© Photo credit: www.baikal-info.ru
November, 20

Main Trades of the Region

Nordic peoples have hunted and fished for centuries. These activities have a special place in the way of life of the inhabitants of the Baikal region.


Hunting animals has always been a vital activity: in addition to production of food and remedies (deer musk, red deer antlers, bear bile, seal fat), people used skins to sew clothes, shoes, bedding, and covering for their homes. Furs were also used as a valuable currency for exchange and trade.

The rich nature of the lake contributed to hunting. The rich fauna has its own peculiarities - for example, hunting of the Baikal seal which can only be found in this lake, and some species of birds. Seal is a very clever animal. Inexperienced hunters could drown trying to catch the agile creature.

The Buryats, who have inhabited the shores of Lake Baikal since the ancient times, preferred collective hunting. Everyone had a role to play, but the experienced leader always supervised the entire process.

Animals were driven to the center of the raid. They hunted various animals and game in a similar fashion. Their neighbors, the Evenks, preferred individual hunting.

Aside from hunting, one of the most ancient trades was fishing. Rich in the variety and quantity, the fish of Baikal and the rivers flowing into it could be caught with even the most primitive of tools.

 Archaeological excavations have confirmed that the ancient peoples pursued fishing. Scientists have discovered a variety of fishing gear. It turned out that the tribes not just fished from the shore using harpoons, but also set fishing nets woven from the hair and tendons of animals. Fishing served to provide food and fish oil. They mostly caught cisco, whitefish, grayling, taimen, sturgeon, burbot, perch, pike, roach, crucian carp, bullhead, catfish, carp, and bream.


Another vital activity was agriculture. Although conditions for the cultivation of grain were not the best, agriculture was still a very important trade. Scientists have found a lot of evidence that the ancient peoples of the Baikal region actively used grain products for food.

The Buryats mostly planted millet but also used oats, barley, rye, and other crops. They also developed an irrigation system: they built canals from mountain streams to their arable lands. The Russians quickly adopted their method of irrigation.



The harsh nature dictated the rules of life, but creativity found a way to express itself even in such conditions. The remoteness of the region forced the people to learn to create tools, treat skins, do bench work and cooperage, and make utensils. They made canvas and used it to sew clothes. It should be noted that Russia was famous for its high quality fabrics – for their smoothness, softness and whiteness. The Russian fabrics were superior to foreign goods in quality and texture.

Needlewomen embroidered the clothes, sewing intricate patterns into the fabric. Fabrics woven into checks were more popular than those woven into stripes. Tablecloths were decorated with particularly bright and elegant patterns. They were woven from five or six colors picked in a way that would make them blend well with each other. The colors used were usually red, blue, green, brown, yellow, and purple. The edges were often decorated with colored tassels.

Woven wall towels were also bright - they were usually hung near icons. The skill of needlewomen brought coziness and beauty into a house.

Pottery and Birchbark Craft

One of the most necessary trades was pottery. And people gave special attention to it. The Old Believers divided dishes into “clean” and “unclean”, “lenten” and “ferial”, and healers used pots with a certain shape – a different pot for each disease.

Pottery was stored on special shelves – the variety was enormous: for soup, porridge, sour cream, or for boiling milk, milk jugs, cups and bowls. Each of them had its own purpose.

Another ancient craft was weaving. At the end of XIX - early XX century, woven household items became almost a necessity. Baskets, furniture, carriages were in great demand. Items were woven from thin vines and painted in different colors or decorated with silver and gilding.

But the main trade of the residents of the Siberian region was birchbark craft. Birchbark was valued for its durability and ability to resist rot. It was used to make waterproof shoes, trim boats, make containers for storing milk or kvass so it would not go sour and remained cold even in hot weather. Products made of birch bark became not just household items, but also works of folk art.

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