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Tomsk

Tomsk Profile

LOCATION & GEOGRAPHY

Tomsk, is a city, the administrative center of Tomsk region and district, situated in the eastern part of Western Siberia. It borders on the Krasnoyarsk Territory, and the Kemerovo, Novosibirsk, Omsk, and Tyumen regions, and the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area. Tomsk is mainly situated on the right bank of the river Tom, at a distance of 50 km from its confluence into the Ob river, at a distance of 3,600 km from Moscow, distance from Irkutsk by road is 1,630 km. The city stands on the border of the taiga: there are thick forests and marshlands to the north, and forests and steppes to the south.

It is one of the oldest towns in Siberia, that celebrated its 400th anniversary in 2004. Tomsk is an important scientific and educational center of Russia. In the city there are a lot of science intensive businesses, IT-industry is high developed.

AREA:  295 km(113,7 sq mi)
 POPULATION & NATIONALITIES: 575,000 people, national composition: Russians – 91%, the rest 9% - Tatars, Ukrainians, Chuvash, Belarusians, Bashkir. 
CLIMATE

The climate is temperate continental. In Tomsk, the summers are comfortable and partly cloudy and the winters are frigid, snowy, and overcast. The average January temperature is about 19-21°C below zero, but sometimes it can be as cold as 30 or 35°C below zero. Siberian summer is relatively short and sometimes rainy; the average July temperature is 17-18°C, though sometimes it’s 30°C and higher. 

Before leaving you should always check the weather outside and the forecast. For example, here

HISTORY

Founded in a decree of Tsar Boris Godunov, Tomsk began its life in the early 17th century as a fortress on the River Tom to protect Russia’s conquest of Siberia. It served as a fortress, a merchants' city, a centre of the gold rush, and the centre of a huge province covering several regions of today's Russia and Kazakhstan.

 However, there are versions that long before this there was a large settlement on the site of Tomsk. And not only local Tatars, but also fugitive Russian Old Believers lived there. This is evidenced by the numerous finds of people buried in wooden decks, found in many places of the city. The skeleton of a Mongolian horseman in full uniform was once discovered in the Camp Garden, and also under city there are numerous underground passages created by unknown.
 
Tomsk became a strategic military base which provided protection to the local population during the 17th century - it repelled the attacks of the nomads. But in the 18th century, the Russian Empire borders receded far to the south and east, the local nomadic tribes were defeated and Tomsk lost its military significance. Since the mid-18th century to the Soviet era, Tomsk remained a place of exile.
 

After the construction of the Siberian road, Tomsk became an important center of transit trade. Gradually, the town grew to the status of the region’s administrative center. Later, in the beginning of the 19th century, it became not only the administrative, but also the cultural and economic center of the south of Western Siberia. Since the late 1830s, the population of Tomsk grew rapidly thanks to the growth of gold mining in Siberia.

 The informal name of the city - "Siberian Athens" - is widespread. It appeared at the end of the XIX century after opening there the first university in Siberia: Imperial Tomsk University, founded in 1878. This subsequently played a significant role in choosing the direction of city development. In 1896 the first higher technical educational institution in Siberia - Technological Institute (now Tomsk Polytechnic University) was founded and by the 1940s the city gained a reputation of a Russian centre of science and education. The development of the region went faster, as the technical spirit began to actively study the surroundings for geology, mineralogy, and other practically applicable knowledge. However, before the war, the city clearly lacked an industrial base where scientists could put into practice the gained experience. The Great Patriotic War contributed to this - during the war, many enterprises were evacuated to Tomsk. This dramatically raised the city’s industry in a few times over a very short period of time.
 

Now Tomsk is considered an architectural monument of Russia because of the huge amount of preserved wooden and stone architecture of the XVIII – XX centuries. In 2005, the Russian government declared Tomsk to be a special economic area which implies investments in the city’s economy and creation of innovation organizations.

 
TOUR SIGHTS OF INTEREST
 

Many interesting things can be found even without going beyond the borders of Tomsk, it can easily be called a treasury of cultural property. Today in city there are 45 monuments, some of which are quite surprising and unusual. One of them, the Monument to Happiness by the sculptor Leontiy Usov, is located on Shevchenko Street. If you press a coin against it, he’ll say some phrase from the cartoon “Once Upon A Time There Was A Dog”. A number of original monuments were created by Tomsk sculptor Oleg Kislitsky: the monument to an electrician, the Cabbage Monument at Hospital Number 1, and the Monument of Slippers at the entrance to Hotel Tomsk. The embankment is a favorite place of citizens: a paved road made of stone, a beautiful view of the river, a monument to Anton Pavlovich Chekhov, who visited Tomsk in 1890.

A wooden ruble weighing 250 kilograms and measuring more than two meters was installed on Novo-Sobornaya Square in Tomsk. The ruble, which is hundreds of times larger than its metal counterpart, is made of pine and coated on top with a special solution that protects the exhibit from moisture. The idea of creating a wooden ruble is that Tomsk is associated with wooden architecture and forest wealth of the region. The wooden ruble was recorded in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest copy of the coin.

Stone in honor of the foundation of Tomsk is a symbol of old Tomsk, which takes us back in centuries. The location of the monument is simply unique - on a small piece of land – Voskresenskaya Hill, there are a lot of attractions where you can climb around and see everything. A wooden fortress, a large map of the ancient city, a fortress cannon similar to those that defended Tomsk in the Middle Ages, which shoots every day at 12 noon and an observation deck with a view of the entire historic city.

Voskresenskaya Church is an architectural monument of federal significance, one of the oldest temples in Tomsk, built in 1807 in the rare Siberian Baroque style. The silhouette of the church, located near the Voskresenskaya Hill, is visible from the farthest ends of the city. Also on the territory of the church is Tomsk Tsar Bell.

The historical part of the city stretches from north to south along the eastern shore of Tom’ river. Its southern end is Lagerny Sad (Camp Garden), called so because in 19th century there stood a camp of Tomsk garrison. Now it’s a park of birch and fir trees, with straight lanes and Tom’ quay. The river makes almost 90 degree turn here, and there is a majestic view over the powerful river and the opposite bank. In the center of the park stands voluminous monument to the soldiers of World War II, where are listed all the Tomsk citizens who died in the fields of combats. Behind the monument is another promenade and a staircase for descent to the water.

The Tomsk Memorial Museum of the History of Political Repression is located in the basement of the building, which from 1923 to 1944 housed the internal prison of the Tomsk City Department of the NKVD. The permanent exhibition of the museum includes a reconstructed prison corridor and a cell for prisoners under investigation, the interior of the investigator’s office. Among the exhibits are copies and original documents of investigative files, photo albums, embroideries, paintings, drawings, playing cards, wood and stone crafts made in camps and links. The museum has an e-database with information on more than 200,000 people who were under suspicion during the Soviet era.

It is no secret that the universities of Tomsk are one of its main attractions. Over 1,5 km from Novo-Sobornaya Square to the Tomsk Electromechanical Plant concentrated the main buildings of four of the six Tomsk universities. Thanks to the magnificent architecture of the university academic buildings, the beauty of the University Grove and the park on Novo-Sobornaya Square, this area of Tomsk has gained fame as one of the most beautiful corners of the city. The main gem is Tomsk State University, which in 2020 celebrated its 142nd birthday.

The first museum of Slavic mythology is a unique social-cultural project, which is based on a private art collection. It is located in its own three-story building in the historical part of the city - under the Resurrection Mountain. The museum’s collection is based on original easel paintings, drawings and works of domestic decorative and applied art based on Slavic history, mythology, epic tales, Russian fairy tales and customs.

Tomsk Museum of Wooden Architecture is one of the few museums of this profile in the Siberian region - acquaints its visitors with important stages in the history of city wooden architecture. The museum is housed in a building - a monument of wooden architecture of federal significance, representing one of the brightest examples of Art Nouveau. The expositions are based on the collection: numerous wooden fragments of houses, mainly window frames, pilasters, cornices and other patterns of carved decor.

The wooden architecture of Tomsk is recognized by experts as a unique worldwide cultural and historical phenomenon. There are about 1,800 wooden houses in the historical district of the city.  Tomsk's architectural style combines both the Russian traditional form of town building as well as baroque, classic and modern architectural styles. Tomsk's wooden houses are quite tall, very spacious and painted in light colours.

The most interesting, truly artistic monument is the estate of the merchant Leonty Zhelyabo, the highlight of which was the house with an outbuilding, located in the courtyard and built in 1903. It all started with a simple wooden house, and then extensions, decorations, a magnificent bay window crowned with stylized firebirds were gradually added. The spired, bright-turquoise Russian-German House (Mansion of the merchant Golovanov) (1904) is among several grand wooden mansions along Krasnoarmeyskaya street.  Dzerzhinskogo street, one block east of Krasnoarmeyskaya, is worth a wander as well for wood houses and the colourful outdoor Dzherzhinskogo Market, which sprawls for a full block south of Kartashova str., providing photo-ops as well as fuel in the form of local fruits and nuts. In Bakunina street, 26, stands one of the oldest dwelling houses of the city, build in the middle of 18th century for town major Frenchman Tomas Villeneuve. In this house, by invitation of Villeneuve, made a short stop on his way to exile in 1791 Alexander Radishchev, famous liberal writer.

Read more about the masterpieces of Tomsk wooden architecture here

Besides architectural monuments, there are a lot of places of interest related to history, culture and nature of the region in Tomsk and the surrounding area. The sights of the Tomsk also include the University Park. It was established in 1885 during the construction of the main building of Tomsk State University (Imperial Tomsk University at that time). On the territory were planted either softwood trees, such as spruce, fir, pine, and others such as cherry, elderberry, viburnum, etc. Later, the plantation of trees imported from Europe, North America and the Far East: the elm, English oak, small-leaved lime, and Saskatoon. The central walkway leads to the main building of Tomsk State University. The Park is separated from Lenin Avenue by a stone wall and railings, along which runs a row of trees, forming a boulevard.

The Siberian Botanical Garden of Tomsk State University is the oldest botanical research institution in the Asian part of Russia. The garden is located on an area of 126 hectares and includes a greenhouse complex, unique to the northern latitudes (an area of about 6,500 square meters) with the highest greenhouse (31 m), a conservation park (14 hectares) and an experimental farm (112 hectares). The collection of garden plants is one of the largest for the northern regions of the planet, with over 6,000 species of forms and varieties. Of these, about 1,700 species are tropical and subtropical plants exotic for Siberia.

The highlight and must-visit of the city is Holy Virgin Monastery of St Alexey. It was founded in the year 1605 in some other place and brought here in 1663. The cathedral was erected in years 1776-1789, the belfry in 1860. This monastery is ranking high among the holy places in Siberia for its history and relics it has.

Tomsk Regional Art Museum contains paintings by famous Russian and Soviet masters, European art with masterpieces by such artists as David Teners, Jr. (17th century), a collection of icons from different eras starting with 17th century.

Entertainment Forest park is located 15 km away from Tomsk and includes an extreme assault course, a climbing wall, and many play areas. There's a unique natural monument 40 km away from Tomsk – the Talovskye Chashy (Bowls). These are limestone structures formed as bowls, filled with water and covered with a rare mineral birnessite. Water in these cups doesn't freeze even in winter. It is considered to have very strong healing properties.

The Vasyugan Swamps is the largest swamp system in the world, covering 53,000 km2. Every year the swamp grows by an average of 8 km2. The swamp occupies the northern part of the Ob and Irtysh interfluve, mostly within Tomsk Oblast, 580 km from Tomsk and partially Omsk and Novosibirsk oblasts. Swamps are called the second "green lungs" of the planet after the Amazon. The natural monument, included in the UNESCO Preliminary List of World Heritage Sites in 2007, is one of the largest climate regulators on Earth and counteracts the greenhouse effect.

EVENTS
 

Hunter holiday "Big Amikan" - takes place in March, in the village of Beliy Yar, Verkhneketsky district. The purpose of the event: a tribute to the traditions of hunters, the ability to identify talented representatives from among the participants, the exchange of experience and professional development. In the program of the holiday are competitions for hunters (personal championship), snowmobile rides, hunting competitions, hunting skiing, splitting firewood, making a fire, shooting at targets with an air rifle, throwing a lasso, setting a trap, gastronomic competition, crossbow shooting. The ceremonial opening and closing ceremonies are held in the form of holiday concerts, which present the traditions and rites of the peoples of the North.

 More than 200 wood masters from around the world and tens of thousands of spectators annually come to the International festival-competition "Ax Holiday" (International Folk Crafts Festival). The festival takes place 19 km from Tomsk, in rural park “Okolitsa”.

The park constantly has 9 national farmsteads (Russian, Chinese, Uzbek, Belarusian, Tatar, Mongolian, Mordovian, Selkup), in which you will be offered to taste dishes of national cuisine, try on a national costume, as well as see the cultural program, learn the customs of local nationalities. All days the holiday is accompanied by a cultural program, and in the evenings, eminent collectives oriented to different age groups perform. All works made at the festival are carefully stored in the park and are an open-air museum of wooden architecture.

 For five years now every year in the last days of the solstice in the territory of the village of Nizhnyaya Tiga, where the Udmurts live, the regional festival of the Udmurt culture “Gerber” has been held. Gerber is considered a summer holiday of the land, until this day all spring agricultural work in which the plow was used was completed. During this period, weddings were usually held and during the holiday you can see: a rite of the Udmurt wedding; try ritual cereal, which is prepared according to old Udmurt recipes; try the national dishes and drinks of Udmurts. View and participate in competitions of riders, mowers, archery, strongmen, arable land virtuosos, pig races and much more.
 

The regional folklore festival of folk art "Pyshkinsky festival" is held since 2011 annually in June in the village of Pervomaisk, 130 km from Tomsk. The owner of the festival, the prince Pyshka, treats Siberian pies – pyshki. The festival hosts contests of cakes and national dishes of Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Tatar cuisine. A fair of craftsmen is unfolding here. You can get a master class from a real blacksmith or learn the intricacies of needlework, purchase a variety of crafts and souvenirs. And also stand in the “Chastochny Krug” with the participation of folklore groups and guests from Tomsk and the whole region.

 The festival of Indigenous Peoples "Etudes of the North" is an original, colorful holiday of the peoples of Siberia - southern and northern Selkups, Khanty, Evenki on Siberian soil, indigenous peoples of Altai, Khakassia, reflecting a rich palette of folk art, the connection of the times and the inexhaustible source of folk talent. Traditionally, it is held in the beginning of August in the village of Parabel, 390 km from Tomsk. The holiday necessarily includes a theatrical concert, holding national ceremonies, performances of national diasporas, large national fair of creativity and crafts of the northern peoples and national competitions, such as racing and the target shooting.
 
  

 
 

I arrived in Tomsk in the early morning from Tobolsk, another city off the Trans-Siberian. These two cities, completely different in nature, are united by the same fate: their significance as cultural and historical centers of Siberia considerably declined after the Trans-Siberian Railway was built. To continue reading click here

 

 

Read the story of American voyager visiting Tomsk while travelling along the Trans-Siberian railroad here 

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