- An administrative region of the Russian Federation. Part of the Siberian Federal District and East Siberian Economic Region, Irkutsk is bordered by Sakha, Buryatiya, Tuva, Zabaykalsky Krai, and Krasnoyarsk. Enclosed within its borders is the formerly autonomous Ust-Orda Buryat Okrug, which was fully merged with Irkutsk on 1 January 2008. The move to merge the political entities was the result of a referendum that took place on 16 April 2006; the plebiscite showed strong support for eliminating Ust-Orda Buryatiya’s status as an autonomous federal subject, especially among voters in Ust-Orda Buryatiya (98 percent supported a merger). In Irkutsk proper, 9 out of 10 voters approved the merger. Irkutsk’s geography is dominated by the hills and broad valleys of the Central Siberian and Patom plateaus. Lake Baykal is situated on Irkutsk’s southeastern border; the lake contains 80 percent of Russia’s freshwater resources. The Angara, Oka, Ilim, and the Lena are the major rivers in the region. The vast majority of the oblast is covered with coniferous forests. The region covers 767,900 square kilometers, and has a population of nearly 2.6 million. Ethnic Russians make up about 90 percent of the population. In Ust-Orda Buryatiya, Buryats account for 40 percent of the population, with Russians making up a majority (54 percent). The administrative capital is Irkutsk (pop. 593,000), one of the largest cities in Siberia. The emblem of the city is a Siberian tiger with a sable in its mouth, a symbolic reflection of the area’s centrality in Russia’s fur trade. Prior to the merger, the administrative center of Ust-Orda Buryatiya was Ust-Ordynsky.The Irkutsk Oblast has a well-developed rail network and waterways for commercial transport. The economy is driven by metals, energy, logging, fossil fuels, machine-building, chemicals, and hydroelectricity, and commands a higher per capita income than most other regions. At times, relations between Irkutsk and Moscow have been strained as the former contributes significant tax revenues to the center but often receives few benefits from the federal government. In 1997, the regional governor, Yury Nozhikov, instituted a tax strike to force Moscow to pay greater attention to the needs of the oblast. The former engineer Aleksandr Tishanin was appointed regional governor by Vladimir Putin in 2005, replacing Boris Govorin, who served from 2001 to 2005.
Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. Robert A. Saunders and Vlad Strukov. 2010.
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