Under Soviet control, Kamchatka was strictly closed off to both Russians and foreigners. Being a state treasure it was closed mostly due to the security reasons and partly due to the preservation of the natural beauty. Thanks to that policy Kamchatka is still pristine and is waiting for you to be explored!
The Kamchatka peninsula, closer to Alaska than to Moscow (it lies 9 time zones from Moscow) as it juts down between the Sea of Okhotsk and the Pacific Ocean, represents a remote, outlying district in the east of Russia. It stretches from the North to the South for about 1,500 km. It occupies an area of 470,000 sq. km. There are two mountain ranges - Sredinny and Vostochny in the central part of Kamchatka. The Central Kamchatka lowland is between them.
As one of the most pristine places on earth Kamchatka is known as ‘the land of fire and ice’ for its 414 glaciers and 160 volcanoes, 29 of which are active. Hot magma still rolls from its volcanoes, bands of lush green vegetation alternate with enormous tracts of volcanic debris and ash. Geysers and hot sulfur erupt continuously amid steaming volcanic cones, creating a surreal landscape that is almost lunar in appearance. Kamchatka’s rivers are the spawning site for one of the world’s largest population of Salmon.
History of the region
The indigenous population (Itelmen, Even, Koryaks, Aleuts, Chuckchis) were the first settlers on the Kamchatka peninsula. The discovery of the eastern lands by Russians began in the 16-17th centuries. The Russian Cossacks needed only 60 years to explore through the Urals and Siberia up to the Pacific Ocean. F. Popov and S. Dezhnev were the first people who sailed round the Chuckchi peninsula and found a strait between Asia and America. The next investigations of the Far East were continued by V. Atlasov who contributed in joining Kamchatka to the Russian Empire. He first came to settle the area accompanied by 65 Cossacks and 60 Yukagir. The Russian czar Peter the Great signed a decree about the preparation of the first expedition through Siberia to Okhotsk and Kamchatka. There were 3 expeditions in total that helped to explore the Pacific ocean and Kamchatka. In 1740 two ships “St. Peter” and “St. Paul” led by V. Bering and A. Churikov came to Avacha Bay and settled a small town called Petropavlovsk in honor of two Saints – Peter and Paul. In order to settle this newly discovered land Russians were urged to move to Kamchatka with subsidies by the federal government.
Such explorers as Charles Clerk, James Cook and Francis de la Perouse have also been here.
In 1854 the port of Petropavlovsk was attacked by English and French ships. Even though the defense force was small , only 1.000 men, their bravery and extreme heroism won them the war. During and after World War II, Kamchatka began to develop as a military region. Submarine bases and patrols stretched along its borders. This is one of the reasons why Kamchatka was long closed to foreigners and Russians alike. Only in 1990 did it cautiously open its borders. Now-a-days it's a modern city with population over 250,000 people.
The climate of the Kamchatka peninsula is very peculiar and influenced by the ocean and seas, relief, wind monsoons and its stretching from south to north. While travelling you can meet with the diverse climatic zones, including maritime zone on the coasts, a continental zone in the central valley and an arctic zone in the north of the peninsula.
Summer is a time of rapid growth and flowering as all of the flora and fauna hurries to complete a year’s worth of activity before winter returns. Summer daylight hours are long. It can rain during summer and there may still be snow on the ground, particularly on the altitudes.
Flora & fauna
The local flora is represented with some peculiarities of gigantism of grasses (up to 3-3.5 m) and vertical vegetation zones. Vegetation vertically changes from the foot to the top of mountains. Mountains feet are taken by stone-birch (Erman Birch), ash-tree, cedar and alder bush, poplars. Dog rose covers vast territories on coastal zones. There are a lot of tasty and useful berries as honeysuckle, red bilberry, blue bilberry, mountain heath, cranberry and others.
The flora encounters 60 species of mammals and 170 species of birds. The animals differ from those of the mainland by the big size. For instance, a brown bear (about 700 - 1000kg weigh, 2,5 - 3m length) lives all over the peninsula. The other representatives of local fauna are sable, hare, glutton or wolverine, polar fox, wolf, marmot , muskrat. Canadian beaver, mink were settled on the peninsula for acclimatization. Lynx and squirrel migrated to Kamchatka from the north in the beginning of the century. Wildlife is also presented here by such animals as elk or moose with antlers of 5m widen, snow ram living only in the mountains, and never descending lower than 600m.
Many kinds of birds present Kamchatka’s fauna: swans living only in hot water or on the hot springs; bald eagle, golden eagle, ptarmigan, willow grouse, capercallie, cormorant, puffin, duck, gull, goose and others.
The main part of the Kamchatka’s population live on the coastal areas of the peninsula. The Itelmen, the Even, the Koryaks, the Chukchis, the Aleutians compose the indigenous inhabitants of Kamchatka
The Itelmen live at the west coast of the peninsula, as the most ancient people of Kamchatka they are only about 1450, who preserved the traditional way of life and their language. Mostly this people is concentrated in Tigil region and Kovran village. Generally they deal with hunting, salmon fishing, collecting plants. In winter time they use dog sledges - the traditional means of transportation.
There are also Kamchadals (about 9000 people) descend from Russian-Itelmen marriages and have no official status of indigenous people. They live in the valley of the Kamchatka river and in the south of the peninsula (Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky and Elizovo cities).
The Koryaks (7200 people) mostly live in the north-west (the Koryak Autonomous Republic) – Palana village. There are nomadic and settled Koryaks. The main occupation of nomadic people is reindeer breeding and herding. Fishing and hunting for sea mammals is the main way to live for settled people. Both of them use fur-hunting a little.
The Evens (1490 people) live in the Bystrinsky Region – Esso and Anavgai villages. “Lamuty” (another name for this people) were engaged with reindeer herding, fishing and hunting. They used dogs only for hunting, not for sledding.
The Aleutians (390 people) live in the Bering Island – Nikolskoye village. The traditional occupation of this people is fishing and hunting for sea mammals, as well as collecting berries and plants.
The Chukchi (1530 people) is however native people of Chukotka, but still some of them live in the very north of the Kamchatka peninsula. They are divided onto nomadic reindeer breeders and settled hunters who exchange food between each other.
You can read more about Kamchatka in the following books:
- Explorations of Kamchatka 1735-1741, S.P.Krashenninikov, Oregon
Historical Society, Portland,
- The History of Kamchatka, S.P.Krashenninikov, Richmond Publishing
Co. Ltd., Surrey, England, 1973
– Alaska by Michener (many historical facts within the novel about the background to the Russians who first traveled from Kamchatka, to establish the Russian forts in Alaska).
- "Beyond Siberia" by Kristina Dodwell, Great Britain,
1992 (the documental description of a researcher along the north part
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