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Yekaterinburg History, Russia

With a population of approximately 1.5 million, Yekaterinburg, the capital of Sverdlovsk Oblast region and has played an important role in Russia’s history and economic development.

Yekaterinburg History – Where East Meets West

Yekaterinburg was founded in 1723, during the reign of Tsar Peter the Great and was given the name of his wife, Tsarina Yekaterina (Catherine). In its first years of existence, the city was in fact a fortress on the banks of the Iset River. Very soon, people came to realize the area’s industrial potential, as minerals were very abundant in the Urals, and a big metallurgical plant was opened in the 1800s. The city became famous for its iron mills and later for the lapidary manufactures, which represented probably the most influential factors in Yekaterinburg history. Several beautiful pieces of architecture can be admired today in the city’s historic center, as a reminder of the stone-cutting craft which developed across the 19th century.

Yekaterinburg History – Yekaterinburg in the 20th century

The city was to play a dramatic role in the history of the Russian royal family: the last tsar, Nicholas II, together with his family, was slaughtered by the Bolsheviks on 17 July 1918. The place of the execution, Ipatev House, was demolished in 1977 and a cathedral is now being built to commemorate the incident. In 1924, the communist administration changed the name of the city to Sverdlovsk, after Jakob Sverdlov, a communist revolutionary, and it remained this way until the fall of communism, in 1991. Sverdlovsk was one of the leading cities in the Russian Industrial Revolution. As a result of the intensive industrialization and urbanization, many look-alike apartment buildings were built in the 60’s in order to shelter the peasants who were joining the labor force.

Yekaterinburg History – Yekaterinburg during the Cold War

Another infamous incident in Yekaterinburg’s history, causing an international scandal, happened during the Cold War. In 1960, an American secret agent who made surveillance flights over Russia in the newly designed U2 plane was brought down by the anti-aircraft artillery near Yekaterinburg. The diplomatic conflict was solved two years later, when Francis Gary Powers was traded for a KGB agent that had been imprisoned by the US Government. Today, Yekaterinburg continues to develop as Russia’s top industrial and scientific research centers. Yekaterinburg is home to no less than 100 research institutes, 15 universities and 35 technical colleges. Yekaterinburg has very good air and ground transportation connections with Moscow, so don’t miss Russia’s capital while you’re in the area (for more information, see the Moscow Travel Guide and Moscow Sights articles).

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