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There have been much debates over the factual date of Irkutsk`s foundation. Some experts believe the year 1652 is to be considered the key period in Irkutsk`s history and link it with the name of Ivan Pohabov. Other authors claimed the city was founded in 1656 by Afanasiy Pashkov. There also exists the third date 1651, which is associated with the foundation of Irkutsk`s ostrog, a wooden fortress, by Ivan Pohabov or Yakov Pohabov.

However, according to the thorough analysis of the documents kept in the Russias State Archive of Ancient Acts, the summer of 1661 is to be accepted as the only authentic and evident date of Irkutsk`s foundation. It also surfaced that the figure of Yakov, not Ivan, Pohabov is closely concerned with the birth of Irkutsk`s first settlement. Consequently, its now known that Irkutsk grew out of a fortress, built at the confluence of the rivers Angara and Irkut by Yakov Pohabov and his Cossacks. Obviously, the city derives its name from the river Irkut, with its meaning interpreted as speedy, fast flowing river, hence, the word Irkutsk may roughly mean the city near the fast river. In 1686 Irkutsk received the city status.

Irkutsk`s geographical position played the crucial role in obtaining the function of a large trade centre and gradually becoming the hub of trade routs from China, Mongolia, Kamchatka, Yakutia and Chukotka. The citys economical importance soon turned it into the centre of a large territory Irkutsk province (1764).

The Decembrist Revolt in the early nineteenth century gave the start to numerous exiles. Undoubtedly, the Decembrists contributed a lot in Irkutsk`s cultural, educational development and spirit. The first theatrical building in Irkutsk was built in the times of the Decembrists, and moreover, these were the exiles to consult the actors on performances. As they considered education the basis of life, there appeared some schools in Irkutsk and the nearby areas at that time. The fact that might seem mundane and not important is that the Decembrists were first in Siberia to grow cucumbers in hotbeds, which fully indicates that the exiles had profoundly influenced all aspects and sides of Irkutsk`s and Siberian life. Absorbed with the ideas of educational importance and intellectual growth, the new generation of Irkutsk needed something where they could realize their abilities. Thus, this gave the impulse to the birth of the University of Irkutsk, the first establishment of higher education in Siberia, which now is included in the top ten university list in Russia.

One of the saddest periods in Irkutsk`s history is the summer of 1879. June 22 was the day when a fire broke out in one of the Irkutsk`s streets and started to spread rapidly over the territory of the city. The fire deprived 3000 people of shelter and destroyed 813 different buildings. However, it was only the start. Two days later the city was enveloped in flames again. The two fires deserve being called the most devastative ones in the whole history of Irkutsk: they destroyed the central part of the city, the best buildings, plenty of state and social institutions with their precious archives, almost all education centers and libraries. The reasons of the fire outbreak have never been defined for sure: some claim the uncommonly hot weather of that summer is to blame; others suspect it was a deliberate arson commitment.

Later on, the city goes through the stage of recovery and the end of the 19th century is crowned by the first train arrival to Irkutsk via the Trans Siberian line. The beginning of the 20th century brought the new flow of progress to Irkutsk. In 1901 there appeared electric lighting in the city, the industrial and economical development starts to accelerate from 1930 onwards. Irkutsk obtained the modern image, much similar to the way it looks like nowadays, after the Great Patriotic War. Like many cities in Russia, Irkutsk picked up the tendency of widening the boundaries and forming micro districts within the city. However, one can notice easily, that the city of Irkutsk has managed to preserve its early historical atmosphere in coexistence with all the progress it has acquired during the centuries.






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