Yekaterinburg (also known as Ekaterinburg, formerly Sverdlovsk) is a major city in the central part of Russia, the administrative center of Sverdlovsk Oblast. Situated on the eastern side of the Ural mountain range, it is the main industrial and cultural center of the Urals Federal District. Its population of 1,293,537 (2002 Census) makes Yekaterinburg Russia's fifth largest city. Between 1924 and 1991, the city was known as Sverdlovsk after the Bolshevik leader Yakov Sverdlov.
The city was founded in 1721 by Vasily Tatischev and named after Saint Catherine, the namesake of Tsar Peter’s the Great wife Empress Catherine I (Yekaterina). The official date of the city foundation, however, is November 18, 1723.
Soon after the Russian Revolution, on July 17, 1918, Tsar Nicholas II, his wife, Alexandra, and their children Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and Tsarevich Alexei were executed by Bolsheviks at the Ipatiev House in this city. In 1977 the Ipatiev House was destroyed by order of Boris Yeltsin who later became the first President of the Russian Federation.
Church on the Blood
In the 1920s, Yekaterinburg became a large industrial center of Russia. It was the time when the famous Uralmash was built, becoming the biggest heavy machinery factory in Europe.
During World War II, many government technical institutions and whole factories were relocated to Yekaterinburg away from the war-affected areas (mostly Moscow), with many of them staying in Ekaterinburg after the victory.
In the 1960s, in the days of Khruschev's government, a number of lookalike five-story apartment blocks have sprung all over the city. Most of them still remain today in Kirovsky, Chkalovsky, and other residential areas of Yekaterinburg.
On May 1, 1960 an American U-2 spy plane, piloted by Francis Gary Powers while under the employ of the CIA, was shot down over Sverdlovsk Oblast. The pilot was captured, put on trial, and found guilty of espionage. He was sentenced to seven years of hard labour, though he served only about a year before being exchanged for Rudolph Abel, a high-ranking KGB spy, who had been apprehended in the United States in 1957. The two spies were exchanged at the Glienicke Bridge in Potsdam, Germany, on February 10, 1962. Since the end of World War II, the Glienicke Bridge was the most popular captive-trading place when the west and the east felt it necessary to negotiate.
Yekaterinburg is famous for its theaters among which there are some very popular theater companies: Yekaterinburg Academic Ballet and Opera Company, Sverdlovsk Academic Theater of Musical Comedy, Yekaterinburg Academic Dramatic Theater, Yekaterinburg Theater for Young Spectators, Volkhonka (popular chamber theater), Kolyada Theater (chamber theater founded by Russian playwright, producer and actor Nikolai Kolyada). There are more than 30 museums in Yekaterinburg, among which: several museums of Ural minerals and jewelry, some art galleries, one of the largest collections of Kasli mouldings (traditional kind of cast-iron sculpture in the Urals), the famous Shigir Collection that has the oldest wood sculpture in the world - the Shigir Idol found near Nevyansk and estimated to be made about 9,000 years ago).
The largest city in the Urals and one of the top five in Russia, Yekaterinburg has a number of consulates of major countries.