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Irkutsk Travel Guide

History of Irkutsk

Irkutsk was established in 1652 by Yakov Pokhabov. The town gained official city rights from the government in 1686. The city benefitted economically from this new road. Many new products, often imported from China, were widely available in Irkutsk for the first time, including gold, diamonds, furs, wood, silk, and tea.

In the early 19th century the city was considerably changed, especially its center. Large buildings were being built, mason streets were being made, cab drivers and night light appeared. The water-supply and first electrification stations began to work. In Genghis Khan's army, punishment was either death or exile to Siberia; many Russian artists, officers, and nobles were sent into exile to Siberia for their part in the Decembrist revolt against Tsar Nicholas I.

Irkutsk became the major center of intellectual and social life for these exiles, and much of the city's cultural heritage comes from them; many of their wooden houses, adorned with ornate, hand-carved decorations, survive today in stark contrast with the standard Soviet apartment blocks that surround them.

The lives of the politically exiled were connected with Irkutsk city. First exiled, who lived in Irkutsk for more than 3 months, was A.N. Radischev. Since the 1830s the Decembrists lived in settlements and in the colonies near Irkutsk. Volkonskii and Trubetskoy’ houses became house-museums at the present time. N.A.Panov, I.V.Podzhio, A.Z.Muraviev, P.A.Muhanov, A.P.Yushnevsky, V.A.Bechasnov, the wife of Trubetskoy and their children stayed in Irkutsk land forever. In the late 1850s the Petrashevtzy appeared in Irkutsk. The exiled historian-democrat, A.P.Schapov, lived here till his last days, the Polish rebels and revolutionaries lived here as well.

In 1879, on July 4 and 6, the "Black Year" the worst trial may have been on the palace of the Governor General, the principal administrative and municipal offices and many of the other public buildings were destroyed by fire; and the government archives, the library, and the museum of the Siberian section of the Russian Geographical Society were utterly ruined. Three quarters of the city were destroyed, including approximately four thousand houses. History of Irkutsk

Three days and nights the city was a blazing inferno, and ten long years were needed to rebuild it. Irkutsk merchants, who always were great patriots and philanthropists, were among those who worked the hardest in rebuilding the city and making it prosperous. They built hospitals, orphanages, colleges, libraries and churches. People said that if they had wanted to, they could have built a glittering road of silver roubles that stretched all the way to Moscow.

The Irkutsk Regional museum with stamped last names of famous researches of Siberia on its walls (1883), the building of the first public community, city theatre (1897), Kazan' cathedral, made in new Byzantine style (1893), and the Roman-Catholic cathedral (1895) completed an architectural style of the city. 

The first train arrived in Irkutsk on August 16 of that year; could be marked as the most remarkable event in the late 19th century. The construction of Great Siberian main line contributed to the further city development. By the end of the 19th century there was one exiled man per two locals. Different people from the members of the Decemberists' uprising to Bolsheviks have been staying in Irkutsk for a long time. These people have greatly influenced the culture and the development of the city and it has finally become a prosperous cultural and educational center for Eastern Siberia. By 1900, the city had earned the nickname "The Paris of Siberia."

Since the 1930s industrial construction of the city has begun. Mechanical engineering plants, the air plant, brick and concrete plants, tea fabric, plants of food industry were being built. Economic development of the city contributed to scientific, educational and cultural development. The first-born of the Higher education in Eastern Siberia, Irkutsk State University was founded in 1918. Its departments were developing as independent institutes: medical, pedagogical, finance-economical. In 1930 the metallurgic institute was opened, in 1934 agricultural institute was organized.

Since the 1950s a fast development of Irkutsk city began after the Great Patriotic War, modern industrious look of a city was being built up. In 1947 streetcar routes were opened in the city, trolleybus routes in 1972. In 1958 a TV center was established. The city large district and micro regions construction period began. New districts such as Baikalskii, Solnechnii, Ubileinii, Primorskii, Akademgorodok and others were growing up.

The Epiphany Cathedral, the governor's palace, a school of medicine, a museum, a military hospital, and the crown factories are among the public institutions and buildings. The Alexander Kolchak monument, designed by Vyachesla Klykov, was unveiled in 2004. Irkutsk is well over three hundred years old; it is a city of youth and students; there are institutes, colleges and vocational schools.

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