Sayan Mountains

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Sayan Mountains
View of Mönkh Saridag, highest peak in the Sayan Mountains
Highest point
PeakMönkh Saridag
Elevation3,492 m (11,457 ft)
Coordinates51°43′08″N 100°36′53″E / 51.71889°N 100.61472°E / 51.71889; 100.61472Coordinates: 51°43′08″N 100°36′53″E / 51.71889°N 100.61472°E / 51.71889; 100.61472
Altay-Sayan map en.png
Parent rangeSouth Siberian Mountains
Lake of mountain spirits
Western Sayan, Ergaki mountains

The Sayan Mountains (Russian: Саяны Sajany; Mongolian: Соёны нуруу, Soyonï nurû; Old Turkic: 𐰚𐰇𐰏𐰢𐰤‎, romanized: Kögmen during the period of the Göktürks[1]) are a mountain range in southern Siberia, Russia (the Tyva Republic specifically) and northern Mongolia. In the past, it served as the border between Mongolia and Russia.[2]

The Sayan Mountains' towering peaks and cool lakes southwest of Tuva give rise to the tributaries that merge to become one of Siberia's major rivers, the Yenisei River, which flows north over 3,400 kilometres (2000 mi) to the Arctic Ocean. This is a protected and isolated area, having been kept closed by the Soviet Union since 1944.[3]


The Hanging Rock, Western Sayan, Ergaki mountains

Western Sayan[edit]

At 92°E the Western Sayan system is pierced by the Ulug-Khem (Russian: Улуг-Хем) or Upper Yenisei River, and at 106°, at its eastern extremity, it terminates above the depression of the Selenga-Orkhon Valley. From the Mongolian plateau the ascent is on the whole gentle, but from the plains of Siberia it is much steeper, despite the fact that the range is masked by a broad belt of subsidiary ranges of an Alpine character, e.g. the Usinsk, Oya, Tunka and Kitoi ranges.

Between the breach of the Yenisei and Lake Khövsgöl at 100° 30' E. the system bears also the name of Yerghik-taiga. The flora is on the whole poor, although the higher regions carry good forests of larch, pine, juniper, birch, and alder, with rhododendrons and species of Berberis and Ribes. Lichens and mosses clothe many of the boulders that are scattered over the upper slopes.[4]

The Ice Age Period[edit]

Sayan Mountains in August

In this area that currently shows only small cirque glaciers, at glacial times glaciers have flowed down from the 3492 m high Munku Sardyk massif situated west of Lake Baikal and from the 12.100 km² extended completely glaciated granite-gneiss plateau (2300 m asl) of the East-Sayan mountains as well as the east-connected 2600 – 3110 m-high summits in the Tunkinskaya Dolina valley, joining to a c. 30 km-wide parent glacier. Its glacier tongue that flowed down to the east, to Lake Baikal, came to an end at 500 m asl (51°48’28.98"N/103°0’29.86"E). The Khamar Daban mountains were covered by a large-scale ice cap filling up the valley relief. From its valley heads, e.g. the upper Slujanka valley (51°32’N/103°37’E), but also through parallel valleys like the Snirsdaja valley, outlet glaciers flowed to the north to Lake Baikal. The Snirsdaja-valley-outlet glacier has calved, among other outlet glaciers, at c. 400 m asl into Lake Baikal (51°27’N/104°51’E). The glacial (Würm ice age = Last Glacial Period = MIS 2) glacier snowline (ELA) as altitude limit between glacier feeding area and ablation zone has run in these mountains between 1450 and 1250 m asl. This corresponds to a snowline depression of 1500 m against the current height of the snowline. Under the condition of a comparable precipitation ratio there might result from this a glacial depression of the average annual temperature of 7.5 to 9 °C for the Last Ice Age against today.[5][6]

Origins of reindeer husbandry[edit]

Autumn forest in the Eastern Sayan Mountains, Buryatia, Russia.

According to Sev’yan I. Vainshtein Sayan reindeer herding, as historically practiced by the Evenks, is "the oldest form of reindeer herding and is associated with the earliest domestication of the reindeer by the Samoyedic taiga population of the Sayan Mountains at the turn of the first millenium A.D. (...) The Sayan region was apparently the origin of the economic and cultural complex of reindeer hunters-herdsmen that we now see among the various Evenki groups and the peoples of the Sayan area.

The ancestors of modern Evenki groups inhabited areas adjacent to the Sayan Mountains, and it is highly likely that they took part in the process of reindeer domestication along with the Samoyedic population."[7] The local indigenous groups that have retained their traditional lifestyle nowadays live almost exclusively in the area of the Eastern Sayan mountains.[8] However, the local reindeer herding communities were greatly affected by russification and sovietization, with many Evenks losing their traditional lifestyle and groups like the Mator and Kamas peoples being assimilated altogether.[9]

According to Juha Janhunen, and other linguists, the homeland of the Uralic languages is located in South-Central Siberia in the Sayan Mountains region.[10][11]


The Sayan Solar Observatory is located in these mountains (51°37′18″N 100°55′07″E / 51.62167°N 100.91861°E / 51.62167; 100.91861) at an altitude of 2,000 meters.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bartold, V. V. (1935) 12 Vorlesungen uber die Geschichte der Turken Mittelasiens Deutsche Gesellschaft für Islamkunde, Berlin, p. 46, OCLC 3673071
  2. ^ "Sayan Mountains". Retrieved 2006-12-25.
  3. ^ "Tuva and Sayan Mountains". Geographic Bureau - Siberia and Pacific. Archived from the original on 2015-11-26. Retrieved 2006-10-26.
  4. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Sayan Mountains" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 24 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 276.
  5. ^ Grosswald, M. G.; Kuhle, M. (1994):Impact of Glaciations on Lake Baikal. International Project on Paleolimnology and Late Cenozoic Climate No. 8. (Eds: Shoji Horie; Kazuhiro Toyoda (IPPCCE)) Universitätsverlag Wagner, Innsbruck, 48–60.
  6. ^ Kuhle, M. (2004):The High Glacial (Last Ice Age and LGM) glacier cover in High- and Central Asia. Accompanying text to the mapwork in hand with detailed references to the literature of the underlying empirical investigations. Ehlers, J., Gibbard, P. L. (Eds.). Extent and Chronology of Glaciations, Vol. 3 (Latin America, Asia, Africa, Australia, Antarctica). Amsterdam, Elsevier B.V., pp. 175-199.
  7. ^ "Evenki Reindeer Herding: A History", Cultural Survival, retrieved 30 December 2014
  8. ^ Vainshtein, Sev’yan I. (1971), "The Problem of the Origins of Reindeer Herding in Eurasia, Part II: The Role of the Sayan Center in the Diffusion of Reindeer Herding in Eurasia", Sovetskaya Etnografiya, 5: 37–52
  9. ^ Forysth, J. (1991). "The Siberian Native Peoples Before and After the Russian Conquest". In Wood, A. (ed.). The History of Siberia: From Russian Conquest to Revolution. London: Routledge. pp. 69–91. ISBN 0-415-05873-2.
  10. ^ Janhunen, Juha (2009). "Proto-Uralic—what, where, and when?" (PDF). The Quasquicentennial of the Finno-Ugrian Society. Helsinki. pp. 57–78.
  11. ^ Dziebel, German. "On the Homeland of the Uralic Language Family". Retrieved 2019-03-21.
  12. ^ "Sayan Solar Observatory". Institute of Solar-Terrestrial Physics, Russian Academy of Sciences - Siberian branch. Retrieved 2016-12-03.

External links[edit]