At the heart of Urals
The Urals are a 150-km wide mountain range stretching over 2500 km North to South from the Arctic Ocean coast to northwestern Kazakhstan culminating at Mount Narodnaya (1895m).
It is rich in mineral resources : metal ores, coal, precious and semi-precious stones.
For centuries the metal sector has played an important role in the Russian economy, especially in the military-industrial complex.
Gateway to Siberia, Ekaterinburg and its population of over 1.5 million is the capital of the Urals and the Sverdlovsk Oblast (province). Founded in 1723 on the order of Czar Peter 1st the Great, it was named after his wife who succeeded him on the throne as Empress Catherine the First. It is one of the largest cities in the Russian Federation with Moscow and St Petersburg. Close to the border between Europe and Asia on the Iset river, it is the prolongation of the route Moscow-Kazan distant 1420 km from the capital on the Trans-Siberian railway line to Vladivostok.
During the years 1924-1991, it was called Sverdlovsk, recovering its original name after the collapse of the USSR. It is the birthplace of former President Boris Eltsine and the city where Czar Nicholas II and his family were executed on July 17, 1918.
Interesting places in the City:
Ulitsa Vainera: 1.5 km long pedestrian street, equivalent to the Arbat in Moscow. It is lined with shops, cafés, restaurants and elegant buildings such as the green Blinov Manor. More than 10 metal statues dot the promenade: the Lovers, Banker, Car driver and a 3 m bronze of Michael Jackson, to name just a few.
Square of 1905 area: the starting point of Ulitsa Vainera, it features the City Hall, House of Actors, Men’s Gymnasium and a statue of Vladimir Ilitch Oulianov Lenin.
Bolchoï Zlatoust Orthodox Cathedral
City Pond Dam (“Plotinka”) : located on one side of the main thoroughfare Prospekt Lenina and the Iset river on the other side. The Historical Public Garden is on one riverbank with a huge bas-relief on the dam wall and the Fine Arts Museum. On the other bank, one can visit the Watertower (1886), the monument to the city founders Vasily Tatishchev and Wilhelm de Gennin and the Chapel of St Catherine on Trouda Square.
Walking along the riverbank, one can see the stone Giant Keyboard (“Klava”) on a scale of 30 to 1, each key weighing between 80 and 150 kilos, and a monument to the Beatles with the silhouettes of the Liverpool Four against a brick wall.
Government House (1821-1881) : former Manor of Grigory Zotov, gold mine owner.
Manor House Sevastyanov: built in the early 19th century, this impressive red, green and white building is a combination of Mock-Gothic, Moorish and Eclecticism styles, with elements of Neo-Baroque.
Church on Blood : built as a sign of repentance, the church, opened in 2003, was erected on the site of the former house of mining engineer Nikolai Ipatiev where Czar Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra Feodorovna, his son Csarevitch Alexei and his daughters Olga, Tatyana, Maria and Anastasia were executed on the 17th of July 1918.
There are two churches above each other in the building with five domes and 14 bells. The five-nave upper church has a marble iconostasis and the main altar is located on the very place of the execution. In the lower church is a crypt with the reconstruction of the room in which the assassination was perpetrated.
The church also houses a small museum dedicated to the last days of the Romanov family.
A separate building in the Patriarchal Courtyard houses a museum about the Royal Family and the Czarskii Spiritual Centre.
Business Centre Vysotsky: it is located in the eponymous 186m 53-storey building with a viewing platform on the 52nd floor affording a stunning panorama over the city extending over 25 km on a clear day. Named after the popular actor/ poet Vladimir Vysotsky, husband of actress Marina Vlady, it contains offices, hotel, restaurants and boutiques.
Boris Eltsin Center: the former President of the Russian Federation was born in the city then called Sverdlovsk in 1931 and died in Moscow in 2007 where he is buried in the Novodevitchy Monastery cemetery. Opened in late 2015, it is the largest business and exhibition centre in the city with nine halls. It contains a museum with the history of the Eltsin family (“Labyrinth”), a Hall of Fame, art galleries, education centre, cinemas, conference halls, shops and restaurants. Multiple events are organized in the centre throughout the year.
Ekaterinburg has close to 20 different museums, a dozen theatre and concert halls including the first
Cinema Kolizey (1845) and the Opera/Ballet Theater (1912). The city is dotted with attractive old mansions in stone or wood.
Excursions outside the City
Verkhnyaya Pyshma: this small town is the seat of some of the largest metallurgical and engineering enterprises, including the Ural Mining and Metallurgical Company (UMMC). The company has opened two large museums in 2013 and 2018: the Military and Automobile Museums. The total museums’ area covers 68000 sq meters.
The open area of the Military Museum, one of the largest of its kind in the country, extends over 5.8 hectares with 5,700 exhibits including 350 military vehicles with uniforms, arms, equipment and regalia in the covered area.
The Auto Museum is the largest collection of motor cars (250), motorcycles and bicycles (160) in Russia, covering 12000 sq meters on five floors.
The town also has a nice mosque built by Turkey.
Border Europe/ Asia: located on the Ural watershed, marked by 30 obelisks in the Sverdlovsk region. The most famous of them is found between Ekaterinburg and Pervouralsk.
Nevyansk: one of the oldest cities in the area founded by a decree of Peter the Great in 1701 with the construction of an iron-smelting plant. The main attraction is the Leaning Tower built in 1721-25 on the order of oligarch Akinfiy Demidov.
Built of a square base of 9.5 m, it is 57.5 m high and deviation from the vertical is about 1.85 m at the top. The chiming clock on the 7th and 8th floors was made in England in 1730 by Richard Phelms.
The melody “Glory” from the opera “A Life for the Czar” by Mikhail Glinka sounds every 15 minutes.
Another visit not to be missed is the Museum of the Nevyansk Icon. It includes an Old Believer icon-painting school where we can see artists working on Baroque style icons.
Nizhny Tagil: second largest city of the Sverdlovsk region where you can visit the Manor House of the Demidov family and the factory-museum showing the history of metal production and featuring factory equipment and preserved buildings of the 18th-20th century.
Ski Complex Belaya: located 37 km from Nizhny Tagil, its name means “white” as the area is covered with snow from autumn to spring. It was established in 1963 and from the top station of the cable car one can enjoy a great panorama of the Urals. The platform is on the border between Europe and Asia clearly marked on the floor.
Ekaterinburg is the candidate for the 2025 Universal Exhibition (May 2-November 2) with Baku/Azerbaijan and Osaka/Japan. The General Assembly of the International Bureau of Exhibitions will decide between the contenders this coming November.
The theme chosen is “Transforming the World: Innovations and a better Life for Future Generations”.
A site of 555 hectares has been reserved for the construction of the future Expo Park.
I wish GOOD LUCK to the capital of the Urals!
Jacques J. CAMPE
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