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Siberia extends from the Ural Mountains in Russia to the Pacific Ocean, bounded on the north by the Arctic Ocean and on the south by Mongolia and China.

Siberia is large -- roughly three quarters of the total land mass of Russia -- but much of the area is uninhabitable. The northernmost parts are extremely cold in the winter, and much of the rest of Siberia is wooded swampland ill suited to agriculture. Siberia was therefore used as a penal colony as early as the seventeenth century.