Irkutsk Travel Guide

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bank of Angara

bank of Angara

Chaporgin A.

Irkutsk is located 60km East of the world famous Lake Baikal. It is administrative centre of Irkutsk oblast (province) in the east-central Russia. The city lies along the Angara River at its confluence with the Irkut River. More than 750,000 people live in this city surrounded by natural beauty. Gorgeous birch forests link urban center to its residential area giving a kind of resort feeling to Irkutsk.

It was founded as a wintering camp in 1652, during the first Russian colonization of the area; a fort was built in 1661, and Irkutsk rapidly became the main centre of Cisbaikalia and of the Russian trade route to China and Mongolia. It acquired town status in 1686. Its importance grew after the coming of the Trans-Siberian Railroad in 1898. The city of Irkutsk, with attractive embankments along the river and many surviving wooden houses on its tree-lined streets, is an administrative and cultural centre for Eastern Siberia and of the Russian Far East. Irkutsk State University (1918) and the Siberian branch of the Academy of Sciences are among the city’s many teaching and research institutes.b>Irkutsk has taken on several roles in its nearly 350 years of existence, including expedition base for explorations of Siberia, city of exiles, and gold rush town, just to name a few. The city’s nicknames include the capital of Siberia, the pearl of Siberia, and even Paris of Siberia.

Irkutsk is lighthearted and sunny, filled with pastel-colored 18th century buildings and delicately sculptured old wooden houses where the political rebels lived n serene exile. Elaborate brick mansions were built at the turn of the century, and the dark black wooden cabins were adorned with a local "lace" sculpture that gives them a touch of the Italian Renaissance.

In the late 19th century, gold was discovered in the nearby Lena Basin, and the Siberian Gold Rush began. People came to the region hoping to strike it rich, and those who were successful built sprawling classical mansions and financed public buildings, some of which still stand today.

Irkutsk is in many ways the heart of Siberia, with its proximity to Lake Baikal. As a local writer once noted, "To miss seeing Irkutsk is to miss Siberia."

To read about what is happening in Irkutsk and Baikal today you may visit Baikal Club blog on google ( http://baikalclub.blogspot.com ), where local people and travellers post their thoughts and ideas.

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July 05, 2007 change by lpx

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