Dear world! I am happy to greet you. I’m Olga Tkachenko from Novosibirsk, Western Siberia, Russia. I will be your guide to one of the world's most vibrant and interesting cities.
Novosibirsk is the third biggest city in the Russian Federation. This is how descriptions of my hometown usually start in guidebooks and booklets, but our city offers a lot more than this statistic. Looking at another statistic, Novosibirsk is also the administrative center of the Novosibirsk Region, which is bigger than Holland, Switzerland, Belgium and Denmark put together. But allow me to give you a little broader introduction to my home town.
A city founded and expanded into a major metropolis thanks to the world-famous Tran-Siberian railway, Novosibirsk is a major transportation hub. A stop-over for thousands of tourists from all over the world, the city’s main railway station (above) is the biggest railway station in all Russia. With its Winter garden, several picture exhibition spaces, and even musical performances offered for free to passengers waiting for their trains, the rail station is a symbol of our city’s potential, and of Russian hospitality too.
Novosibirsk is mentioned in the Guinness Book of Records for an interesting attribute too. As it happens, the city has the distinction of having reached a population of one million faster than any other city in the world. While Chicago in the US took 69 years to grow a million citizens, Novosibirsk did it within 65 years only. Due to this fact Novosibirsk is frequently called 'Siberian Chicago’. Why our version of Chicago even has some similar architecture, just in case you did not know.
My home also has a very diverse cultural scene, with the State Opera and Ballet Theatre (below) being the biggest in the country, seating some 2000 people. Novosibirsk is also a city with brains to match the industrial brawn Russian cities are know for. This is evidenced by the research center called Academgorodok (Academic Town), where more than 40 institutes conduct their research in all fields of theoretic and applied science, including nuclear and laser physics, organic and inorganic chemistry, geology and minerals, history and archeology, medicine and information technologies.
For an educational statistic, it may interest foreign students to know Novosibirsk has over 230 educational institutions offering certification and degrees from across the academic spectrum. Novosibirsk-based universities, state and private, offer high-level education in all possible fields, including technical jobs, arts, music, medicine, and law. Statistics tell us that every seventh person living in Novosibirsk is a student, a distinction that makes higher learning emblematic of our fair city.. Many universities are popular among foreign students too. Students from India, Korea, China, Mongolia, and Pakistan are representative of a diverse set of future academians and professionals. Novosibirsk State University (see image below) is but one fine example of our regions fabulous educational and cultural potential.
Outside the city, this is where visitors will discover the true spirit that dwells within the metropolis. As strange as this may sound, this part of Siberia is a magical wilderness, only partially tamed by the industrial revolution still going on here. City life, regardless of how refined or cosmopolitan it seems to outsiders, is inextricably linked to the region's prevailing value, the land. A good example of how taming this wilderness adjoins city life today is seen in one of the largest Russian artificial reservoirs, created when the Ob River was dammed up in 1956. During the construction of the Novosibirsk Dam, some 200 villages became submerged. The reservoir the dam created, often referred to as the Ob Sea, is a 400 km long water playground for locals and visitors in Summer. As for the dam, it still provides for more than 20% of the electricity to power the city.
For a snapshot look at how diverse Novosibirsk has become, many nationalities and ethnic groups call the city home these days. Here Russians, Ukrainians, Germans, Tadzhiks, Uzbeks and many other nationalities live, work, and play together here. So to put my introduction into context a bit, consider our citizens at work in Russia's fastest growing industrial region, a place of almost unimaginable potential. People here work, play and cultivate a new and meaningful life surrounded by a natural paradise for man hundreds of miles in every direction.
Oh, and Novosibirsk is noted for something else too. This is a city of beautiful women also. The ladies of Novosibirsk decorate this metropolis with their delicate and feminine demeanor, making everyday life brighter, sunnier and happier. I mention this so that the reader can envision, fine art, grace, beauty and culture quite literally in the "middle of nowhere" - and still, in the beating heart of Russia as well.
So let me bid you welcome to Siberia, and welcome to Novosibirsk! I will be sharing "My Russia" information on about the city in the weeks to come on Our Russia. Share your stories too, after all it is "Your Russia" too.
I am a freelance interpreter, translator, and tour guide in Novosibirsk. Me, my husband, and our three sons dearly enjoy our lifestyle surrounded by all the wonder that is Siberia's biggest city. Outside my tourism and Mom duties, I also maintain a website where guests can ask questions about Novosibirsk.
Special photo credits: Our Russia would like to thank Vladimir Karev, for his wonderful images of the Novosibirsk countryside.