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The chronicles of Novosibirsk

Irkutsk tops the list of Siberia's most beautiful cities

By Anna Liesowska
30 March 2013

In distant times, parts of California and Hawaii were administered from the city of Irkutsk.

The Trubetskoi's house, Irkutsk. It was from here - in the middle of Siberia - in the 19th century that trading outposts were adminsitered as far afield as Fort Ross in California (1812-42) and Fort Elizabeth on the island of Kauai in Hawaii (1817-53). Picture: Irkutsk Decembrists Museum

But today this city - with many traces from its tsarist past - is thriving, as proven by its second place in a national contest for the most beautiful city. 

Close to Lake Baikal, and a popular stopover the Trans-Siberian railway, it came second only to Russia's Germanic window on the Baltic, Kaliningrad, previously known as Konigsberg, in a contest organised by news agency Russian Business Consulting.

The judges named the 'White House' of Irkutsk - the early 19th century 'Empire' style mansion of  the Sibiryakovy merchants - as one of the most spectacular buildings in the city. 

It is now home to the Irkutsk state University library, but it is just one of many magnificent historic buildings in a city once known as the 'Paris of Siberia'.

White House Irkutsk Siberia

It is now home to the Irkutsk state University library, but it is just one of many magnificent historic buildings in a city once known as the 'Paris of Siberia'. Picture: pribaikal.ru

Two other buildings selected as 'the city's architectural business cards' were the Shastin merchant's mansion and the Trubetskoi's house. 

'Irkutsk is rather special for being very tolerant to whoever was sent to serve their terms there at the end of 19th century,' said the citation from the RBC organisers.

'Every nationality sent there left their landmarks, for instance there is a stunning Polish pseudo-Gothic church with a spectacular organ; a synagogue, a mosque; and, of course, the very beautiful Znamenskiy women's monastery'.

Undoubtedly, the city is one of Russia's historic treasures. 

It was from here - in the middle of Siberia - in the 19th century that trading outposts were adminsitered as far afield as Fort Ross in California (1812-42) and Fort Elizabeth on the island of Kauai in Hawaii (1817-53).

Irkutsk Siberia


Irkutsk Siberia

Znamenskiy women's monastery and, below, Shastin merchant's mansion, Irkutsk. Pictures: The Siberian Times 

The buildings identified by the judges conjure images of the past, of a different age, when Irkutsk was known around the world.

'We found ourselves in the midst of a scene of civilisation such as we had not witnessed since setting foot on Russian soil,' said American Lionel F Gowing in 1889 after calling in on the city during a sledge journey across Siberia.

'Sledges with well-groomed horses and glittering harness were galloping along the road, and ladies paced the sidewalks dressed in furs of designs which showed that Parisian fashions are not neglected by the mantle-makers of Irkutsk'.

The full list of the seven most beautiful cities is Kaliningrad, Irkutsk, Vladimir, Kazan, Sochi, Arkhangelsk and Nizhniy Novgorod.

Comments (9)

The beautiful depends our point of view. The siberian architecture is very beautiful. I " travel" by Russian cities in my laptop and like it very much.
natercio silva, brazil - paraguaçu paulista
17/04/2017 12:06
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Dear Patrick! The list was made not by me, but special commission. I also hope, that next time they will surely include Krasnoyarsk there!
Anna , Novosibirsk
25/11/2013 10:58
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Anna Liesowska ! hmm I'm not sure if you have ever been to Krasnoyarsk and Kemerovo? How you can omit both these Cities from your best seven Cities in Siberia is dumbfounding !!! .Da da The hills that semi circle Krasnoyarsk (where the Zoo is situated ) gives the benefit of a majestic view of this thriving ,bustling City. The sunset from these high advantage points is stunning and breathtaking . The City is so well planned and with its layout so simple to navigate it becomes a visitors dream . Kemerovo with the mighty Tom River straddling the very heart of this City, gives it a feeling of Venice is Siberia ,A small clean modern City with all "mod cons" with beautiful parks and a rich history.A City that dedicates its existence to the mining community and honours them with a magnificent Mining Museum . Patrick .
Patrick, Perth Australia
06/11/2013 22:21
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Beautiful. I will visit someday.Baikal also looks amazing. Great article
william curry, milwaukee wisconsin
14/08/2013 20:36
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Beatiful. I will visit someday. Baikal also looks amazing. Great article
william curry, milwaukee, wisconsin
14/08/2013 11:04
2
1
Beatiful. I will visit someday. Baikal also looks amazing. Great article
william curry, milwaukee, wisconsin
14/08/2013 11:03
2
1
very nice.
james, mesa, arizona
06/06/2013 22:10
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I stopped in Irkutsk a couple of days in summer 2012 and three things - if it was in central Europe it would be a HUGE tourist hub. It's a welcoming relaxed (and green, in summer) city and maybe because of its history, it welcomes foreigners which not all Russian cities do. It has better signs in English than most (not as good as it could be) but not bad. And apart from its great pre-revolutionary buildings.....there are many more than you show, and better ones to my mind....it is an ideal point to reach Lake Baikal, which should be on everyone's must see list. Good variety of hotels too to suit all pockets. It's on the Trans-Sib line and well worth a stopover.
David, Bath, UK
31/03/2013 22:39
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I am Siberian but I had no idea about Irkutsk administrating Hawaii and California, wow!
Lena S, Novosibirsk/Tyumen
30/03/2013 01:33
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