Everyone in the world knows the famous Trans-Siberian Railroad (Trans-Sib), built in the 19th century and connecting Europe through the expanse of Siberia, along the southern shore of Lake Baikal, to the Pacific Ocean and China.
Old rails along the shore of the pristine Lake Baikal
Old railroad tunnel, Baikal
But few abroad know about another, equally famous in Russia, railroad called the simple abbreviation, BAM. BAM means Baikal-Amur Railway, or in Russian: Байкало-Амурская магистраль.
It is also called Baikal–Amur Mainline. “The Baikal–Amur Mainline is a 1,520 mm broad gauge railway line in Russia. Traversing Eastern Siberia and the Russian Far East, the 4,324 km long BAM runs about 610 to 770 km north of and parallel to the Trans-Siberian railway.” Wikipedia
Map of BAM and Trans-Siberian Railroad. BAM is in green and orange. Trans-Sib is in red.
The construction of BAM began 40 years ago today, July 8. It was dubbed the ‘construction of the century.’ Many young enthusiastic people moved to Siberia to build this railroad. The excitement was tremendous, reminiscent of the earlier Soviet industrialization years. The young people formed many of the so-called ‘stroy otriad,’ which means a ‘construction band’ as in ‘a band of brothers and sisters,’ and would go together to the cold Siberia. After they had completed the construction, they would often stay there, start a family and man the railroad they had helped build.
I remember some pretty awesome songs that were written especially for BAM. Here is one of them. It is called Яростный стройотряд, 1979 – The Roaring Construction Band. This video contains some authentic photos from that period. Performed by the legendary Alexander Gradsky and well-worth listening to! Gradsky has one of the best voices you would ever hear – I promise; and the song is cool, too. I’ve translated a couple of verses:
I’m the fresh wind, the soaring flame,
And it’s our time, my friends.
I wish us luck on our quest
To save ourselves from the indifference.
The joyful tune of the guitars,
A roaring construction band,
As if a fire in the steppes,
The campfires of songs ablaze.
Have a listen:
In the 19th century, the Russian Empire had plans to build the railroad covering the northern part of Lake Baikal and Eastern Siberia and running parallel to the Trans-Siberian. This was a super-ambitious project as such railroad would go through the wild permafrost lands that no man had ever traversed. The project never materialized.
Only in the second part of the 20th century USSR dared it again. On July 8, 1974 the very first rail was set into Siberian permafrost, and BAM was born. Baikal-Amur Railroad went parallel to the Trans-Siberian, but much further north, by the northern shore of Lake Baikal and further into the Far East, towards the Amur River.
BAM was finished before 1991. At that point, USSR collapsed and the new rulers decided BAM was a waste of time and money. The ambitious project was criticized and maligned. BAM was neglected and its enthusiastic, but aging population was forgotten.
However, the times have changed. On July 8, 2014 Russia has celebrated the 40th anniversary of the beginning of the famous construction by starting a new, even more ambitious, line of the BAM railroad.
Vladimir Putin has announced that Russia will spend over $150 bln in order to add another 7,000 kilometers of rails to BAM by 2030. This will complete the railway coverage of the entire Far East. The money for the new mega-project comes out of the Russian reserve fund (specifically, the Russian Commonwealth Fund), which until recently Russia invested in the US Treasuries.
This effectively signals 3 very important things:
1. Russia’s ambitions are back – this is the signal that the country expects growth and robust development.
2. Russia is confirming its Asia pivot – as I’ve been predicting since February 2014. BAM connects Trans-Siberian and Baikal with the Far East/Pacific Ocean and various points in Asia and Siberia. This includes the resource-rich points of the north, as well as potential hard-to-reach tourist destinations.
3. Russia re-affirms that it will stop the silly practice of financing US dollar (which is a form of economic slavery) and will instead use its hard-earned reserves to finance projects inside the country. Finally – it’s about time!
This is a massive shift, and yet another confirmation that the US dollar is approaching its point of no return!
Below is Putin’s Skype with BAM engineers and railroad workers for the 40-year anniversary of BAM. He congratulates them with the anniversary and talks about the $150 bln investment at 13:10. Towards the end, the new leg of BAM is symbolically initiated:
What BAM looks like today – report from the BAM capital, Tinda starts at 0:30 (includes some historic footage from 1970s). Map of BAM starts at 1:34:
Another map of BAM and Trans-Siberian Railroad here.
More awesome pics of Sacred Lake Baikal: THE EARTH SHIFTER Mystical Setting: Lake Baikal, Siberia
from THE EARTH SHIFTER