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Novokuznetsk History, Russia

The history of Novokuznetsk is one of discovery, development and channeling of its resources and reflects the history of ore mining and metal production of Russia, particularly during the era of the Soviet Union. It is the history of industrialization and growth of a small town into a city and of a 19th century Empire ruled by Czars, or hereditary rulers, into a modern world power.

Founded in 1615 as a settlement for the Cossacks or solders to camp, it developed into an important fortress in 1622, the Kuzbas. Kuznetsky fortress guarded the Russian border against invasion by the Nomads and other barbaric tribes throughout the 17th century.  In the mid 1700’s, coal deposits were discovered. These coal deposits were so rich and near the surface that they sometimes caught fire from lightening strikes and burned.

However, it was not until the Soviet rule that Siberian metallurgy was truly harnessed and became a factor in the economy. The Belovsky plant was built in 1931 to smelt the various  ores, including zinc, copper, nickel, cobalt and even platinum. The Kuznetsk Metallurgical Combine was later built in 1932 to utilize the iron and became an important steelworks, which provided most of the steel used in building the Soviet Union’s rail transport system and the skeletons of most of the buildings that were erected during this time.

Novokuznetsk became an important industrial center during the 1930s, under the tutelage of Joseph Stalin, and the city’s name became Stalinsk in his honor until the 1960’s, in 1961 the city returned to the name of Novokuznetsk.

In the latter part of the 19th century, a monument was erected at the Hotel Metallurgy to the Playwright Maxim Gorky and his contemporary, the ruler Vladimir Lenin, who led the Russian Revolution, named the Monument Gorky and Lenin. During the Soviet era, the Novokuznetsk Monument which honored the friendship of the peoples of the USSR, was erected, as was the Novokuznetsk Eternal flame at the Boulevard of Heroes, and the Suvorov Monument, both of which honored soldiers who died in important battles during the history of Russian and the Soviet Union.

For those interested in architecture, there are the  Stalinsk town houses, built in the 1930’s, which provide examples of the Soviet style of architecture. They represented residences for the ordinary worker and his family. One of the non-industrial related historical events of the city took place in 1857 when the writer Fyodor M. Dostoyevsky married Maria Isayeva at the Ogiditrievskaya church, a Russian Orthodox Church.

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