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Myths, Stereotypes & Facts about Siberia

Oh Siberia!
Surrounded by so many myths and beliefs about Siberian people and Siberian culture. It was probably one of the last places on earth you would want to find yourself in. When I was young, Siberia meant three things to me.

  • A remote place where bad and not so bad people were kept in exile.
  • Siberian trains.
  • Siberian migratory birds.

Was I wrong?
No. All three were right.
So then, what made people to jump and say “Oh no ! You going to Siberia?” when we announced that we were going to Siberia?
Let us bust a few of those Siberian stereotypes and apprehensions which people (including me) have had about Siberia.

It is always cold and snow carpet in Siberia!

river ingoda siberia
It is the most common myth about Siberia. Yes, agreed. It is cold, but in winter. Winter season starts in November and lasts till April. Summers are short, but they are warm. We were told at times the temperature goes upto 40°C ! We were in Siberia in October and we didn’t see much snow. Yes, there was a chill and we had to don our jackets and caps but it was bearable.
In fact, I would have loved had it been snow covered because you can go for winter activities in Siberia such as skiing, snowboarding, ice-skating and snowmobiling.

Siberia is a dangerous place

I can understand the anxiety and nervousness of our family and friends back home. They tried to talk us out of the trip because as per them, Siberia is “dangerous place!” It’s a one way ticket. Probably they had read too many books and watched too many movies about labor camps. 😀
The fact is, the labor camps have become history. It was in the past when people were sent to Siberia just like it happened in Australia or our own Kala Pani in Andamans. Most of Siberian tribe welcome tourists from all over the world since many years now.
There are not many prisons too. We saw Decembrist’s church and museum which has artifacts and memorabilia from that period but the prison was somewhere else.

It is All Barren & Wasteland

Barren Land? All? No. Not at all.
Some places, yes.
On the contrary, there are plenty of trees, flowers and vegetables that grow in Siberia. I was pleasantly surprised to see Marigold flowers which are considered all season flowers here in India. Of course, if you go there in peak winter, the scene would be quite different.
See these pictures and tell me if it’s barren in Siberia.

Top Indian Couple Blog by Nisha Jha and Vasudevan R - Myths, Stereotypes & Facts about Siberia

Top Indian Couple Blog by Nisha Jha and Vasudevan R - Myths, Stereotypes & Facts about Siberia

Top Indian Couple Blog by Nisha Jha and Vasudevan R - Myths, Stereotypes & Facts about Siberia
This is how Siberia looks in summer.

Siberia is boring black & White

russian dolls souvenirs

russian handicrafts

No, Siberia is NOT Black and White! In fact, it is full of colors.
Handicrafts, festivals, traditional dresses and costumes!
Russia or even Siberia is rich in distinctive folk arts and handicrafts from old traditions. Have you heard of the world famous Matryoshka dolls? Perhaps it is Russia’s most recognizable handicraft. And the traditional dress or Khokhloma utensils or the lace work?

I am a bit disappointed that we could not attend any festival which are very colorful. I sincerely hope that I get to see one in near future.

Siberia is not developed

myths and facts about Siberia Chita town
A portion of Chita town from up the hills.
myths and facts about Siberia Chita town
Chita town from Titovskaya Hills. High rise buildings, Railway stn, & Kazan Church can be seen.

Oh really? Do you know the 2019 Winter Universiade are going to take place in the Russian city of Krasnoyarsk? And this is not the first time Siberia is holding an international event. Do you think it is possible if Siberia is not developed? Siberia is very big in size and contrary to belief, not every area is uninhabited. It has modern cities like Krasnoyarsk, Omsk and Novosibirsk and some of them are even bigger than other European cities such as Oslo, Helsinki or Lisbon.
We visited Chita, comparatively a smaller town than Novosibirsk, Omsk, Krasnoyarsk, and Irkutsk. Whatever is the size, each one of them has theatres, museums, night clubs, hotels etc. The cities are connected with railways and regular public buses.

Everyone Lives In Shacks, Log-Cabins or bunkers

Now? In this age?
Honestly, I also looked for one, but couldn’t find any. Instead, I could see high rise buildings, and beautifully designed aesthetic buildings. The architectural wonders of Chita was a thing to see. Had we had one more day in Chita, we would have explored the town further in search of these buildings. There are some beautifully carved wooden structures too. Decembrists’s Church is one such example.
Log-cabins do exist, but mainly only in the deep forests or in remote places.

No one speaks English in Siberia

Top Indian Couple Blog by Nisha Jha and Vasudevan R - Myths, Stereotypes & Facts about Siberia

Before going to Siberia we were in doubt. How are we going to manage in Siberia or even in Russia? Vasu brushed up his knowledge of Russian and I tried hard to learn a few words. But alas! We couldn’t put them to use!
Whoever we met, spoke excellent English. For example, meet Alex, the soft spoken gentleman. Not only he learnt and speaks English, he teaches the language as well! People know the importance of English and Alex has even opened a few English speaking institutes in Chita.
Forget English, we even met a Hindi speaking monk ! So don’t worry if you are not familiar with Cyrillic and are not sure of your ‘da’ and ‘nyet’. Globalization is here to save you.

Russians/Siberians don’t Smile!

myths stereotypes facts about Siberia
Smiling Siberia !

They are serious, unfriendly and have a grumpy look.
I take a serious offense to it. It’s a lie! Rather, I found myself to be more apprehensive. They definitely smiled and on many occasions helped us without asking and struck a conversation. Whether it was a museum, a SIM card shop or a restaurant, people welcomed us with a smile even when we didn’t understand each other.
And have you heard of Smiley Relay Race about Smiling Siberia? Could have they done it if the people were always serious? I am now smiling ear to ear. 😀

Limited food choices, only Vodka available

draniki russian
We thought we’ll have to survive only on Salted traditional bread and Vodka and probably some meat. Meat? No !!! We are vegetarians.
To be honest, this whole notion about food is WRONG. We are vegetarians and we had no difficulty in finding what we wanted. Just say, ‘bez myasa = без мяса’ meaning ‘without meat’. No need to survive on only salads and bread.
We had Borscht, Draniki, Buuz, Pirozhok, Kvaas and what not! And yes, Pryaniki too! So many other dishes and snacks and we really relished them. We also brought home some as souvenirs. 😀
No, they don’t always drink Vodka. There are other drinks also to enjoy. So Vodka took a back seat. In fact, I celebrated my birthday with a glass of Bubbly. 😀

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P.S.- This article, Myths, Stereotypes & Facts about Siberia, belongs to Le Monde, the Poetic Travels, an Indian Travel Blog, published by the traveling couple, Nisha & Vasudevan. Reproduction without explicit permission is prohibited. If you are viewing this on another website rather than the RSS feed reader or itself, then that website is guilty of stealing our content. Kindly do us a favour by letting us know via Contact Us. Thank you.


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34 thoughts on “Myths, Stereotypes & Facts about Siberia”

  1. You’re right about the most common myth – that Siberia is freezing. I remember as children, our parents would blackmail us that if we didn’t listen to them, they’d send us to a boarding school in Siberia! I am not surprised to hear that it’s only super cold in the winter, but I am surprised that the temperatures can go up to 40 degree C in the summer, that’s really warm!

    1. Yes, absolutely! This myth had to be busted. It is cold but not always.

      HaHa, that’s a good idea to scare the kids. 😀
      Yes, We were told once it went upto 40 degrees. It doesn’t happen often though.

  2. Wow, thank you for these information about Siberia! I thought the same thing as you before you went there. This country is rarely featured on tv’s and even on IG as an Instagrammable spot. I hope that this 2019, I hope more travelers get to explore this place like you .

  3. What a great piece to publish, I don’t find myself ever reading much into Siberia. But when you throw the term myth around, I have to pay attention. I’d actually consider taking up a visit there if the price is right and I pick the right time of year to visit.

  4. Great Post Nisha…!!!

    Your post clears all the doubts and myths about Siberia. Your detailed and informative post really helpful for those who plan to go Siberia.

    Thanks for sharing such valuable info with us…!!!

  5. I love this – myth-busting is so important to break down the walls! Siberia has been on my list for a long time (mostly due to the trains, I’ll admit)! I particularly like the bit about smiling, it’s good to know that Siberia is a smiley friendly country. Chita looks like a great city, and I look forward to visiting one day!

  6. This is so cool!
    I always thought Siberia is all about exile and punishment and never wanted to go there.
    But your posts make me go there. Now I am assured I will survive being vegetarian.

    Thanks for this awesome post!

  7. Great post bustling those prevailing myths about Siberia. Its good to see the smiling people and the landscapes which are beyond cold:) This is such a great article about showing more of a little-understood destination.

  8. It was really amazing to go trough this post with these beautiful captures, this post will surely help the readers, specially those who have not visited there, to relate with the present condition there breaking the concepts those grew up for some reasons.

  9. I think this was one of the best experiences I have come across in the recent times. It shows how little we know of a place unless we go there first hand.

  10. I had no idea how traveling to Siberia would be. I added Siberia to my wishlist almost a year ago. I never thought it could be dangerous. Some people think everywhere rather than their hometown is dangerous. It is good to know you that people there are able to speak English

  11. I loved your article guys. It kept me hooked till end. Pictures are great and you have busted the myths about Siberia so nicely. I really want to see this country in different colours now. Thanks for writing and sharing this up.

  12. Thanks for dispelling the myths about Siberia. Good to know that it is not cold all the year around. Great to show that there is so much colour in Siberia. And it was fascinating to know that so many speak English.

  13. Siberia has been on my travel list for a while now. Glad to read that the food situation for vegetarians is not so bad at all. I am also surprised that English seems to be widely spoken. Thanks for this great post that will hopefully persuade people to travel to Siberia.

  14. I have to admit, Siberia/Russia have never been on my bucket list. I definitely do think of snow and little development when I think of Siberia. Chita looks and sounds like a terrific little city. You did a great job of giving a more rounded, modern view of the area and dispelling some of the myths about it.

  15. What beautiful flowers that you got to see! Sad that you couldn’t put your few Russian words to use but awesome that everyone spoke English! 🙌🏼 And yes to Vodka 🥂 (and other drinks, haha 😂)

  16. When someone mentions Siberia, my first thought is Trans-Siberian Railway journey, since it is on my wishlist. 😉

    Great to read they have many vegetarian options. I admit I was afraid they had all meat-based meals.

    Cheers to amazing journeys in 2019!
    xoxo Milijana

  17. ahah you got me, I was totally thinking that Siberia is a vaste land of snow and ice, with not so much to do except freezing and drinking vodka 😉 I hope to visit soon, from your photos it looks amazing!

  18. What a lovely piece! It is so important to do your research before traveling to another country especially with stereotypes that cause controversy! It’s good to hear that you had a wonderful experience and proved the stereotypes were wrong!

  19. I have to admit, I’ve heard some of these stereotypes about Siberia (and also held a few of these views too!). Thanks for dispeling these myths. I’m glad to know that it’s not always cold in Siberia. From your post, I can see it’s a beautiful place.

  20. Sometimes you need to visit the place yourself to see the real magic in it. To see the positive side of the place. I’m glad you shared with us your journey in Siberia and busted the stereotypes that people usually believe about this province.

  21. I loved reading your post about Siberia. It’s good to know there are some positives about it as well. I grew up in Romania where the name “Siberia” is associated with terror, poverty and misery. Too many of my compatriots suffered at the hands of the Soviets during communism and have been exiled here. I have to say however that it looks interesting to visit. The Trans-Siberian Railroad tour has been on my mind for a while.

  22. I really did expect something a little more ‘bleak’. Great that you could get a range of food as a veggie too – I do find anywhere in the East of Europe tends to be a bit meat heavy. It looks like somewhere I’d enjoy visiting

  23. You’re right, I held some of these misconceptions too! It’s fascinating to hear about a place that so often is ignored – I had no idea that there were such beautiful flowers in Siberia, I really did think it was cold and snowy the whole time.

  24. Oh my gosh, those flowers are beautiful! Are they wildflowers? Love that the people were welcome and friendly. I’m not sure what any of those food options are but what you posted looks yummy and I would be OK with drinking vodka for a week or two

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