Novosibirsk—Bridge city

The Trans-Siberian Railway was built across the Ob River (one of the three largest rivers in Russia, a long waterway flowing from south to north) in 1893. Novonikolayevsk, the village that sprung up at the bridge, began to grow at an explosive pace and became one of the largest cities beyond the Urals by 1917. During the Civil War, it was the stronghold of the «Reds» in «White» Siberia, and therefore, under the Soviets, it was renamed Novosibirsk and developed as the Soviet center of Siberia. During World War II, dozens of factories and institutes were relocated here, deep into the heart of Russia, from areas near the front lines, and this totally changed the local way of life. By the 1960s, Novosibirsk became the world’s youngest city with a million people, and it is currently Russia’s third largest city.
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Industrial and concrete, it’s hard to call Novosibirsk beautiful. One span structure of the original bridge across the Ob River remains in the City Beginning Park under the new bridge. In the neighborhoods with Soviet-era architecture, you can see old homes and churches, but these can hardly be called masterpieces.
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The face of the city is constructivism and the mighty group of buildings that sprung up on Krasniy Prospekt (Red Avenue) in the 1920-30s serves as a testament to this. The largest opera house in Russia, somewhat similar to a cathedral, particularly stands out. It can seat up to 1800 spectators under its 60-meter dome. The opera house was scheduled to open in the summer of 1941, but the war delayed the official opening until after the victory. During the war years, the opera house served as a giant museum depository for museums that had to be relocated from Moscow, Leningrad, and other old cities in western Russia.
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Built in 1945, the Novosibirsk State Academic Opera and Ballet Theater is the largest theater building in Russia and was the largest in the USSR

Here, you will come across a lot of things that are «the largest in Russia»: the train station (an example of Stalin-era architecture), the Novosibirsk Zoo (especially interesting for its fauna of Siberia), the Metro Bridge (there is nowhere else in the world where the metro crosses such large rivers), or even the Novosibirsk Crematorium with its museum about the funeral rites of various cultures.

Akademgorodok, a satellite city founded in the 1960s, became a phenomenon of Novosibirsk. It is sometimes called the «silicon taiga» as an analogy to California’s «silicon valley»; there are dozens of research centers with specializations ranging from archeology to high-energy physics. On the outskirts of Akademgorodok, there is an open-air museum with exhibits of Siberian wooden architecture and ancient petroglyphs and megaliths. Akademgorodok’s unique intellectual atmosphere is still alive today, and its neighborhoods, built in the depths of the forest, are interesting as an example of the Soviet vision of an ‘ideal city’.
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Located in Akademgorodok are dozens of scientific research institutes, the Presidium of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Novosibirsk State University, and the Specialized Educational Scientific Center of Physics, Mathematics, Chemistry and Biology

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Novosibirsk’s environs are more interesting than the city itself, although we must make an adjustment in terms of Siberia’s huge spaces to a radius of 300-400 kilometers around the city.

Located to the north is the old city of Tomsk. Formerly Siberia’s main city in the 19th century, the Trans-Siberian Railway was built on a route that bypassed Tomsk. The only thing that saved Tomsk from becoming a backwoods place was its university, the oldest one to the east of the Urals. But, on the one hand, the historic center of Tomsk has been excellently preserved. There are also carved wooden mansions and delicate fretwork in Novosibirsk, but in Tomsk there are entire neighborhoods of them with stone churches of the Siberian baroque style and the minarets of Tatar mosques towering over them.
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Main building and campus of Tomsk State University

Further east, smoke rises from the Kuznets Basin, Russia’s largest coal producing region. In Kemerovo, you can visit the museum of the coal industry and see the houses built for miners by enthusiasts of socialism from the Netherlands. Metallurgical Novokuznetsk will be interesting for fans of constructivism and Bauhaus architecture—German architects helped their Soviet colleagues build the city.
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Mining brown coal in the Kuznets Basin (Kuzbass)

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“There’s a drop of miner’s blood in every light bulb that burns.” The monument in memory of Kuzbass miners in Kemerovo

To the south is Barnaul, the center of silver mines in the 18th century, where, for example, one of the first steam engines in the world operated. However, those factories closed down a long time ago (although their buildings were preserved), and now Barnaul is the center of the Siberian breadbasket. Further to the south rises the Altai Republic, the «heart of Asia», with its fantastically beautiful mountains, where thousands of ancient burial mounds and petroglyphs left by the ancient ancestors of Turkish, Mongolian, Korean, Japanese, and even Native American people have been preserved.
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