Yekaterinburg

Yekaterinburg is the fourth largest city in Russia and is situated slightly east of the Ural Mountains at the edge of Siberia and on the border between Europe and Asia. The city was founded in 1723, just 20 years after St. Petersburg, by order of Tsar Peter the Great, and was named after the Tsar’s wife and future tsarina Yekaterina I. The city rapidly grew as the center of the Urals mining region and a major pillar of the metallurgy industry. When the Siberian Route was built beginning in 1761 to deliver Chinese goods to Europe through Russia, Yekaterinburg became a major hub in the transit of minerals from Siberia to European Russia, taking on its nickname of the “Window to Asia.” After the Russian revolution, the last tsar and his family were arrested and transferred to several locations, ending up at the Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg. When the White troops, who were loyal to the Tsar, approached the city and were about to free the prisoners, the Bolsheviks assassinated the tsar and his family on Lenin’s orders. The scene of the murder was razed in 1977 by Boris Yeltsin, who was at the time the governor of the city and would become the president of Russia. Nowadays, Yekaterinburg is the major cultural and industrial center of the Ural Region, a prosperous and dynamic city.

Panoramic tour of Yekaterinburg. The panoramic tour will introduce the historical city center, which features several buildings typical of 19th century Russian architecture. We will see the Monument to the City Founders, Tatischev and Genin, and among the many cathedrals and monasteries that we will see, the Chapel of St. Catherine, the patron of the city, in particular bears mentioning. We will also see the former Mining Office, the first stone building in Yekaterinburg and today the State Conservatory; the oldest Opera House in Russia, which has been in operation since 1912; and many merchant houses, palaces, and manor houses from the 19th century situated next to the city pond. We will discover the main Square of 1905 and October Square where the buildings of the City Parliament and Regional Government are located.

Visit to Nevsky Cathedral in Yekaterinburg. This bright and majestic cathedral was founded in 1838 on the grounds of Novo-Tikhvinsky Monastery and built in the style of late Classicism, turning into one of the largest and most beautiful cathedrals in pre-revolutionary Russia. When the Soviet regime came to power it was decided to close the cathedral, though it remained active longer than any other city churches, closing only in 1930. During World War II it was used as a military depot and later the funds of the Regional Museum were kept there. Only in 1991 was the cathedral returned to the Russian Orthodox Church, and a complete renovation was completely recently, resulting in a 6000 person capacity.

Visit to the Church on the Blood in Yekaterinburg. The Church on the Blood was built between 2000 and 2003 in order to commemorate the location of the murder of the last tsar, Nicholas II, along with his family and closest servants. After his abdication, the tsar and his family were arrested and, after being held captive in Alexander’s Palace in Pushkin, near St. Petersburg, and later in the Siberian city of Tobolsk, the whole group of prisoners was moved by the Bolsheviks to the Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg, where they stayed for several months under close surveillance. During the Russian Civil War, as troops loyal to the tsar were approaching, Lenin ordered the murder of the tsar and his family, along with their doctor, maid, valet, and butler. Eleven people in total were killed at midnight in a room in the house’s basement. Loyal troops liberated the city just one week later, but it was too late. The house was demolished in 1977 by order of the governor of the city, Boris Yeltsin, future president of Russia, and once the Soviet Union fell, this orthodox cathedral was built at the scene of the crime.

Visit to Ganina Yama. Situated 15 km north of Yekaterinburg, this place is a memorial of the Romanov’s assassination at the hands of the Bolsheviks. After the killings at the Ipatiev House, the bodies were sprayed with acid in order to disfigure them and then transported to Ganina Yama, where they were burned and buried by the killers. When the White troops, loyal to the Tsar, liberated the city only one week later, they quickly discovered the burial place, but the bodies were no longer there: the Bolsheviks had secretly transferred them to a second burial place very close to Ganina Yama. This place was kept totally secret by the communist authorities until clandestine researchers discovered it much later, during the ‘70s, and only revealed the location in 1989, when the fall of the communist regime was imminent. DNA tests proved the remains belonged to Nicholas II and his family. They were transferred to the Peter and Paul cathedral in St. Petersburg, where they rest next to the other members of the Romanov dynasty. A memorial has been built at Ganina Yama, at the place of the burial, which consists of seven chapels, one for each member of the imperial family.

Visit to the monument on the border between Europe and Asia. We will cross the border between Europe and Asia in Yekaterinburg, where a monument has been erected a bit west of the city. We will celebrate the continent crossing with a glass of Russian sparkling wine.