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The hub of the Eastern Siberia, located on Angara River and only 66 kilometers distant from the lake Baikal, it has a reputation of the Paris of Siberia among many foreigners. Though the vast territory of Russia behind the Urals has for a long time been considered wild, dangerous and barbarous by not only people overseas, but also Russians themselves, the real image of Irkutsk doesnt fit in with a lifes conception of the land called Siberia.

Irkutsk is the administrative, cultural, scientific centre of the Eastern Siberia, not to even mention its industrial and trade importance. Due to its geographical location, the city has been a large trade spot historically, which implies, that its economical benefits provide avenues to cultural, scientific and educational development. With its 36 institutions and colleges, Irkutsk is often called the city of youth and students: the locals and young people from the nearby areas get higher education in the city. Young age of Irkutsk`s population (31.5 years on the average) adds only one bit to the expressive image of the whole city.

One more noticeable and admirable trait of Irkutsk is its architecture. It reflects the rich 300 year old history of the city beginning with the years of its foundation and showing the evolution of architectural tendencies. Modern buildings standing along with the oldest ones fill the atmosphere of the city with historical vibes and Siberian spirit. Unique wooden buildings with hand-carved window decorations are a special pride of Irkutsk. They not only make up the place, but also bring you back to the beginning of the 20th century. Some parts of the city make you think that the life there appears to have not moved on for ages. Lopsided wooden houses with big windows, public water pumps in the middle of the streets look fascinatingly like sets from western and cowboy films. Old-style houses and churches intertwined with lots of new red-bricked blocks of flats leave the impression of contrast and are a part of the citys individuality. Architecture memorials make up the prevalent share of Irkutsk`s historical heritage. The great number of monuments and memorial plaques proves that almost every house, every building in the city has its own history and is linked with someones fate.

The historical wealth of Irkutsk goes on a par with its cultural traditions. The city is known as a place with a high concentration of talented and professional artists, composers, architects, writers, actors and other representatives of creativity. The city is also famous for the great number of theatres, both professional and amateur. The Irkutsk City Folk Theater is known and admired both in Russia and abroad. The oldest theatre in Irkutsk, the Okhlopkov Regional Drama Theater, is now more than 150 years old and has witnessed the plays by such dramatists as Ignaty Dvoretsky, Aleksandr Vampilov and Pavel Malyarevsky.

Despite the development of modern telecommunications and the Internet, books are still popular with the people in Irkutsk. This cultural element is represented by 34 libraries in the city with 2.5 million books.

Combining contrasts, great nature, culture and the pure spirit of Siberia, Irkutsk always makes a distinct impression on those who come there for the first time. One of the best and descriptive outlines of the city was made by the local writer Valentin Rasputin, who wrote: Weathered by history and life Irkutsk stands now, calm and wise, knowing its own value, moderately famous for its glory, past and present, moderately modest, cultured since olden times and traditionally hospitable; so stands Irkutsk, blessed with the long exacting memory of its wood and stone, observing with love and not a little wonder the deeds of its present-day citizens giving them paternal protection from the heat and cold; giving them life, shelter, work, a homeland and eternity.




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