Friday, 23 November 2012



Yekaterinburg is the fourth-largest city in Russia, situated in the middle of the Eurasian continent, on the border of Europe and Asia.

Yekaterinburg is the administrative center of Sverdlovsk Oblast and the main industrial and cultural center of the Ural Federal District. Between 1924 and 1991, the city was named Sverdlovsk after the Communist party leader Yakov Sverdlov.

Internationally, Yekaterinburg is best known as a city where the last Russian Tsar Nicholas II and his family were executed in 1918.

The city was founded in 1723 by Vasily Tatischev and Georg Wilhelm de Gennin and named after Tsar Peter the Great's wife Catherine I (Yekaterina). The official date of the city's foundation is November 18, 1723. It was granted town status in 1796.

Soon after the Russian Revolution, on July 17, 1918, Tsar Nicholas II, his wife, Alexandra, and their children Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and Tsarevich Alexei were murdered by the Bolsheviks at the Ipatiev House in this city. Other members of the Romanov family were killed at Alapayevsk the day after. In 1977, the Ipatiev House was demolished by order of Boris Yeltsin, to prevent it from being used as a rallying location for monarchists. He later became the first President of Russia and represented the people at the funeral of the Tsar in 1998.

On August 24, 2007, the BBC reported that Russian archaeologists had found the remains of two children of Russia's last Tsar. The remains were discovered in the ground close to the site in Yekaterinburg where the Tsar, his wife, and their three other daughters were found in 1991 along with the remains of four servants. The 2007 discoveries are thought to be those of Tsarevich Alexei and either Maria or Anastasia. 

Archaeologist Sergei Pogorelov said bullets found at the burial site indicate the children had been shot. He told Russian television the newly unearthed bones belonged to two young people: a young male aged roughly 10–13 and a young woman about 18–23. Ceramic vessels found nearby appear to have contained sulfuric acid, consistent with an account by one of the Bolshevik firing squad, who said that after shooting the family they doused the bodies in acid to destroy the flesh and prevent them becoming objects of veneration. The Tsar's remains were given a state funeral in July 1998.

During the 1930s, Yekaterinburg was one of several places developed by the Soviet government as a centre of heavy industry, during which time the famous Uralmash was built. Then, during World War II, many state technical institutions and whole factories were relocated to Yekaterinburg away from war-affected areas (mostly Moscow), with many of them staying in Yekaterinburg after the victory. The Hermitage Museum collections were also partly evacuated from Leningrad to Sverdlovsk (as Yekaterinburg was known during Soviet times) in July 1941 and remained there until October 1945.

The lookalike five-story apartment blocks that remain today in Kirovsky, Chkalovsky, and other residential areas of Yekaterinburg sprang up in the 1960s, under the direction of Khrushchev's government.

On May 1 1960, an American U-2 spy plane, piloted by Francis Gary Powers while under the employ of the CIA, was shot down over Sverdlovsk Oblast. He was captured, put on trial, found guilty of espionage and sentenced to seven years of hard labour. He served only about a year before being exchanged for Rudolph Abel, a high-ranking KGB spy, who had been apprehended in the United States in 1957.

There was an anthrax outbreak in Yekaterinburg in April and May 1979, which was attributed to a release from the Sverdlovsk-19 military facility.

During the 1991 coup d'état attempt, Sverdlovsk, the home city of President Boris Yeltsin, was selected by him as a reserve capital for the Russian Federation, in the event that Moscow became too dangerous for the Russian government. A reserve cabinet headed by Oleg Lobov was sent to the city, where Yeltsin enjoyed strong popular support at that time. Shortly after the failure of the coup and subsequent dissolution of the USSR, the city regained its historical name (Yekaterinburg).

When in Yekaterinburg, make a visit to the "Chinese Market" or Bazaar. The market consists of many hundreds of small outdoor stalls, selling everything from toilet paper to fur coats, all at the best prices in the city. But this kind of market is not really the right place to buy souvenirs. Vaynera Street, in the center of the city, has a lot of shops with a wide range of small things to buy. Usually this street (it's pedestrian only) is called The Urals Arbat, after the famous Arbat in Moscow.

Leather in Russia is considered some of the best in Europe; handbags and wallets are of especially high quality. Gold jewellery, while expensive, is also very good. Markets, such as the Chinese market is good for cheap bargains.

MEGA Mall  is a huge mall on the outskirts of town owned by the IKEA group; it features tons of Western/international stores including a decent food court. 

There is a free, bright yellow bus that picks up Ulitsa Kuybysheva, 57 near the centre every 15 mins; return trips leave from in front of the OBI store at the mall.

                                                        Yekaterinburg’s Top 5:
  1. The Church on Blood in Honour of All Saints Resplendent in the Russian Land, is a Russian Orthodox church built on the site of the Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg, where Nicholas II, the last Emperor of Russia, and several members of his family and household were shot by the Bolsheviks during the Russian Civil War. The church commemorates the Romanov sainthood. On September 20 1990, the Sverdlovsk Soviet handed the plot to the Russian Orthodox Church for construction of a memorial chapel. After the former Tsar and his family's canonisation as Passion Bearers, the Church planned to build an impressive memorial complex dedicated to the Romanov family. A state commission was gathered and architectural as well as funding plans were developed. Construction began in 2000 and On June 16 2003, 85 years after the execution of the former imperial family, the main church was consecrated.
  2. The Bolshoi Zlatoust  is a 77-metres-high bell tower that used to dominate the skyline of Yekaterinburg before the Russian Revolution. It was the tallest building in the Urals region. It was destroyed in 1930 and rebuilt 80 years later. The name translates as the "Big (or Great) Chrysostom", a reference to the Orthodox church in the name of St. John Chrysostom that occupied the spot in the early 19th century. The bell tower was designed in 1847 by Vasily Morgan in a Russo-Byzantine style derived from Thon's works. It took almost 30 years to build. The church in the ground floor was dedicated to St. Maximian, one of the Seven Sleepers and the patron saint of the Tsar's son-in-law, Maximilian de Beauharnais, 3rd Duke of Leuchtenberg. After the Russian Revolution the church of St. Maximian was closed for worship and eventually dismantled (in 1930) to make way for a statue of Lenin and Stalin. The church was rebuilt in the early 21st century. The builders relied on old photographs and descriptions.
  3. The Nevyansk Icon Museum is a private museum of icons in Russia. More than 300 Nevyansk icons of 18-20 centuries are exposed there. Entrance is free for everyone.
    The museum was opened in 1999 by Evgeniy Roizman. In its first five years since opening, more than 200,000 persons have visited it (says the chief curator of the museum, Maksim Borovik) The idea of the museum is to save the phenomenon of the Nevyansk icon. The Nevyansk icon is documented as having existed from 1734 (the icon "Our Lady of Egypt"), until 1919 ("The Saviour Pantocrator"). In fact there are even earlier Nevyansk icons in the museum, and the last secret icon painters appear to have existed in 1950. The phenomenon that is called "High Nevyansk" practically didn't outlast the end of the 18th century. With the accession of Alexander I of Russia, the spread of the Common Faith and industrial development in the Urals, Nevyansk icon painting had a new birth. Having orders from rich factory owners, tax farmers and owners of goldmines, Nevyansk masters of Bogatirev's dynasty created magnificent masterpieces until the late 1830, but the original, authentic, strict Nevyansk icons remained in 18th century.
  4. Keyboard monument is an outdoor sculpture featuring the QWERTY keyboard. It was created by Anatoly Vyatkin and installed on October 25, 2005 on the embankment of the Iset River in the city centre. The landmark depicts an IBM PC compatible Cyrillic computer keyboard increased in scale 30:1 (the area covered by the monument being 16 × 4 m), with 86 concrete keys, each weighing up to 1,000 pounds. The keyboard attracts many visitors to the city and is today considered one of its top sights. It is also referred to as "one of the miracles of Russia" by some researchers. Niklaus Wirth, Pascal programming language designer, evaluated the object while it was being constructed and found it to be fascinating.
  5. The Kharitonov Palace is arguably the grandest palatial residence in the Urals. This Neoclassical townhouse was commissioned in 1794 by Lev Rastorguyev, an Old Believer merchant and landowner. The main house was built on the so-called Annunciation Hill in Yekaterinburg. The nearby Annunciation Church was built at the same time. The palace takes its present name from Pyotr Kharitonov, Rastorguyev's son-in-law. He inherited the property in 1824 and employed architect Mikhail Pavlovich Malakhov to connect the buildings with a series of covered passageways. An English park on the grounds was also commissioned by Kharitonov. His harsh treatment of the serfs gave rise to a bevy of legends about a network of underground chambers and passages where his peasants were tortured. In 1837 Kharitonov was officially censured for his cruelty, put on trial and condemned to life imprisonment in Kexholm Fortress. The palace fell into disuse. It was repaired in the late 1930s to house a local Pioneers Palace. Pyotr Latyshev, the Presidential Envoy to Urals Federal District, planned to take over the palace in 2000. It was officially designated his residence but, following a protest campaign, these plans fell through.

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