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Lake Baikal.

Irkutsk will celebrate 350 years anniversary in 2011. Established in 1651 as a tax collection outpost on the Angara River for local fur trappers, Irkutsk gained official city rights in 1686. Soon it became the main Russian fort behind the Ural Mountains to colonize Siberia, Kamchatka and Alaska.

The first road connection between Moscow and Irkutsk — the Siberian Road (Sibirsky Trakt), was built in 1760. The city benefited economically from this new road. In 1879 the city was destroyed by fire but quickly rebuilt , with electricity arriving in 1896, the first theatre built in 1897 and a major train station in 1898. By 1900 the city had earned the nickname “The Paris of Siberia”.

During the Civil war that broke out after the Bolshevik’s October revolution in 1917, Irkutsk became the site of many furious and bloody clashes between the White and Red armies. Kolchak, one of the leaders of anti-bolsheviks resistance claimed himself as The Supreme governor of Russia, was executed there.

The local history museum.

Siberia, with its severe climate, for centuries had a reputation of a place for exile. Russian emperors as well as Soviet leaders exiled political prisoners to Irkutsk for years. In 19th and 20th centuries many Russians were relocated to Siberia and Irkutsk became a center for exiled revolutionaries, artists, army officers, democratically-minded Russian aristocrats and nobles. It was an important factor in the establishment of the cultural and architectural character of the city. Irkutsk became the major center of intellectual and social life for these exiles, and much of the city’s cultural heritage comes from them. Finally city became a prosperous cultural and educational center for Eastern Siberia.

In Soviet period the industrialization of Irkutsk and Siberia in general was heavily encouraged. The large Irkutsk reservoir was built on the Angara between 1950 and 1959 in order to facilitate industrial development.

Today Irkutsk is a major economic, academic, and cultural center in Siberia.

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