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    Chita

From the beginning of the 16th century, when first Russian city in Siberia, Tobolsk, was founded, Russian expansion to Siberian vast territories continued. Cossack troops were followed by merchants and craftsmen, who were allowed to trade with local population and to hunt. IN autumn of 1653 Cossack Petr Beketov founded winter quarters on the banks of the river Ingoda. Said quarters later became the city of Chita.

First permanent settlement there was called Plotbische, since main occupation of local population was building floats (plot in Russian), boats and barks. The settlement rapidly developed due to its advantageous location on the large roads and waterways (to Eastern Transbaikalia and the Pacific Ocean via the Amur river). Locals gave several names to their settlement. In 1699 the prison was build, which was officially called Chitinsky ostrog in 1706. First ten years didnt add much significance to the settlement. It was a small wooden fortress with several buildings inside.

Further development of the settlement started with discovery of Nerchinsk silver mines many plants were built, requiring more workers. Thousands of workers were brought here by force from central part of Russia. Mining was a very difficult occupation. Soon government decided to exploit convicts, which started to arrive here in 1722. Many convict prisons were built to house chained workers. The settlement also acquired an inn and a post station. Inhabitants of Chitinsky ostrog were responsible for burning charcoal and delivering it to the plants for ore smelting. They also hunted and floated various things by the river.

In 1797 Chitinsky ostrog started gathering peasants, who got lands for plowing there. Together with land cultivation, peasants built roads and bridges, drove coaches, hunted for fur, fished and bred cattle. In 1821 Chita was no more ostrog (prison), but became the settlement officially.

Russian Decembrists played a great role in history of Chita. 85 members of secret Decembrist societies spent t here some time between 1827 and 1830. Many of them met here for the first time. A large prison was built especially for Decembrists. Exiles promoted population growth in the settlement with soldiers, Cossacks and officers. Wives of Decembrists followed their husbands to the severe North. Exiles did a lot for Chitas development they dug draining ditches, filled gullies, developed topographical plan of the territory, opened schools and taught local children.

In the middle of 19th century Chita acquired the status of the city due to necessity of controlling new resource-rich territories. Nicholas I signed the appropriate order on July 11, 1851. Favorable geographic location of the city helped solving many administrative missions, aimed at transporting men and resources. Chitas population started growing rapidly. In 1863 the town sheltered 3 thousand people. Merchants became the most influential part of city dwellers due to tradesmen the town had tea, rice and sugar from Kyakhta, nails form the Urals, Rhine wine from Hamburg and letter paper from America.

Chita looked like a large village, not like a regional centre its poorly lighted streets, covered with sand, were full of uniform wooden houses, between which livestock had a pleasure to walk. Nevertheless, Chita was a large and well-developed city. In 1900 railway came to Chita, making it the largest transportation junction in the Transbaikalia. In the beginning of the 20th century the city had 1400 houses, 9 Orthodox churches, a convent, a catholic church, a synagogue, separate schools for girls and boys, colleges and an orphanage. Chita hosted a branch of Russian Geographic Society with a museum and a library. The city had several plants and factories: ironworks, mechanical plant, timber-works, brewery and others.



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