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Great Baikal Trail - History

The idea to create a hiking trail around Lake Baikal has been in existence for more than 30 years. Nature lovers such as Oleg K. Gusev and Oleg Kirillovich have hiked around Baikal when there were no fully developed pathways, and through their personal accounts and books on the region (e.g. Around Lake Baikal) they have kept the project alive in the minds of many Baikal activists over the years. However, such proposals were of no great concern for the few individual travellers during the times of Soviet collective tourism. In fact, the project was turned down more in the past due to the fear that its construction would lead to uncontrollable access and damage unspoilt conservation areas. It was towards the end of the 20th century that new life was instilled in the project again thanks to the commitment of Valentin P. Bryanskii, a well-known expert on the environment and history of Lake Baikal, and his book, ‘Desired, furious, gorgeous’ published in 2000.

Ultimately though, two reasons were decisive for re-tackling the construction of a hiking trail, now called "The Great Baikal Trail" since 2003. Firstly, more and more hikers and nature lovers visit Lake Baikal and are often quite surprised that contrary to many other locations around the world, there is no fully developed hiking trail network for the protection and exploration of this unique environment. And secondly, many inhabitants of the area see only economic advancement in the development of tourism structure which does not harm nature. A few shorter trails have already been in use for many years, but parts of them have completely turned back into wilderness because up to now no one had taken adequate care of them. Among those parts is the path along the old Transsib route from Kultuk to Port Baikal, the trail from Listvyanka via Kadilnaya and Bolshoye Goloustnoye to Peshanaya Bay, as well as some paths in Barguzin and Zabaikalski National Park. Apart from the promotion of environmentally friendly tourism in the region, and therefore, improving the economic prospects of many people still living on the shores of the lake, the creation of new hiking trails could also relieve many of the already highly frequented trails currently along the banks of Lake Baikal as well.

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