In this article, I will tell you about my trip to the old city of Tobolsk. Tobolsk is one of the first Russian settlements in Siberia and was founded just a year after Tyumen in 1587. Rapid industrial development turned Tyumen into a major city with nearly 800,000 people, but the population of Tobolsk has not even reached 100,000.
Everybody knows about the Trans-Siberian, but in Russia there are other railways that are outstanding in their engineering properties. Construction on the railway from Tyumen to Surgut commenced in the 1960s, when Soviet geologists discovered unprecedented reserves of oil and gas in Western Siberia. The famous Samotlor oil field became the largest and most important oil field in Russia. The beginning of the development of Samotlor coincided with the 1973 oil crisis and enabled the USSR to become one of the main exporters of hydrocarbons on the world market at that time. With all its unparalleled wealth, the explored deposits were located in impassable swamps. Building a railroad to deliver these deposits became one of the USSR’s priority tasks. It was the discovery of Samotlor that largely determined the route of the future railroad from Tyumen via Tobolsk to Surgut, and further to the east, where the city of Nizhnevartovsk was built. Later, this railroad would be extended to connect to the ‘gas capital’ of Russia, Novy Urengoy, and finally, at the end of the Soviet era, the railroad approached the coast of the Arctic Ocean in the village of Yamburg. The new railroad connects all of Western Siberia’s oil and gas deposits.
The railroad to Tobolsk was only completed in 1967. This is immediately noticeable in the station’s architecture in the style of Soviet modernism, in great contrast to the opulently decorated stations on the Trans-Siberian. Due to the difficulties of building a bridge across the Irtysh River, the railway station is located 8 km from the city center and you also have to find your way to it.
All Siberian cities began with a fortress. The heart of Tobolsk is the snow-white Kremlin with its 18th century architectural ensemble.