About the Region

General information

Geographic location

Irkutsk region is located in the south of East Siberia, almost in the center of Asia, at crossroads of main transport routes connecting Europe to Russia's Far East and countries of APR. Irkutsk region borders with Krasnoyarsk region in the west, with Chita region - in the east, with Buryatia Republic in the south, with Tyva Republic in the south-west and with Sakha Republic in the north-east.  Total border length of Irkutsk region is 7240 km, including 520 km along Lake Baikal. 

Historic background

In the XVII century, the central city of the region - Irkutsk - has gained high significance as a transport hub and trade center of East Siberia.  The city established its first educational institutions, published the first book (1807), opened a theater (1849), a school (1781), a printing house (1805), a hospital (1807),  a library (1938) and a ladies' institute (1845).

The telephone network appeared in 1864; the first train of the Transsiberian Railway came to the city in 1898; electric street lighting appeared in 1907, the city's water supply system was built and telephone cables were installed.  Shopping bazaars were the centers of the city's commercial life.  No other Siberian city could boast of similar high level of commercial service.




Industrial construction began in the region in 1930s, and regular flights from Irkutsk to other cities of Russia became available since 1928.  In 1970, Irkutsk was listed among protected Russian cities calling for preservation of its unique urban design and planning.  In 1997, the Global Monuments Rescue Fund listed Irkutsk among top 100 cities of primary value for historic downtown restoration.

Culture

Over three and a half centuries, Irkutsk grew from a modest wooden settlement outside of a fortress to a large modern city. The city has preserved unique historical monuments and architectural complexes.

Monument to Tsar Alexander III (1908), sculptor R. Bach. The monument was erected in gratitude for completion of the construction of the Transsiberian Railway.  The sides of the pedestal carry the two-headed eagle holding in its beak the tsar's order requiring to start the railway construction project, bas-reliefs of the conqueror of Siberia Ermak and Governor Generals M. Speranskiy and N. Muravyev.

Local Studies Museum (1883), former East-Siberian department of the Emperor's Russian Geographic Society, design author - architect G.V. Rozen. The museum has accumulated a unique ethnographic collection, clothing of the peoples of Siberia, items of shaman religion, a collection of weaponry, rare documents of XVII century dating back to the very early days of Siberia's exploration.

Drama Theater after N.P. Okhlopkov (1895-1897), was built in classicism style based on the design by architect V.A. Shreter, with donations of the city's prosperous citizens.  Numerous famous Russian actors used to appear on the theater's scene. A monument of the famous playwright from Irkutsk, Alexander Vampilov, is placed near the theater.

The Art Museum is the best known in Siberia. The museum features a collection of old icons, a portrait gallery of Russian collection, Western European paintings of XVII-XIX centuries. Collections of Japan and China include paintings, porcelain, wooden and metal objects. 

The Polish Catholic Church (1881) was built with donations raised by Catholic communities of the Russian Empire. The building is designed in Neo-Gothic style.  An organ hall was opened in the building in 1978.

Spasskaya Church (Church of Christ the Savior) (1713) - the oldest brick and stone building remaining not only in the city, but in the entire East Siberia. It is a rare monument of cultural architecture. Exactly on this location 300 years ago the Cossacks founded their first wooden fortress. In early XIX century, the exterior of the church was decorated with frescoes, the most important of which is the wall painting of The Icon of Christ of Edessa.

Tourism

Irkutsk region offers unique conditions for development of tourism and recreation. Unique beauty, numerous spa water springs, pristine air of taiga and the mountains, historic and cultural features of the region have always stirred high interest to the region among visitors.

Circumbaikal Railway - a monument of architecture and history dating back to early XX century, being one of the elements of the great Transsiberian railway. This railway was referred to as the "golden buckle of the steel belt of Russia", with 39 tunnels and 440 bridges per only 84 km of its length.  The longest tunnel is 778 m, the largest bridge is 123 m. Circumbaikal Railway is a model of harmonic unity of natural and cultural-ethnographic environment.

Architectural and ethnographic open-air museum "Taltsy" consolidates over three hundred years in the life and history of Siberia. Taltsy hosts estates of the first Russian settlers, wooden fortress towers, a church, ancient mills with authentic items of daily lifestyle of XVII-XVIII centuries. The key sightseeings of the museum are the Spasskaya Tower of Ilimskiy wooden fort (1667), the Church of the Kazan Icon of Virgin Mary (1679). 

The landmark of the region is Lake Baikal - the deepest and the cleanest lake of the planet. Lake Baikal contains 23 thou. km3 or 20% of the world's fresh surface waters, which meet the most stringent microbiological, organoleptic and hydrochemical standards of potable water. In spring, transparency of water in Lake Baikal reaches 40 m. The volume of water in the lake is larger than that of all Great Lakes of North America combined.  In 1996, Lake Baikal was included into UNESCO Global Heritage Sites list.  

 

 



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