When foreign tourists get to Russia they may be surprised to learn that the historical events they studied at school were absolutely wrong especially concerning inventions. The Russians will eagerly give you a lesson of history in case you still don't know who invented the first steam locomotive, the first bicycle, radio, lightning rod or periodic table. Well, as for the periodic table, even wikipedia agrees that it was invented by Russian professor Mendeleev. As for the others, guess where they all occured according to the Russians? By a staggering coincidence all the above objects were invented in the Urals and that's what I learnt at school and had firmly believed until I met the first foreign tourists in Yekaterinburg.
The monument to Alexander Popov in Yekaterinburg is right in the center on Lenin Avenue. It's next to the main post office. Every school child knows that Alexander Popov invented radio. Nevermind that the rest of the world believes that Italian inventor Marconi did this. We know for sure, Popov invented his device and tested it in 1896 three month before Marconi. He only didn't apply for a patent - too much fuss and paper work, you know. Meanwhile Marconi introduced his apparatus to the public in London and patented it. All in all 7 May (the date when Popov demonstrated his radio) is known in Russia as Radio Day. Students of Ural Technical University have a tradition. On Radio Day they march 3 km from the University down Lenin Avenue to the monument of Popov and wash it - pigeons like to rest on Popov's head so students have to deal with consequences, then at night an open-air party begins.
The Britons would be surprised to learn that steam locomotive was invented in Russia. The Ural city of Nizhni Tagil has a monument to the Cherepanovs father and son who built the first locomotive. It should be added - that was the first locomotive built in Russia, not in the world but not many people in Russia pay attention to such trifles.
The same story was with the invention of bicycle. A sculpture of local craftsman Aratamonov on his high-wheel bicycle can be found in Yekaterinburg on Vainera st. The legend says he built his iron bicycle and rode to St. Petersburg to see the coronation of the Russian Tsar. It sounds fishy considering the state of Russian roads or better to say the lack of any roads in 18th century. Then again, those crazy Russians are known for diving naked in winter so why not riding a bicycle to St. Petersburg.
Finally, how about the lightning rod invented by Benjamin Franklin in 1749. If you still believe it, visit Nevyansk - a town 90 km from Yekaterinburg. The famous leaning tower of Nevyansk keeps many secrets. We still don't know the name of an architect and the purpose of the tower. But we do know that the top of the tower was crowned with a metal lightning rod. The tower was built somewhere in 1725-1732. It's a historical fact which means the locals created it 25 years before Franklin.
Whether it's the Russian tendency to think we are the first in the world, a lack of communication in the past centuries, Soviet propaganda or sheer genius, it's up to you to decide. But after visiting the Urals you might rewrite history of world inentions.
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- The Demidoff family – from the Urals to Italy