Hello! My name is Luba. I can show you my Yekaterinburg and Middle Urals in Russia!


What museums to visit in Yekaterinburg?

Sverdlovsk Regional Museum of Local Lore (Kraevedcheski Muzey) is probably the largest Yekaterinburg. It has four halls which tell the history of the Urals from the ancient tribes to the Romanovs and Second World War. A new photo exhibition ‘Les Voyages in URSS’ tells about the so-called “Zastoy” era – years of stagnation in the USSR.

Red Square, Moscow 1956

Jacques Dupaquier is a French photographer who visited the USSR during the times of Khruschev and Brezhnev. Dupaquier first came to the USSR in 1956 as a member of the Society of French-Soviet Friendship.

Park Pobedy and a kiosk in Moscow, 1956

He took part in a car rally Paris-Tashkent with a stop in Sochi in 1964.

A beach in Sochi, 1964

Those days Sochi could hardly believe it would host the Olympics in 2014..Winter Olympics!

Finally, the French photographer travelled by Trans-Siberian railway from Vladivostok to Moscow in 1975. Has Russia changed since those days? You decide...

Sverdlovsk Train Station in 1975

Taiga, a town in Siberia

Chita, 1975

The exhibition ‘Les Voyages in URSS’ is open till 21st December 2011

Sverdlovsk Regional Museum of Local Lore is located in the centre next to the Iset Hotel. The museum has a hall of ancient history of the Urals with the Big Shigir Idol, the oldest wooden cult statue known in the world history (9.5 thousand years old).

Make sure you get to the Hall of the Romanovs on the top floor. It contains an interesting collection of letters, documents and personal belongings of the last Russian Tsar. The collection gives a better understanding of the unhappy events than a visit to Church on Blood or Ganina Yama Monastery

The hall of the Romanovs

Address: Prospect Lenina 69\10

Tel: +7 (343)376-47-78


The oldest cemetery in Yekaterinburg

Many tourists, as I noticed, like visiting Russian cemeteries, apparently because they are so different from those in the West. Yekaterinburg is famous for two mafia cemeteries but there is also Ivanovskoye cemetery in the centre. The oldest cemetery in the city traces the history of Yekaterinburgers from rich merchants of 19th century to Gulag prisoners and the killers of the Romanovs.

Church of St, Iowan is the main church of Yekaterinburg

Ivanovskoye cemetery is hidden behind the blue church on Repina Street, 6A next to the city prison and opposite the Central Stadium. The Church of St. Iowan is the only one that worked in the Soviet Sverdlovsk. During the Second World War Stalin decided to ease restrictions on churches to appeal to people’s patriotism. So the church wasn’t destroyed but, of course, Father Nikolay, the priest of the church had to be on friendly terms with the KGB. Local merchants the Telegins built the church in 1846. The family was buried behind the church. These are the oldest tombstones here.

The cemetery is pretty much neglected. You can only walk along the main alley. The most prominent citizens were buried here in Stalin’s times. A few steps further to the bushes and you will see simple gravestones with Soviet stars – the graves of 1920s-30s. Some graves have just markers with names of the so-called ‘enemies of the USSR’, the victims of repressions.

A small square on the alley has a monument to local writer Bazhov. On the left side from it you will find a gravestone of Petor Ermakov – one of the murderers of the tsar’s family. He was the one who stabbed the children with his bayonet when they were still alive lying on the blood splattered floor of Ipatiev House. When the house became a Museum of Revolution, Ermakov did excursions there, telling people how he killed the Romanovs. No wonder that his gravestone is splashed with red paint now.

You can get to Ivanovskoye cemetery by trolley buses 3 and 17. They run past the main train station and Church on Blood. Get off at Central Stadium.


Tsarina Alexandra Romanova. How she became a Saint

Monastery Ganina Yama, the burial place of the Romanovs (17km from Yekaterinburg) is changing all the time. Some of the wooden churches get burnt, then restored again. The first stone church is being built now. So, even if you have been to Ganina Yama already, there is always something new and interesting to see. Recently, a bust of tsarina Alexandra appeared on the central valley of the monastery.

  German Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine, a favourite granddaughter of Queen Victoria was given a Russian name Alexandra Feodorovna as she married Nicolas II.  The new tsarina was heartily disliked in Russia from the very beginning. She seemed very reserved in public, ignored Russian culture and the court in St. Petersburg. Her obsession with mysticism and relationships with a controversial ‘holy man’ Rasputin didn’t add popularity. When the Romanovs were kept in the Ipatyev house in Yekaterinburg, Alix drew swastika and other cabalistic signs for good luck, which later gave rumors that it could be a ritual murder.   

Alix didn’t manage to learn Russian, so the family members spoke mainly English in the palace. However, she was a fervent Orthodox believer. Russian Orthodox Church canonized her in 2000 as Saint Alexandra the Passion Bearer.

Interestingly, the Romanovs are now presented by the church as saints above criticism. The monastery in Ganina Yama as well as Church on Blood in Yekaterinburg offer the so-called Orthodox excursions run by special Orthodox guides. No other guides are allowed to show tourists around. But there are many good books you can read on the subject and not to be baffled. One of them is Ekaterinburg by Helen Rappaport . A vivid account of the final fourteen days of the Romanovs will give you an idea of what was going on during those days not only in the Ipatyev house, but all over Russia and abroad.

Book the tour to Ganina Yama here:


Boris Yeltsin in marble

This week Yekaterinburg is celebrating the 80th anniversary of Boris Yeltsin’s birth. A big man from the Urals started his political career in Sverdlovsk, then was promoted to Moscow in 1985 and became the first president of Russia. Now his statue is the first monument since the Soviet era erected to a political leader.

The monument is made of 15 ton marble pieces. It’s 10 metres tall - Boris’s height was 1.87m., much taller than his followers Putin and Medvedev (1.70 and 1.62 respectively). No wonder, the monument was erected on the Street named after Yeltsin. In the Soviet times the central street used to be a neglected area with shabby barracks. It was thanks to Yeltsin that the ugly barracks were demolished and people were moved to the new apartment buildings. Yeltsin also ordered to build a Drama theatre on this street. In the future there will be a presidential centre on Yeltsin Street too with a library and a museum. The museum will have an exact replica of Yeltsin’s office in the Kremlin.

The building of the future presidential centre of B.Yeltsin

2011 is also the 20th anniversary of the failed coup arranged by the Communists in August 1991 when Yeltsin climbed up onto a tank outside the Russian parliament and called for a general strike. On 23 August Yeltsin banned the Communist party in Russia. The photo exhibition of those events is now held in the Museum of History in Yekaterinburg. The exhibition is called ‘Yeltsin – Yes!’

There are very different opinions in Russia of Yeltsin’s presidency. The 90s are remembered as years when few men became billionaires while pensioners lived in poverty. Gangsters and mafia controlled the cities, it was especially characteristic for Yeltsin’s home city Yekaterinburg. The president was famous for his drunken speeches. I heard a lady from Moscow saying on the radio about Yekaterinburg: “Everything is wrong in your city – you killed the Tsar and failed to raise a president.”

By the way, it was Yeltsin who ordered to demolish Ipatyev House – the place of the Tsar’s murder in 1978. Though later he would say the order arrived from the Kremlin and he couldn’t disobey. However, Boris always had a huge support in Yekaterinburg. 95% of the Yekaterinburgers supported him in 1991 and the recent celebration events show that most of the Ural citizens don’t have a grudge against him.

Another interesting exhibition took place on Lenin Avenue. Local contemporary artists erected a carton monument to letter E. It is the most important letter for the city as both Yekaterinburg and Yeltsin start with ‘E’ in Russian. The citizens could bring the photos of the prominent people whose names start with E. The photos were then glued to the monument.


Christmas in Church on the Blood

January 7 is a Christmas Day in Orthodox Russia. The main celebrations in Yekaterinburg are held in and around Church on Blood in Honor of Tsar Martyr Saints' murder. Every year the best Russian ice sculptors come to create breathtaking symbols of Christmas and Mother Russia's saints all made of ice.

Tsar Martyr Saints

 This year the most prominent sculpture is no doubt the ice icon of the Romanovs family with young Tsarevich Alexey in front.  Wish you all Merry Christmas! 

Here are some more pictures, Iv'e taken today:


Are Ural Universities good for studying Russian?

Ural Federal University named after the first President of Russia B.N.Yeltsin is the biggest technical institution in Russia with a number of prominent graduates from comedians to politicians

Once school holidays started, I received an educational question from Joel. Joel is studying Russian at the University of Cambridge and considering spending a year studying in Yekaterinburg. I’m glad that you find the city very appealing, Joel. And you’ll be happy to learn that people in Yekaterinburg do not really speak English. Usually the vocabulary is limited to the following English phrases: How do you do, Okay and London is the capital of Great Britain – the latter is the first line from the Soviet text book and we all had to learn it by heart at school. As you can see, even the laziest student would have to start speaking Russian because there is no other way. At the same time I daresay the locals are friendly and welcoming to foreigners. I know many stories how Russian students helped their foreign colleagues and professors to adjust to the new reality: disorganized public transport, tiring bureaucracy, bitter cold winters or bitter hangovers on New Year’s day. Recent riots of nationalist football fans in Moscow haven’t affected Yekaterinburg. We’ve got students of different clolours and nationalities. They seem to feel safe here and some of them even became local celebrities for simply looking exotic!
On the other hand, there is a relatively large community of expats in Yekaterinburg supported by the foreign Consulates and culture centers of such countries as the USA, France, Germany, Spain and many others so you won’t feel as lonely as the Englishman in New York.

As for the quality of the University, there is more than one higher education institution. In fact, there are twenty so I’m going to name a few of them which acquired a really good reputation in Russia and abroad and may help in learning Russian:

Ural A.M. Gorky State University aka URGU (Urál'skiy gosudárstvennyy universitét ímeni A. M. Gór'kogo) ): (with English version). URGU has top Russian scientists and academicians among the staff – the former chief of the University Yury Orlov is now the president of the Russian Academy of Sciences. URGU has recently got in top ten of the Russian Universities with the highest publishing activity in terms of scientific articles and quotation index.  Foreign students particularly choose Faculty of Economics, Faculty of International Relations, Faculty of Philology (Russian linguistics) and Faculty of Russian Language for Foreign Students. URGU has various programs for international students and collaborates with European and American Universities. The University has a perfect location in the heart of Yekaterinburg facing the City Opera.

Ural A.M. Gorky State University on Lenin Avenue

Ural State Pedagogical University (Rossiyskiy Gosudarstvenniy Proffessionalno-Pedagogicheskiy Universitet) This teachers training institution is not as popular with the foreigners as URGU, but the Faculty of Linguistics may help you to study Russian in great depth.
Ural Federal Technical University aka URFU named after the first President of Russia B.N.Yeltsin (Uralskiy Federalniy Universitet imeni B. Yeltsina) (with English version) Though it trains mainly engineers, the university has recently targeted at humanitarian subjects as well. URFU is the biggest technical institution in Russia. It’s also become famous all over the country thanks to many prominent graduates including rock musicians, film directors, popular TV hosts, stand-up comedians, a mayor of Yekaterinburg and one Russian president. Thus engineering is certainly not the key discipline of this University.

Other Universities worth mentioning are: Ural State University of Economics considered to be prestige for elite students

Ural Academy of Architecture and Arts is one of the most reputable schools of art. It collaborates with Universities of the UK, Japan, Italy, the USA, France, South Korea and Germany:

Ural State Mining University is the oldest in Yekaterinburg. It was founded in 1917 by the last Russian Tsar Nicolas II but never bore his name as the Revolution started the same year. The University is now trying to maintain religious traditions started by Nicolas. It also has interesting Geological Museum of Minerals located in the University building with a large collection of precious stones and Ural gems. You can watch the exhibition here: (also in English, German and French)


The Romanovs Monastery on fire

This morning I received a message that three tourists from South Korea would like to see Ganina Yama monastery on the burial place of the Romanovs family. At the same time I learnt from the news that the monastery was on fire!

Luckily, only one out of seven churches burned down. The monastery was opened in 2001 and had 7 wooden churches to commemorate seven members of the Tsar's family: Nicolas II, his wife Alexandra, Grand Duchess Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia and young tsarevitch Alexey. Their bodies were thrown down by the Bolsheviks to a derelict mine called Ganina Yama, hence the name of the monastery.

The church that burned to ashes this morning had been under construction. I haven't heard any plausible explanation of what happened there yet. Main thing is that nobody was hurt and there were no valuable icons and other relics inside the church. A local charity organization is already gathering money to restore it. So far I can only show the photo of the church to the guests from South Korea and to you...

Ganina Yama Monastery, Yekaterinburg


 Have a look at other churches of Ganina Yama monastery.


The Romanovs’ gruesome end

Tourists wonder if it's worth visiting the sites in Yekaterinburg where Russian Tsar Nicolas II and his family were brutally murdered and buried. Sounds scary and gloomy but yes, it's worth it. Even if you don't know much of the history you will soon learn it.

To be honest with you, I used to find it a weird type of curiosity: to go to the forest picturing yourself how 7 naked bodies of the former royalties including children met their end in a mineshaft. So I didn't. But then I started to do guided tours and read a book by Eduard Radzinski 'Nickolay II'. Recommend it to everyone as it's a well written, not boring, deep psychologic insight into Tsar's personality based on secret files of the Kremlin archives which explains why the Romanovs were called a doomed family. Having read this book or any other of the kind you are sure to go and see everything with your own eyes

I must say that now Last days of the Tsar's family is my favourite part of the tour around the Urals. It's thrilling and captivating. It's like telling a detective story and being a part of it. The guests of the city feel like they are investigators because there is still a lot to investigate.

The tour starts on the site of former Ipatyev house where the family spent their last 78 days and was murdered in the basement. The house was destroyed now there is a gorgeous Church on the Blood to visit with a museum on the ground floor. From there track down the Bolsheviks' route to Ganina Yama (Ganina pit)17km north to Yekaterinburg. Now it's a beautiful monastery with 7 churches by the number of the family members. The place is worth visiting to see examples of wooden architecture and also to get away from the busy city. I personally like the atmosphere there: very quiet and serene, yet a little sad. The best thing in Ganina Yama is an open-air display of the enlarged photographs taken by the Grand Duchess. The girls liked photography and took many pictures of their every day unfortunately short life. This silent exhibition speaks more than any words. So don't forget to take a look at it and there is also a smaller one in front of the Church on the Blood

I am often asked whether the Romanovs' remains are kept here. No, after the identification the remains were sent to St. Petersburg and buried in a family vault. In Yekaterinburg you can find some family belongings from Ipatiev house, their icon and a milk tooth of tsarevitch Alexey. Besides, two bodies of Alexey and his sister Maria haven't been found yet. Maybe you will be the one to resolve the Romanovs case in the forests of Ganina Yama!

Book the tour to Ganina Yama here: