Western Siberia has traditionally been defined as the area of land between the Ural Mountains and the Yenisei River. Much of it lies on the West Siberian Plain which is lower and slightly warmer than the higher Central Siberia Plain.
The forests are dominated by pine, spruce and fir. The hardier larch dominates on other side of the Yenisey. The large industrial cities of Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk and Kransoyarsk are on the Trans-Siberian Railroad. Some of the most interesting area are in the Republic of Altay and Tuva near the Mongolian border.
Western Siberia is also quite swampy and has a lot of mosquitos. Ian Frazier wrote in The New Yorker, “ The country’s swampiness did not manifest itself in great expanses of water with reeds and trees in it, like the Florida Everglades. There were wide rivers and reedy places, but also birch groves and hills and yellow fields. The way you could tell you were in the swamp was, first, that the ground became impassably soggy if you walked at all far in any direction; and, second, by the mosquitoes....Western Siberia has the largest swamps in the world. In much of Siberia, the land doesn’t do much of anything besides gradually sag northward to the Arctic. The rivers of western Siberia flow so slowly that they hardly seem to move at all.” [Source: Ian Frazier, The New Yorker, August 3, 2009, Frazier is author of “Travels in Siberia” (2010)]
On driving through the region, Frazier wrote: “Beyond Yekaterinburg, the road lay straight through grain fields like Nebraska’s or Iowa’s, and the sky unfolded itself majestically outward and higher. Vistas kept appearing until the eye hardly knew what to do with them—dark-green tree lines converging at a distant yellow corner of the fields, and the lower trunks of a birch grove black as a bar code against a sunny meadow behind them, and the luminous yellows and greens of vegetables in baskets along the road, and grimy trucks with only their license numbers wiped clean, their black diesel smoke unravelling behind them across the sky.
“And everywhere the absence of fences. I couldn’t get over that. In America, almost all open country is fenced, and your eye automatically uses fence lines for reference the way a hand feels for a bannister. Here the only fenced places were the gardens in the villages and the little paddocks for animals. Also, here the road signs were fewer and had almost no bullet holes. This oddity stood out even more because the stop signs, for some reason, were exactly the same as stop signs in America: octagonal, red, and with the word “stop” on them in big white English letters. Any stop sign in such a rural place in America (let alone a stop sign written in a foreign language) would likely have a few bullet holes.”
Omsk Oblast covers 139,700 square kilometers (53,900 square miles), is home to about two million people and has a population density of 14 people per square kilometer. About 72 percent of the population live in urban areas.The city of Omsk is the capital and largest city, with about 1.15 million people. Omsk Oblast is home to more than 20 game reserves and attracts many people into hunting and fishing. For those interested in history, there are ancient settlements and villages, burial mounds, religious monuments and tombs and the historical sites of Chudskaya Mountain and Batakovo Tract, Website: Tourism Portal of the Omsk Region: omsk-turinfo.com
Some come to Omsk Oblast looking for Kolchak's gold. Others follow in the footsteps of the Decembrists, while others still come to see the prison camp where Dostoevsky spent several years. The climate here is sharply continental: with a warm and even hot summer, a cold long winter with the snow remaining on the ground a long time without melting. In the winter temperatures often reach -25 to -30°C; in the summer the average temperature is around 20°C. But the Siberian climate is unpredictable here and sometimes it warms up in the winter or cool spell shows up in the summer. The weather is very changeable in the winter and autumn.
Getting There: Aeroflot, Pobeda, Ural Airlines, Nordwind, and S7 airlines fly to Omsk daily from all Moscow. From St. Petersburg, one flight per day is operated by Rossiya Airlines. A one way tickets costs from 3,000 rubles. Regional traffic is developing. You can get to Omsk by direct flights from Kazan, Krasnoyarsk, Novosibirsk, Tyumen, Samara, Sochi, Irkutsk, Rostov-on-Don, Krasnodar, Surgut, Salekhard, Khanty-Mansiysk, and Novy Urengoy. Regular flights with AirAstana are also available to Nur-Sultan, the capital of Kazakhstan. By Train: Omsk is conveniently located for rail travel. The station is just outside the city center and all the main sights. A third class ticket from Moscow starts from 2,500 rubles; in second class, from 3,000 rubles. Transport in the Region: You can reach all districts of the region by buses and minibuses from the bus station; however, in certain directions, they leave from the railway station. The schedule, prices and tickets are available online: omskoblauto.ru
Omsk City (kilometer 2716 on the Trans-Siberian Railway) is an industrial city of 1.15 million people. The capital and largest city of Omsk Oblast, it is us where Dostoevsky did four years of hard labor from 1849 to 1854 and was periodically flogged. He wrote about is experienced in Buried Alive in Siberia. There is not much to see. Omsk is home to a large tank factory, a model pig farm. The Pushkin State Scientific Library contains the world’s smallest book. People can read a collection of poems through a microscope.
Omsk lies in the southern part of Western Siberia, at the confluence of the Irtysh and Om rivers, where a Cossack detachment led by Lieutenant Colonel Ivan Buchholtz landed and founded a fortress in 1716. The Omsk area was populated even before Christ and contains many settlements, burial grounds, and encampments, which date to between the 6th millennium B.C. and the A.D. 13th century. Omsk received the status of the town in 1782 and for a while after the 1917-1918 revolution was capital of White Russia. Today, the city stretches for 40 kilometers along the Irtysh River and lies on both banks of the river which is crossed by many bridges. Omski is named after the Om river. In the Siberian Tatarian language, “om” means “quiet”.
Omsk is one of the largest cities in West-Siberia and large transport hub at the intersection of air, river, rail, automobile, and pipeline transport lines. The Irtysh River, a key transport, waterway, and the Trans-Siberian Railway were key to the city's development. Currently, Omsk is the largest industrial, scientific, and cultural center of West Siberia with a high social, scientific, and manufacturing potential. Here, more than 40 organizations, including the Omsk Scientific Center of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, are engaged in research and development.
Omsk at one time was regarded as the greenest city in Russia and the theater capital of Siberia. It is the birthplace of the artist Mikhail Vrubel and the famous General Dmitry Karbyshev. City transport in Omsk includes buses, trolleybuses, trams, and minibuses. Transportation is regular up to 8:00-9:00pm.
On his brief encounter with Omsk, Ian Frazier wrote in The New Yorker: “ The next days took us to and through the city of Omsk. I had been to Omsk twice before, but only at the airport. This city presented the usual row on row of crumbling high-rise apartment buildings, tall roadside weeds, smoky traffic, and blowing dust. For a moment, we passed an oasis scene—a crowded beach beside the Irtysh River, kids running into the water and splashing—before the urban grittiness resumed. Solzhenitsyn wrote in “The Gulag Archipelago” that he spent time in an ancient prison in Omsk that had once held Dostoyevsky, and that the prison’s three-meter-thick stone walls and vaulted ceilings resembled a dungeon in a movie. I had wanted to explore Omsk looking for this prison, but forgot that idea entirely in our collective eagerness to get out of Omsk. We stopped just to buy groceries, then sped on. [Source: Ian Frazier, The New Yorker, August 10 and 17, 2009, Frazier is author of “Travels in Siberia” (2010)]
Sights in Omsk City
Sights in Omsk include the preserved house of K. A. Batyushkin, where, during the Civil War, the apartment of Admiral A. V. Kolchak was situated. The building is now occupied by the Supreme Governor of Russia. During the Russian Civil War in the late 1910s and early 1920s, Omsk was the home of three governments: 1) the Provisional Siberian Government, 2) the Provisional All-Russian Government, and the 3) Russian Government of the Supreme Governor. The are many structures left from this period when Omsk was a stronghold of the “White Guard Russia”.
Dostoevsky Literary Museum is located in the city’s historical center, in one of the oldest buildings of Omsk, constructed in 1799. Fyodor Dostoevsky, convicted of participating in the Petrashevsky circle (a group of progressive-minded intellectuals imprisoned for challenging the tsarist government), spent four years at prison camp in Omsk. Many future novels, including Crime and Punishment, were based at least in some parts on his impressions and experience while in Omsk. The museum boasts an excellent, well-thought-out exhibition dedicated to the writer, and in the basement, a reconstructed 19th century prison cell is found. You can go down there and get a taste of the hard life the prisoners of the Omsk fortress used to live, even try on the shackles.The museum occupies a building of historical importance: the Commandant’s of the Omsk Fortress House (built 1799). This house was visited by F.M. Dostoevsky. In 2006, new exhibitions — “Dostoevsky and Siberia” and “Writers of Omsk” — were opened.
Lubinsky Avenue is the main street of the city’s historical center. Here you can find and an ensemble of architectural landmarks dating back to the late 19th-early 20th centuries. All of Omsk most prominent building are found here: the Omsk Academic Drama Theater, the Jubilee Bridge over the Om, the Cadet Corps, the Concert Hall, the St. Nicholas Cossack Cathedral, the Organ Hall, the Vrubel Museum of Art, and the Hermitage-Siberia Center.
Tarsky District became a place of exile soon after the city was founded in the 18th century. The first exiled people were peasants, artisans, delinquent riflemen, tradespeople, Lithuanian war prisoners and Poles. Many of the exiles remained in Omsk after they served their time because they had nowhere else to go. Today descendants of these exiles still live here and national dishes from the exile’s places of origin can be found. Bobrovka is a place where you can try Latvian cuisine. The Latvians have been living in this village since the 19th century. However, they were not exiles, they moved there voluntarily during the Stolypin reform.
Omsk fortress was erected in stages during the 18th-19th centuries to protect the southern borders from nomadic raids. Back in the days when Siberia was like the American Wild West, the barracks of the regiments that participated in the Patriotic War of 1812 stood there. Several surviving structures are concentrated in the fortress: the artillery store, engineering shop, treasury, Tobolsk and Irtysh gates, arsenal, kitchen/mess hall, and the Resurrection cathedral. some of them were restored in time for the city’s 300th anniversary.
History of Omsk started with the construction of the first Omsk fortress on the left bank the Om River. Peter the Great issued a decree in 1714 for Russian military forces to go deep into Siberia to find a "sandy gold" in Erkete. The man in charge of the expedition was Lieutenant Colonel Ivan D. Buchholz. After an unsuccessful campaign in 1716 two small redoubts were built at the mouth of the Om river to protect the military unit and its equipment. Then the first Omsk fortress was built in 1717. It was made of wood and covered an area of approximately six hectares. Castle defenses consisted of a three-meter-deep moat and a one-meter-high outer rampart. The main walls were comprised of 3.5-meter-high palisades dug deeply into the ground and made of tightly-placed-together birch logs. In the corners of the fortress were bastions on which the cannons and guns were positioned.
By the middle of the 18th century Omsk fortress was the focal point of the system of fortifications of the Upper-Irtysh, and later - Presnogorkoy line. However, despite the reconstruction and repair work, the fort gradually became obsolete and no longer meet the military requirements of the time. In the 1768 construction of a fortress began on the right bank of the Om. The fortress was one of the largest military facilities in the East and had a polygon plan enclosing an area of over 30 hectares. It had four bastions, three polubastiona and four gates: Omsk, Tara, Tobolsk and Irtysh. In the historical part of Omsk Tobolsk Gate survives. In 1991 Tara gate was restored and has become a kind of symbol of the city.
A distinctive feature of the new Omsk fortress were its stone structures. The first stone building, built in the fortress is now the oldest in the city. The first stone construction of Omsk was Resurrection Cathedral, founded in 1764 and built by the brothers Cherepanov. In 1920s, the church was closed by the Communists. In 1958 it was demolished.
Structures in the new Omsk fortress included a guardhouse building, which housed the commandant's staff, the fortress guards and garrisons (later Asian) school. Later a Lutheran church, topped by a wooden turret with a clock and a bell was built. At the end of the 18th century the fortress had of the parade ground, around which the architectural ensemble was situated. Among the buildings that have survived and have undergone restructuring and reconstruction, are the guardhouse building, the commandant's house (containing the Fyodor Dostoevsky Literary Museum) and the Lutheran Church (housing the ATC Museum) . All of these have been granted the status of historical and architectural monuments.
These days, buildings in the fortress house museums, art salons, workshops and exhibition spaces that host film screenings and performance and offices for staff of the historical and cultural complex. Six guided tours for groups and individual visitors are offered. Entrance to the fortress grounds is free, while a tour costs 100 rubles. A workshop where visitors can try their hand at weaving a belt with Russian spiritual pattern can be ordered for groups of 5 to 10 people. The cost is 1,000 rubles per group.
Arkhangelsk Sorority of the Holy Mother and St. Michael (60 kilometers southeast of Omsk) was founded near the Cossack village of Achair in 1905. In the late 1920s, like many monasteries, convents and churches it was closed and largely destroyed. In the 1930s, its territory became a penal colony for political prisoners and criminals, who were taken there by barges and wagons. The colony was designed for 800 to 900 people. The living conditions in the colony were very difficult: unheated barracks with very thin walls and floors, light clothes, thin cotton blankets in the -40 degree C Siberian cold. From 1938 to 1953, only one person managed to successfully escape.
A few days after Stalin's death, the colony was dissolved. Many documents were immediately destroyed and what remained of the monastery was blown up. In 1991, Theodosius, the Archbishop of Omsk and Tatarstan, announced the decision to rebuild the ensemble of Achairsky Convent of the Cross in memory of the victims of those times. Vitaliy Meshcheryakov, the director of the Rechnoy animal farm, located near Achair village, alloted 38 hectares for the construction, in memory of his father, who was a prisoner in this horrible colony. Today you can see the new Dormition Cathedral, a wooden summer church for weddings and other structures there.
Traveling Eastward from Omsk
Ian Frazier wrote in The New Yorker: “A day beyond Omsk, the vastness of the Barabinsk Steppe stretched before us. For hours at a time, the land was so empty and unmarked that it was almost possible to imagine we weren’t moving at all, and I often had trouble staying awake. Lenin himself had declared this a land “with a great future,” but what I saw resembled more the blankness of eternity. And yet it was not like other flat places I’ve seen. The Great Plains of America tend to undulate more than this steppe does, and when the Plains are flat-flat, as in southwest Texas, they’re also near-desert hardpan with only stunted brush and trees. On the Barabinsk Steppe, by contrast, stretches of real forest often appeared here and there, intruding into the flatland like the paws of a giant dog asleep just the other side of the horizon. [Source: Ian Frazier, The New Yorker, August 10 and 17, 2009, Frazier is author of “Travels in Siberia” (2010)]
“The villages now were fewer, and their names seemed to reach new levels of strangeness. In far-apart succession, we went through Klubnika (Strawberry), Sekty (Sects), and Chertokulich (hard to translate, but something like Devil Bread, according to Sergei). In the village of Kargat (meaning unknown, probably a Tatar word), we stopped for a break in the late afternoon. I sat in the van with the window open and my feet up, watching. First, a man went by on a motorcycle with a sidecar. In a few minutes, he passed by going in the other direction, with the sidecar now full of hay. A flock of sparrows burst from a cluster of bushes by the corner of a house with a noise like heavy rain. A moment later, a small hawk hopped from the bushes onto a nearby pile of firewood, looked around, hunched down, and flew off after them.
“A motorcycle again came by with its sidecar full of hay. I looked closely. It was definitely not the same as the previous motorcycle. This motorcycle’s driver was wearing an aviator’s hat with goggles, and the sidecar was blue, not brown. As I considered that, a tall, shapely woman came walking from a long distance up the road. She wore a plain dress and had curly black hair. She passed the van and I smiled at her. She did not smile back. Then a beat-up car lurched into sight towing an even more beat-up car. As the cars came near I saw that they were connected back to front by a loop made of two seat belts buckled to each other. That was the only time I ever saw a Russian use a seat belt for any purpose at all.
Lake Chany and Its Monster
Lake Chany (420 kilometers west of Novosibirsk, 300 kilometers east of Omsk) is one of the biggest lakes in the world, and the third largest in Siberia (after Baikal and Taymyr). The area of the lake exceeds 1,400 square kilometers but has a depth of only two to seven meters. The lake is almost 100 kilometers long and 60 kilometers wide. People living around the lake are convinced a monster lives in the lake. Ssome describe it as a giant lizard, while others claim it to be a giant snake. They say on numerous occasions the beast attacked the local fishermen. The easiest way to get to Lake Chany is by car.
The lake's shores are mostly covered with dense reeds. Chany consists of three lakes connected by canals: Bolshye Chany, Malye Chany, and Yarkul. Water in different parts of the lake has different levels of mineralization. In Malye Chany, where the Kargat River flows in, the water is fresh. In Bolshye Chany, it is subsaline, and in Yarkul, it is saline.
The water's composition provides it with therapeutic properties. Since the water in the lake is moderately saline, it influences the human body positively: it has a calming effect, normalizes a person's general condition, and improves a person's general physical and mental state; it also promotes purification of the body from waste and harmful substances.
The healing effect is provided not only by water, but by the air as well. The wind changes from quiet to strong and the air becomes saturated with evaporated salts and the intense scents of different herbs found on the Baraba steppe.
Lake Chany is a popular place for winter and summer fishing. Sixteen species of fish inhabit the lake: crucian carp, perch, mirror carp, ide, sander, roach, dace, bream, and others. In addition, Lake Chany is great place for birdwatching. Almost 300 species of birds live among its waters. Geese, ducks, swans, herons, cranes and even pelicans nest here. It is also home to one of the largest colonies of the common gull.
Water in the lake freezes in the second half of October or the first half of November, and unfreezes in May. There are almost 70 islands on the lake. The islands of Cheryomushkin, Kobyliy, Perekopnyi, Bekarev, Kalinova, Chinyaiha, Shipyagin, Kruglyi, Kolotov, Kamyshnyi are natural monuments and preserve unique landscapes containing rare spices of plants and animals.
Novosibirsk Oblast covers 178,200 square kilometers (68,800 square miles), is home to about 2.8 million people and has a population density of 15 people per square kilometer. About 77 percent of the population live in urban areas. The city of Novosibirsk is the capital and largest city, with about 1.6 million people, or about 57 percent of the oblast’s population.
Novosibirsk Oblast is located in the south of the West Siberian Plain between the Ob and Irtysh Rivers. The oblast borders Omsk Oblast in the west, Tomsk Oblast in the north, Kemerovo Oblast in the east, and Altai Krai and Kazakhstan in the south. The oblast extends for more than 600 kilometers (370 miles) from west to east, and for over 400 kilometers (250 miles) from north to south. The oblast is mainly plains and steppes in the south with huge expanses of forests and marshes in the north. The landscape starts its transition to a low mountain relief at Salair ridge. There are many lakes. The largest ones are located in the south. The majority of the rivers belong to the Ob basin, many of them falling into lakes with no outlets. Among the largest lakes are Chany, Sartlan and Ubinskoye.
Although Novosibirsk is the third largest city in Russia, it is not a center for tourism; most visitors come here on business. Nevertheless, there is plenty to see and do in the oblast including ski resorts, Zveroboy cliffs, Barsukovskaya Cave and Lake Karachi. The nature reserves and pine forests are great places to enjoy outdoor sports, walk, look at nature and gather mushrooms and berries. You can learn about the history of the Trans-Siberian Railway at the Museum of Railway Transport and exercise your brain in the city's Academic Town. Travel to the Ordynsky District and find out about the twists and turns of the last battle for Siberia between the Cossacks and the army of Kuchum Khan. Lake Chany is said to be the home of a Loch-Ness-like monster.. You can also visit the Bugrinsky Bridge; climb the Pikhtovy Ridge, the highest point of the region (495 meters) and go boating in vast Ob Sea.
Getting There: A flight from Moscow to Novosibirsk costs RUB 16,000 (adult round-trip ticket) and takes four hours. An economy class round-trip train ticket from Moscow for one adult costs RUB 7,000, and the journey takes from 48 to 55 hours. Novosibirsk is a stop on the Trans-Siberian Railway About ten major train routes from different directions go through Novosibirsk, including Moscow-Vladivostok and Moscow- Beijing. Transport in the Region: Buses from Novosibirsk bus station go to all major cities and districts of Novosibirsk Oblast, as well as many places in nearby regions. A Round-trip bus tickets to Tomsk costs RUB 1,520 per adult; a ticket to Barnaul costs RUB 1,300 (round-trip, per adult);, and a ticket to Kemerovo is RUB 2,000 (round-trip, per adult).
Novosibirsk (kilometer 3343 on the Trans-Siberian Railway) is the largest city in Siberia and the third largest in Russia, with 1.6 million people. Located where the Trans-Siberian Railway crosses the mighty Ob River and founded in 1893, it grew into an important city in the 1920s when it became a major transport center and expanded greatly in World War II, when weapons factories were located there out of range of Nazi attacks. More than 50 defense plants were rebuilt in Novosbrink.
An industrial city about halfway between the Urals and Lake Baikal, Novosibirsk is the capital of Novosibirsk oblast, with about 57 percent of the oblast’s population living there. Just over a century ago it was a village with less than 700 people. No other place in Russia has experienced such astounding growth in such a short period of time. Novosibirsk is situated on the Priobskoe plateau near a reservoir, which is officially called Novosibirsk reservoir but is more commonly known as the Ob Sea. The right-bank part of Novosibirsk features many ravines, low ridges, and gullies.
Novosibirsk is a scientific, cultural, industrial, transportation, trade and business center of Siberia. It is the largest industrial center in Siberia, and a rail, river, and air transportation hub. The Siberian branch of the world-famous Academy of Science is located here. The huge railway station of the city, one of the largest in the country, has become a symbol of Novosibirsk, along with the letters on its roof which say: “Novosibirsk the Main”.
History of Novosibirsk
The first Russian settlement in the territory of modern Novosibirsk dates back to the last decade of the 17th century the beginning of Peter the Great's rule. At that time the village Krivoshchekovskaya (“Crooked Cheek”) was set up. It is named after a serviceman from Tomsk, Fyodor Krenitsyn, dubbed Crooked Cheek for the saber scar on his face.
At least until 1712, Krivoshchekovskaya acted as a trade center between the Russians and the Teleuts, who owned the lands on the other side of the Ob River. The settlement in the territory of modern Novosibirsk developed at various rates in different areas. The Russian colonialists preferred to settle on the left bank. By the end of the 18th century, this area was completely populated by Russians as most of the Teleuts had left. A Teleut fortress of one of the tribes and a few tribesmen remained they were subordinate to the Russians. Russian people called them the Chuts and, probably, did not really like them, as they only settled on the left shore.
Novosibirsk was known as Novonikolayevsk when it was formally founded in 1896. It was renamed Novosibirsk in 1925. The became a trade center during the building of the Trans-Siberian Railroad and after it was completed. During World War II entire industrial plants were moved here from area vulnerable to Nazi attacks in the western Soviet Union.
Accommodation in Novosibirsk
Novosibirsk is considered to be the capital of Siberia — naturally, the hotels here also meet the standards of a capital city. For example, the 4-star Doubletree Hilton Novosibirsk offers its visitors a variety of facilities, including a gym, business center, swimming pool, spa, restaurant and a bar, as well as a seven-room conference center. A room with a king size bed goes for RUB 11,000 per night. A Junior Suite with king size bed costs RUB 14,990 per night. The Presidential Suite is RUB 39,750 per night.
If you've arrived here by train you can find the 4-star Marins Park Hotel Novosibirsk just 300 meters away form the station. Standard room with a king-size bed costs RUB 2300 per night. A luxury suite costs RUB 7830 per night. In addition, female visitors might be interested in the hotel's beauty salon, while men can enjoy its snooker and pool club.
Hostels in Novosibirsk: BigBen has rooms for RUB 550 per night and a places in a room with four people in bunk beds for RUB 300 per night; At FunKey Hostel you can stay in a room for four people with bunk beds for RUB 500 per night, room for two people for RUB 1,600 per night.
Sights in Novosibirsk
Novosbirisk is not an old city. It was founded only in 1893. There are not many churches or old buildings and it has a very Soviet atmosphere. And, although Novosibirsk is the third largest city in Russia, it is not a center for tourism; most visitors come here on business. But that doesn’t mean there is nothing to see or do. Novosbirisk is home of the largest zoo in Russia and a large number of museums and theaters. The city boasts the largest Scientific and Technical Library and the largest railway station in Siberia. Among the places of interesti are a local studies museum, an art gallery, the Russian Institute of Archeology and Ethnography, Alexandre Nevsky Cathedral, recently restored and returning to working status, and the Central Park.
Probably the most famous feature of the city is Academgorodok (“the Academic City”), a place with relatively small area where more than twenty scientific and educational institutions are located. Cafe-club “Under the Integral” of Academgorodok has become one of the symbols of the “Khrushchev thaw”: for example, it is here that Alexander Galich had his only public concert in the U.S.S.R. The Pazyryk lady — one of the greatest archaeological finds in Russia — is (or was) displayed at the Russian Institute of Archeology and Ethnography The central market draws traders from all over Siberia.
Novosibirsk was built according to a preconceived plan, as were its main architectural landmarks. The main street is Krasny Avenue (former Nikolaevskiy Avenue). If the city's opera house seemed huge to you, you are right —it is the largest theater building of the former U.S.S.R. If you are feeling something Parisian in the city's landscape, it means you are walking past the 100-Flat Building (Krasny Prospekt 16). You will find wooden merchant mansions, red-brick houses from the years of Trans-Siberian Railway construction and even an example of the contemporary 21st century architecture — the unusual “walking” building of the Center of Information Technology.
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (on Krasny Avenue) is the grandest church in Novosibirsk. It honors honors St. Duke Alexander Nevsky, the 13th century defender of the Russian Land. It is the first city’s stone church and one of the first stone buildings in Novosibirsk, In 1896 Tsar Nicholas II granted a piece of land for the construction of the cathedral and donated 5000 rubles to the cathedral construction and 6500 rubles to the iconostasis. In 1899 Nicholas II gave priest and diacon vestments, made of precious gold brocade, which had covered the coffin of the Grand Duke George Alexandrovich. He also donated to the cathedral icons of the Athos letter: the Iverskaya Icon of the Mother of God and the Icon of the Great-Martyr and Healer Panteleimon.
Novosibirsk State Academic Opera and Ballet Theater
The Novosibirsk State Academic Opera and Ballet Theater building is the largest theater building in the former Soviet Union. It required complicated architectural techniques to build. The most unique part of the building is its dome, which 60 meters in diameter and 35 meters high but only 8 centimeters thick. This dome was the first in Europe to be constructed without girders or buttresses. The roof of the dome is covered with thousands of silvery tiles that contributes in overall splendid appearance of the Theater. One cannot visit the main square of the city without being delighted with The Novosibirsk State Academic Opera and Ballet Theater.
Founded in May 12, 1945, and nicknamed “A Peer of the Victory” (as it opened when World War II was finally ending), the theater has hosted about 350 premieres and capital reconstruction of classical opera and ballet productions since 1945. Classical opera and ballet performances forms the basis of its repertoire but at the same time “The Siberian Coliseum” is at the cutting edge of modern theater life, ready to offer you modern up-to-date performances. The Novosibirsk State Academic Opera and Ballet Theater took part in global international projects implemented under the auspices of UNESCO.
The Novosibirsk State Academic Opera and Ballet Theater company is (was) so good it has been called the "Bolshoi of Siberia". During foreign tours the ballet and opera company successfully performed such productions as: “The Sleeping Beauty”, “The Nutcracker”, “Swan Lake”, “Spartacus”, “Legend of Love”, “Carmen”, “Boris Godunov”, “Prince Igor”, “Khovanschina”, “Dame Pique”, “Otello”, “Galka”, “Tosca” and many others. The leading opera and ballet soloists are often invited to foreign tours. Some of the performances in Novosibirsk feature foreign or non-company actors and dancers.
Theaters in Novosbirisk
It has been said that Novosbirisk has to keep its large population entertained, especially when you considers what a long winter the city’s residents have to endure, and that is why there are so many theater, opera and ballet companies in the city.
Among the theaters in Novosbirisk are: 1) Novosibirsk Drama Theater Red Torch founded in 1920 in Odessa by a group of young actors and relocated in Novosbirisk in 1932; 2) Novosibirsk City Drama Theater, stringly influenced by its longtime author, founder and artistic director Sergey Afanasiev; 3) Novosibirsk State Drama Theater Old House, whose repertoire is primarily classical texts but also with ultra-modern stagings; 4) Theater La Pushkin, which opened under Oleg Zhukovsky in 1999 in Dresden and came to Novosibirsk in 2013.
Youth and Puppet Theaters include: 1) Novosibirsk Academic Youth Theater Globus, the largest center in Siberia for the aesthetic and spiritual education of children and youth; 2) Novosibirsk Youth Theater Drama, founded in 2008. 3) Novosibirsk Regional Puppet Theater, opened in 1934 and today has a repertoire of more than 25 performances and is often on tour; and 4) Puppet Theater Cdc Them. Stanislavsky, opened in 2011.
Among the music oriented theaters are: 1) the Novosibirsk State Academic Opera and Ballet Theater (See Above); and 2) the Novosibirsk Musical Theater, opened in 1959 and now regarded as one of Russia's leading musical
Among the modern and avant garde theaters are Theater A Clockwork Orange, founded in 1997 by a group of leading actors of the academic theaters Red Torch and the Globe; 2) Theater Company Akademgorodok, featuring audience stories that actors create on the spot with no rehearsed roles, or even stage design; 3) Studio Theater The First House, established in 2008 by graduates of Novosibirsk State Theater Institute in 2008; 4) City Drama Theater On the Edge, located on city’s outskirts and found in 2005; and 5) Novosibirsk City Drama Theater On the Left Bank, one of the youngest theater collectives of Novosibirsk; created in 1997.
Museum of Death
The Museum of World Funeral Culture (unofficially known as The Museum of Death), was established by Sergei Yakushkin, the founder of the Novosibirsk crematorium. The museum's collection includes 19th century mourning dresses, hearse models, as well as engravings, paintings, sculptures, photos and postcards depicting death and funerals.
The museum collection numbers more than 1 million items, which are divided into collections on various topics, including the world's largest collection of postcards on the theme of death, which includes copies from the late 19th- early 20th century. There are also death masks, family memorials, exclusive funerary urns, coffins, copies of famous historical figures, paintings, sculptures, photographs, old books, household items and much more.
Of particular interest are: 1) unique mourning outfits from the 19th-20th centuries, which are annually used in the funeral parade of fashion in the museum and outside it; 2) a collection of old prints of famous Russian and foreign engravers; 3) works on the themes of death, mourning ceremonies, funerals of famous people; and 4) funeral carriages and hearses, including classic American ones from the 20th-21st centuries The history of funeral vehicles can be clearly traced back to the exhibits presented in the museum. There are the models made to scale, and actual samples.
Museum of World Funeral Culture is Russia's only museum of this kind. It is located in the Park o Memories of the Novosibirsk crematorium in the village of Sunrise in Novosibirsk region. The museum is part of the International Association of Museums of death and included in the program of conservation of world heritage funeral culture at UNESCO. Many visitors claim this museum has made them appreciate their life more. Address: Sunrise, st. Voentorgovskaya 4/16 Hours: 11:00am to 7:00pm; Closed: Monday; Phones:+7 (383) 363-03-29; + 7-913-712-3709 Entrance ticket prices can be found on the museum's website:musei-smerti.ru.
Novosibirsk Zoo and Aquarium
Novosibirsk Zoo is one said to be the biggest zoo in Russia. Spread over 65 hectares, it is home to home to 11,000 animals and birds in of landscapes ranging from African savannah to Arctic sea ice. About a half of the animal species found here are rare. Among these are tree-dwelling prehensile-tailed porcupines from South America; rusty-spotted cats from Southeast Asia; miniature dik-dik antelopes; and red flamingos. The zoo is open from 9:00am to 7:00pm. The entrance ticket prices are RUB 300 (for an adult ticket) and RUB 150 (for a reduced-fare ticket)
The Center of Oceanography and Marine Biology “Delfinia” is a unique facility for Siberia: a a large-scale aquarium in the middle of an industrial city in the taiga far from the seas and oceans and operates all year round. The halls of the complex cover more than 8000 square meters and its pools, basins and aquariums hold about 2.7 million liters of water. “Delphinia” can accommodate up to 650 spectators at once. It unique dome, which allows natural light in, helping to warm the place even on the coldest days.
Pacific bottlenose dolphins, white beluga whales, belugas, South American sea lions and the Pacific walrus perform for spectators. Also, along with performances of dolphins and sea animals, there is the aquarium with a tunnel that passes through the aquarium. The facility has 28 aquariums. There are more than 300 species of fish and marine animals, such as moray eels, stingrays, sharks and other inhabitants of seas and oceans.
History and Architecture Open Air Museum
Institute of Archeology and Ethnography of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (near Novosibirsk State University) opened in 1981. The first architectural object was the bell tower of the church from the polar city of Zashiversk, brought to Akademgorodok in 1969 as a result of the Institute expedition. The church itself was transported in 1971. The IAESB of the RAS museum covers the area of 46.5 hectares. Several recreational zones and archaeological, ethnographic, architectural monuments and an experimental site are located on it. Another exhibition is housed in the administrative building.
The central exhibit in the architectural monument area is the masterpiece of Russian wooden architecture, the Church of the Increate Savior from the Zashiverski Ostrog, built by the philistine Andrei Khabarov in 1700. The monument was donated to the Siberian Branch of the Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R. by the government of the Yakut Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic and was transported from the banks of the Indigirka River.
The Yuil (Kazym) jail, a monument to the era of the Siberian development by the Russian population, from the Lower Ob region is partly exhibited on the museum territory. The third architectural object is the peasant household of Russian Eastern Siberia. There's a separate archaeological zone, where stone steles and statues of various eras, from the Paleolithic to the Middle Ages, are represented. A polygon with the reconstructions of tools and devices for catching animals and hunting is located in the zone as well. The ethnographic zone is a reconstruction of the Mansi family shrine.
In 2012, after the construction of the administrative building, an exhibition dedicated to the culture of the Slavic population of Siberia was opened on the second floor. The commissioning of the administrative building allowed conducting master classes and mass events.
Travel agencies offers one-day and overnight cross-country ski outings in the region during the winter, picnics during the summer and trips to Russian bathhouse where you get to whack yourself with birch boughs and everything, year round. Novosbirisk is a jumping place for trips in the Altay Mountains, Kazakhstan and Central Asia. The 1,442-kilometer Turkestan-Siberia Railway to Alma Ata branches off here.
Big Horde Ring Tours (70 kilometers southwest of Novosibirsk) are tours organized in Ordynsky District. The Ordynskoye Koltso (The Horde Ring) is a chain of local historical and cultural landmarks that includes: 1) the site of the Battle of Irmen (August 20, 1598), the last battle for Siberia between the Cossacks and the army of Kuchum Khan; 2) the church in the village of Chingis, reconstructed on the site of the original consecrated in 1756, featuring unique murals made of colored clay rather than not with paints. The tours cost RUB 1,500–2,000 per one person.
Akademgorodok (32 kilometers south Novosibirsk) means "Academic City". Founded in 1958, it is a former center of military research that attracted the best and brightest scientist from all over Russia and put them to work designing atomic bombs, sophisticated missile systems and other weapons and defensive systems.
During the Soviet era, the scientists enjoyed high salaries and many perks. They came up with grand schemes like using nuclear bombs to dig canals and changing the courses of rivers that "wastefully" flowed into the Arctic Ocean.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Akademgorodok fell on hard times. Scientist suddenly found themselves without wages and goals. Some where paid by the United States to keep from revealing weapons secrets to Iran and Iraq. In the 2000s, the research center was reborn as "Silicon Taiga," the home of 120,000 people and many computer, software and Internet firms.
Akademgorodok is a pleasant place full of terraces and well planned neighborhoods. One of the main gathering places is the "Ob Sea," a 200 square kilometer reservoir that is used for swimming and boating in the summer and skating and fishing in the winter. Thee is also a variety of museums.
Heading East from Novosibirsk
Ian Frazier wrote in The New Yorker: ““Ravens and Crows—For weeks as we drove, flocks of ravens and hooded crows remained a constant, ubiquitous in western Siberia no less than in St. Petersburg. The birds are easy to tell apart, because the ravens are all black, the hooded crows black and gray. On the Barabinsk Steppe, both kinds sometimes wheeled in great numbers that vivified the blank sky above the wide-open horizon. Past the city of Novosibirsk, however, it suddenly occurred to me that although I was still seeing ravens, I hadn’t seen any hooded crows for a while. I began keeping a special watch for them, and did see a few stragglers. But after another few hundred kilometers no more hooded crows appeared. [Source: Ian Frazier, The New Yorker, August 10 and 17, 2009, Frazier is author of “Travels in Siberia” (2010) ]
“Prisons—Sometimes I caught a glimpse of a prison, but invariably it went by too fast. Prisons cropped up in unexpected places on the outskirts of a city. Suddenly, I’d see a guard in boots carrying a machine gun and standing on a catwalk directly above an exercise yard. But always, it seemed, we were in traffic and couldn’t stop. Outside Novosibirsk, I saw derelict guard towers, tumbledown buildings, and drooping barbed wire in a broad, open place beside the road. Whenever I pointed to such a site, Sergei and Volodya would say, “Military,” without even turning their heads. My ongoing search for prisons did not sit well with either of them. After a while, I decided that pursuing it too much was impolite, and I let it drop for the time being.
“Pigs—Although roaming herds of pigs were occasional in villages in western Siberia, east of Novosibirsk they became more common. Now every village we went through seemed to have big gangs of them. Because the weather was so hot, the pigs had generally been wallowing in a mudhole just before they got up to amble wherever we happened to see them ambling. Evidently, the wallowing technique of some pigs involved lying with just one side of themselves in the mud. This produced two-tone animals—pigs that were half wet, shiny brown mud, and half pink, relatively unsoiled original pig. The effect was striking—sort of harlequin. The other animals that roamed the villages in groups were geese. When a herd of pigs came face to face with a flock of geese, an unholy racket of grunting and gabbling would ensue. I wondered if the villagers ever got tired of the noise. Whether challenging pigs or not, the village geese seemed to gabble and yak and hiss non-stop. The pigs grunted and oinked almost as much, but always at some point the whole herd of pigs would suddenly fall silent, and their megaphone-shaped ears would go up, and for half a minute every pig would listen.
“Birthplace of Volodya—About a half-day past Novosibirsk, we passed close by a town called Yashkino. Seeing it on our road map, Volodya remarked that he had been born there. His mother’s people were originally from this area, he said. His father, a tank officer who had been stationed in the Far East at the end of the war, had met his mother while crossing Siberia on his way back to western Russia. Volodya was still a baby when he and his parents left Yashkino, so he had no memory of it; no relatives he knew of still lived there. He felt no need to go there.
“Cottage Cheese—Called tvorog in Russian, this was a favorite lunch of Volodya’s and Sergei’s. Usually it could be obtained in very fresh supply from the grannies along the road. Sergei and Volodya especially liked their tvorog drenched in smetana (“sour cream”). I got to like it that way, too. Once or twice, we had tvorog so smetanoi not only for lunch but for a snack later in the day. The only drawback to this diet was that it made us smell like babies. And as we were able to bathe only infrequently our basic aroma became that of grownup, dusty, sweaty babies: the summertime smell of Mongols, in other words.
“Talk Radio—There is talk radio in Russia just as in America, and call-in radio shows, and “shock jock” hosts who say outlandish things. Sergei and Volodya enjoyed listening to these shows sometimes. Usually I understood nothing that was said on the radio, except for one time when the host told a joke that Sergei and Volodya both laughed at. I picked out the word “Amerikantsi,” so I knew the joke was about Americans. I asked them to tell me the joke, but they wouldn’t. I kept bugging them, but Sergei said the joke was not important. Finally, when he was off doing something in the campsite, I asked Volodya about the joke again, and he told it to me. The joke was: “Why do American men want to be present when their wives are in childbirth?” Answer: “Because maybe they weren’t present during conception.”
Ob River (flowing northeast of Novosibirsk and Tomsk) is the forth longest river in the world if you include its major tributary the Irtysh River and the seventh longest without it. The westernmost of three great rivers of Asiatic Russia, the Ob is 3,650 kilometers (2,270 miles) long and is an important commercial waterway that transports goods back and forth between the Trans-Siberian Railway and the resource rich regions of northern Siberia. Since it is frozen over half the year activity on the river is concentrated mostly in the summer months. The Ob-Irtysh is over 5570 kilometers (3461 miles) long
The Ob and the Irtysh River begin in the Altay Mountains, a range located near where Russia, China, Kazakhstan and Mongolia all come together, and flow northward. Although the Ob and the Irtysh begin at points within a couple of hundred miles of one another the two rivers don't join until the Irytysh has traveled over 1,600 kilometers (1000 miles). Once the two rivers have dropped down out of the highlands the meander lazily through open steppes, then rich farmland, and meet in flat, swampy plains, where the width of river ranges between a half a kilometer and a kilometer and a half. The Ob then passes through fir and spruce forests of West Siberia, then through Arctic tundra before finally emptying into the Kara Sea, an arm of the Arctic Ocean.
The Ob is one of the great Asiatic Russian rivers (the Yenisei and the Lena are the other two). According to the Guinness Book of World Records, it has the longest estuary (550 miles long and up to 50 miles wide) and is widest river that freezes solid. The mouth of the river on the Arctic Ocean is ice free only a couple of months a year. Huge flood sometimes form in the spring when high waters fed by melting snow and ice meet still frozen section of the river.
The main city on the Ob is Novosibirsk. Parts of the Ob are very polluted and nearly void of life. At the mouth of the river so much land has been degraded by gas exploration that huge chunks of permafrost land have literally melted into the sea. [Source: Robert Paul Jordan, National Geographic, February 1978, ♬]
Traveling on the Ob and Irtysh Rivers
There is a regualr ferry the Ob and Irtysh Rivers that travels between Omsk – Tobolsk – Khanty-Mansiysk – Berezovo and Salekhard (Yamal Nenets Autonomous Region). Omsk and Tobolsk both have train stations on the Trans-Siberian Railway. Khanti-Mansiysk is accessible by bus from Tyumen, which has a train station. After Khanti-Mansiysk you are beyond the road network. As well as the major stops listed on the route above, the boat also stops at plenty of isolated indigenous villages in between them. Salekhard is the only city in the world located exactly on the Arctic Circle.
The name of the ferry is the Rodina. It travels three times a month in June and September and four times a month in July and August. Going from Salekhard to Omsk: Day 1): departs Salekhard at 5:00pm; Dat 2) stops at Berezovo for 30 minutes ay 7:30pm; Day 3) stops at Oktobraskaya Market for one hour. Day 4) stops at Khanty-Mansiysk for two hours at 8:00am; Day 6) one hour stop in Tobolsk at 7:30. Day 9) arrive in Omsk at 3:00pm. Traveling the other direction, with the current, takes one third less time.
On the Salekhard - Tobolsk - Omsk trip on person posted on Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree forum in 2013: “I'll start by saying that this boat is amazingly good value for money. Here some example prices. The first is for beds in the common area, similar to platzkart on the train, the second is for a bed in a private 4-, 6-, or 8 bed cabin and the third is for a bed in a private 2 bed cabin. 1) Salekhard - Omsk (8 days): 1162 / 1437 / 3926 roubles; 2) Salekhard - Tobolsk (5 days): 774 / 969 / 2632 roubles; 3) Tobolsk - Khanty-Mansiysk (2 days): 429 / 526 / 1394 roubles. Children go half price!
“Tickets can be bought in advance at the airport in Salekhard or on the boat itself an hour before departure (it's apparently never full). Most people get off at one of the stops in the first 24 hours when going south from Salekhard, leaving only one or two people in most of the cabins for most of the route. The beds are comfortable , both longer and wider than on trains. Everything is cleaned several times a day, there's a shower, laundry, restaurant with simple but tasty meals and alcohol. Breakfast about 70 roubles, lunch and dinner 150 - 300, beer 50 - 80, wine, vodka and so on also available. Theres also a small room where films are shown starting in the afternoon and a shop selling all sorts of useful stuff such as toiletries, mugs, books.
“You can walk around on deck as much as you want or sit and read a book on the benches up there. The scenery is more or less the same all the way - endless taiga forest with absolutely no sign of civilisation. There are a few villages such as Pitlyar for which the boat is their only access to the outside world and a couple of towns where you can get off the boat and walk around - Beryozovo 24 hours after Salekhard and Khanty-Manskiysk 3 days from Salekhard. From Khanty Mansiysk there are regular buses to Tyumen on the Trans Siberian which take 8 hours. At Tobolsk the boat stops next to the stunning kremlin, the only one in Siberia.
“Anyone can freely sail the whole route between Omsk and Pitlyar, a small village of 500 and the last stop before Salekhard. Salekhard and areas north are closed to outsiders, Russian or otherwise, unless they get a temporary permit. See the Yamal Peninsula link in my signature line for how to get this permit. Permit in hand, you can continue the journey north from Salekhard a further two days to Antipayuta, well beyond the Arctic Circle, with a similar level of comfort and price.
“It sails the whole route from June to September and once in October from Khanty-Mansiysk to Omsk. Check www.irsc.ru for timetables and fares. Only about half the boats from Salekhard go as far as Omsk, the rest stopping in Tobolsk. Eg in July and August, the most frequent sailing months, 6 boats go from Salekhard - Tobolsk each month but only 3 continue to Omsk. Check the timetable carefully when planning if you want to sail all the way to Omsk!”
Tomsk Oblast is situated in the heart of Western Siberia and, some say, is the best place to experience real Siberian nature: the endless taiga forests, rivers, lakes and swamps. It covers 316,900 square kilometers (122,400 square miles), is home to about 1 million people and has a population density of only 3.3 people per square kilometer. About 70 percent of the population live in urban areas. The city of Tomsk is the capital and largest city, with about 525,000 people. Website: The Tourist Portal of Tomsk Oblast: travel-tomsk.ru
Attractions include unique museums, fun festivals, fishing, hunting, and folk crafts. The region has a rich intellectual tradition: Tomsk contains the oldest university in Siberia. If you have the time take a flight to the remote, isolated towns of Strezhevoy and Kedrovy to see the unusual lifestyle of the people there. For adventure head off into the taiga or penetrate the Vasyugan marshes. Pine nuts are the oblast’s symbol. There are many fine examples of Siberian wooden architecture.
Getting There: A round-trip air ticket from Moscow to Tomsk costs about RUB 23,000. The travel time is 4 hours 30 minutes. A branch off the Trans-Siberian Railway reaches Tomsk. A ticket for express train No. 038N from Moscow to Tomsk will run you RUB 11,000 for a round trip in third class. The one-way travel time is 54 hours 40 minutes. When flying from Saint-Petersburg to Tomsk, you will have to make a transfer in Moscow. The travel time is seven and a half to eight hours. A round trip costs you ca. RUB 30,000. If you decided to take a train from St. Petersburg, you’ll need to transfer in Moscow, Novosibirsk or Vladimir. A third class round trip ticket will set you back about RUB 15,000. The travel time is up to 60 hours.
Transport in the Region: Some of the districts of the Tomsk region are in remote areas, accessible only by air or water. Tomsk airport offers flights to the towns of Strezhevoy and Kedrovy. The historic village of Narym, known from 1598, can be reached by water in the summer, on a snow road in the winter, or by air in autumn and spring.
Tomsk (170 miles northeast of Novosibirsk, kilometers 3771 on the Trans-Siberian at Taiga is where you catch the branch line to Tomsk) is one of Siberia's oldest cities. Founded in 1604, it went into decline when it was by bypassed by the Trans-Siberian Railway, but was later reborn as a nuclear research facility. The city and oblast is named after the Tom River which flows through the city.
Tomsk is the capital and largest city ot Tomsk oblast , with about 525,000 people. It is home to several universities, an active academic community and many old wooden houses. There is a fine arts and local studies museum, a botanical garden, a Polish cathedral and the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral.
Tomsk is regarded as the educational, scientific and entrepreneurial center of Siberia, and also maintains the title of historic city. More than 100 monuments of wooden architecture of the 18th-19th centuries are preserved here, more than 700 houses are included in the program of preservation of a unique architectural landscape. At the same time, a special technical and innovation type economic zone operates in Tomsk. Large scientific forums and conferences are regularly held here.
Accommodation: There is a wide range of hotels to suite a range of tastes and budgets.The Scandinavia four-star hotel at Mikushina street, 12, boasts excellent location and rooms from a basic single standard (RUB 3,325 a night) to luxury (RUB 9,025). The hotel has a restaurant and a laundry room. Transfers are available for visitors on arrival or departure. Guided tours can be booked in the hotel with English-speaking guides available. The Gogol Hotel at Gogol street, 36A is a small hotel with only 24 rooms in downtown Tomsk. The prices range from RUB 3,600 for a basic room to RUB 8,000 for a premium suite. The hotel boasts a sauna, a Turkish bath and a steam room. Hostel prices in Tomsk begin from 480 rubles, although the amenities will naturally be very basic at this rate. Apartments can be rented from 1,500 rubles per day.
History of Tomsk
The history of the city of Tomsk begins in 1604, with Tsar Boris Godunov giving the order “to put the city in a strong place”. In the spring of 1604 the Cossacks, led by V. Tyrkov and G. Pisemsky, arrived on the territory of present-day Tomsk with the order to establish a military fortress and settlement here. It was decided to put a prison on the right bank of the Tom river, as this place was protected on its three sides by nature: by bogs, a river and a steep precipice. The ledge, on which the prison was placed, was later called the Resurrection Mountain. In the 17th century, Tomsk was the most important strategic military center of Siberia and withstood attacks by nomads and hostile tribes.
In the 18th century, the borders of the Russian state moved closer to the north and east, the nomadic raids ceased and Tomsk lost its importance as the military center of Siberia. From the middle of the 18th century, Tomsk became a place of exiles. Many streets in Tomsk are named after the exiles: the disgraced writer A.N. Radishchev, Decembrist G.N. Batenkov, and the ideologist of anarchist M.A. Bakunin.
After 1804, when Tomsk was chosen as the administrative center of the new province, the first stone buildings began to appear, churches were built, and an administrative center of the city was formed. Around this time more than 25,000 people lived in Tomsk. From the middle of the 19th century, Tomsk began to grow and develop rapidly. Thanks to the gold mines discovered in the Tomsk area, many hotels, shops, and, along with them, mansions of wealthy merchants, were built. By the 19th century, Tomsk, was a major trade center, a role that was affirmed when a railway line reached the city in 1896.
In 1888, Siberia Imperial Tomsk University (now Tomsk State University) opened in Tomsk, which still attracts thousands of students throughout Russia and the CIS countries. The first technical university in Trans-Urals, now known as the Tomsk Polytechnic University, opened soon afterwards. Around this time the first theater was organized, three public libraries opened and the Department of the Russian Musical Society was launched. Tomsk suffered during the period of the 1917 Revolution and the Civil War. Afterwards it went decline as began moving to the fast-growing Novosibirsk.
During World War II, about 30 enterprises were transferred from the European part of Russia to Tomsk, which kicked off the city’s industrial development. After the war, the city got a second wind. In the 1960s, Tomsk industry begins to grow and the city became a major scientific center and attention was paid to the architecture of the city.
Tomsk, Nuclear Weapons and Contamination
In the Cold War era, Tomsk was a secret city. It was one of the main nuclear weapons sites in the Urals and Siberia. Plutonium production and weapons-grade uranium enrichment and processing was carried out there. It is considered one of the three most potentially dangerous nuclear sites in Russia.
Nuclear reactors used to create weapons-grade plutonium outside Tomsk were connected to the city by four steel pipes, each 4 feet in diameter, that carried steam from the reactors 19 miles away to heat apartments and homes in the nine-month winter. The city depended on the reactors for about a forth of its heat.
In 1993, a 9,246-gallon tank full of plutonium and uranium exploded at the Tomsk-7 nuclear installation. A northwest wind blew radioactive material to nearby villages and towns. After the disaster radioactive material began being injected into the earth
Sights in Tomsk
In Tomsk, be sure to take a walk through the old city, among the red-brick merchant mansions and wooden houses adorned with lacy carving. After that maybe check out the university areas. Tomsk, a small city compared to, say, Moscow, has ten large higher education institutions. As a result, a quarter of the locals are students. Every year university graduates cover the boots of the monument to Sergei Kirov in bright paint, scarlet or yellow. Back in his day, the famous revolutionary studied at the local university, also engaging in clandestine activities under the “Serge” alias. In 2016, Kirov was painted to resemble Superman with his red boots and blue overalls.
Tomsk is a city with a great sense of humor. Only here you can find a monument to the Lover, a fat man in baggy underwear clinging onto a window sill of the house on Bakunin street, 3. On the quay another well-known monument shows Chekhov drunk in a ditch. Why is Tomsk’s Chekhov depicted like that? Ask the locals when you’re in Tomsk. On Shevchenko, 19/1, you can find a bronze caste of the Wolf who muttered: “Gonna sing now!”
Tomsk Regional Art Museum contains paintings by famous Russian and Soviet masters such as Orest Kiprensky, Valentin Serov, Vasily Tropinin, Boris Kustodiev, and Georgy Choros-Gurkin as well as European art with masterpieces by such artists as David Teners, Jr. (17th century) and a collection of icons from different eras starting with 17th century.
Mansion of the Merchant Golovanov (intersection of Soldier (now Krasnoarmeyskaya) and Yarlykovskoy (now Kartashov)) is surrounded by towering pine trees and has a octagonal tower with a spire topped with a tent. Also known as the Russian-German House and built in 1902, it is the former house of the Tomsk merchant G.M. Golovanov,. The facades have decorative elements that bring to mind smooth terrain forms of different conifers and deciduous trees. And this blends with the silhouette of the main tent and the surrounding firs and pines.
“2+Ku” (Two plus Dolls) is the name of the theater, conceived and created by Vladimir Zakharov, a Tomsk master puppeteer who helped adults and children alike explore the real world through a fairy tale. In 2004, for the 400th anniversary of Tomsk, the theater — also known as the Theater of Living Dolls — moved into its own building, a wooden house resembling a fairy tale outside and inside. In 2019, Zakharov died in a fire. But the theater is still active. These days, its repertoire consists of twelve plays for children and adults.
Tomsk Memorial NKVD Prison Museum is housed in the former prison of the Tomsk Municipal Department of the Joint State Political Directorate-NKVD. The building was constructed in 1864-1866. From 1923 to 1944, it basements housed the internal prison of the Tomsk OGPU-NKVD department
Established in 1989, the Tomsk Memorial NKVD Prison Museum was the first museum of the history of political repressions to appear in the post-Soviet landscape. It’s aim is keeping the memory of the many thousands of people who were held here against their will. The former prison courtyard is now Remembrance Square, with memorials to repressed Kalmyks, Poles, Estonians and Latvians. The museum is not for the faint of heart. Still, you should visit. If for nothing else but to understand what suppression of reason and hope that everything will eventually work itself out entail.
The permanent exhibition of the museum includes a renovated jail corridor, a detainee cell, and the interior of an investigator's office. In the four halls of the museum (former cells), the permanent exhibitions are arranged: The Chronicle of Repressions in Tomsk region; the Great Terror; Execution Quest; Kolpashevsky Yar; and The Gulag and Narym krai Settlers. The halls also contain stands with biographical materials and copies of documents of poet N.A. Klyuev, philosopher and linguist G.G. Shtepp, geologist and soil scientist R.S. Ilyin, duke meters.M. Dolgorukov, and others.
Among the exhibits are original documents, copies of investigation files, letters and notes from prisons, personal belongings of repressed Tomsk oblast citizens, as well as everyday items made by prisoners in prison camps and exile. Nobel Prize winning author Alexander Solzhenitsyn was the first honorable visitor of the museum. He visited Tomsk in 1994 when returning home from exile. The first exhibition was opened for visitors in 1995.
The museum operates as an interregional Siberian museum and historical resource and information center. It has an electronic database with information about more than 200,000 people who endured the suffering and hardships due to the activities of the Cheka, NKVD troikas, de-kulakization, and mass deportations of peoples in Tomsk oblast.
Adjacent to the building is Memory Square, where there is a monument to the victims of Bolshevik terror in the Tomsk region and other memorials dedicated to repressed peoples: Kalmyks, Poles, Estonians, and Lithuanians. “Memory watches,” requiem concerts, the lighting of memorial candles and other activities take place on the square every year. The Museum and the Square are a single memorial complex that has become one of the most visited sites in Tomsk.
Museum of Wooden Architecture and Okolitsa Park
Museum of Wooden Architecture has a permanent exhibition is dedicated to the architectural decor of Tomsk. Among the exhibits are carved platbands, pilasters, cornices and other fragments. A vast collection of antique joinery tools is also presented. None less impressive are cast iron stoves — in the 19th century, even stove doors were richly decorated with artistic images! The museum also provides bus and walking tours to the historical sites of Tomsk.
Okolitsa Rural Park is the traditional venue for the Axe Feast in Zorkaltsevo village (10 kilometers west of Tomsk). Today Okolitsa has been turned into a veritable open-air museum and is one of the favorite recreation areas for residents of Tomsk.
Throughout the park one can find works made by Axe Feast participants and carpentry craftsmen from all over Russia and many foreign countries: from unusual park sculptures and carved benches to a part of a Cossack dungeon restored according to building traditions of the 17th century and even a real chapel. There is also a whole range of informative and entertaining areas dedicated to the multinational culture of the Tomsk region: a Selkup mini-village, a Tatar farmstead, a Russian druzhina squad camp, and an Uzbek courtyard.
During the warm months. the park operates an extreme rope park and a mini-farm, where various species of domestic and wild animals live, from pot-bellied pigs to elks. A Chinese cultural zone is to be opened in the future. During the Axe Feast, the petting zoo is one of the main attractions. Every weekend, special events are held for families, including competitive games, master classes, and stage performances.
Kemerovo Oblast is in Western Siberia, more than four 4 hours by plane to the east of Moscow. Often called the Kuzbass, the region is home to one of the largest coal fields in the world and the main area of coal mining of Russia. Mines and slagheaps are a staple of the local landscape. Among the tourist sights in Kemerovo Oblast are the Dinosaur Graveyard, the first Siberian rock art museum and one of Russia's main ski resorts — Sheregesh. There is a Dostoevsky Museum in the family home of his wife.
Kemerovo Oblast covers 95,500 square kilometers (36,900 square miles), is home to about 2.8 million people and has a population density of 29 people per square kilometer. About 80 percent of the population live in urban areas. The city of Kemerovo is the capital and largest city, with about 530,000 people. Kemerovo Oblast borders Tomsk Oblast to the north, Krasnoyarsk Krai and the Republic of Khakassia to the east, the Altai Republic to the south, and Novosibirsk Oblast and Altai Krai to the west.
Ian Frazier wrote in The New Yorker: “Until we left Novosibirsk, we had seen none of the large-scale environmental damage that Siberia is famous for. Then we hit the small, smoky city of Kemerovo, in the Kuznetsk Basin coal-mining region. Russians don’t bother to hide strip mines with a screen of trees along the road to spare the feelings of motorists, as we Americans do. Beyond Kemerovo, the whole view at times became the gaping pits themselves, sprawling downward before us on either side while the thread-thin road tiptoed where it could between. Strip mines are strip mines, and I had seen similar scenery in North Dakota and southern Ohio and West Virginia, though never quite so close at hand. Often through this Siberian coal region the road strayed and forgot its original intention, and more than one fork we took dead-ended without warning at a city-size strip-mine hole. We meandered in the Kuznetsk Basin for most of a day and drove until past nightfall in order to camp on the other side. [Source: Ian Frazier, The New Yorker, August 10 and 17, 2009, Frazier is author of “Travels in Siberia” (2010)]
“After the Kuznetsk Basin came a long interval of meadows. We saw dark-clothed people working the hay fields in big groups as in an old bucolic painting, or riding to or from the work in horse-drawn flatbed wagons whose hard rubber wheels bouncing on the uneven pavement made the flesh of the passengers’ faces jiggle fast. In this more peaceful region, we camped one night on the banks of the Chulym River at a popular spot with a gravel bank more convenient for bathing and washing than the usual swampy mud. While we ate supper, a group of Christians waded in not far from us, some of them in flowing white baptismal clothes. The worshippers sang songs accompanied by a guitar, held hands in a circle, swayed. A man in the middle of the circle took another man and a woman and two girls in his arms and then immersed them one by one.”
Getting There: There are two airports in the region, in Kemerovo and Novokuznetsk. A flight from Moscow to Kemerovo will run you around 24,000 rubles (adult round trip); to Novokuznetsk, 26,000 rubles. There are no direct flights from St. Petersburg. With a transfer in Moscow, the flight to Kemerovo will set you back 30,000 rubles; to Novokuznetsk, 34,000. A train ride from Moscow to Kemerovo costs 11,000 rubles (third class, adult, round trip); from Moscow to Novokuznetsk, 7,400 rubles. Buses run from the neighboring regions to Kemerovo and Novokuznetsk. A ticket from Novosibirsk costs 1,300 rubles (adult, round trip); from Barnaul, 2,300 rubles; from Tomsk, 1,000 rubles. Transport in the Region: Cities and towns in the region are connected by quality roads, so travel by car and bus is possible. A bus transfer from Kemerovo to Novokuznetsk costs 523 rubles; to Mariinsk, 310 rubles; to Prokopievsk, 471 rubles.
Kemerovo (150 kilometers east of Novosibirsk) is the capital and second largest city of Kemerovo oblast, with about 530,000 people (Novokuznetsk is the largest city). Kemerovo stretches along the both banks of the Tom River, at the confluence of the Iskitimka River. The city is best known for coal mining, which has been practiced here for more than a hundred years, but has a large chemical industry.
About a third of the population is employed in heavy industry, which leaves a heavy imprint on the city but it also a major educational center. At the beginning of the 20th century, present-day Kemerovo was occupied by the villages of Sheglovka and Kemerovo, which were united in a city called Sheglov in 1918. Later the city was renamed Sheglovsk, and then to Kemerovo in 1932.
There are 126 objects of cultural heritage in Kemerovo. Places of interest include the Kemerovo Regional Museum of Local Lore, the Archeology, Ethnography and the Ecology of Siberia museum, the Church of the Holy Trinity and the main church of Kemerovo is Znamensky Cathedral. There is a monument called In Memory to the Miners of Kuzbass by sculptor Ernst Neizvestny on Krasnaya Gorka; and the Holy Great Martyr Varvara — Patroness of Miners sculptural composition and a monument to Mihailo Volkov, the discoverer of Kuznetsk coal, were erected in the same area nearby. Various military equipment and weapons — including an T-55 tank, BTR-60 armored personnel carrier and BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicle — are on display in Park Pobedy.
Accommodation: In Kemerovo, try Kuzbass hotel: rooms from standard (2,200 rubles per day) to three-room suite with a hot tub (8,000 rubles per day) are available there. Conveniently, there is no single billing hour: you pay from the moment you check in. Breakfast, dinner, transfer to the airport or railway station, and registration for foreign citizens are available. Hostels in Kemerovo cost from 700 rubles; apartments, from 1,200 rubles per day.
Near Kemerovo City
Shestakovo Dinosaur Graveyard (200 kilometers from Kemerovo) has been known since 1953, when geologists found the bones of a psittacosaurus in Shestakovsky Yar. There are only two dinosaur cemeteries in Russia: one is Shestakovsky Yar, the other is near the village of Kundur in the Far East. Bones of the Shestakovo dinosaurs can be seen in the Chebula district museum and the Kemerovo regional museum. The cutbank is further washed away by the river every year, so you have the chance to find petrified shells, bones and prehistoric younger artifacts on your own. If that's your kind of thing that worries the soul, this is where you should visit! The distance from Kemerovo to Shestakovsky Yar is
Tomskaya Pisanitsa (50 kilometers northwest from Kemerovo) is Siberia's first rock art monument and museum. There are about 280 images in the ancient natural-historical sanctuary. The earliest paintings date back to the late Neolithic period in the 4th-3rd millennium B.C. and depict elks, bears, anthropomorphic beings, sun signs, birds, and boats. Pictures from the Bronze Age (2nd millennium B.C.) show a deer-sun, masks, and birdmen. Many of the images are masterpieces of primitive art. The unique outdoor museum was established in 1988.
A rock with drawings of ancient people was discovered on the banks of Tom river at the turn of the 16th-17th century. The site has attracted the attention of researchers for centuries. Famous scientists and explorers in the 17th-19th centuries described the paintings in their work. The final stage of this long research effort was the fundamental work of A.P. Okladnikova and A.I. Martynov (Treasures of the Tomsk Pisanitsa, 1972, as well as dozens of articles in scientific journals in the U.S.S.R. and abroad). Science helped contemporaries to understand the meaning of life and worldview of the ancients, but they were unable to protect the monument from natural deterioration and, more importantly, from vandals.
In the 1960-80s, a group of scientists, teachers, and students led by professor Anatoly Martynov campaigned to have the rock drawings protected. Thanks to these people, the first monument restoration was carried out. The famous staircase that is today the main descent to the rock was built, and the first excursions were organized. In 1968, the territory adjacent to the neolithic rupestrian drawings was declared a preserved area.
Tomsk Pisanitsa includes three main exhibition complexes devoted to archaeology, ethnography, and ecology. Ninety percent of the museum-reserve is occupied by pine forest. An ancient elk path leads across the reserve to Tom river crossing, where elk can often be seen. In the winter, wolves and lynxes come to the reserve. A small zoo operates in the Tomsk Pisanitsa Museum-Reserve. It is the only permanent zoo in Kemerovo oblast. There are 16 animal species and 7 bird species in the zoo.
Novokuznetsk (120 kilometers south of Kemerovo) is the largest city in Kemerovo Oblast, just barely, with about 548,000 people. It was previously known as Kuznetsk (until 1931), Stalinsk (until 1961). Novokuznetsk is a heavily industrial city and is located in the heart of the Kuzbass coal-mining region. Factories in the city include: the West-Siberian Metal Plant, Novokuznetsk Iron and Steel Plant, Factory "Kuznetsk ferroalloys" and Novokuznetsk aluminium factory
Novokuznetsk was founded in 1618 by men from Tomsk who set up a a Cossack ostrog (fort) on the Tom River, which was was initially called Kuznetsky ostrog. Fyodor Dostoevsky married his first wife, Maria Isayeva, here in 1857. Joseph Stalin's rapid industrialization of the Soviet Union transformed the sleepy town into a major coal mining and industrial center in the 1930s.
Dostoevsky Museum (in Novokuznetsk) is located in the house where Maria Isayeva lived in a rented apartment. The writer fell in love with her back in Semipalatinsk, but she was married then. Maria Dmitrievna's husband died in Kuznetsk. Dostoevsky came here several times, and in 1857, after his wedding with Maria Dmitrievna, he lived in this house for three weeks. The house itself is the main artifact. However, the exhibits, photos, and paintings create a unique atmosphere, an immersion effect. The street on which the house is located now bears the name of Dostoevsky, but back then it was the Police Street, which can be seen as a grin of fate. Maria Dmitrievna died of tuberculosis in 1864. Literature experts believe that this story of unhappy love is reflected in the Crime and Punishment and Humiliated and Insulted novels.
Kuznetsk Fortress (on the Voznesenskaya Hill in Novokuznetsk) began as a stockade established in 1620. It was built for protection against raids by local tribes, and in early 19th century the stockade was rebuilt into a fortress. It was, however, the time when the attacks had already subsided, so the fortress never had to fight. There's not much left of it after two centuries. The restoration of the fortress as a historical landmark began in the 1990s. These days, the Kuznetsk Fortress museum-reserve includes military fortifications and architectural objects.
Sheregesh is famous not only for its world-class ski trails, but also for its spectacular nature, which adds a special charm to the Mountainous Shoria region. In Sheregesh there are many beautiful places and Camel (Verblyuda) Butte is one of them. The buttes in the region, located on the slopes of Kurgan Mountain, were formed by magma withdrawal. They have an interesting shape as a result of the influence of wind, frost, and water. One of the best locations for observing the buttes is from the highest point in the area, Zelenaya Mountain, where most of the ski trails are located. From there it is possible to take a walk or take a snowmobile to the buttes.
Sheregesh Ski Resort is a major ski area with 15 ski trails from 700 meters to 4.2 kilometers in length, and from 120 to 800 meters in elevation. The trails are built for different levels of difficulty, their total length is 42 kilometers. There are 18 ski lifts, from J-bars to gondola ones.
One of the main attractions of Sheregesh ski resort is its unique snow conditions. The season welcomes skiers from the early November until early May, and the thickness of snow cover reaches over two meters. Sheregesh attracts the extreme skiers seeking for “off-piste” rides. Resort facilities include a snowpark with springboards, handrail, fs 314 air bag, a trampoline and an indoboard. Instructors will help both beginners who try downhill skiing for the first time and people who want to master freestyle. There is almost no avalanche danger at the resort because of the presence of many trees on the slopes. Acclimatization is quite easy because the resort is not very high. Sheregesh provides equipment rental centers and accommodation. Other facilities include a bowling center, an indoor ice rink, a tennis court, entertainment centers, and even “the upside down house”, an attraction where all things are fastened to the ceiling for unusual photoshoots.
The Vasyugan Marshes (north of Omsk, Novosibirsk and Tomsk) is the largest swamp system in the world and the largest peat deposit in the world (more than 1 billion tons). Covering 53,000 square kilometers, an area larger than Switzerland, and formed about 10,000 years, the swamp stretches for 320 kilometers from north to south and 537 kilometers from west to east. The swamp occupies the northern part of the Ob and Irtysh interfluve (a region between the valleys of adjacent watercourses), mostly within Tomsk Oblast and partially Omsk and Novosibirsk oblasts. Every year the swamp grows by an average of eight square kilometers due primarily to ice the blocking the flow of the Ob and Irtysh rivers.
The Vasyugan Swamp has called the second “green lungs” of the planet after the Amazon Basin. In 2007, it was included in the Tentative List of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The swamp is the main source of fresh water in the region, with some 800,000 small lakes. The left tributaries of the Ob (Vasyugan, Parabel, Chaya, Shegarka) originate there, as well as the right tributaries of the Irtysh (Om and Tara) and rivers, feeding fishing lakes of the inner basin of Western Siberia.
The nature here has remained completely untouched. Ten percent of the swamp is included in the Vasyuganskiy Regional Nature Reserve (Bakcharsky District). The swamp is home to large shorebirds (curlews and godwits) and a number of rare species of birds. The swamp is the last place the slender-billed curlew — now on the verge of extinction or maybe extinct — was last recorded. Birds such as white-tailed eagles, peregrine falcons, golden eagles, gray shrikes, and falcon all live in the swamp. Sable, squirrels, reindeer, grouse, hazel hen, ptarmigan and wood grouse can all be found here. There is quite a high probability of encountering a moose. The swamp is rich in blueberries, cranberries, and cloudberries.
Kayaking, hiking, skiing, and cycling expeditions are organized in the swamp with the support of the Tomsk branch of the Russian Geographical Society. Among the things you can seek out are vast unspoiled forests and marshes, animals, and abandoned villages. Make sure to bring a strong insect repellent.
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: Federal Agency for Tourism of the Russian Federation (official Russia tourism website russiatourism.ru ), Russian government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Yomiuri Shimbun and various books and other publications.
Updated in September 2020