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Orenburg – Center for Culture, Education and History

Located on the banks of the Ural River, close to the border of neighboring Kazakhstan, the Russian city of Orenburg is the administrative center of the Orenburg Oblast. The city was established in 1743 by Russian diplomat and administrator Ivan Ivanovich Neplyuyev, who had a prominent position in the service of Peter the Great and Catherine the Great. A statue honoring the founder of the city is one of the attractions of Orenburg, along with a number of museums and the picturesque boulevard overlooking the Ural River.

The strategically placed settlement of Orenburg served as a vital military outpost, becoming home to the Orenburg Cossacks who protected the land from the nomadic Kazakhs in order for the region to be colonized. These Cossacks had been relocated from other centers in Russia, including Samara, Iset and Ufa, and came to be known by the name of their new home. Records indicated that by the mid-19th century, there were up to 200,000 Orenburg Cossacks residing in the Orenburg region.

Orenburg played a pivotal role in an event that came to be known as the Pugachev rebellion in 1773-1774. As the capital of the district, and the seat of the governor at that time, the settlement became the target of a prominent pretender to the Russian throne, Yemelyan Ivanovich Pugachov, who led a Cossack rebellion against the authority of Catherine the Great. Although Pugachev was eventually defeated, much of the city was reduced to rubble, with thousands of inhabitants dying during the siege. Renowned Russian writer, Alexander Pushkin, later wrote a stirring account of this conflict in his book The History of Pugachev, as well as writing a romanticized account of Pugachev's Rebellion in his novel The Captain's Daughter. In order to thoroughly research the subject matter of these two books, Pushkin spend some time in Orenburg in 1833, where he reportedly met up with another Russian literary genius, and his friend, Vladimir Dahl.

In the mid-19th century, Orenburg became the center of operations for the Russian general and statesman, Count Vasily Alekseevich Perovsky, who carried out expeditions against the Khanate of Khiva. Following the inclusion of Central Asia into the expanding Russian Empire, Orenburg became a center for trade, with that position being strengthened by the completion of the Trans-Aral Railway, joining the region to Siberia and the newly annexed Central Asian territories. A number of changes took place in the city over the following years, with its economic growth receiving a boost when during World War II many Soviet enterprises relocated to Orenburg to escape the effects of the conflict, with the result being that Orenburg is home to several large companies and subsidiaries and enjoys a robust economy.

Visitors to this charming destination in Russia will find that it has a number of prominent educational institutions, as well as seven museums and several theaters. Traditional arts and crafts are also a feature of Orenburg, with the skillfully crafted Orenburg Shawl considered to be one of the classic examples of Russian handicraft, with a history of more than 250 years. For outdoor enthusiasts the surrounding mountains and rivers offer a host of opportunities for hiking, climbing, bird watching and getting in touch with nature.


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