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Irkutsk


The wooden classicism of Irkutsk

The history of Irkutsk goes back to the 17th century. It was in the year of 1661 when the cossacks under the leadership of Iakov Pochabov who were exploring Siberia, decided to build here a wooden fortress, the so-called Ostrog. As a matter of fact, in the 17th century, the land which was occupied by Russia was only one third of the territory of modern Russia. While the exploration and annexation of the new lands they sometimes had to battle with martial peoples. So, first of all, they used to build an Ostrog and then the settlement inside of it.

The first Ostrog of Irkutsk was really small-it was a rectangle 19m long and 17m wide. The very convenient situation of the Ostrog attracted people to come here. Let's give our appreciation to the founders: they have chosen for the future town not only a very picturesque place on the bank of the powerful Angara near the mouth of Irkut river, but also a very practical one.

Irkutsk appeared on the crossroads from the North where the furs were coming from and from the South, from where tea, raw silk, china and cloth were brought from. To get to Mongolia and further to China they used the way along the valley of the Irkut river. The Angara river was used as the way back to Russia as well as to Lake Baikal. There were deep forests here, where they went hunting, but there also were ample pastures for cattle and the rivers were rich in fish of different kinds. So it was an ideal place to found a settlement.

Irkutsk was growing very fast and on the 20th of April 1686 the Ostrog of Irkutsk received a city status. By the year of 1700 the population of Irkutsk was already about 1.000 people.

In the 18th century Irkutsk was used as a starting point for the numerous expeditions to the Far East. So, in 1725 the members of the Kamchatskaya expedition under the leadership of Vitus Bering passed Irkutsk. This expedition was sent out by csar Peter I.

In the 19th century Irkutsk became an exile place for political prisoners v first of all for Decembrists and Polish rebels.

After the Revolution Irkutsk got the capital of East Siberia. Nowadays Irkutsk has about 600.000 inhabitants.