Novosibirsk is the third largest city in Russia after Moscow and St. Petersburg. They say it is considered the middle of Russia, right in the Urals (southwestern Siberia). The city lies on the banks of the Ob River, famous for its short name, I presume. With my limited Russian language knowledge, Ob is a good word to know and understand. The day the construction of a bridge (Trans Siberian Railway) across the Ob River began, is considered the day Novosibirsk was founded. They celebrated their 100th anniversary in 1993, and with growth rate gives reason to call it the Russian Chicago or The Capital of Siberia.
It occupies the area of 477.2 square kilometers. Novosibirsk local time is Greenwich Mean Time plus 6. The population is about 1.7 million people, according to my new Russian friend, Alexei. The basic language is Russian, and the Mayor of Novosibirsk is Vladimir Gorodetsky. But winters are severe, cold and snowy. Summers are hot and dry. I planned my trip accordingly.
More than 100 years ago, Alexander III, the Russian emperor pointed out in his rescript to his heir that it is necessary “to connect by inner railway net the Siberian regions, which are richest with gifts of Nature”. Thus, the building of Great Siberian Railway had begun. The bridge across the Ob River was completed in 1897. The Railway helped promote trade, Novosibirsk grew primarily due to trade and grain shipments, as well as a transport hub. It became a city in 1903.
It also soon became a banking center and the population grew rapidly. By 1907, the city had grown to 47,000 people from 8000 in 1897. It continued its growth through the Russian Revolution in 1917. But in 1919, the Russian Army blew up the bridge across the Ob River, causing for the first time, a decrease in population. Another TSR, this one called the Turkestan-Siberia Railway in the early 20th century connected the city to the Caspian Sea and Central Asia.
The period of reconstruction began in 1921 as part of Lenin’s New Economic Policy. The city further solidified its industrial hold on Siberia during the Stalin industrialization period. Massive facilities were built, particularly for production of heavy mining equipment. Also added were metal processing, a food processing plant, power plant, and numerous other factories. The Great Soviet Famine brought 170,000 more refugees into Novosibirsk.
By 1934 tram rails were laid, the Novosibirsk became the largest city in Siberia with 287,000 people. The old bridge over the Ob River was replaced. In the 1940s, more factories were added, along with a hydroelectric power stations in the 1950s. The Ob Sea was created, also flooding vast areas of farm land. Also in the 50s came the emphasis on more scientific research. By 1962, the city reached one million in population. At the time, it was the youngest city in the world with over a million population.
The largest ethnic groups here are Russian, German, Ukrainian, Tatar, Jewish, and Belarusian. Many large mammals inhabit the area, including brown bear, reindeer, elk, wolf, and fox, along with a myriad of smaller varmints. More than 350 bird species inhabit the area as well.
Above is the Trans Siberian Railway station, one of its major stops. Most older people do not speak English. Young people can speak English but are afraid to talk to foreigners. Novosibirsk is also the final destination of the Sibirjak express train, the longest train journey originating in the European Union. This weekly train leaves Berlin on Saturday and arrives here on Wednesday. Public transport within the city is plentiful.
Novosibirsk is also home to the largest opera house in Russia. It also turns out that it sits right on Lenin Square. They say in winter, winter residents build an ice town on the Ob River. Also, the Novosibirsk Art Museum contains some great works. Another activity would be to sample the blini and pelmini found in many cafes that feature Russian specialties. However, the most popular foods are Italian and sushi. Take my word for it, stick with sushi, even in the middle of Siberia. So far, Russian food is barely mediocre.