The Demidoff family was the richest clan not only in the Urals but in the whole Russian Empire. The history of Middle Urals is mostly the history of the Demidoffs who owned dozens of factories mostly in nevyansk and Nizhni Tagil. Ural metals with Demidoff's trademark Old Sable can be found in St.Petersburg (Peterhof), in London (the Palace of Westminster) and even in new York. The Statue of Liberty was a gift of France, as you know. But first the French had to buy copper from Demidoff's factories.
Akinfy Demidoff was the most influential in the dynasty. With the discovery of gold in the Urals, Akinfy became the second wealthy person in Russia after the Tsar. The legend says that he also counterfeited ruble coins in the secret factory in the basement of his mysterious Leaning Tower in Nevyansk. The Leaning Tower is still a secret to scientists and historians. We don't know the name of the architect, why the tower has the inclination and what purpose it had. It was a laboratory, a prison, a watch tower and a clock tower at the same time. The English clock that still plays music every 15 min. cost Demidoff more than the tower itself. In addition the Leaning Tower had a lightning rod the first ever used in the world.
Akinfy Demodoff's grandson Nikolay had enjoyed his life in the Urals until once he went on holiday to Italy, fell in love with it and never went back to his residence in Nizhni Tagil. You can't really blame him for lack of patriotism. Compared to the Ural severe climate and plain food, of course Italy seemed to be a paradise to Nikolay. He lived in Florence in Villa San Donato also known as Villa Demidoff and bought a feudal title of Count of San Donato. Although Russian aristocrats refused to call Demidoff by his title, the name of San Donato is well known in the Urals. There is a small train station San Donato not far from Nizhni Tagil. The name sounds so exotic that many people believe San is short for Sanatorium, however there is no sanatorium in the neighborhood. Meanwhile the Demidoffs set even stronger bonds with the Europeans when Nikolay's son Anatole Demidoff married Princess Mathilde, a niece of Napoleon.
In the present time the Demidoffs live in France. They own neither palaces nor noble titles. The head of the family hardly speaks Russian. He is aware of his famous ancestors but prefers a modest life style. What's interesting, the last Demidoff has been to Russia only once in early 90s. He didn't go to the Urals, instead he chose to visit the Red Square in Moscow. In the interview for the Russian TV he said that he wasn't much impressed..
Unlike Demidoff, tourists from Russia and abroad like to visit Demidoff's places and the Leaning Tower in particular. Nevyansk is 90 km north to Yekaterinburg. You can get there by bus or by train. The Tower is opened every day except Mondays from 9a.m. to 6 p.m. Because of many tourist groups on weekends, it's wise to book an excursion beforehand by phone +7-34356-2-20-56 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Note that excursions are in Russian only.
Book the tour to Nevyansk here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/nevyansk-leaning-tower
Take a look at the photos of Nevyansk by Fredrik Forsberg (for more photos visit my page Yekaterinburg for You on Facebook)
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- Secret towns in the Urals
- Nizhni Tagil – a tour for tough men only.
- Gora Belaya – a mountain to mount in summer
- Russian Expo Arms. Nizhni Tagil 2011