Irkutsk is a city situated on Lake Baikal. It is an unofficial capital of Eastern-Siberia and the fifth in size city in this region. In Russia, all cities are divided into those that have a million or more dwellers and smaller ones. Irkutsk falls into the latter category. It means that there will never be any subway built in the city until the number of citizens grows. Irkutsk, like many modern cities, has transportation problems – traffic jams and many uncomfortable transport junctions; it may seem sometimes that it is easier to just walk. For that, one would need pedestrian streets, however, there is only one like that in Irkutsk. Luckily, it is located right in the city center and it is very comfortable to walk along. You absolutely must stroll along Uritskogo Street, the only pedestrian street in Irkutsk, because its buildings keep a lot of hidden history!
Uritskogo Street was first mentioned in Irkutsk documents in the second half of the 18th century. It was built closer to the central market. Earlier, a military arsenal was located here and later a bazaar where they sold bread. The decoration of this street was a concern of a certain Irkutsk merchant and philanthropist, Nikolai Pesterev. He had his trade rows there, and they were flourishing in the 19th century. In 1879, Irkutsk was almost burnt down by a great fire. The buildings in the city before the fire were traditionally made of wood, and practically all of them disappeared. Curiously, in the street's peculiar history, the fire destroyed the buildings, but then later, there was also a large flood due to heavy rains. Some merchants even made a wooden ship and set it to sail along Uritskogo Street!
Originally, Uritskogo was a street where shops and stores were located. The Civil War of 1917 in Russia changed the street image: many shops were plundered, and the missiles destroyed others. When the Soviets ran the country, some social buildings started to appear on the street (a canteen for workers, a thrift shop, an emporium, a kid’s store, etc). In 1980, Uritskogo was included in the list of state-protected objects. However, Uritskogo was not for pedestrians from the start. The owners of numerous shops, stores, and cafes that were located there, wanted to drive their cars to their buildings, and they were strictly against making this street for pedestrians only. It was only as late as the year 2008 when the street finally became suitable for walking.
Uritskogo is probably the only street in Irkutsk where historical buildings are left intact. Tourists just love it! There are also shops of any kind here and, most interestingly, there are shops where they sell fur coats – a thing that can only be seen in Siberia where the colds are severe, and one simply can not survive without a good fur coat. This is also the place where all the street musicians and performers usually go to entertain the public.
Uritskogo is located in the city center and it is a must to walk through the only pedestrian street in Irkutsk!
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