Last updated on April 12th, 2022
5. The Yenisey – the fifth longest river in the world
The Yenisey River is found in central Russia. Its mouth begins in Mongolia and the river runs through a vast area of varied landscapes before it ends in the Kara Sea. Yenisey is also known as Yenisei and Enisei. It plays an important role in the traditional occupations of people living in proximity to it, especially the communities living in the northern regions.
1. The name Yenisey comes from the Old Kyrgyz term Ene-Sai which means “mother river”. It could also be from the Evenki term which means “big/great water”.
2. The Yenisey River has about 24 tributaries. It is the fifth longest river in the world. Although it is shorter than the Mississippi River, the Yenisey has more outflow.
3. The river forms a dividing line between Eastern and Western Siberia. It is also the only river that runs out of the Lake Baikal.
4. The Yenisey is fed by snow, rainwater, and groundwater. About 33% of the water in the river is sourced from the rain.
5. The river is a major source of alluvium which it deposits into the Kara Sea. It is estimated that about 10.5 million tons of this material is delivered to the Arctic. Alluvium is made up of sand, clay, silt, gravel, and organic matter. It helps create very fertile soil.
6. The Upper Yenisei has a major feature – the world-famous Lake Baikal. This rift lake is the largest freshwater lake in the world in terms of volume. It is estimated that it holds about 22% of the fresh water found on the Earth’s surface. This volume is more than the waters found in the Great Lakes combined.
The Yenisey on map
7. The Yenisey provides hydroelectric power downstream on the Angara, a minor river flowing into the Yenisey. The river provides enough water power to generate electricity for the Sayano-Shushenskaya and the Krasnoyarsk hydroelectric power stations.
8. The two power stations produce 23.5 TWh and 18.4 TWh (respectively) yearly. These stations supply much-needed electricity to smelters that produce metals and alloys in Russia.
9. Yenisey’s rich waters is home to different species of fish, such as sturgeon, trout, and salmon. The headwaters in the mountains also support grayling, dace, and trout.
10. The Yenisey is considered the River of Life. It is at the heart of many aspects of human life in the region, including employment, transportation, food, water, and culture.
11. Due to the vast landscape through which the Yenisey flows, it passes by many isolated communities that have settled along the banks. One of these communities are the Orthodox Old Believers. This group first came to the area to avoid persecution when they refused to adhere to reforms instituted by the Orthodox Church. They still live in the region in relative seclusion.
12. Many of the largest and richest cities in Russia have the Yenisei River to thank for their progress. The banks of the Yenisei is home to some of the most important mining companies in the region that extract copper, platinum, nickel, and gold.
13. On average, the width of the Yenisey is between 500 to 700 meters. However, once it joins the Angara, it expands to 2.5 km in width. The widest portion is about 75 km across. This area is close to the Brekhovskie islands archipelago.
14. The Arctic area of the Yenisey is generally covered by snow and ice for most of the year.
15. It is possible to live naturally along Yenisey’s river banks. You can pick berries and mushrooms and fish for food, source fresh water from the river, and obtain furs for personal and commercial use.
16. The Yenisey river’s beauty was and still is celebrated. Unfortunately, progress and modernity have taken its toll on this magnificent body of water. Some studies point to its contamination – a condition that can be considered severe in some places. The contamination is due to the discharge of radioactive particles from a plutonium-making factory.
17. The contamination is found in the sands that lie on the riverbed. Radioactive particles were likely carried to the plains and islands due to the floods. Radionuclides from cesium-137, strontium-90, and plutonium-239 have been detected in the sandy material and in the food chain as well.
18. Residents of villages located downstream of the Yenisey have been found to have developed a statistical illness pattern. There has been increased cases of cancers, higher death rate, and genetic aberrations that could be blamed on exposure to radiation.
19. Although evidence points to a clear problem, no tangible solutions have been implemented to address the possible radiation issue in the Yenisey. People still fish and forage, and consume what they collected.
20. In spite of its problems, the Yenisey remains a beloved river in Russia. Each year in spring, the winter-frozen river begins to break up and push the large chunks of ice down the stream towards the Kara Sea. The sight is spectacular and locals, along with tourists, await this event.
Yenisey River – quick facts and statistics
|Mungaragiyn-Gol (ridge Dod-Taygasyn-Noroo, Mongolia)
(Arctic Ocean, Russia)
|5,539 km (3,445 miles)
|up to 2100 feet
|up to 80 feet
|2,554,482 km2 (986,291 sq mi)
|Direction of flow
|south to north
|Did you know?
|1. Yenisei is the biggest river system that flows to the Arctic Ocean.
2. It is slightly shorter but with 1.5 times the flow of the Mississippi-Missouri.
|Table last updated
|December 6, 2021
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