Sakha RepublicSakha Republic (also Yakutia) is situated in NE Siberia. With 3,103,200 km² it is the largest republic of the Russian Federation, covering about 20% of its area. Sakha stretches to the Henrietta Islands in the far north and is washed by the Arctic Ocean (Laptev and Eastern Siberian Seas). These waters, the coldest and iciest of all seas in the northern hemisphere, are covered by ice for 9-10 months of the year. The Stanovoy Ridge borders Yakutia in the south, the upper reaches of the Olenyok river form the western border, and Chukotka forms the eastern border.
Sakha can be divided into three great vegetation belts. About 40% of Sakha lies above the Arctic circle and all of it is covered by eternally frozen ground - permafrost - which greatly influences the region's ecology and limits forests in the southern region. Arctic and subarctic tundra define the middle region, where lichen and moss grow as great green carpets and are favorite pastures for reindeer. In the southern part of the tundra belt, scattered stands of dwarf Siberian pine and larch grow along the rivers. Below the tundra is the vast taiga forest region. Larch trees dominate in the north and, in the south, stands of fir and pine begin to appear. Taiga forests cover about 47% of Yakutia and almost 90% of this cover is larch. Yakutia's greatest mountain range, the Verkhoyansk, runs parallel and east of the Lena river, forming a great arc that begins the Sea of Ohotsk and ends in the Lappet Sea (Arctic Ocean). This great range has hundreds of small tributaries which flow into the Lena as it moves northward. The Cherkyi Range runs east of the Verkhoyansk and has the highest peak in Yakutia, Peak Pobeda (5,147 m). Even further east are the gold-rich Kolyma Mountains, which stretch all the way to Chukotka.
The population of Sakha is about 1 million, representing over 120 nationalities. Russians are the largest group, making up approximately half the population, followed by indigenous Sakha-Yakutsk who constitute 33,4% of the population. Russian is the official language used in the republic. The Yakut language is part of the Turkic language group. It is the second language in the republic. The Sakha Republic is famous for its raw materials. The soil contains large reserves of oil, gas, coal, diamonds, gold and silver. Industry generates 43% of the gross national product stemming primarily from mineral exploitation. The indigenous peoples are well-known as hunters, fishermen and reindeer herders. The capital of Sakha is Yakutsk. Sakha is also known for its climate extremes, with Verkhoyansk being the coldest spot in the northern hemisphere, where the temperatures reach as low as -70°C in January.