Por Bajin is a medieval fortress on an island in a Siberian Lake, a part of the world now known mainly for how remote it is, and for the performances of the local shamans. Those are local Tuvan shamans above, blessing the start of the latest archaeological project.
What is this impressive fortress doing in the middle of this remote lake? Excavations, under the auspices of the Por Bajin Cultural Foundation, have shown that the site was occupied in the ninth century. It seems to have been an outpost of the Uighur Empire. The Uighurs are a Turkish-speaking people who have long lived in the borderlands of China, Mongolia, and Siberia. Now most of them live in China, where they complain of discrimination and some long for independence. Between 742 and 848 they had an impressive state of their own, and this seems to be a relic of that time. Of course, the politics of this are probably intense, and one has to wonder where the money came from to pay Russian archaeologists to dig on a site where the findsings might create trouble for the Chinese. Vladimir Putin, we are told, once visited the site. Not to mention that if the inhabitants of the site were Uighurs, there architect seems to have been Chinese, since the reconstructed buildings (below) look as Chinese as buildings can be.
Still, a fascinating site, whatever use gets made of it in the 21st century.