuccessfully.
In 1638 Perfilyev crossed from the Angara over the Ilim portage to the Lena River and went downstream as far as Olyokminsk. Returning, he sailed up the Vitim River into the area east of Lake Baikal (1640) where he heard reports of the Amur country. In 1641 Verkholensk was founded on the upper Lena. In 1643 Kurbat Ivanov went further up the Lena and became the first Russian to see Lake Baikal and Olkhon Island. Half his party under Skorokhodov remained on the lake, reached the Upper Angara at its northern tip and wintered on the Barguzin River on the northeast side. In 1644 Ivan Pokhabov went up the Angara to Baikal, becoming perhaps the first Russian to use this route which is difficult because of the rapids. He crossed the lake and explored the lower Selenge River. About 1647 he repeated the trip, obtained guides and visited a 'Tsetsen Khan' near Ulan Bator. In 1648 Ivan Galkin built an ostrog on the Barguzin River which became a center for eastward expansion. In 1652 Vasily Kolesnikov reported from Barguzin that one could reach the Amur country by following the Selenga, Uda and Khilok Rivers to the future sites of Chita and Nerchinsk. In 1653 Pyotr Beketov took Kolesnikov's route to Lake Irgen west of Chita and that winter his man Urasov founded Nerchinsk. Next spring he tried to occupy Nerchensk, but was forced by his men to join Stephanov on the Amur. Nerchinsk was destroyed by the local Tungus but restored in 1658.

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