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'Right on the bank of the river there is a station Ob, a big trading city with magnificent cathedral, great schools and shops — very American-like.'

Tsar's magnificent start-up

By 0 and 0 and 0
01 May 2013


The Novosibirsk Planetarium is a 'must' for city visitors, along with the Novosibirsk Zoo. Picture:

Our city, now the largest in Siberia, is itself a one big start up, under Tsar Alexander III.

Not only did he arrange for state budget money to go into the construction of the bridge over the River Ob, which was one of the crucial moments of the development of the Trans-Siberian railway, but also Alexander and his family donated a huge plot of land and paid about 12,000 roubles (the equivalent nowadays of $473,000 or 360,000 euro) towards the construction of Novosibirsk's magnificent Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (opened and consecrated on December 29, 1899). 

The next significant building on Novosibirsk's skyline named 'The House of Lenin' (building was finished in 1926) was constructed thanks to public donations, when many merchants responded to calls from propagandists of the newly-made Soviet state for the urgent construction of a memorial in honour of the Communist Party leader after his death. 

The minimal fee was literally the cost of one brick; part of the funds were gathered thanks to city workers, with each of them deducting one-day's salary towards the construction. 

The building as it was done initially looked a lot like Lenin's Mausoleum in Moscow and had a huge 'Lenin died, but Leninism is Alive' inscription on its front.

Novosibirisk, Siberia's city of start ups

Novosibirisk, Siberia's city of start ups

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and, below, the House of Lenin, Novosibirsk. Picture courtesy: Novosibirsk City Museum 

Many of those Novosibirsk start ups of the past have gone, or changed - like the House of Lenin which now hosts the Novosibirsk Philharmonic Orchestra - yet many are still alive and thriving. 

Take Akademgorodok, or Novosibirsk Scientific Centre, which was brought to life thanks to the determination - and dreams - for a perfect scientific community in the middle of Siberia by Academician Mikhail Lavrentyev.

Set up in 1957 it allowed the young forward-thinking scientists who moved east from Moscow and St Petersburg a pleasant lifestyle, enabling them to work successfully. 

It is home to 32 institutes and research centres, the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and the Novosibirsk State University.

Some say it has the greatest concentration of brain power anywhere in Russia.

Another dreamer from Novosibirisk, Leonid Sikoruk, a journalist and enthusiastic citizen, was for years obsessed with an idea of building a state-of-the-art planetarium. His wish came true a year ago - Novosibirsk celebrated the opening of its own planetarium with a great variety of telescopes, a Foucault pendulum and a huge projection hall. 

Novosibirsk Zoo, by Vera Salnitskaya

The Novosibirsk Zoo is a popular tourist attraction with almost a million visitors annually, and is also a noted scientific institution. Picture: Vera Salnitskaya

Now the Novosibirsk Planetarium is another 'must' for city visitors, along with another very successful start-up,  Novosibirsk Zoo.

With more than 11,000 animals from 702 species - about 150 of them are from the World Red Book - Novosibirsk Zoo is a popular tourist attraction with almost a million visitors annually, and is also a noted scientific institution. 

One of the largest in Russia, it boasts a world record in captive breeding programs for endangered species. Rostislav Shilo, the zoo's Director since 1969, says that there are only two other self-supporting zoos in the world - in Singapore and  San Diego. 

Novosibirsk also has high tech start ups which grew to be recognised all around Russia - and the world, like 2GIS which offers very detailed, constantly updated and easy-to-navigate maps of the cities along with cities directories, all free of charge. 

2GIS grew from a tiny 'on-the-knee' project into a company with offices in more than 80 cities in Russia, Italy and Kazakhstan. 

And having another look back into the past, remember Academician Lavrentyev and Akademgorodok? 

Akademgorodok, Novosibirsk scientific centre, pictured soon after it was founded

'Why don't we put in front of the workers a line of young mothers pushing the prams with babies born here in Akademgorodok?', Lavrentyev said. Picture courtesy: Novosibirsk City Museum 

Some 65 years ago he suggested to change the way of celebrating the May Day - which was traditionally marked by huge demonstrations of workers spilling out on the streets all around Soviet Union. 

'Why don't we put in front of the workers a line of young mothers pushing the prams with babies born here in Akademgorodok?', Lavrentyev asked.

I have a friend who was one of those babies. He still believes this was the best start up of all in Novosibirsk's newest history, and I totally agree with him.

Vitaliy Seroklinov,  43, an Altai-born and Novosibirsk-based writer, is editor-in-chief and editor of the prose section of Sibirskie Ogni (The Siberian Lights) Art and Literature magazine:

Comments (4)

nice read thank you Vitaly
Anna, Germany
05/05/2013 12:16
great story
Mariusz , Poland
03/05/2013 11:41
good to see so many people speaking about 'their' Siberia, great to get more
May, China
02/05/2013 13:01
Great piece, Vitaliy. Love the mom and babies part. But think it's more of the flashmob then a start up)
Kate, Russia
01/05/2013 20:26

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