HEART OF THE URALS

NEWS & VIEWS FROM THE RAILS

TRANS-SIBERIAN STOPOVER EKATERINBURG

Ekaterinburg, or Yekaterinburg as it is also sometimes romanised, is the fourth largest city in Russia and one of the most popular stops on the Trans-Siberian Railway route and is included in many Trans-Siberian tours.

It is the “capital” of the Sverdlovsk Oblast which is found right on the border of Europe and Asia in the Ural Mounains and is the main cultural center in the region as well as being a major industrial center. It was known as Sverdlovsk from 1924 and 1991 after the communist leader in the region with the same name.

Ekaterinburg is historically and resource rich

Founded on November 18th 1723, Ekaterinburg was named after Tsar Peter the Great’s wife Yekaterina by Vasily Tatishchev and Georg Wilhelm de Gennin. It was to become one of Russia’s first industrial cities with it being used as both a metal works as well as a fortress between Europe to the West and Asia to the East.

It’s favourable location on the trade routes between the East and the West would see the city to continue to grow in importance and size throughout the imperial period of Russian history but it wasn’t this that the city would eventually become famous (or infamous) for.

After the Bolshevik victory in the October Revolution, the Tsar, Nicholas II, and his family were sent to internal exile in Ekaterinburg and were held at Ipatiev house in the city. Fearing that the Czech legions were on their way to rescue the royal family, they were taken and shot. The Ipatiev house was later to be demolished by Boris Yeltsin in order to avoid becoming a shrine.
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Visiting the Romanov graves and monastery in Ekaterinburg

In modern day Ekaterinburg you can tour the grave of the Romanov’s and there’s actually some debate to exactly where they were killed and where their bodies were dumped. I won’t go into it further here as it much better told by your guide, as I was when I visited there with the Trans-Siberian Travel Company. There’s nothing better than driving through this area having the story told to you by a local guide who really knows their stuff. I was fortunate that my guide had a passion for history and he brought the whole story to life around me as we drove through the woods to the site of the Romanov’s grave. It also allows you to think of a time when British history and Russian history where perhaps more intertwined - something impossible to ignore when you see a picture of Nicholas II and his cousins George V of Britain and Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany.

A prosperous city with plenty of tour activities whether in winter or summer

The city has plenty more to it than this rather morbid history and it is an attractive place with quite a young feel to it. It has become quite a cultural center with many building that are dedicated to the arts. It also has many opportunities to get out into the surrounding countryside and experience the Urals and has a great program of activities for winter including dog sledging, skiing and ice fishing as well as the summer when the Ural mountains come into their own for hikers and nature lovers.

All in all Ekaterinburg is worthy of a couple of nights further inspection on any Trans-Siberian tour.

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