Yekaterinburg is often called the 3rd capital of Russia right behind Moscow and Saint Petersburg, and Russia’s Manchester.
The city counts a population of 1.4 million people, 15 universities, opera, many theaters and museums and it has been from the beginning an important industrial center. In 1723 Yekaterinburg was founded on the banks of the Iset River as the host town to the emerging iron factory built on the will of the ambitious emperor, Peter the Great (1682-1725). The German name, Yekaterinburg, pays homage to Peter’s interest in European fashion and literally means City of Catherine, in honor of Empress Catherine, Peter’s wife, reflecting the same naming practice as Saint-Petersburg which was founded only 20 years earlier in 1703.
From 1924 to 1991 the city was named Sverdlovsk, after the Communist party leader Yakov Sverdlov. The administrative district around Yekaterinburg keeps the name Sverdlovsk Region.
The foundation of Yekaterinburg is attributed to Vasily Tatishchev and Georg Wilhelm de Gennin. The last was an experienced German mining engineer born in Siegen. He supervised the construction of the factory and the city. He created a factory-fortress, which was was constructed in accordance with European principles of urban architecture, which in turn followed patterns of Roman town planning, based on a scheme of a Roman military camp with its strict structure of perpendicularly crossing streets. The factory served as the centerpiece of the urban space.
The large body of water in the city center is frequently called a lake by visitors, but in fact it is an artificially created pond. As the steam power was introduced only at the end of 18th century, the dam and the pond were necessary to generate a waterfall that once fed the mills for the iron works. The dam is made of granite and larch wood, which is now three-hundred-years old.