The Natural History Museum.
Operating hours: in summer - 10am to 6pm, in winter - 10am to 5pm, closed on Monday and
Tuesday. The museum is located 150 meters from Soviet Square (the main square of the
city). Its collections are displayed in six exhibition rooms, each dedicated to a
different aspect of the natural history of the area. Among its exhibits you can find a
petrified tree, a mammoth skeleton, other paleontological items, mineral samples, displays
about flora and fauna of the region, historical documents. One of the main attractions is
the display about Lake Baikal. The building of the museum also houses a puppet theater.
The Museum of Minerals.
Operating hours: 9am to 1pm, 2pm to 4pm, on Tuesday and Friday only. The museum's
collection consists of minerals found by geological expeditions in Buryatia. See Nature's
amazing creations - stones of all kinds, some with patterns of gold and quartz - you will
be surprised at the diversity of shapes and colors that exist in this world!
Hangalov Museum of History of Buryatia.
One of the oldest museums in Siberia. Houses more than 100,000 exhibits depicting
lifestyles of indigenous peoples (Buryats, Evenks) and Russians in the Trans-Baikal
region, archaeological discoveries on the territory of Buryatia, history of religion
(Buddhism, Russian Orthodox Church, Shamanism). Here you will find rare books, archive
documents, chronicles as well as exhibitions of contemporary art. The museum is proud to
have in its collection the two precious Buddhist manuscripts - Ganjur and Danjur and the
ancient Atlas of Tibetan Medicine.
The Sampilov Museum of Fine Art.
Operating hours: 10am to 6pm, closed on Monday and Tuesday. The museum contains private
art collections, paintings and sculptures by local artists, Buddhist tankas (icons) and
folk handicraft items made from wood, horse hair, bone and silver, contemporary art
by bus, 1 hour
During this tour you will see
the historical center of Ulan Ude located along the river banks like a fancy amphitheater
with its 1- and 2-storey houses that belonged to merchants of the 18th-19th century, the
main square with the most extravagant monument to Lenin, the Holy Trinity and the
Hodigitria Cathedrals, the Buryat Opera and Ballet Theater and other historical monuments.
The Lenin Head on the main square sculptured
in 1972 is quite possibly the largest in the world. It is one of the city's symbols and
one of the most popular post card objects.
The Buryat State Opera and Ballet Theater. This is
possibly one of the greatest bargains you will find on your trip. Recently performed
ballets and operas include Faust, Swan Lake, Carmen, Barber of Seville, 1001 Nights and
Madame Butterfly. Built on a hill by Moscow and Buryat architects, the theater looks very
attractive with its beautiful exterior decorations and ornate interiors.
The Cathedral of Hodigitria. This old Russian
church is the first stone building of Verkhneudinsk (1741). Today it houses a unique
collection of ecclesiastical exhibits: icons, ancient books, etc.
The Great Merchants Rows. An
architectural monument of the early 19th century decorated with wood and stone carvings is
a beautiful example of Russian classicism.
to the Open-Air Ethnographical Museum, 3 hours
The Ethnographical Museum of the People of
Trans-Baikal region. Operating hours: in summer - 10am to 5pm, in winter - 10am to
4p, closed on Monday and last Tuesday of each month. Opened on July 6, 1973. Located 8 km
from Ulan Ude. The museum has expositions on the history of ethnic groups living in the
region: Evenks, Western Buryats, Eastern Buryats, Cossacks, Old Believers.
Evenks Exhibition. An Evenk camp of several
birch-bark and hide tepees: summer tepees of birch bark and winter tepees of fir tree
bark. A shamans dwelling with two galleries of wood carvings depicting animals,
birds and fish having spiritual significance in shamanism. Two wooden storage cabins
containing hunting and fishing gear, skis, sledges, sacks and traps.
Prebaikalian Buryat Exhibition. The
exhibition displays eight-sided wooden yurts used by the 19th century Western Buryats
(Buryats of Irkutsk region). The interior has seats for honorable guests, the wifes
and the husbands quarters, and household equipment. There is a Russian-style oven
near the yurt. Religious articles are those of Orthodox church as most of the Western
Buryats were converted to Christianity.
Transbaikalian Buryat Exhibition. The
exhibition includes a winter house and summer yurt of a rich Eastern Buryat family, two
felt yurts and a dugan (small Buddhist temple). The winter cabin, built in 1912, was
brought to the museum from the village Arbigil in the Zaigraevo Region. The Tibetan-style
temple was transferred from the Gusinoozersk Buddhist Monastery. The majority of Eastern
Buryats became followers of Buddhism.
Russian Cossacks Exhibition. This exhibition
includes an estate of a wealthy Cossack ataman (chieftain), his main house, stables,
storehouses, etc. Here you will also find a house of a poor peasant and a log cabin called
an exile shelter. In the 18th century Siberia became a place of exile for
criminals and political rebels. Along the Trans-Siberian Railway, there were hundreds of
Old Believers Exhibition. This exhibition
tells about lifestyles of the Old Believers exiled to Siberia after the Church reforms of
the seventeenth century. The houses of poor, middle class and wealthy families, a small
chapel, and colorfully decorated gates give you an idea of the exciting history of this
Old Verkhneudinsk Exhibition. The exhibits of
this section launch visitors on a voyage through the history of Ulan Ude (Verkhneudinsk)
in the 19th-the beginning of the 20th century. Here you will find an early 20th century
church, a wooden house with a mezzanine and staircase, and a 1-storey house with ornate
Wildlife Park. This section of the museum
occupies a territory of 50 ha and features native wildlife of Transbaikalie. Here you will
see wolves, bears, horses, sheep, deer, camels, yaks.
an Old Believers Village, 6 hours
The Old Believers, or Semeiskiye as
they are called in Siberia, make up a unique regional ethnic group. They appeared about
300 years ago, after a split of Russian Orthodox Church. When Patriarch Nikon made the
changes to the Orthodox worship in the 17th century, some believers continued to worship
in the "old way" - speaking old Russian, crossing themselves with two fingers
instead of three, keeping their beards. They broke away led by Avvakum Petrovich, an
archpriest who was later executed. The government and the Orthodox church persecuted these
people, as a result many of them committed suicide by burning themselves.
Eventually, the Old Believers divided into
sects, some sects fleeing to the borderlands, others exiled to Siberia. In 1764, during
the reign of Catherine the Great, Old Believers from Poland were taken into the remote
wilds of Transbaikalie, which is now the Buryat Republic. Scattered across the region,
they lived in isolation and preserved their beliefs, including their sacred two finger
cross sign. They settled down and cultivated new lands, forming communities and faithfully
following old traditions.
The term Semeiskiye is derived from the
word family in Russian. Old Believers got this name in Siberia because of the fact
that unlike other exiles they brought their families with them and settled down in very
close communities. In the Urals they are known as Kerzhaks, in Romania - Lipovans, and in
Turkey - Nekrasov Cossacks. In 1971, the Council of the Russian Orthodox Church officially
recognized the rites and practices of the Old Believers. The descendants of these original
Old Believers still survive and practice many traditions of the past.
Presently, the Old Believers of Transbaikalie
are a unique group, a colorful blend of Ukrainian, Belorussian and Polish culture. The Old
Believers have preserved many of their Ukrainian, Belorussian and Polish traditions,
beliefs, folk tales and songs. Family names and dialect, style of clothing and house
decorations remind of their European roots.
Music is particularly important in the culture
of Old Believers. The great Russian composer Rimsky-Korsakov notes that their songs are an
example of pure ancient Russian melody. Even today in Buryatia, Semeiskiye
villages have gifted singers who follow the traditional singing styles and transfer this
gift of music to their children. Semeiskiye folk groups performing the polyphonic, or
multiple person and instrument singing of old Russian songs, have become quite famous in
Russia and abroad.
On this tour you will travel to Bolshoi
Kunaley, a village 50 km from Ulan Ude, where Semeiskiye live in their brightly painted
and decorated with ornate carvings log houses. You will see rare icons, the original
furniture and domestic utensils, enjoy Russian choral singing just like it sounded in the
17th century. This village is a perfect place to create memories that will stay with you
for a long time.
Buryatia is the only place in Russia where
Buddhism is predominating. The first Buddhist missionaries arrived there back in the 5th
century A.D. However it was only in the 17th century that Buddhism began to win its place
on the banks of the Selenga. In 1741, the first wooden temple (datsan) was built. Over the
next 150 years, at least 44 additional datsans were constructed in Buryatia where
15,000-18,000 men served as lamas. In 1930-s, during Stalin's purges, most of the datsans
were closed or even destroyed, and before World War II there were no functioning Buddhist
temples in the Buryat republic. From 1947 to 1991 believers could only visit two temples -
the Ivolginsky and the Atsagatsky datsans.
Fortunately, the situation has changed and now
there are 20 Buddhist temples in Buryatia. Red Star Travel offers trips to the main three
of them - the Ivolginsky, the Atsagatsky and the Tamchinsky datsans.
Ivolginsky Datsan, 4 hours
Built in 1947, Ivolginsky Datsan is located 40
km from Ulan Ude, near the village of Ivolginsk. Till 1995 the Datsan was the residence of
Bandido Khambo Lama (the leader of the Buddhists in Russia). The main building of the
Datsan was built and consecrated in 1972. Inside the temple, right in front of the main
entrance is the biggest and the most worshipped statue of Buddha, next to it - 16 naidans.
Below the statue is a portrait of Dalai Lama XIV and his throne on which nobody else can
seat. In the grounds of the monastery you will also see the Small Temple, the library of
Buddhist manuscripts (the largest one in Russia), a winter garden with the sacred Botkha
tree, Khurde (the prayer wheels every turn of which means that the prayer has been
repeated many times). 50 lamas live in the monastery. The service is held in Tibetan
language. The best time to visit the monastery is between 9am and 11am, this way you will
have a chance to see the monks in their morning prayers.
Tour of Atsagatsky
Datsan, 5 hours
Located in a picturesque valley, about 60 km
from Ulan Ude. Built in 1991. The temple has been visited and consecrated by Dalai Lama
XIV. 13 km from Atsagatsky Datsan is the village of Khara-Shibir - the birthplace of Agvan
Dorzhiev. This man is known as a researcher of Buddhism and Tibetan culture, the teacher
of Dalai Lama XIII. His log house has been rebuilt in a beautiful pine and larch forest
near a mineral spring 4 km from the Datsan. It was here that Agvan Dorzhiev established
the only school of Tibetan Medicine in Russia.
of Tamchinsky Datsan, 10 hours
Tamchinsky (Gusinoozersky) Datsan is located
110 km from Ulan Ude. It is one of the oldest Buddhist monasteries in Russia, the third
oldest in Buryatia. In 1741 the temple was set in a big yurt, and by the year 1848 the
complex consisted of 17 temples. The main 3-storey temple was built in 1858-1870. From
1809 till 1927 Tamchinsky Datsan was the main Buddhist temple in Buryatia (Buryat-Mongolia
at the time). 500 lamas lived in the monastery and 400 more came for prayer services. In
1957 the restoration crews started working on the Tamchinsky complex and in 1990 two
temples were consecrated and opened to the public.
the Buryat People
The ancestors of the modern Buryats are
Mongols who made their home near Lake Baikal long before Genghis Khan swept through Asia
during the early thirteenth century and have remained in the area until modern times.
Sharing land, as well as cultural traditions, political structure and certain norms of
interrelation with other nations of Lake Baikal region, the Buryat People developed their
original culture in which centuries-old traditions interweave with influences of recent
ages, and managed to preserve it despite all troubles that the nation went through during
its history. After 1990 there was a rapid revival of Buryat shamanism, and the number of
shamans increases to this day. Buddhism also revived, and new temples have been built in
most major Buryat towns. The teaching of the Buryat language has been re-instituted in
schools and writing of poetry, literature, and history about Buryatia in both Buryat and
Russian flourish without ideological controls. Today there are about 250,000 Buryats
living in the Republic of Buryatia out of 520,000 of all Buryats in the world. Red Star
Travel invites you to experience history and culture of this ancient people, taste their
cuisine and see a fascinating folklore performance. We offer tours to the Buryat village
of Arbizhil, picnics with traditional Buryat mutton dishes and folklore performances,
visits with a shaman.
Here are some other
tour suggestions from RED STAR TRAVEL.
Please contact one of our offices for more information.
Sagaalgan (White Moon) Celebration.
The Buddhist Lunar New Year, or Sagaalgan is celebrated in
accordance with the Mongolian moon calendar, and begins on the eve of the Lunar New Year,
usually in late January to early February (February 15, 1999; February 5, 2000). Even
after the years of Soviet regime, when celebrations of religious holidays were not
welcome, this holiday is still the favorite among Buryats. Celebrations begin on the first
morning of the White Moon and continue for 16 days. Buryats traditionally make white
(dairy) dishes, visit their relatives and attend service in the Datsan (Buddhist Temple).
There is a tradition to burn old clothes and household items which symbolizes the release
from the sins of the past year.
Maidari (Bodhisatva Maitreya) Holiday.
Maidari is a mid-summer Buddhist celebration honoring the
Buddha of the Future. Bodhisatva Maitreya is a symbol of love, compassion and hope for the
future. The festive ceremonies continue for several days and are closed with the colorful
procession in Ivolginsky Datsan. One of the lamas carries the statue of Maidari, he is
followed by the monks who play drums, bronze bells and big Tibetan-style alpenhorns. It is
believed that Maitreya, as the successor chosen by Buddha, will come to our world as the
Surharbaan - Buryat National Festival.
The word Surharbaan is translated from Buryat as
"shooting at the sur (target made of animal skin)". It is held first Sunday of
July - traditionally this was the time when shepherds and peasants were free from their
everyday work, cattle had plenty of food, crops were planted and the hay mowing has not
began yet. The celebrations are similar to Naadam Festival in Mongolia - men and women
compete in wrestling, archery, horse racing; folklore concerts are held, temporary
carnivals are set in cities and towns. The Festival is one of the favorite events in
summer not only for Buryats, but also for other nationalities living in the Republic.