Τρίτη 9 Ιανουαρίου 2024

"The source of the Boreas", the enchanting Ural Mountains

The Ural Mountains are a mountain range of Russia that starts from the Arctic Ocean and runs south to the Ural River and northwestern Kazakhstan. Its total length is around 2,500 kilometers. Together with the Ural River they form the natural border that separates Europe from Asia. Vaigats Island and the Novaya Zemlya Islands are a further continuation of the mountain range northward into the Arctic Ocean.
The mountains lie within the Ural geographic region and overlap significantly with the Ural Federal District and the Ural Economic Region. They have rich resources such as metal ores, coal and precious and semi-precious stones. Since the 18th century the mountains have contributed significantly to the mineral sector of the Russian economy.
Renaissance map of Eastern Europe, according to Ptolemy's Geography. The Ripaia (and "Hyperborea") mountains are shown in the upper right. Bernardo Silvano (Venice, 1511).


In the early 16th century, the Polish geographer, Maciej Miechowita, in his Tractatus de duabus Sarmatiis (1517) claimed that there were no mountains at all in Eastern Europe, challenging the view of some authors of Classical antiquity, popular during the Renaissance. Only after Sigismund von Herbenstein in his Notes on Muscovite Affairs (1549) mentioned, following Russian sources, that there were mountains behind the Pechora and identified with the Ripaian Mountains and Hyperborea of the ancient writers, did he make known the existence of the Urals, or at least their northern part, and thus established itself with certainty in western geography. The Central and South Ural Mountains were still largely unknown to Russian or Western European geographers.
In Greco-Roman geography, the Ripaia Mountains were a supposed mountain range of Eurasia located in the northern region. The name of the mountains probably comes from ancient Greek: ῥιπη ("gust of wind"). The Ripei were often considered the northern limit of the known world. Therefore, classical and medieval writers described them as extremely cold and covered in eternal snow. The ancient geographers considered the Ripeians to be the source of the Borea (the North Wind) and several large rivers (the Dnieper, the Don and the Volga). The location of Ripeia, as described by most classical geographers, roughly corresponded to the Volga region of modern Russia.
The Ural Mountains contain about 48 kinds of precious ores and precious minerals. The eastern slopes are rich in chalcopyrite, nickel oxides, gold, platinum, chromite and magnetite ores, as well as coal (Chelyabinsk Oblast), bauxite, talc and clay. The western slopes have reserves of coal, oil, natural gas (Isbai and Krasnokamsk regions) and potassium salts. Both slopes are rich in hard coal and lignite, and the largest deposit of hard coal is in the north (Petsora field). The main minerals of the Urals are precious and semi-precious stones, such as emerald, amethyst, beryl, jasper, rhodonite, malachite and diamond. Some of the deposits, such as the magnetite ores in Magnitogorsk, are already almost exhausted.

The Urals were considered by the Russians as a "treasure box" of mineral resources, and formed the basis for their extensive industrial development. In addition to iron and copper, the Urals were a source of gold, malachite, alexandrite and other precious stones, such as those used by the jeweler Faberge. Dmitry Mamin-Sibiriak (1852–1912) Pavel Bazov (1879–1950), as well as Alexei Ivanov and Olga Slavnikova, post-Soviet writers, have written about the region. In 1939, Russian writer and folklorist Pavel Bazov published The Malachite Box, a collection of Ural folk tales and stories