Ekaterinburg was founded in 1723 by Peter the Great as a factory fort and steel manufacturing town, and named after St. Catherine – indirectly in honor of Peter’s wife, Catherine I. Peter the Great planned the city as a push to exploit the Ural region’s mineral resources. The discovery of gold in 1745 and veins of other precious metals and stones in the 18th and 19th centuries made the area a center of Russian mining and stone exploitation.
The factory mainly produced iron, cast iron and copper. However, it wasn’t functioning very actively, and in 1808 it closed down. In 1726, the town started production of copper coins, covering 80% of Russia’s needs. The town was developing as the center of the mining industry of the Urals and Siberia. In 1738, a rock-cutting works was founded in the town, and in 1765 it grew into Ekaterinburg lapidary factory. It produced vases and bowls, which served as decoration in St. Petersburg’s Winter Palace.
In 1781, the town got a higher administrative status and acquired its own coat-of-arms in 1783. Being the industrial center, Ekaterinburg produced water wheels and turbines, steam engines and metal-cutting equipment. Local merchants mainly dealt with fats, soap and leather, traded meat and cattle and transported metals.
Since the twenties of the 19th century, the richest local merchants started mining placer gold in Western Siberia. Those who were the luckiest got over 1500 kilograms of this precious metal during the first five years. After serfdom was abolished in 1861, the mining industry of the Urals fell into serious recession. At that time, mining was slowly replaced with other types of industry – transport, flour milling, and services. In 1872, the Siberian Trade Bank was established which became one of the largest Russian banks early in the 20th century.
In 1878, the first railway of the Urals connected Ekaterinburg and Perm – in other words, connected the factories of the Middle Urals to the main city of the region. Later, Ekaterinburg became a large railway junction. The population grew, and railways connected Ekaterinburg with the rest of the world – all this promoted the development of the flour-milling industry. In 1887, the Science and Production Exhibition of Siberia and the Urals was the factor that boosted the economic and social life of the city. In 1904, Ekaterinburg hosted 49 large industrial enterprises and 300 small workshops.
In 1917, the Soviet regime peacefully came to power in the city. The city witnessed the death of monarchy in Russia, where the last Russian Tsar Nicholas II with his family were assassinated in the Ipatiev’s house by the Bolsheviks on July 16, 1918. Recent diggings of archeologists have revealed bones presumably belonging to the tsar’s family, and later a genetic analysis confirmed this fact. The Civil War did not bring any drastic changes to the industrial profile of the city. In 1924, the city was renamed Sverdlovsk in honor of Yakov Sverdlov, an eminent communist.
In the thirties of the 20th century, the industrial infrastructure of the city was reconstructed, and new large enterprises were built, such as the famous UralMash. Public transport, a new power station, sewerage and water lines, multistoried houses, schools and higher educational institutions, a theatre and a philharmonic hall, circus and zoo – all this made the life of local dwellers better and fuller.
During World War II, the city's position behind the front lines allowed it to become a leading producer of war materiel and an evacuation center for the civilian population of Western Russia. Ekaterinburg's rich mix of cultural offerings is a legacy of the wartime evacuation of the artistic elite to this region. After the war, the city kept focusing on building machines and metal working, however, more consumer-oriented enterprises appeared. The Soviet Union closed the city to foreigners throughout much of the post-war period and it was only reopened in December 1991. This was also the year when Ekaterinburg took back its original name. Today, the city's foreign contacts and foreign population are growing rapidly as American, European and Asian businesses and tourist flows to the Urals region are gradually increasing. It is, indeed, an interesting place to visit – especially to geologists and industrial archeologists. Now, Ekaterinburg is the fourth largest city in Russia with a population of 1.5 million.
See more at: www.russia-ic.com/regions/3053/3054/history/
Created / Updated: 13 February 2016 / 29 June 2016