Founded at the end of the 17th century, Ulan-Ude was originally called Verkhneudinsk. What was initially a Cossack outpost quickly developed into a rich merchant city. After all, it was located very close to the point where the Great Tea Route from China enters Russia. The snow-white church of the Siberian baroque style, the huge Guest Yard (Gostiny Dvor) of the Petersburg style, and the neighborhoods located in the lowland near the Uda River with their stone and wooden houses from the turn of the 19th-20th century are reminders of the city’s past wealth.
Having received its current name during the Soviet period, Ulan-Ude became the center of Buryatia, one of the national autonomous regions of Russia. The Communists destroyed the majority of the Buddhist monasteries, but they strived to emphasize the Buryat national identity. A vivid example of this is the enormous Buryat opera theater of the Stalinist Empire architecture style, marvelously interwoven with local ethnic motifs. Looking at the theater is the Head—perhaps the most peculiar monument to Lenin. The huge bust (7.5 m not including the base) is located in the middle of the square. A popular meeting place in Ulan-Ude is «near the right (or the left) ear».