Tomsk is a city on the Tom River in the southwest of Siberian Federal District, Russia, the administrative centre of Tomsk Oblast. It is located about twenty kilometers south-east of the town of Seversk, a major centre of plutonium production and reprocessing and uranium enrichment in Russia. One of the oldest towns in Siberia, Tomsk celebrated its 400th anniversary in 2004. Population: 487,838 (2002 Census).
In 1604, Tomsk was established under a decree from Tsar Boris Godunov. He sent 200 Cossacks under the command of Vasiliy Tyrkov and Gavriil Pisemsky to construct a fortress at the bank of the Tom River overlooking what would become the city of Tomsk. A tribal leader, Toyan, accepted Russian control and ceded the land for the fortress to the Tsar.
In 1804, the government selected Tomsk to become the center for a new governorate which would include the modern cities of Novosibirsk, Kemerovo, Krasnoyarsk and eastern Kazakhstan. The new status brought development and the city grew quickly.
The discovery of gold in 1830 brought further development to Tomsk in the 19th century. However, when the Trans-Siberian Railroad bypassed the city in favor of the village of Novonikolayevka (now Novosibirsk), development began to move south to connect with the railroad. In time, Novosibirsk would pass Tomsk in importance.
In the mid-19th century, one-fifth of the city's residents were exiles. However, within a few years, the city would be reinvented as an educational center in Siberia with the establishment of Tomsk State University and Tomsk Polytechnic University. By the time of World War II, every 12th resident of the city was a student. After the Russian Revolution the city was a notable centre of the White movement, led by Anatoly Pepelyayev and Maria Bochkareva, among others. After the town was seized by the Red Army, Tomsk was incorporated into the West Siberia region and later into the Novosibirsk Region.
As in many Siberian cities, Tomsk found many factories relocated there to protect them from the Nazi invasion. The Soviet government then established Tomsk Oblast with Tomsk as the center.
Tomsk has many local cultural institutions including drama theaters, a children's theater and a puppet theater. One can find music at the city concert hall, home of the local orchestra, or the Sports Palace where pop and rock stars perform. The city also has centers of German, Polish and Tatar culture where residents can study languages or learn about other countries.
There are a number of museums in Tomsk including those devoted to art, local history and wood carving. Tomsk State University has a number of small museums with exhibits on archaeology, paleontology, zoology as well as a herbarium and botanical garden.
As in many other cities in the former Soviet Union, the government destroyed a number of old churches in the city including two that had existed since the 17th century. However, Tomsk managed to retain some of its churches by creating alternative uses for them such as machine shops, warehouses, archives, and even residences. Since the end of communism, some of the churches have been renovated and handed back to their congregations.
Tomsk is well-known for its (gingerbread) carved wooden houses. The quantity of these wooden houses is constantly decreasing due to fire and new construction.