Siberia’s ‘Beautiful Shore’

Siberia’s ‘Beautiful Shore’

Published: May 16, 2012 (Issue # 1708)


People scaling a rock formation at the Stolby reserve, whose formations are a symbol of Krasnoyarsk and have names like ‘Pharaoh’s Tomb.’

KRASNOYARSK — One of the oldest cities in Siberia, Krasnoyarsk boasts sights like picturesque churches and fountains with dazzling night lighting. But none of them can compare to its main attraction — majestic Siberian nature.

Surrounded by rocky mountains blanketed with deep forest, Krasnoyarsk is spread out on both banks of the Yenisei River.

Writer Viktor Astafyev, a Krasnoyarsk native, once described the Yenisei as “sometimes kind and quiet, broad, sometimes locked in cliffs, sometimes furious, foaming or raging with its white waves in a storm.”

The mighty river flowing through the heart of Krasnoyarsk is one of its symbols and the stuff of legend. One legend says Yenisei was a wizard who reigned over Siberia in ancient times and turned his two beloved daughters into rivers after they dared to thwart his will.

The locals’ idea of Yenisei is reflected in a sculpture in the city center that depicts the river as a brawny bearded man sitting on a rock and holding a sailing vessel in his right hand.

The ships that dock in Krasnoyarsk look somewhat different. Modern passenger and cargo vessels arrive at the port, one of the biggest in Siberia, with shipments of equipment, construction materials and other supplies.

For one vessel, Krasnoyarsk has become a place of eternal rest. The Svyatitel Nikolai — a cargo-and-passenger paddle wheeler that was one of the fastest ships on the Yenisei in the late 19th century — has linked two different eras of the country’s political life. In 1891, it brought future Tsar Nikolai Romanov to the city. Six years later, it delivered Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin from Krasnoyarsk to the place of his exile in the village of Shushenskoye almost 500 kilometers south of the city.

The ship has been turned into a museum and stands on the city embankment (84 Ulitsa Dubrovinskogo;

+7 391-223-9403), a favorite place for locals to take a walk.

The wide Yenisei embankment is an attraction in itself. A short walk is enough to understand that Krasnoyarsk deserves its name, which is derived from the ancient words “krasny yar,” which mean “beautiful shore.”

The city was founded as a military prison by Cossack voivode Andrei Dubensky in 1628 and obtained city status in 1690.

The turning point in its history was in 1895 when the Great Siberian Railway — now the Trans-Siberian Railroad — linked Krasnoyarsk to the biggest Russian cities and facilitated its fast growth.

In 1976, Astafyev — who lived here for the last 20 years of his life — noted in one of his best-known novels, “Queen Fish,” that the city was becoming foreign to him because it was growing bigger and noisy.

Since then, Krasnoyarsk has turned into a big industrial city, with rich mineral deposits making it one of Russia’s biggest metallurgy centers.

Once a year, the country’s business and political elite fly to Krasnoyarsk for an annual economic forum. The city also plans to bid to host the Winter University Games in 2019.

Until the 1990s, foreigners were barred from Krasnoyarsk, designated a closed city because chemical manufacturing facilities for the country’s defense needs are located in two nearby towns. But now it welcomes foreigners, with students coming from abroad to study at the local university.

The city has also attracted a few foreign companies in recent years, including French retailers Auchan and Leroy Merlin and Germany’s Metro Cash Carry.


The Chapel of Paraskeva Pyatnitsa is found on most local souveniers.

What to do if you have two hours

Given the size of the city, choosing an activity that will last a couple of hours is a tricky task. Other than a walk along the Yenisei embankment, locals unanimously recommend visiting the Chapel of Paraskeva Pyatnitsa, a symbol of the city depicted on most local souvenirs. The white octahedral chapel with a red roof crowned by a small golden dome is located atop Karaulnaya Mountain, about 30 minutes from the city center by taxi.

According to one legend, a local merchant built a wooden chapel on the moutaintop site of a former Tatar heathen temple in 1805 after he escaped a river whirlpool. Another legend says locals built it to commemorate their ancestors’ victory over enemies.

The shabby wooden chapel was later replaced by a stone one preserved until today. An observation point near the chapel provides a stunning view of the city.

What to do if you have two days

Another symbol of Krasnoyarsk is the Stolby nature reserve (, a must-see if you have a couple of days. Established in 1925, the reserve got its name — which can be translated as “pillars” — because of its picturesque rock formations, many of which have names, like Pharaoh’s Tomb, A Knight’s Castle and Blue Gates. Some of the names are humorous: Kartoshka (“Potato”), Tsypa (“Chick”), Bukhanki (“Loaves of Bread”) and Rukavichki (“Mittens”).

Stolby occupies nearly 50,000 hectares on the right bank of Yenisei, with a stunning view of the city, the river and the surrounding mountains from a height of 90 meters. The reserve is open for visitors from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays.

An alternative destination is Divnogorsk, which stretches along the right bank of the Yenisei 35 kilometers southwest of Krasnoyarsk. The small town is known as home to one of the world’s largest hydropower stations, the Krasnoyarskaya, which provides electricity to regional manufacturing facilities. Its construction took 16 years and was completed in 1972. Divnogorsk’s name is derived from the words “divny gory,” or “amazing mountains,” a nod to its location facing a long stripe of high rock formations on the opposite bank of the Yenisei.

A breathtaking view of these rock formations covered in a green carpet of trees can be found at an observation point atop the mountain Sliznevsky Byk, a popular tourist attraction. A sculpture depicting Astafyev’s sturgeon — the Queen Fish — stands at the observation point.

Commuter trains to Divnogorsk leave from Krasnoyarsk three times a day, with a one-way trip taking about an hour.

Cultural tips

Locals strongly recommend visiting the Museum of Local History (84 Ulitsa Dubrovinskogo; +7 391-265-3481;, whose exhibits include two letters that Rusnano head Anatoly Chubais wrote to Astafyev in 1982. Chubais, a 26-year-old economist at the time, wrote in defense of the rock band Mashina Vremeni, which was harshly criticized in an article published in the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper and signed by Astakhov and a few other public figures. The letters were donated to the museum by Astafyev’s widow.

If you’re not limited by time, don’t miss a chance to visit Astafyev’s native village of Ovsyanka and visit the house that the writer bought in 1980 when he decided to settle down in his birthplace. The house, a small wooden izba, contains Astafyev’s personal belongings (26 Ulitsa Shchetinkina, Ovsyanka village; +7 39144-270-55; To get here, take the Krasnoyarsk-Divnogorsk commuter train, which passes by Ovsyanka.

What to do with the kids

The Krasnoyarsk Circus (143a Prospekt Imeni Gazety Krasnoyarsky Rabochy; +7 391-233-1455; has welcomed many renowned artists, like tiger tamers from the Bagdasarov dynasty and members of the Moscow Nikulin Circus. Performances take place twice a day, with tickets starting at 300 rubles.

Royev Ruchei (293 Sverdlovskaya Ulitsa; +7 391-269-8101; is one of the biggest zoos in Russia. Occupying more than 30 hectares, it houses hundreds of species of animals and plants. Admire exotic white lions in the wild or watch waddling penguins at the country’s biggest penguinarium. The park is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in winter and from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. in summer. Tickets cost 160 rubles ($5) for adults and 30 rubles for children.



Viktor Astafyev’s ‘Queen Fish’ sits on top of Sliznevsky Byk mountain.

The James Shark Pub (155a, Ulitsa Karla Marksa; +7 391-26-62-300; is a beer restaurant located in the city center that offers a wide selection of beer and pastries. A favorite hangout for locals, the restaurant also hosts live concerts by local bands every weekend.

For those preferring more physical activity, check out the Barton Pub with its pool tables and bowling alleys (160 Prospekt Imeni Gazety Krasnoyarsky Rabochy; +7 391-236-0126).

Where to eat

Learn the region’s history while enjoying a meal at Chemodan (2a Ulitsa Oborony;

+7 391-211-21-91), which claims to be a restaurant and a museum of the 19th-century Yenisei province. The menu offers local period dishes, including grilled deer meet served with cabbage and apples and locally caught fish grilled or roasted and served with vegetables. A meal for one including alcohol costs 2,000 rubles ($66).

The interior design of Shkvarok (102a Prospekt Mira; +7 391-265-13-04) is reminiscent of a mazanka, a traditional Ukrainian village house, and the menu offers Ukrainian national dishes like borshch and vareniki, pastries made of unsalted dough and stuffed with potatoes, cottage cheese, or cherries. A meal for one with alcohol costs 1,500 rubles.

A more affordable option is the local pizza chain Pertsy (, with cozy centrally located outlets frequented by the local youth. The menu offers various pizzas and pastas, including the exotic Tutti-Frutti pizza with Mozzarella cheese and a mix of tangerines, kiwis and strawberries instead of the traditional tomato sauce.

Where to stay

Hotel Metelitsa (14/1 Prospekt Mira;

+7 391-227-6060; occupies a two-story, mansion-like building on a quiet street in the city center. The comfortable four-star hotel is favored by visiting local and foreign musicians and offers good value for money, with prices ranging from 3,900 rubles ($130) per person per night for a standard to 8,900 rubles ($300) per person per night for a two-room luxury suite. The hotel’s restaurant offers homemade fare but no buffet service, with breakfast ordered from the menu and taking about 15 minutes to serve. The trip to the airport takes about 30 minutes by taxi.

Dom Hotel (16a Ulitsa Krasnoi Army; +7 391-290-6666; boasts a central location and 81 spacious, well-equipped rooms. Prices start at 4,000 rubles ($133) per person per night for an economy-class room to 10,500 rubles ($350) for a luxury suite. Buffet breakfast is not included. The hotel is located 20 minutes by foot from the city’s main attractions and 40 minutes from the airport by taxi.

Other helpful hints

Like any of Russia’s big cities, Krasnoyarsk has traffic problems, so the 30-minute drive to the airport from the city center might take an hour or more during rush hour.

If you plan to eat out at night, choose a restaurant and reserve a table in the afternoon. The most popular places are packed in the evening.

How to get there

Regular flights depart from Pulkovo Airport, but most involve a connection in order to reach Krasnoyarsk.

NordStar and Rossiya Airlines offer direct flights to the city with roundtrip tickets costing about 15,000 rubles ($500). Krasnoyarsk’s Yemelyanovo Airport is an international airport with charter flights to major sea resorts like Antalya, Turkey, and Phuket, Thailand.


Kommunalny Bridge, which was featured on the 10-ruble banknote.

The long-haul trip by train from St. Petersburg takes 68 hours with trains leaving daily from the city’s Ladozhsky Railway Station. Ticket prices start at 6,200 rubles ($205).


Population: 990,600, according to the 2011 census. Its 1 millionth resident was born in early April.

Acting mayor: Edkham Akbulatov

Founded in 1628 as a military prison.

Interesting fact: The major symbols of Krasnoyarsk — the Chapel of Paraskeva Pyatnitsa, the Kommunalny Bridge across the Yenisei River and the Krasnoyarskaya hydropower station — were depicted on the 10 ruble banknote that was recently withdrawn from circulation. A monument to the banknote was installed in the city center in 2011.

Helpful contacts: • Acting Mayor Edkham Akbulatov (93 Ulitsa Karla Marksa; +7 391-226-1025;; • Nikolai Khudykh, chairman of Central Siberian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (26 Ulitsa Kirova; +7 391-268-1585;

Sister cities: Sault Sainte Marie, Canada; Daqing, Harbin and Heihe, China; Cremona, Italy.

Major Businesses

• Krasnoyarsk Aluminum Plant

(40 Ulitsa Pogranichnikov;

+7 391-256-3898; is one of the major facilities of the world’s largest aluminum maker, RusAl.

• Krasmash (Krasnoyarsky Machinery Plant) (29 Prospekt Imeni Gazety Krasnoyarsky Rabochy;

+7 391-264-6601; is a major producer of ballistic missiles for submarines. Its civil-manufacturing ventures include equipment for the oil and gas industries. 

• Magistralniye Elektricheskiye Seti Sibiri (117 Ulitsa Ady Lebedevoi;

+7 3912-659-500; is a local unit of the Federal Grid Company and supplies electricity to more than 20 million people in 10 regions.

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