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Ural Life & Culture
All You Need to Know about Yekaterinburg and the Ural Region
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Irina Bobrova (Russia)
Glimpses of Ural History
Historian, translator, teacher of English
03.06.2013
Stories from a Historian

Taste of Old Yekaterinburg
Short tram ride that takes you a century back…
 
Nowadays, Yekaterinburg is an actively built and rebuilt upbeat city. Quick economic development of the last decades has enhanced its ambition to be the third capital of Russia after Moscow and St.Petersburg.
 
New hotels, shopping centers, skyscrapers offering top class offices for rent, trendy restaurants and cafes are growing all over the city centre. And often, they look great against the old one or two storey houses of the 19th-   early 20th century standing nearby. But at the same time, it is getting harder and harder to see what old Yekaterinburg looked like.
 
By old I mean the city of the 19th century. During that period of time, Yekaterinburg acquired its own unique architectural style that could be very well felt all the way through until the end of the 1980s. The following eras of the 20th century did not play much havoc with that heritage.
 
Old Yekaterinburg had its own special atmosphere created by the splendid ensemble of small orthodox churches and one-floor-wooden houses of ordinary people and pretty mansions of wealthy merchants, engineers and managers working at the local plants. Unfortunately, the traces of this romantic provincial world of the past are now rapidly disappearing…
 
Of course, there are plenty of individual very and not very looked-after historical buildings in the centre. But they do not look together anymore. They are mixed with the buildings of many other periods including the latest glass covered skyscrapers.
 
Anyway, if visiting our city, you would want to have some original Yekaterinburg experience, go and visit the street called Ulitsa Kirova. It is not in the down town, but it is not too far from it. The best way to go there is by tram. Trams in the capital of Ural are another very special thing. Their system here is very developed and complex, so sometimes commuting by this type of public transport feels like an exciting train journey especially in the suburban areas.
 
Get off at the tram station in Ploschad Subbotnikov (Subbotnikov square).This square divides Ulitsa Kirova in two halves. But do not rush to leave it. It is quite an interesting place in its own right. It is the historical centre of the whole area of Yekaterinburg called for short VIZ. Here you will see the gates to the old plant which initially had led to the birth of the town VIZ (At first this place did not belong to Yekaterinburg and was an independent town).
 
Another remarkable thing about this square is the old cathedral. It was build in the first half of the 19th century on the local people’s money, but after the revolution of 1917 was turned into a bread factory. These days, the cathedral is being restored back into what it originally was. When the works are finished, the whole place will regain its initial meaning and beauty.
 
Now walk up Kirova Street. On your way, at the back of it you will find another amazing monument – the tiny church of the first half of the 19th century. It was build to serve religious needs of the plant’s workers. This church boasts a beautiful row of icons. Go in and have a look – it is open every weekend.
 
 When you reach the city pond, there you will probably see some boats, seagulls, ducks (if it is not winter), the new lighthouse and a vanishing into concrete small island of old wooden houses. When you are ready, go back to the square and continue down the street.
 
Certainly, the buildings that you will see here are quite eclectic. There are even a few examples of constructivism! But still, the street has managed to preserve the old Yekaterinburg feel thanks to the fact that most houses are historical and small and it is usually very quiet here away from the busy city centre.
 
In the past, this street was at the heart of lives of the whole town community. And the most wonderful thing is that the plant, the church, the cathedral, some of the houses of the 19th century bosses, who worked at the plant, some other fascinating old buildings are all still there! You do not need a time machine to see where Yekaterinburg comes from. Simply visit this place, and your mind will quickly recreate it for you…
 

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