Golden Recursion Inc. logoGolden Recursion Inc. logo
Advanced Search


City in eastern Russia

In 1652, Ivan Pokhabov built a zimovye (winter quarters) near the site of Irkutsk for gold trading and for collecting fur taxes from the Buryats. In 1661, Yakov Pokhabov built an ostrog (a small fort) nearby.[3] The ostrog gained official town rights from the government in 1686.

The Irkutsk prison, founded in 1661 as an outpost for the advancement of Russian explorers in the Angara region, soon ceased to be only a defensive structure due to the advantage of its geographical position. According to historical documents, 10 years later, in 1671, here, in addition to servicemen and yasak people, lived "plowed peasants with their wives and children." A posad appeared, which gave rise to residential quarters of the future city. As for the prison itself, as its influence in the region grew, it was completely rebuilt twice (in 1669 and 1693), expanding in size.[15][16]

The fate of the prison was such that its military-defensive significance was less noticeable than other previously erected forts near the Angars, for example, Bratsk (1631) or Verkholensk (1644). However, its location at the crossroads of colonization, trade and industrial routes predetermined the role of Irkutsk in the history of Eastern Siberia. In 1682 it became the center of an independent region, and in 1686 it received the status of a city. Irkutsk at the beginning of the 18th century was divided into two parts: "small town", or the prison itself, and "big city". The first one started from the bank of the Angara and was a wooden fortress with adjacent buildings. These included the stone building of the provincial chancellery, the house of the vice-governor (former voivodship) with barns and cellars, the Church of the Savior. "Small town" was the administrative center of the vast Irkutsk province since 1731.[17]

In the "big city", as the posad was called, the commercial and economic life of Irkutsk was concentrated. It was inhabited mainly by people from the northern regions of Russia: Veliky Ustyug, Yarensk, Pinega, Solvychegodsk, Pereyaslavl-Zalessky, who brought their traditions, customs, and culture to Siberia.[17]

The first road connection between Moscow and Irkutsk, the Siberian Route, was built in 1760, and benefited the town economy. Many new products, often imported from China via Kyakhta, became widely available in Irkutsk for the first time, including gold, diamonds, fur, wood, silk, and tea. In 1821, as part of the Mikhail Speransky's reforms, Siberia was administratively divided at the Yenisei River. Irkutsk became the seat of the Governor-General of East Siberia.

Irkutsk Assembly of the Nobility in the early 1900s

In the early 19th century, many Russian artists, officers, and nobles were sent into exile in Siberia for their part in the Decembrist revolt against Tsar Nicholas I. Irkutsk became the major center of intellectual and social life for these exiles, and they developed much of the city's cultural heritage. They had wooden houses built that were adorned with ornate, hand-carved decorations. Many still survive today, in stark contrast with the standard Soviet apartment blocks that surround them.

Epiphany Cathedral and central Irkutsk in 1865

By the end of the 19th century, the population consisted of one exiled man for every two locals. People of varying backgrounds, from members of the Decembrist uprising to Bolsheviks, had been in Irkutsk for many years and had greatly influenced the culture and development of the city. As a result, Irkutsk became a prosperous cultural and educational center in Eastern Siberia.

From 1848 to 1861 Count Nikolay Muravyov-Amursky was the Governor-General. He annexed the Amur Territory to Russia, however, on the spot he showed unbridled despotism and extreme cruelty. Since the opening of communication along the Amur in 1854, on the way from St. Petersburg to the Pacific Ocean, the old Yakutsk tract began to decline. The population of the city is 28,000, of them there were 3,768 exiles.[18]

In 1879, on July 4 and 6, a fire burned out of control, destroying the palace of the Governor General, and the principal administrative and municipal offices. Many of the other public buildings, including the government archives, the library, and the museum of the Siberian section of the Russian Geographical Society, were completely ruined.[19] Three-quarters of the city was destroyed, including approximately 4,000 houses.[20] The city quickly rebounded, installing electricity in 1896. The first theater was built in 1897 and a major train station opened in 1898. The first train arrived in Irkutsk on August 16 of that year. By 1900, the city had earned the nickname of "The Paris of Siberia."

Irkutsk in 1918

During the Russian Civil War, which broke out after the October Revolution, Irkutsk became the site of many furious, bloody clashes between the "White movement" and the "Bolsheviks", known as the "Reds". In 1920, Aleksandr Kolchak, the once-feared commander of the largest contingent of anti-Bolshevik forces, was executed in Irkutsk. This effectively destroyed the anti-Bolshevik resistance.

Irkutsk was the administrative center of the short-lived East Siberian Oblast, from 1936 to 1937. The city subsequently became the administrative center of Irkutsk Oblast, after East Siberian Oblast was divided into Chita Oblast and Irkutsk Oblast.

During the communist years, the industrialization of Irkutsk and Siberia in general was strongly encouraged. The large Irkutsk Reservoir was built on the Angara River between 1950 and 1959 in order to generate hydroelectric power and facilitate industrial development.

Epiphany Cathedral (built in 1718–1746)

The Epiphany Cathedral, the governor's palace, a school of medicine, a museum, a military hospital and the crown factories are among the public institutions and buildings.[19] The Aleksandr Kolchak monument, designed by Vyacheslav Klykov, was unveiled in 2004. On July 27, 2004, the Irkutsk Synagogue (1881) was gutted by a fire.

In December 2016, 74 people in Irkutsk died in a mass methanol poisoning, after drinking this toxic alcohol substitute.[21][22]

In 2018, the BBC reported that men in Irkutsk had an average life span of only 63. The society had declined and their health had suffered markedly[23]

In October 2021, it was reported that armed Russian OMON (Special Purpose Mobile Unit of the Russian National Guard) officers physically assaulted and tortured two Jehovah’s Witness couples as part of a round up of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the city. [24]

Despite the persecution for simply studying the Bible and meeting together, the Jehovah's Witnesses continue their neutral stand on politics and are trying to show a good example on how Christians should live. There are numerous court cases in the Russian judicial system of Jehovah's Witnesses on trial for their faith, drawing much international criticism of the Russian court system by governments in Europe and the United Nations.


Further Resources


Lake Baikal


Иркутск. Апрель 2021


April 10, 2021

Иркутск. Официальный сервер администрации города



Search on Google
Search on Bing
Golden logo
By using this site, you agree to our Terms & Conditions.