RS Oh, how spacious is my native country “Vladivostok, Vladivostok, the steep ledge on the corner of the motherland”

“Vladivostok, Vladivostok, the steep ledge on the corner of the motherland”

On September 7th-8th, 2012 the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Summit will be held in Vladivostok, Russia on the Russkiy Island

Summit participants are presumably going to discuss the long-term future prospects of regional and global integration, sustainable growth and new trade and investment liberalisation challenges, coordination issues within the confines of regional integration and WTO, new age trade and investment liberalisation policies, lifting trade and investment barriers for small and middle-sized companies and forming reliable transportation-logistic chains.

“A wide road fades into the distance,
The morning fog envelops the bald mountains,
Once again the Golden Horn bay is before us,
Guiding us to the Pacific Ocean”
(Nikolai Flerov)

From the very first days of the city’s existence, back in distant 1639 when Russia expanded its influence all the way to the shores of the Pacific Ocean, the main task before the settlers was the necessity of finding a suitable place for a port. At first, Okhotsk, founded by Russian pioneers in 1665, was the port. The great Vitus Bering with his famous expedition set off to search for America from this very settlement. Navigationally-speaking Okhotsk was situated in quite an unfortunate place; therefore eventually Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy replaced it as the main functioning port city. However, by the middle of the 19th century people in Russia realised that the search for a Far Eastern outpost had hit a dead-end. One of the active ports lived up to its purpose of having a harbour which could be easily protected against enemies from the shore, have enough capacity for a war fleet and being close to the market place. Then South Primoriye started drawing people’s attention…

Historical background…

In 1569 general-governor of Eastern Siberia, Nikolai Muravyov-Amurskiy, while sailing on a ship along all the shores of the Peter the Great Gulf paid particular attention to a well-isolated bay. It resembled the Golden Horn bay in Constantinople and the general-governor suggested that a war post bearing exactly the same name should be founded on the bay’s shores.

Golden Horn bay. End of construction of cable-stayed bridge
Golden Horn bay. End of construction of cable-stayed bridge

On June 20th (July 2nd on the new calendar), 1860 the war transport “Manchzhur” under the command of captain-lieutenant Aleksei Shefner founded the war post. The following entry was made in “Manchzhur’s” logbook: “’Today ‘one company officer, 2 petty officers and 37 privates from the 4th line battalion were sent to the shore to occupy the post”. The soldiers and sailors, under the command of warrant officer Komarov, were ordered to start building the post. This day is recognised as the city’s official incorporation date.

In 1862 Vladivostok was renamed from a war post to a port and in 1871 the main Siberian war fleet marine base along with the general headquarters of the war governing body and other marine departments were transferred to the city. In 1888 Vladivostok became the centre of the Primorskaya region.

The city’s name arose out of the words “vladet (to own, wield) and Vostok (the East)” that is to say the city’s name means “to wield the East”. The city was named based on the analogous city name Vladikavkaz (to wield the Caucasus) which was founded not long before.

“Vladivostok is far away, but it’s still one of us!” (Vladimir Lenin)

Vladivostok is a young city. 150 years—not exactly what you would call old for a city! But that time was more than enough for Vladivostok to blossom and turn into one of the most interesting and promising cities in Russia. Thist is the largest Russian marine port on the Pacific Ocean coast with a population of 623,000 people.

Vladivostok, with a population of 623,000 people, is the largest Russian marine port on the Japanese Sea (Pacific Ocean) coast.

View from the sea to the city
View to the city from the sea

Everything in this city is somehow connected with the sea: its history, architecture and industry. The commercial and fish marine ports give the city its unique look, while vessel repair and construction are pivotal industry-wise.

The city’s unique geographical location combined with its unmatchable terrain is perhaps what distinguishes Vladivostok from many other Russian cities. The panoramas and scenic views (with city, marine and mountain landscapes) open up before your eyes at the top of the bald mountains scattered all across Vladivostok and these are one of the city’s main drawing points.

The tallest ones are the Orlinoe gnezdo (Eagle nest) and Kholodilnik (Refrigerator) bald mountains. The quite strange name of the latter can be attributed to the fact that supply warehouses where provision supplies were stored in cool mountain conditions were situated at the foot of the mountain.

A lot of Vladivostok has been preserved in an untainted state up to this day. This applies first and foremost to the crooked streets of Vladivostok which are either ascending to the very tip top of the bald mountains on the outskirts or they are hugging their bending descents.

Old Vladivostok, the Puppet theater
Old Vladivostok, the Puppet theater

Starting at the end of the 19th century Vladivostok started to become a Russian cultural hub in the Far East. In 1878 the first theatre hall entitled “Zolotoi Rog” (The Golden Horn) was opened. In 1879 the first video scope (one of the first prototypes for shooting films) appeared in the city. In 1899 the Eastern institute (currently the Far Eastern State University) was opened. In 1887 the Vladivostok free public reading study, which formed the basis for the Vladivostok city library (opening in 1908 and currently called The Primorskaya state public library), was opened. In 1900 the Vladivostok society for promoting the fine arts was established.

Vladivostok was the organisational centre for the expeditions of famous Russian voyagers and scientists, including Nikolai Przhevalskiy, admiral Makarov and Vladimir Arsenev. The eminent V.K. Arsenev Far East and Eastern Siberian Primorskiy State Integrated Museum is considered Vladivostok’s most famous museum. Its collections are truly unique and include natural, historical, archaeological, ethnographical and cultural monuments from the Territory.

It is best to start your tour around Vladivostok on its main street (Svetlanskaya). This is the city’s first street with buildings which have preserved the historical vibe of the Russian Far East in the beginning of the 20th century, a real port city environment with numerous night shelters and inns which often times became a lair for a quite dubious group of people.

© RIA Novosti, Semelyak
Vladivostok in the night
Vladivostok in the night

Naturally, there is no trace of those drinking and smoking establishments left in the city, but, however, the architecture on the street with tight and narrow courtyards and alleyways, barred windows and winding staircases send one back to those forgotten times.

When moving along Svetlanskaya street (passing Aleutskaya street) we come across the Nikolaev Triumphiant gate (the crown prince of the Russian Empire arch) which was constructed in commemoration of how the future Nikolai II visited the city. Next up is the railway station building which is the exact copy of the Yaroslavskiy railway station in Moscow and serves as a symbol of the country’s unity from its very centre to the Far Eastern outskirts.

Next we will descend from the railway station to the marine port. Life is bustling here at any time of the day, but nevertheless, the Vladivostok marine port becomes even more attractive and beautiful in the twilight—the reflection of the city’s lights, cruise liners, cargo ships and sail boats flow into each other, while the port’s glass walls and the water mix to form one out of this world picture.

The Vladivostok fortress is one of the most interesting tourist attractions in the city. Vladivostok was considered one of the mightiest marine fortresses in the world (and rightfully so). These reinforcements, which were created by the labour of a few generations of Russian engineers, have lost their naval significance but they are still one of the more interesting tourist attractions in Vladivostok and its outskirts

The Vladivostok fortress is one of the most interesting tourist attractions in the city. Vladivostok was considered one of the mightiest marine fortresses in the world (and rightfully so). These reinforcements, which were created by the labour of a few generations of Russian engineers, have lost their naval significance but they are still one of the more interesting tourist attractions in Vladivostok and its outskirts. It’s a worldwide trend to use fortification constructions (which are no longer needed for defence) for tourist purposes. The preserved fortress constructions, which are located on the 400 km Muravev-Amurskiy peninsula and the Russkiy Island, are quiet stunning architecturally. A good part of them are in Vladivostok’s nature preserve on the mountain tops and in the coastal areas. Many of these constructions have an intricate branched system of underground tunnels and underground and casemate shelters. All of this contributes to their exclusive value for tourist and recreational use.

The Fighters for the Soviet government square – the city’s central square
Fighters for the Soviet government square – the city’s central square

But, nevertheless, Vladivostok’s main tourist attraction is undoubtedly its unique nature where marine gulfs, thick forests and numerous bald mountains exist together in harmony, thereby creating a lasting impression.

Did you know?

  • Vladivostok is at the same latitude as Sochi
  • The city’s central square, which is its distinguishing feature, the square of Bortsy za vlast Sovetov na Dalnem Vostoke (Fighters for the Soviet government in the Far East) is comparable in size to Red Square in Moscow
  • In May 1891 the crown prince of the Russian empire, Nikolai, the future emperor Nikolai II, visited Vladivostok. He was returning from a trip across some countries in the East and Vladivostok was the first Russian city upon his arrival back to his home country. During his trip the crown prince laid a foundation for the railroad with a stone railway station, a dry dock for repairing ships and a monument in honour of admiral Nevelskoi
  • Railway service with Moscow started in 1903
  • The distance between Yaroslavskiy railway station and the Vladivostok station amounts to 9, 288 km (!). It is the longest railway line in the world. The deluxe train No.001M “Rossiya” makes the trip in 6 days 3 hours and 59 minutes
  • A road sign with the marker “9,288 km” is set up on the platform at the railway station. This is the last kilometre; the Trans Siberian railway ends there
  • The first child was born in Vladivostok in May of 1863
  • There are 9 higher education institutions, 37 museums, 10 galleries and exhibition halls, 8 theatres and an oceanarium in Vladivostok. There are also a Representative Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, General Consulates (8 countries) and honoured consulates (11 countries)
  • The Headquarters of the Russian Pacific Navy and part of the Pacific navy fleet are based in Vladivostok
  • Famous people born in Vladivostok include Yule Brinner, the American actor and Oscar winner, the first woman deep water captain, Anna Schetinina, Igor Tamm, the Nobel prize winning physicist, Boris Gryzlov, the Russian politician and Chairman of the Russian Duma from 2003 to 2011
  • In 1890 Anton Chekhov visited Vladivostok. Take a look at the notes he made in his diary: “When I was in Vladivostok the weather was just marvellous; it was warm although it was already October. A whale was swimming in the bay and flapping its tail, that’s an image that will last a lifetime!”, “In Vladivostok, at least during peace time, one can lead a happy and European-style life.”
Vladivostok sea port
Vladivostok sea port

Useful information:

  • Vladivostok, like the rest of the Primorskiy Territory, is located in the time zone designed by the international standard as the Vladivostok Time Zone. It is 11 hours ahead of the UTC and 7 hours ahead of Moscow
  • Vladivostok has a temperate monsoon climate. In the winter it is predominately dry and nippy. The spring comes relatively early; it is long, cool and with frequent temperature shifts. The summer is warm and humid. Tropical cyclones (typhoons) often hit the city. August and September are the most pleasant months of the year; it is known as the “velvet season”. The average temperature in January is -13C, while in August it is +20
  • The international Vladivostok airport (Knevichi) is located 44 km to the north of the city and can be accessed by highway. The flight from Moscow to Vladivostok takes 9 hours and 40 minutes
  • The Federal highway M60 “Ussuri” connects Vladivostok with Khabarovsk. Khabarovsk is the closest Russian city of comparable importance in the Far East, the centre of the Khabarovskiy Territory. The cities are 732 km apart
  • The Zolotoi Rog (The Golden Horn) bay, which divides Vladivostok in half, makes transportation a bit more complicated. In 2008 bridge construction across the bay was started with an estimated project completion date in 39 months. On July 11th the bridge passed the durability test and it is planned to be fully commissioned by the 2012 Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Summit
  • Buses, trolleybuses and trams comprise the city’s transport. One can reach the city’s islands (Russkiy, Popova, Reineke) by boat and ferry (there are about 20 islands within city limits). Additionally, the city has a cable-railway which descends from the Orlinaya bald mountain (214 m above sea level) to the Zolotoi Rog bay.