// GENERAL INFORMATION
Altai is deservedly called the pride and pearl of Siberia. There is probably no other place that combines the beauty of Tibet and the Alps like this marvelous corner of the world. Visitors to Altai are captivated by its singular beauty. The word "Altai" means "golden mountains" in the local language.
The capital of Altai Territory is Barnaul. The territory has a population of 2.7 million people representing 110 different nationalities. Although Russian is the official language, Altai residents can also communicate in German and English. Local universities train professional translators.
A huge area and low population density (15.9 people per km2), as well as a large number of administrative units and small communities, are distinguishing features of the territory.
The territory is divided into 60 districts and 11 cities, 5 of which are district centers. There are also 1638 small communities, 925 of which have less than 500 residents.
Altai has a severe continental climate with long cold winters with little snow and hot, often dry summers. The main rivers are the Ob, Biya, Katun, and Chuya; and the largest lakes are Kulundinskoe, Kuchukskoe, and Mikhailovskoe.
Altai Territory has significant mineral reserves, including nonferrous metals, lead and iron ores, manganese, tungsten, molybdenum, bauxite, gold, and rare earth elements. There are also huge reserves of other raw materials, particularly building materials. Forests cover about 6 million hectares of the territory; timber reserves are estimated at 600 million m3.
The territory is a member of the West Siberia economic district.
The main industrial sectors are the engineering, metalworking, chemical, petrochemical, food, light, and woodworking industries. Companies located in the territory produce 1/6 of all tractors in Russia, 90% of the tractor plows, about 50% of the generators, and all railway freight cars.
Today, Altai is one of the country's major agricultural regions: it is the third-largest grain and milk producer and the fifth-largest meat producer. Huge areas are also sown in sunflowers, soybeans, and sugar beets.
Altai is not only a great natural area, but also an open-air museum of ancient cultures, where the paths of nomadic tribes intersected during the period of migration of different peoples. Archeological digs at ancient human sites show that humans lived here as early as a million years ago.
Altai Territory is one most interesting parts of Russia for tourists: in the last three years, tourists from 60 countries have visited it. What attracts foreign tourists? Mountain climbers and alpine skiers are drawn by the spectacular mountains; people interested in history and geography, by the great variety of minerals and numerous archeological and ethnological sites; and hunters, by the forests abounding in bears, deer, moose, foxes, wild boars, and grouse.
Several resorts located in the territory are built around medicinal springs with radon water and therapeutic muds. The best known of these is Belokurikha with its amazing radon and silicate springs.
Tourism is one of the territory's most promising economic sectors.
Population. Between the 18th century and the first half of the 19th century, old residents formed into various ethnic groups, including Kerzhaks, Chaldons, Pomorians, Vyatksky Cossacks, and Siberians. Some names were self-designations (e.g., Pomorians), and others were given by the local population. These old resident groups settled mainly in the forest steppe, taiga, foothill, and mountain regions of the territory, and they still predominate in the eastern and central districts. Old Believers seeking to maintain the purity of their faith settled nearly inaccessible districts far from government and church officials. People were attracted to the territory by the availability of timber, arable land, and pasture. Cossacks were among the initial population; and the first German settlements appeared in Altai in the 1890s. The main reason for their migration was the high cost of land in the Volga region and Ukraine.
Unfortunately, the territory has been in a critical demographic situation in recent years. Sixty percent of the present population of 2 653 000 is able to work. Representatives of 110 nationalities live here, although Russians make up 90% of the population. The remaining groups include Germans (3.9%), Ukrainians (2.9%), Belarussians (0.4%), Cossacks (0.4%), Mordvins (0.3%), Tatars (0.3%), Chuvashes (0.3%), and other nationalities (1.5%).
Fifty-two percent of the population is urban and 48% is rural.
Russian is the official language, but there are many people who speak German and English as well, and local universities train professional translators. Like other Russian regions, Altai Territory has not managed to avoid unemployment. According to the most recent data, the unemployment rate is 3.2% of the employable population. The Department of the Federal Employment Service for Altai Territory is of great assistance to people looking for work.
Russians began to colonize the Upper Ob region and the Altai foothills in the second half of the 17th century. Development of the Altai proceeded more rapidly after construction of the Beloyarskaya (1717) and Bikatunskaya (1718) fortresses as a defense against the warlike nomadic Jungars.
The Northern War with Sweden prevented Russia from importing the copper necessary for manufacturing cannons, minting coins, and casting bells from that country and forced it to make do with its own resources. After the reforms of Peter the Great, Russia quickly entered the world scene, becoming one of the strongest European powers. It was at this time that Barnaul appeared, making it one of the oldest cities of Western Siberia. Altai had long been known as a metal-producing region, as evidenced by the so-called Chudskie mines. The father and son Stepan and Yakov Kostylev are considered the discoverers of the first ore deposits in Altai. Besides rich ore deposits, Altai was also famous for its thick pine forests and large number of rivers providing everything necessary for establishing a mining and metallurgy industry. The first metallurgical works in Altai, the Kolyvano-Voskresensky plant, began operations on September 21, 1729. Then in 1730, envoys of the well-known Urals factory owner Akinfy Demidov prospecting for a suitable location for a new, larger plant chose a site at the mouth of the Barnaulka River. Altai was attractive to Demidov not only for copper, but also for silver. In a tower of his Nevyansky factory in the Urals, he secretly minted coins from Altai silver. The activities of Demidov and his stewards in Altai created a feudal mining industry based on the serf labor of bonded peasants and workers. Rumors of Demidov's silver-smelting activities reached St. Petersburg, and Empress Elizaveta Petrovna dispatched a commission headed by Brigadier Behr to Altai. The result was a decree issued on May 1, 1747, making Altai the personal property of the Russian tsars. Between the 18th century and the first half of the 19th century, 1000 poods (an old Russian measure of weight equal to 16.38 kg) per year, or 90% of all Russian silver, was smelted in Altai. The Barnaul silver smelter was considered the largest facility, with 13 smelting furnaces that produced about 450 poods of silver per year. Thus, it is not by chance that Barnaul quickly grew from a small factory settlement into one of the largest "mining towns" in Siberia by 1771. The term "mining town" is appropriate, since the mining industry governed all aspects of life in Barnaul. The only two mining towns recorded in Russian history are Ekaterinburg and Barnaul. Shortly before the Revolution, a bridge was built over the Ob River, and a railway branch line was constructed, which led to the rapid growth of the young neighboring city of Novosibirsk.
The huge territory of the Altai Mountain District was formed by the second half of the 18th century. It included Altai Territory, Novosibirsk and Kemerovo regions, and part of Tomsk and East Kazakhstan regions. In the first half of the 19th century, Altai was Russia's largest silver producer, its second-largest copper producer, and its third-largest gold producer and had become the second industrial region in the eastern part of the country after the Urals. However, Altai preserved the remnants of feudalism to a greater extent than other parts of Siberia after the reforms of the 1860s and 1870s. As the region's main economic sector, the mining industry found itself in a crisis. The factories rapidly became unprofitable, and by the end of the century all of them had closed.
Gold production was the most developed private industry in Altai. The largest companies were the Altai Gold Industry Enterprise (Altaiskoe zolotopromyshlennoe delo) and the South Altai Gold Industry Enterprise (Yuzhno-altaiskoe zolotopromyshlennoe delo). By the end of the century, 70 mines were in operation and gold production was 100 poods per year.
The private processing sector included flour and grain mills, distilleries, and workshops producing felt boots and sheepskin coats. The short black sheepskin coats made in Barnaul were famous throughout Russia.
Altai Territory has deposits of polymetals, table salt, soda, coal, nickel, cobalt, iron ore, and precious metals, as well as unique deposits of jasper, porphyry, marble, and granite. The territory is also rich in mineral and drinking water, and natural therapeutic muds.
There are many advantages in having mineral resources and nonferrous metals located alongside one another. Many deposits as worked by quarrying. More than 80% of the ore and metal reserves in the region are still not in production. The deposits are close together and characterized by high quality: the copper, lead, and zinc ores have a metal content of more than 10%. The ores also contain gold, silver, cadmium, bismuth, selenium, thallium, gallium, tellurium, sulfur, and other elements; some also contain barite.
Two magnetite deposits with reserves of nearly 500 million tons form the raw material base for the ferrous metallurgy industry.
Hard coal reserves are estimated at 1750 million tons and brown coal reserves, at 1650 million tons.
Polymetal sources are concentrated in eight deposits with total ore reserves of 50 million tons.
Geologists are exploring for coal, gold, and mineral water.
There are large reserves of salt (sodium chloride), sodium and magnesium sulfates, natural soda, and other salts for developing the chemical industry.
Altai Territory has one of the largest mineral springs in Russia, and wide use is made of springs with thermal radium and nitrogenous silicate radium waters and therapeutic muds.
Altai is in a favorable situation with respect to resource conservation.
Altai Territory is located in the steppe and forest steppe zones with small areas of pine forest within them. The shrub layer is well developed, especially toward the Ob River valley. The steppe zone extends along the northern and northwestern slopes of the Altai Mountains, while the southeast is in the tundra steppe zone.
Forests cover half of the mountain areas; however, the type of forest varies depending on the amount of moisture and warmth. Larches predominate in the central mountain region, steppe vegetation appears on the southern slopes, and alpine vegetation is encountered in the upper zones. The forest cover in the southeast consists mainly of fir, pine, and spruce, while fir, aspen, bird cherry, mountain ash, cranberry, and tall grasses are characteristic of the taiga. Representatives of relict species are found here, along with mosses and various shrubs and low shrubby plants such as honeysuckle, blueberry, and lingonberry. Subalpine and alpine meadows are widely distributed in the forest belt, each with their characteristic flora. Forests in Altai Territory occupy a total area of 6 million hectares, with estimated timber reserves of 600 million m3.
At one time, mammoths, wooly rhinoceros, arctic foxes, reindeer, and ptarmigan lived in the territory; reindeer and ptarmigan are still found in Mountainous Altai. Brown bears, wolverines, and moose inhabit the west Siberian taiga; Siberian deer, musk deer, partridge, and grouse are found in the forests of Eastern Siberia; and marmots, jerboas, and argali (mountain sheep) are animals of the Mongolian steppes.
The presence of steppe, forest, and alpine zones explains the varied animal life of Altai Territory; many species migrate from one zone to another, from forest and steppe to forest steppe and from one alpine zone to another. The brown bear is omnivorous, eating everything from mice and birds to grass and berries. It hibernates in the forests, and in spring it wanders out into the sunny meadows when the new grass appears and gradually climbs upward. Siberian deer and sable move from the taiga to subalpine meadows and back again. Moose, roe deer, and wolverines also migrate back and forth between zones. The sable is a solitary forest species equally well adapted to the subalpine zone.
Bird species encountered here include the snowcock, buzzard, zokor, and grouse.
The Altai mole is a widespread and useful insectivore.
The fox inhabits all steppe and mountain zones.
The arid Kulundinskaya steppe is home to ground squirrels, jerboas, and corsac foxes. Most of the steppe species are rodents like hamsters, voles, and mice, which are agricultural pests. Rodent-eating predatory animals and birds of the steppe, such as foxes, polecats, weasels, kestrels, buzzards, and falcons are beneficial to agriculture.
The lakes and swamps are the habitat of snipe, teal, cranes, gulls, ducks, geese, and swans.
Taiga animals such as wolverines, otters, squirrels, and weasels inhabit the northeastern forests, and wolves are also encountered there. Bird species include nutcrackers, jays, crossbills, hazel hens, eagle owls, and small songbirds.
Siberian ibex (a wild goat), argali, and snow leopards are found in the alpine zone, and the red wolf from Mongolia is an occasional visitor. The great golden eagle lives and hunts in the high mountains, and red-billed jackdaws nest on inaccessible cliffs. Pipits live in the alpine and subalpine meadows, and ptarmigan are widespread on the rocky tundra up to altitudes of 3000 m.
Altai Territory is a hunting zone of Siberia: half of the 90 animal species inhabiting the region are considered commercial (squirrel, marmot, sable, weasel, and other fur-bearing animals) or game species (geese, ducks, partridge, and grouse).
Reptiles include the common viper, a poisonous snake found throughout the territory, and the racerunner (a lizard), which inhabits the southeast. Grass snakes and adders are also widespread. The steppe ratsnake, which is more than a meter long, is the territory's largest reptile.
Common river fish include barbel, perch, and pike; grayling, salmon trout, and Manchurian trout inhabit mountain streams. Carp and tench live in lowland lakes, and osman (an endemic species) are found in mountain lakes.
Altai Territory is covered with a dense network of rivers and streams. There are more than 20 000 streams with a total length of more than 60 000 km in the Upper Ob region; 94% of the volume of the Ob River flowing through Barnaul comes from Altai mountain slopes. Within the territory, there are mountain streams with gradients of up to 130 m/km and turbulent waterfalls cutting through rock ledges. Their valleys are like deep, narrow corridors. Traces of accumulative action in the form of numerous terraced benches are evident in the Katun and Chuya river valleys; the highest of these are near the village of Inya. The 60-km-long Shavla River flows in the North Chuya Mountains. It has its source in Shavlinskoe Lake and flows westward after joining with the water of the Shabaga River.
The Argut is a deep, powerful river that flows towards the Katun after joining with the Shavla. The strong Atlanty rapids are located four to five km from the Katun, which becomes even deeper as it flows north after merging with the Argut. The turbid waters of the Argut and Chuya give the water of the Katun a milky greenish tint. In many places along the shores of the Katun, there are low rocky walls that add to the river's picturesqueness. Rivers like the Inya, Chemal, Chumysh, Charysh, Manzherok, Alei, Anui, Biya, Chuya, and Koksa also have a unique beauty.
The largest rivers in Altai Territory are the Biya and Katun that merge to form the Ob, one of the main Siberian rivers. There are also 13 000 lakes in the territory, more than half of them freshwater. The largest is Kulundinskoe Lake with an area of 728 km2. The stunningly beautiful Aiskoe Lake is located in the Altai Mountains.
As in many other Russian regions, the ecology in Altai Territory is in a difficult situation, particularly in the cities and industrially developed districts. The State Hydrometeorological Committee continually monitors the state of the environment in the territory at 11 permanent stations and on three routes in Barnaul, Biysk, Zarinsk, and Slavgorod. Judging from the Commission's data, more than 200 000 tons of pollutants are discharged into the territory's atmosphere annually, but air purification runs to only about 70%. The main polluters are companies of the petrochemical, food, power, ferrous metallurgy, byproduct coking, and engineering industries. Among the most harmful are the Barnaul (Barnaulskaya TETs-2) and Biysk (Biyskaya TETs) cogeneration plants, with annual emissions of 31 200 and 13 800 tons, respectively; AO Altai Coke (AO Altai-koks) in Zarinsk (21 000 tons of emissions); and AO Kuchuksulfat (6600 tons of emissions). Car exhausts are another significant source of harmful emissions, accounting for more than 45% of all atmospheric pollutants. Except for two disposal grounds-one at Altaikhimprom in the city of Yarovoe and another at the Slavgorod Radio Equipment Plant (Slavgorodsky radiozavod)-there are no specially designated areas for industrial and domestic wastes in the territory; but each year adds another 400 000 tons of domestic wastes and 750 000 tons of industrial wastes to the territory. The situation at water treatment plants is also not good. The majority of enterprises in Barnaul do not have on-site effluent treatment facilities, and nearly all runoff water ends up in the sewer system.
The KOS-1 and KOS-2 sewage treatment plants in Barnaul annually collect 2680 tons of sludge. The sewer systems in Kamen-on-Ob, Slavgorod, and Aleisk have exhausted their capacity; reconstruction and expansion of the treatment plants is required in Rubtsovsk and Gornyak; and the sewer systems in Novoaltaisk and Zarinsk are also not operating properly. Only 20 out of 1600 villages in the territory have sewer systems with treatment plants. Moreover, none of the cities have storm sewage treatment plants, and consequently, the Ob River is polluted. During periods of high water, the content of petroleum products reaches 80 times the maximum permissible concentration (MPC). Many livestock farms have no special manure pits or livestock burial grounds. Barnaul, Rubtsovsk, Kamen-on-Ob, Biysk, and about 20 other population centers are located in ground- and surface-water flooding zones. Unwise use and thoughtless plowing of virgin lands has led to degradation of the soil resources that are the territory's main wealth. Wastes from livestock-breeding operations and farms, silage runoff, and various chemicals are another reason for soil exhaustion and reduced fertility. Out of a total of 10879.6 thousand hectares of arable land in the territory, 45.6% is spoiled or eroded, another 22.8% is threatened with spoilage or erosion, 18.3% is sour (acidic), and 9% is saline. The state of the forests is also a cause for concern. Increased logging in recent years, especially in the forests of the Ob River region, has led to reduced forest regeneration and replacement of coniferous forests with softwood deciduous species. Forest fires burned 144 500 hectares last year. The nearby Semipalatinsk nuclear testing range is also harmful to the health of the territory's residents and its plant and animal life, especially in the western regions. Economic development in many districts has destroyed the diversity of the natural environment and threatened many plant and animal species with extinction. This has resulted in the formation of a system of nature preserves, such as Lake Tassor (soil and botanical preserve) in Uglovsky District, Ust-Chumyshsky in Talmensky District, the waterfalls on the Shinok River (combined nature preserve) in Soloneshensky District, the Lyapunikh Tract (an ornithological preserve), and the Tigireksky preserve. More than 200 natural sites of various kinds (combined, biological, geological, and hydrological) amounting to about 4% of the territory are also protected.
The territory's ecological problems demand increased attention. An international UNESCO chair of environmental education in Siberia has been established through an agreement between UNESCO and Altai State Technical University. The technical university and Altai State University both train environmental specialists. The subject of ecology is taught in the general school system, colleges, lycees, and gymnasia; and extracurricular education is well developed. Young naturalists' clubs and environmental centers operate in cities and villages, the largest being the Altai Territorial Environmental Center, which has an arboretum and greenhouses on its grounds. It holds territorial competitions, quizzes, and Olympiads and has launched a territorial movement called "Let's Preserve the Biosphere." Other measures include environmental summer camps, expeditions, botanical gardens, and school forest areas. The newspapers Nature of Kulunda (Priroda Kulundy) and Ecological Herald (Vestnik ekologii) publish environmental news. Various actions and events are organized with the assistance of the environmental protection committee and its subdivisions, for example, Parks March and Earth Day. In addition to this, the committee hosts scientific conferences and meetings, including international events. A medical ecological exhibition "Humanity. Ecology. Health" is held annually in Barnaul with its assistance. Work is underway in the territory to eliminate sources of pollution, increase soil fertility, and combat spoilage and water erosion.
Altai Territory is situated in the southeastern part of Western Siberia and is part of the West Siberia economic district along with Kemerovo, Novosibirsk, Omsk, Tomsk, and Tyumen regions and the Altai Republic. The territory is favorably located close to major sources of raw materials, has a well-developed infrastructure, especially in the area of heavy industry, and an abundance of natural resources. It is a major industrial and agricultural region of the country. As in the rest of Russia, the economic restructuring of the 1990s led to a marked economic decline in Altai Territory, particularly in industry and agriculture. However, there is now reason to believe that the territory's economy is stabilizing. Its present economic prospects are good due to the presence of abundant local raw materials, high scientific potential, leading technologies, skilled personnel, and a low-cost labor force. The sales market extends far beyond the borders of the West Siberia economic district. The territory's administration is interested in foreign investments and is creating the necessary conditions for setting up joint ventures.
There are more than 2000 industrial companies operating in both heavy and light industry. The leading sectors are the power, engineering, chemical and petrochemical, building material, textile, and light industries. Output is currently increasing in certain industries for the first time since perestroika. This increase is particularly noticeable in the flour-, grain-, and feed-milling and chemical and petrochemical industries and in individual heavy industry sectors, e.g., tractor production.
Electric power generation is the lifeblood of Altai Territory. The territory belongs to the Siberian power grid, which includes Siberia's largest state regional power plants (GRES). Eight cogeneration plants (TETs) in the territory are part of the grid; private corporations own four of them, and the other four are publicly owned. These plants meet 50% of the territory's power requirements and are currently converting from the use of coal and fuel oil to natural gas.
Small and medium business is developing rapidly in Altai Territory, which is a necessary condition for economic stability and growth. Today, nearly a quarter of the entire working population is employed in this sector.
Foreign economic relations
Foreign economic activity is a very important part of the economic and social activities that influence the development of Altai Territory. This activity is determined by federal programs and the predominance of certain sectors in the region's economic development. Foreign relations policy is conducted along a number of lines: assistance for exporting companies; increasing exports of finished products; rationalizing imports, including expansion of import-substitution production; working out an effective investment mechanism and assisting in the establishment of financial and industrial groups that will provide support to companies of Altai Territory for developing foreign economic relations on the markets of the CIS and other foreign countries. Over the past ten years, companies in the territory have maintained relations with companies in more than 70 foreign countries. Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Germany, China, Italy, and India, and some other countries account for more than 80% of the agreements.
Foreign economic relations are being developed according to the "Comprehensive Program for Developing Foreign Economic Activity in the Period 1998-2005" worked out in the territory. The advantages of geographic location, high industrial and agricultural potential, and the relatively well-developed market infrastructure were taken into consideration in drawing up the program. Due to the region's meager raw material base, companies export high-value-added products.
Altai Territory is one of Russia's most important agricultural regions. Development of the territory's lands began in the second half of the 18th century; and peasants from other Russian regions began resettling here in 1861. By 1917, the territory's rural population had reached 1.998 million people and the total area under cultivation was 2.506 million hectares.
Today, farmland covers an area of 11 million hectares, of which 6.922 million hectares, or nearly 41% of the total area of the territory, is cropland. The main crops are hard varieties of spring wheat, buckwheat, millet, peas, barley, oats, and potatoes and other vegetables. This is this only region of Siberia where sunflowers, soybeans, sugar beets, and certain kinds of fruit grow.
In 1960, the State Economic Council under the Council of Ministers of the USSR carried out comprehensive zoning of Altai Territory, which divided the territory into seven natural and economic agricultural zones. Wide temperature swings are characteristic of the territory's climate, so that ensuring harvest stability is not easy. It requires a specific approach to developing cropland in order to increase farming efficiency. The Kulundinskaya Plain, the Priobskoe Plateau, and the left and right banks of the Ob River are well developed agriculturally. Natural fodder land, including hayfields and pasture, occupies 3.906 million hectares, which includes 1.193 million hectares of hayfields and 2.713 million hectares of pasture.
Livestock farming specializes in meat, milk, wool, and egg production. Altai Territory is a major wool producer and an important base for breeding fine-fleeced pedigreed sheep, which makes it possible to export more than 30 000 head of pedigreed sheep per year. The territorial market also offers pedigreed swine, poultry, meat, eggs, honey, and wild products such as deer antlers, furs, and pelts.
Fruit-growing in Altai is made possible by specialists of the internationally known Lisavenko Horticultural Research Institute, which has developed a range of fruit and berry varieties adapted to the climate.
Today, Altai Territory not only meets the agricultural product requirements of its own population, but also the requirements of many other Russian regions. Altai exports many kinds of cereals, as well as processed grain products such as wheat and rye flour, pasta products, sugar beets, sunflower seeds, and flax fiber. The territory is Siberia's largest grain, sugar, and meat producer and its second-largest cheese producer.
Altai Territory has 12 cities, 14 urban communities, and 7 urban and 60 rural districts, including the German National District.
The Administration of Altai Territory is the territory's executive authority.
There are 30 committees, departments, and offices under the Administration whose work encompasses all of the territory's economic spheres, social issues, and international relations.
The capital of the territory is the city of Barnaul.
The Altai Republic is part of Altai Territory as a subject of the Russian Federation. The capital of the Altai Republic is the city of Gorno-Altaisk.
The Altai Territorial Legislative Assembly was established in 1994. The Charter (Fundamental Law) of Altai Territory was adopted on April 20, 1995. Seven of the 50 deputies work on a full-time basis, including the Chairman of the Assembly.
The Legislative Assembly works closely with the territory's population, meeting with voters and considering written submissions from individuals and legal organizations. The difficult socioeconomic situation of Altaians is a constant concern of the deputies.
The close relations between the Legislative Assembly, municipal departments, officials, and the population allow them to carry out effective work.
Altai's culture is attractive for its rich centuries-old traditions. The art of stonecutting was well developed here, and the works of its craftsmen were spread all over the world. The works of the artist, traveler, archeologist, writer, philosopher, and eminent political figure N.K. Rerikh and his wife also attracted world attention.
The artist G.I. Gurkin was the founder of pictorial art in Altai. This self-taught artist created more than 5000 paintings.
Altai has also given the world talented poets, writers, and artists, such as A. Koptelov, A. Zalygin, P. Kuchiyak, and I. Pyrev, and actors V. Zolotukhin, E. Savinova, M. Evdokimov, M. Terekhova, and V. Shukshin. As a writer, film producer, and actor, V.M. Shukshin occupies a special place in Altai's cultural biography.
Altai Territory has favorable climatic conditions and unique historical and archeological monuments for recreation, tourism, and sports. There is also great potential for establishing resorts and health centers around therapeutic mineral springs.
Four year-round tourist centers [Katun, Golden Lake (Zolotoe ozero), Youth (Yunost), and Kucherla], the Turist hotel complex, and the Seminsky Pass (Seminsky pereval) training center operate in the territory.
Many comfortable new private tourist facilities intended for 10 to 50 people each are now operating. The tourist centers and complexes can simultaneously accommodate 2000 guests.
Seasonal activities such as rigorous hiking tours and mountaineering are possible in Central and Eastern Altai. Large-scale recreation can be organized in intermountain basins and the lower valleys of rivers originating in the alpine zone.
With their steep gradients and turbulent flow, the rivers of Mountainous Altai are not navigable, but they are of great interest for water sports and tourism. The territory's waterfalls attract large numbers of tourists and vacationers, especially to the Katun Range. There are also many waterfalls around Teletskoe Lake and in the Chulyshman, Charysh, and Anui river basins.
Only a few lakes, such Aya, Manzherok, and Kureevo, and smaller rivers like the Isha, Lebed, and a few others warm up enough for swimming. The swimming season lasts about two months.
The territory's glaciers also attract both tourists and mountaineers. Altai is in third place among the world's mountainous countries in number of glaciers (1130) and glaciated area (890 km2). A total of 169 glaciers with an area of 151 km2 are concentrated near Mt. Belukha. From the standpoint of tourism and mountaineering, Altai's glaciers are no different from glaciers in any other mountainous country, being both moderately accessible and moderately dangerous.
Altai is multifaceted and varied enough to suit the taste of any traveler. There is great potential here for developing nontraditional forms of tourism. You can travel around Altai on foot; on skis; on horseback or on a camel; in a helicopter, hang-glider, or paraglider; in light sports craft on the wild rivers; on alpine skis on steep slopes; or in cars and on bicycles through the mountain passes. Whether climbing ice falls and sheer cliffs to reach the lofty peaks of Siberia's highest mountains or descending the bottomless chasms of the deepest caves, scuba diving in the clear lakes, or hunting for rare trophies on the taiga, it is hard to imagine any kind of tourism that would not be possible in Altai.
The cities of Biysk and Zmeinogorsk are alpine skiing centers.
The real ski season opens in the second half of February and closes at the end of March, when temperatures have moderated, the amount of precipitation is sharply reduced, and the ice has still not broken up on the rivers, so there is no need to waste time on crossings.
Routes in Altai's hilly, forested eastern regions have become increasingly popular in recent years.
There are many other sites of equal interest to tourists, for example, relict Savushinskoe Lake, the unique forest belts stretching for hundreds of kilometers, and Denisov Cave, which preserves traces of ancient humans (some historians maintain that the first humans appeared in Altai). There are a large number of archeological and ethnological sites in the territory, in particular, stone and earth burial mounds, ancient settlements, Stone Age cave dwellings, and copper and gold mine workings. The caves of Altai Territory have long attracted travelers, scientists, and tourists. There are more than 400 limestone, marble, and dolomite caves, some of them with beautiful stalactite and stalagmite formations.
The Taldinskie, Charyshskie, and Khankharskie caves are especially popular. In the Charyshskie caves in particular, many investigators have found the remains of extinct animals such as the mammoth, wooly rhinoceros, bison, cave hyena, and fossil deer. Numerous campsites of primitive humans have been discovered in the Altai Mountains.
Near the village of Cherny Anui, there is a cave labyrinth with narrow twisting passages and many stalactites. An entire cave system has been discovered in the southern part of Salairsky Range.
Hunters and fishermen value the taiga wilderness and lake-covered areas teeming with game, from bears, wolves, and moose to grouse, ducks, and geese to game fish like pike and sturgeon. Hunting and fishing are excellent forms of recreation.