The Villages of Baikal That Have Ceased to Exist

The Villages of Baikal That Have Ceased to Exist

According to the census-2010, there are nine inhabited locations on Olkhon: five villages, three settlements (including the administrative centre, Khuzhir) and one small settlement. According to the statistical data, the population growth now can be seen only in Khuzhir, other settlements are getting depressed, slowly but surely.

For example, three people lived in Khadai in 2010, today there are no more inhabitants in this abandoned village. However, there was a school, a rural health post, a club with a library, a shop and even a small diesel power station there not that long ago... But people leave, villages get empty, and then totally cease to exist and are erased from geographical maps...

We’ll discuss the deserted settlements of the largest island of Lake Baikal, Olkhon, in this article.


The Villages of Baikal That Have Ceased to ExistKhadai is a village in Olkhonsky District of Irkutsk Oblast, 23 kilometers to south-west from the administrative centre, the rural settlement of Khuzhir. According to the recollections of the old-time residents, the life in Khadai was no worse than in other island settlements: the 1950s-1970s a cinema operator came to Khadai every week from Khuzhir to “show movies”. In 1965 a maternity ward for five beds opened at the rural health post: new residents of Olkhon were then born right in their native village. Then they grew up, graduated from primary school, and beginning from the following September, they moved to Khuzhir boarding school where they graduated from eight-year secondary school.

Any settlement consists of people: they are born, grow up and live there. Even today Khadai that has been erased from the maps is still remembered by those who once lived and worked there.

A diesel engine began to operate in Khadai in 1963. Electric light appeared in houses and on street lighting columns. The chief electrician was Aleksandr Bakhruievich Khatagarov respected by all inhabitants of the village; his wife Oktyabrina Ilyinichna headed the library and the club where she organized amateur concerts, themed nights and political discussions, children were shown filmstrips at the same club. The library regularly received such newspapers as “Pravda”, “Trud”, “Selskaya Zhizn” and such magazines as “Ogonyok”, “Yunost”.

The school was headed by Klara Pavlovna Pestonova who taught several generations of children. Polina Aleksandrovna Golovnykh had worked as baker for many years: she used to bake bread for the entire village. Vast meadows stretched around Khadai: they were taken care of by the grassland specialist Maksim Vasilyevich Urneev. He fought in the war, returned to his native village with military awards and had been engaged in the restoration of meadows for many years. Nikolai Vladimirovich Mangutov brough the children up as real sportspeople. There are many Candidate Masters of Sports among his students. Villagers often gathered in the house of the teacher Pavel Dmitrievich Nikiforov in the evenings and arranged readings by a petroleum lamp. They were usually led by the son of Pavel Dmitriyevich, Valerii. He arranged “examinations” and “political information lessons” for adult men; these were enjoyed by fellow villagers: there was always a crowd of people in the house of the Nikiforov family.

The village was gradually getting depressed: people moved to the central settlement of Khuzhir or even to the “mainland”. Today only tourists with their tents sometimes stop here, because the place where Khadai once was is still famous for its meadows ...


The village of Tashkai was situated not far from the Tashkai Cape: on the coast of the Zagli Bay, 40 kilometers away from Khuzhir.

The local people believe that the name of the village has nothing to do with the Tashkai Сape, but was derived from the Russian verb “to drag”, with its sound a bit distorted, because there was a cargo handling base in Tashkai in the first half of the 20th century. Namely from this place Olkhon Buryats “dragged” their goods for sale at the Olkhon fair that was usually held on the opposite coast of the Olkhon Gate Strait. The “Angara” steamship came here from another direction, from the mainland, once a week; in 1950s “Angara” was replaced by the “Komsomolets” steamship that run  according to schedule from Nizhneangarsk to Barguzin with a stop at Olkhon.

Nevertheless, the word “Tashkai” translated from Turkic consists of two words - tash (stone) and kai (cliff), which is precisely the cape that rising above Maloe More.

The remains of an ancient stone fortification wall (V-X centuries) have been found at the Tashkai Cape. The wall blocked the cape along the neck of land from the north-west to the southeast. Its length made up about 180 m, its width ranged from 1 m to 1.30 m, there were two passes about 4 m wide each within the wall. In addition, there was a ditch 2.5 m wide along the outer side of the wall. The fact that this construction was man-made could not be doubted. And  the fact that in 1963 the Tashkai wall was destroyed in order to use its stones for strengthening of the breakwater pier in the village of Khuzhir is all the more regrettable. Later archaeologists discovered nine masonry works in the part of the Cape that had been fenced off, 50-60 m to the north from the wall; some of these works are considered to be the facing of the foundations of dwelling places.

In short, people have lived in Tashkai since times immemorial. And a fish factory worked here during the Soviet epoch. There was also a shop, a school, a weather station and a bakery. Not so many people lived there: there were about 25-30 yards. Then the fish factory was closed, only a fish receipt post was left, the latter that did not exist for a long time. There was no work in the village from that time, so people began to leave Tashkai; this was the end of this small settlement on the island. Nowadays there is a tourist centre on the place of the former village: tourists come there all year round.



The village of Peschanka is one of the most interesting and historically rich Olkhon settlements that has ceased to exist. It was located in the middle of the island of Olkhon, 20 km to the north of the village of Khuzhir at the Nyurgunskaya Bay. Peschanka, as its name suggests (“sandy village” in Russian), is famous for its picturesque sand dunes.

A fish receipt post was set up here during mid-1930s. A penal colony for exiled prisoners was located there during those years. The colony was the place for those convicted for minor offenses – being late for work, petty thefts, vandalism. Therefore their jail terms were short for those times: an average of 3-4 years, a maximum of 8 years. But we must not forget what these times were like. A man could be sentenced to 5 years of prison for the theft of several kilograms of potatoes…

Convicts built their own barracks and towers by their own hands and surrounded the territory with barbed wire. According to eyewitnesses, there were about twenty barracks in Peschanka, about a hundred prisoners lived therein. The street stretched along the coast of Lake Baikal. A breakwater pier was built on the shore: fishermen’s boats approached it and gave out the fish. There were the buildings for fish processing right on the coast: the fish was salted, put in barrels and sent to the mainland on ships and barges. Once there was even a canning department in Peschanka.  Not only locals, but also the residents of neighboring uluses, used to work there. The department was managed by the experts who were specially sent from the mainland. The settlement had a health centre and an elementary school where the children of settlers and local residents studied together.

Here are some testimonies of eyewitnesses that were recorded as a result of interviews with the senior citizens of the settlements on Olkhon:

“The brigade of prisoners fished with a seine in Baikal at any weather. The fish caught by them was processed and salted. In addition to fishing, they bred cattle, Comrade Bendovsky grew potatoes and vegetables for the penal colony in Usuk... I want to say that the prisoners’ life in the colony was well enough. They had a Russian bath. And the locals were hungrier than them. When some of the prisoners passed through our villages they often left canned food for us, peas, cereals, other edible things. They were just the same simple people as we were.” (M.S. Daksueva)

“They had a farmyard where they kept horses, went fishing on horseback. We had virtually no communication with them, for we were not allowed to contact them. But, as we got to know that there were good doctors among them, we used to seek their advice. In 1945 an elementary school opened in Peschanaya, until that time children used to walk to the school in Ulan-Khushin. The teacher was an elderly woman from the exiled called Pozdnyakova (I do not remember her name and patronymic). Around the same time a rural health post and a kiosk opened. Since 1950 Peschanaya has become known as a settlement: barbed wire and the guard were removed, people began to come to Ulan-Khushin more often. They were then called free employees and paid money for work, but they were still banned to travel …” (E.O. Nomkhoeva)

In 1952 the penal colony was closed and transferred to Slyudyanka, and the exiled settlers were transferred to Peschanka. These included many Lithuanians, among others, priests from the seminary. The exiled began to develop the village: they built a high-quality pier in Peschanka, improved the functioning of the fish receipt post and the canning department that began to produce of omul in jelly, grayling in own juice. Such canned delicacies were sent directly to Irkutsk and then to the capital.

At that time the “Angara” steamship stopped at Peschanaya. The ship brought vegetables to the island, and the locals exchanged them for fish.

In 1955 the canning shop burned down, its restoration at the initial location was considered unreasonable. Free employees were allowed to leave, and the majority of them left the island. It was decided to build a new fish factory in Khuzhir. As a result, the remaining residents of Peschanka moved to Khuzhir. The village grew completely deserted.

In 1970 there no more students were left there, and the school was closed. The refrigerating department lasted the longest. It was closed in 1990. By that time the only person still working there was the fish receptionist Ekaterina Karnopoltseva. When this last production site was closed, the buildings were promptly dismantled, and the village finally ceased to exist. Now a lot of tourists come here in summer, just like to other places of the island.

Source: the book titled “In the Region of Mountains, Steppe, Taiga” (Elantsy, 2017)

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