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Cities and Towns Along the Way


The Trans-Siberian trains stop several times a day, for periods ranging from just a few moments to almost half an hour. Even the longest stops, however, allow for little more than a quick expedition from the station to make some necessary purchases. It is possible, however, to arrange a stopover in many of the major destinations along the route, and what follows is a brief listing of some of the most popular sites.


One of Russia's oldest cities, Yaroslavl was founded by Yaroslav the Wise of Kievan Rus' in 1010. Over the next several centuries the city prospered as a trading port on the Volga and a center of textile manufacture, becoming by the 17th century the second largest city in Russia behind Moscow. Its wealthy merchant community became notable patrons of the arts, building hundreds of churches. Fortunately, the great majority of these remain intact today, making the city one of the most beautiful destinations along the railway.


The Trans-Siberian's first major stop in Asian Russia is the major industrial city and transport hub of Ekaterinburg. The town was founded in 1721 by Catherine the Great as a fort and metallurgical factory, its position having been chosen for its strategic proximity to the great mining operations of the Urals and Siberia. Although there are few tourist sites here other than the 18th-century cathedral, the city is nonetheless of great historical interest. It was here, in a house that once stood on Liebknecht ulitsa, that Tsar Nicholas II and his family were executed on the morning of July 17, 1918. Although the house no longer exists, its site is marked by a plain wooden cross. The Imperial family, like most tourists, was brought to Ekaterinburg on the Trans- Siberian. Ekaterinburg is also notable for being the hometown of Boris Yeltsin.

Cities and Towns Along the Way In Russia


One of the older towns in Siberia, Krasnoyarsk was founded in 1628 as a trading post along the Yenisei River. It grew rapidly when gold was discovered in the region, and eventually became a major river port and industrial center. Outside the city is the Stolby Reserve, an attractive preserve notable for the odd, columnar cliffs that rise from the river's edge inside its area. After one passes over the Yenesei, another of the Trans-Siberian's most significant border crossings takes place--one leaves the steppe and plunges into the taiga, the great forest that extends over most of Russia. The vast Siberian taiga is the largest remaining forest in the world.


Irkutsk became a wealthy trading center soon after its founding in the 1660s, benefiting from its position along overland trade routes between China and Western Russia. Since then it has maintained its position as the regions most important city, though today its attraction for visitors is supplemented by its proximity to Lake Baikal. Trans Siberian Railway enthusiasts should try to make it for a visit in 1998, when the city has planned a celebration commemorating the inauguration of the rail line.


Ulan Ude
Like most Siberian cities, Ulan Ude was founded during the 17th century. However, as the center of the Buddhist Buryat culture, it is unlike any of the other stops along the Trans-Siberian railway. Although the city's Buddhist tradition, like all other religions, suffered a sharp decline under Stalin, there has been a noticeable revival in recent years. Visitors to Ulan Ude today should not miss the opportunity to visit nearby Ivolginsk Datsan, a restored Tibetan Buddhist monastery which now serves as the center of Buddhism in Russia.


Strategically located on the hills overlooking the Amur River, Khabarovsk was founded as a military outpost in 1651, during the first wave of Russian colonization. The town gained importance during the nineteenth century as a trading outpost, and today it is one of the most important and promising cities of the Russian Far East. Khabarovsk is a pleasant city, with wide, tree-lined boulevards, a popular beach, and an interesting museum of ethnography and local history.


Vladivostok was founded in 1860 as a military outpost, but its outstanding natural harbour soon brought it prosperity as a trading port. The city's nomination as the headquarters of the Russian Pacific fleet in the 1870s brought further growth, and by the twentieth century it had become a major center of international trade. During the Soviet era, Vladivostok's military role eclipsed its trading function, and the city was closed both to foreigners and to Soviet citizens lacking special entry permission. The city was opened once again to visitors in 1992. It is currently experiencing a rapid recovery of its historic role as a major Pacific commercial port and has also maintained its naval importance as the headquarters of the Russian Pacific Fleet. Today Vladivostok is a a lively, attractive city, with a wealth of attractions and, as always, a strikingly impressive harbor.