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Guide to Russia > Geography and History


District Capital: Ekaterinburg


Ekaterinburg was founded in 1723 as the city center of the Ural district. The city is located on the east slope of central Ural, on the shore of the Iset River. The city was given the name Ekaterinburg after Ekaterina Alexseevna (1684-1727), the wife of Peter the Great. In 1751 a lapidary (stone cutting and engraving) factory was built which produced vases, small boxes and other goods from malachite and porphyry. In 1763 a Siberian highway from Moscow across Ekaterinburg to Siberia was built. Ekaterinburg played a great role in the creation of the Russian gold extraction industry. Here golden ore, which was obtained in neighboring mines, was melted. At the beginning of the 20th century, Ekaterinburg was one of the biggest district cities in the European part of Russia.

Like many Russian cities, Ekaterinburg had a different name in the Soviet era. In 1924-91 it was called Sverdlovsk after the surname of Sverdlov (1885-1919), who was the party and affairs leader of the state. In 1991 it got back its historical name. Starting in the 1930s big factories were built here, especially machine-building and metal-working ones. Ekaterinburg is quite famous as the place where the former Russian Emperor Nicholas II and his family were murdered by the Bolsheviks in July of 1918. The city is also the birthplace of Boris Yeltsin and the rock band Nautilus Pompilius.

Currently Ekaterinburg is a transport center, with broad and meridian train and car roads, two airports and a convenient subway system. Ekaterinburg is also an industrial center of Russia; it has a lot of industrial enterprises, the biggest of which is the machine-building factory "Uralmash". The city is also home to 14 institutions of higher education, a few theaters and many museums, including the memorial flat-museums of Russian writers P. P. Bajov, D. N. Mamin-Sibiryak and F. M. Reshetnikov.

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Most of the architectural monuments in Ekaterinburg are built in the style of classicism. One of the most famous of them is the Cathedral of Alexander Nevsky, built in the first half of the 19th century. The city is considered a highly cultural center, where lots of Informal art, mostly music, had appeared in the late Soviet Union era and during Perestroika.

Another attraction is the Institute of Mines, a unique geological museum. Different minerals of the Ural region are collected here.

The ancient profession of jewelry making is highly respected in Ekaterinburg, and jewelry made from the city's stones is valued very highly on the world market. People can read about all these minerals in fairy stories from the book "The Malachite Casket" written by the writer P.P. Bajov, who lived in Ekaterinburg in the 1930s. (The history of this book is very interesting: Bajov had to escape to Ural from Moscow because of denunciations made against him. He lived a few years in a small village near Ekaterinburg and his life there was so boring that he began to speak with old people about Ural legends. Then he moved to Ekaterinburg and wrote their stories, until receiving permission to return to Moscow, where he was able to publish his writings.)

Moreover, this city is also a famous sport city. Its cold climate makes the city an ideal vacation spot for lovers of winter sports. The Uktoussky Mountains near the city are very popular amongst skiers and figure-skating competitions take place at the "Dinamo" stadium.

Ekaterinburg, like many Russian cities, tries to be called the "third capital of Russia." It is, however, indisputedly "the Gateway to Asia".

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