Siberia was occupied by differing groups of nomads such as the Yenets, the Nenets, the Huns, and the Uighurs. The Khan of Sibir in the vicinity of modern Tobolsk was known as a prominent figure who enorsed Kubrat as Khagan in Avaria in 630CE. The area was conquerd by the Mongols in the 13th century and eventually became the autonomous Siberian Khanate.
The growing power of Russia to the east began to undermine the Khanate in the 16th century. First groups of traders and Cossacks began to enter the area, and finally the imperial army began to set up forts further and further east. By the mid-17th century the Russian-controlled areas had been extended to the Pacific.
Siberia remained a mostly unexplored and uninhabited area. During the next few centuries, only a few exploratory missions and traders inhabited Siberia. The other group that were sent to Siberia were prisoners, who were exiled from western Russia.
The first great change to Siberia was the Trans-Siberian railway, constructed from 1891 - 1905. It linked Siberia more closely into the rapidly-industrialising Russia of Nicholas II. Siberia is filled with natural resources and during the twentieth century these were developed, and industrial towns cropped up throughout the area.
A harsh climate has limited Siberia's development and population growth. The region has an abundance of natural resources, including many minerals, vast oil fields, rich forests, and grasslands in the extreme southwest that are good for farming. But the winters are long and bitter. Ice and snow cover most of the region about six months of the year. The temperature can drop below -90 °F (-68 °C). Most of the coastal waters, lakes, and rivers freeze for much of the year.
About 70 percent of Siberia's people live in cities. Most city people are crowded into small apartments. Many people in rural areas live in simple, but more spacious, log houses. Novosibirsk is the largest city in Siberia. It has a population of about 1 1/2 million.