A Cossack fort was first built in this Buryat and Evinki homeland in Siberia in 1666. Starting on a hilltop protected by two converging rivers (the Uda and Selenga), that fort is long gone but the town it started has since lived many pages of history and many names before becoming ‘Ulan Ude’ (Red Uda) in 1934. I’m sure you can guess why “Red”.
Spacious, Asian as much as Russian, confident, proud and friendly, Saturday afternoon in UU greeted me with a heavy metal band, traditional singers, buskers, pony rides, face painting, mob zumba and happiness. Honestly they didn’t have to!;-) Even the giant Lenin Head in the main square seemed chilled.
The next day after three museums back to back, I wandered the classic old merchant streets dreaming of past turmoil and times.
Ethnic groups, Russians from the West, Mongols from the South, then the Soviet revolution and the destruction of Shamanist sites, Tibetan Buddhist temples and Orthodox Churches now slowly being rebuilt or revived.
Remnants of the fur and ivory for silk and tea trade caravan routes between Russia and Mongolia and China. The impact of the Trans-Siberian railway coming through in 1900 wiping out some towns and making others.
Buryat people (with some Mongolian links and features) make up 30% of the UU population. I often felt I was back in China and my brain muddled in speaking Russian to seemingly Chinese Mongolian faces.
Two of my favourite countries in one place! I wished I had more time than my two day visit.
I finished with an afternoon at the Datsan (Tibetan Buddhist Temple) on a hill overlooking town. It was peaceful and the views breathtaking. The open sky and space here literally lift any weight from your shoulders.
If you’re interested in Buddhism in Russia, you may also be interested to read “Elista – Chess and Buddhism in South West Russia.” For minority cultures generally, you might also enjoy “Kazan – It’s not you its me“, “Astrakhan -Tatar Markets and Mosques ” for Russia and “Diyarbakir – Mourning Songs, Sticks and Stones” in Turkey. Thanks for reading.