Ekaterinburg: The History Of An Industrial City
Ekaterinburg is the third largest city in Russia, renowned as a leading centre of science, a transport hub, and an attractive place to visit. The city enjoyed a thriving history as Russia’s centre for metallurgy and industry, and visitors to Ekaterinburg today can delve into its rich past.
City Of Industry
Tsar Peter the Great commanded that the largest metallurgical plant in Russia was to be built along the Iset River. On 18 November 1723 the city of Ekaterinburg was officially founded as the first hammers beat down in the iron foundry. The city was named after Empress Catherine I, Yekaterina I, wife of Peter and later ruler of Russia.
The plant had a range of metal works and iron forging facilities, and Ekaterinburg quickly developed into an industrial centre in Russia. It was also conveniently located near the Ural Mountain range, and so became a base for expansion into the Ural and Siberia.
The first workers were hired by Captain Vasily Nikitovich Tatischev, who was destined to become a famous scientist, historian and statesman. Workers from the Nevyansk metallurgy plant belonging to Nikita Demidov were employed to provide guidance and help setup the plant. They also gave advice on building the Iset dam, which was built in 1723 and provided energy for the plant.
As metallurgic production decreased, the metal works and iron foundry in the city eventually closed down. However, a lapidary factory, added to the city’s copper mint in 1726, was a busy supplier of semi-precious stones to Europe. Gold mining in Siberia made the merchants of Ekaterinburg wealthy, and helped the city flourish. In 1781 Empress Catherine II made Ekaterinburg a city.
Ekaterinburg has been the location for other historical events in the recent past. It was the centre of the Bolshevik movement and from 1924 to 1991 was named Sverdlovsk after the Bolshevik party leader. In 1918 Ekaterinburg was the site of the executions of Tsar Nicholas II and his family, on a site now housing the Church on the Blood. In 1923 the city was recognised as the ‘Ural Oblast’, centre of the region. The city continued to grow as an industrial centre before and during WWII, when many factories relocated to the Ural Oblast.
When travelling to Ekaterinburg for business or pleasure, take time to explore the area’s unique past. A trip from Ekaterinburg to nearby Nevyansk is recommended for history fans. This factory town was home to an iron factory which produced cast iron, iron and copper. First built in 1701, the factory was soon given to Nikita Demidov by Tsar Peter. A ‘leaning tower’ built by the Demidov family is famous for being used as everything from a bank safe to a watchtower, prison and laboratory. A tour from Ekaterinburg to Nevyansk gives tourists the chance to see the famous ‘leaning tower’, visit the local museum, and learn the town’s history.
Many of the structures first built in Ekaterinburg were made from wood, meaning few of the original factory buildings remain today. However, visitors to Ekaterinburg interested in the city’s vibrant metallurgic past should head to the Iset Dam. The Dam (“Plotinka”) is now the oldest preserved structure in the city. It is regarded as a historic monument, and is often the site of holiday and festival celebrations.
A monument to Vasily Nikitovich Tatischev and Villim de Gennin can be visited at the Dam. The Dam area, with the City Pond, Iset River, parks and walkways, is also a pleasant area to visit for a relaxing city stroll. Our popular Park Inn by Radisson Ekaterinburg Hotel is ideally located within walking distance of the Dam and city’s historic centre.
In the summer, visitors to the Dam’s famous water tower can visit a branch of the Ekaterinburg History Museum known as the ‘Metal Shop’. Other branches of the Ekaterinburg History Museum have a fantastic collection of historical photographs and images, coins and art from the city.
The vestiges of an old iron works can now be found in the historic Public Garden. The garden also houses the Museum of History of Architecture of the Ural, and the Fine Arts Museum, Ekaterinburg’s oldest building.
Visitors to Ekaterinburg interested in metallurgy should also head to the Ural Geological Museum, based in the Ural State University of Mines. The museum contains an amazing collection of gold and emeralds, which is a star attraction to the city, and exhibits thousands of minerals.
There are many more museums in Ekaterinburg which will appeal to people fascinated by the city’s industrial past. These include the Museum of Art History and Industrial Engineering of Ural, set on a former metallurgical plant, and the Regional Natural History Museum.
What do you think the Demidov family used their leaning tower for?