The Eastern Arctic Seas Encyclopedia

2016 Edition
| Editors: Igor S. Zonn, Andrey G. Kostianoy, Aleksandr V. Semenov

Yakutia, The Republic of Sakha

Reference work entry
Yakutia, The Republic of Sakha – a territorial entity of the Russian Federation within the Far Eastern Federal District. The area is 3,103,000 km2 (1/5 of Russia and 1/3 of Europe) (33 administrative regions, 13 cities, 57 worker settlements, and 354 village administrative offices). It adjoins seven territorial entities of the RF. The population is about one million (the urban population is 65 %). The population density is 0.3 people per 1 km2. The largest cities are as follows: the capital is the city of Yakutsk which was founded in 1633 (208,500), the city of Neryungri (78,000), the city of Mirny (38,000), the city of Lensk (30,000), and the city of Aldan (24,600). Formerly, the entity was a part of the Yakut region in 1922 – the Yakut ASSR (Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic) within the RSFSR. In line with the formation of the Chukchi and the Evenki national districts in 1930, part of the YASSR was handed over to the formations. In 1990, the Republic announced its sovereignty. Since 1992, the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) is a territorial entity of the RF. In 2000, it became a part of the Far Eastern Federal District.

Yakutia, the Republic of Sakha-Yakutia (Source:

The area is located in the northeast of Asia, the northern part of Eastern Siberia, in the basin of the Lena, the Yana, and the Indigirka rivers and in the lower reach of the Kolyma River. The Republic includes a number of the Arctic Ocean islands, such as the New Siberian Islands. Over 40 % of the Republic’s territory is within the Polar Circle. Yakutia is the most seaside republic of Russia. In the north, it is bounded by the Laptev Sea and the East Siberian Sea along over 4,000 km of its coastline. The sea area that adjoins Yakutia adds up to over 36 % of all Russian Arctic seas. The total coastline length of the Republic is 10,280 km.

It is mostly occupied by mountain chains (the Verkhoyansk Range, the Stanovoy Range, and the Chersky Range; Peak Pobeda (3,147 m) is the fourth highest peak in the RF) and highlands (the Central Siberian, the Yana, and the Oymyakon plateaus). The Central Yakut Plain is located in the middle flow of the Lena River; the Yana–Indigirka and the Kolyma lowlands are in the north. There are 700,000 rivers in the Republic with the total length of about two million km. The Lena River with its tributaries the Aldan, the Vilyui and the Olekma, the Yana, the Indigirka, and the Kolyma is the main water artery. There are over 800,000 lakes with the water surface area of over 1 ha each.

The climate is that of a severe seasonal inland type; the air temperature ranges for over 100 °C (from +40 °C in summer down to −60 °C in winter). The Pole of Cold in the Northern Hemisphere is located here in the place called Oymyakon with the absolute temperature minimum recorded as low as −71.2 °C. In January, the average temperature is −37.1 °C and in July – +16.6 °C. The annual rainfall is 200–700 mm.

The taiga area (in the north and in the mountains) occupies 72 % of Yakutia; the rest is covered with tundra, forest tundra, and the Arctic desert. The Republic is largely located in the continuous permafrost area. The soil is mostly of the cryosolic–taiga type. Forests cover about 47 %. Natural reserves include the Lena Delta Wildlife Reserve, 1.4 million ha (since 1985), and the Olekminskiy Wildlife Reserve, 847,100 ha (since 1984).

Yakutia is abundant in diamonds, gold, tin, tungsten, mercury, polymetallic and iron ores, soft coal and lignite, natural gas, and oil.

The Republic is rich in natural resources. In terms of coal deposits, it is the third richest in the RF after the Kemerovo region and Krasnoyarsk Kray. The Lena coal basin is the richest in the world: lignite is extracted in Kangalasskiy and soft coal in Sangar, Dzhebariki-Khaya, Zyrianskiy (reserved nowadays), and southern Yakut (Neryungri) coal basins. Lignite is developed in Kirovskoe as well. Natural gas deposits are extracted in Talon-Mastakhskoe and Srednevilyuiskoye gas fields and oil in Ust-Viljujskiy oil field. Power stations include HPP Viljujskiy, TPP Chulmanskaya, Yakut, and Neryungri. Oil extraction industry in Yakutia is very important. Due to the construction of the key oil pipeline “Eastern Siberia–Pacific Ocean,” full-scale oil extraction in Talakanskoe oil field became feasible. In the near future, Gazprom is supposed to commence the development of Chayanguinskiy oil and gas field followed by the construction of the gas pipeline “Yakutia–Khabarovsk.”

Yakutia is rich in forests and the second richest in the RF in timber after Krasnoyarsk Kray. Yakutia is involved in the production and conditioning of commercial timber (1/10 in the RF) and lumber board.

Iron ore deposits (the Aldan Basin) can be found in Taezhnoe and others (not developed at present). Deposits and development of columbium-containing ores (the largest in the world) are in Tomtorskoe; gold (1/4 in the RF) in Nezhdaninskoe, Kuranakh, and Sarylakh; tin in Ese-Khaya; and Deputatsky has deposits of mercury and uranium ores. Apatite deposits and development are in Aldan, common salt is in Kempendyay, and mica deposits are in Tommot.

The city of Mirny is the monopolist in diamond mining as it has the only mining in the Northern Hemisphere.

Yakutsk has ship repairs and furniture-manufacturing facilities.

Leading industries are mining, forestry, and fishery. Electric power engineering and fuel (coal) industries are well developed.

Agriculture in the Republic specializes in fur, beef, dairy, and potato–vegetable sectors; agricultural areas occupy 0.6 % of the region. Crops (wheat, barley, and oat) are sowed locally. Deer farming and horse herd farming (the Yakut horse) are widely developed in the north of Yakutia. Hunting, fur trapping, and fishing are developed in northern areas, as well as cage feeding. Water bodies are rich in fish and home to about 90 valued species.

Railways include the Baikal–Amur Mainline (Bamovskaya–Tynda–Berkakit–Neryungri), the “Little BAM” (Berkakit–Tynda–BAM), the Amur–Yakutsk Mainline (connected to the Baikal–Amur Mainline by the Tynda–Berkakit branch line), and the Amur–Yakutsk Highway (Bolshoy Never–Tommot–Yakutsk) which connects Yakutia to the Trans-Siberian Railway. The Berkakit–Tommot–Yakutsk Mainline and the Ulak–Elga branch line leading to the Elga coking coal deposit are presently under construction. The Yakutsk–Magadan road is called the Kolyma Highway. Shipping lanes include the Northern Sea Route, the Lena River, and its tributaries. Ports include the Northern Sea Route port of Tiksi and the Aldan River port of Khandyga. The Taas–Tumus–Yakutsk–Pokrovsk gas pipeline. A major International Cooperation Research Station is already in operation on Samoilovski Island.

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