The city was founded in 1723 by Vasily Tatischev and named after Saint Catherine, the namesake of Tsar Peter the Greats wife Empress Catherine I (Yekaterina). The official date of the city foundation, however, is November 18, 1723. The city was named Sverdlovsk after the Bolshevik party leader and Soviet official Yakov Sverdlov from 1924 to 1991.
Soon after the Russian Revolution, on July 17, 1918, Tsar Nicholas II, his wife, Alexandra, and their children Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and Tsarevich Alexei were executed by Bolsheviks at the Ipatiev House in this city. In 1977 the Ipatiev House was destroyed by order of Boris Yeltsin who later became the first President of the Russian Federation.
In the 1920s, Yekaterinburg became a large industrial center of Russia. It was the time when the famous Uralmash was built, becoming the biggest heavy machinery factory in Europe.
Aquamarine apartment complex
During World War II, many government technical institutions and whole factories were relocated to Yekaterinburg away from the war-affected areas (mostly Moscow), with many of them staying in Ekaterinburg after the victory. The Hermitage Museum collections were also partly evacuated from Leningrad to Sverdlovsk in July 1941 and remained there until October 1945.
In the 1960s, in the days of Khruschevs government, a number of lookalike five-story apartment blocks sprung up all over the city. Most of them still remain today in Kirovsky, Chkalovsky, and other residential areas of Yekaterinburg.
On May 1, 1960 an American U-2 spy plane, piloted by Francis Gary Powers while under the employ of the CIA, was shot down over Sverdlovsk Oblast. The pilot was captured, put on trial, and found guilty of espionage. He was sentenced to seven years of hard labour, though he served only about a year before being exchanged for Rudolph Abel, a high-ranking KGB spy, who had been apprehended in the United States in 1957. The two spies were exchanged at the Glienicke Bridge in Potsdam, Germany, on February 10, 1962. Since the end of World War II, the Glienicke Bridge was the most popular captive-trading place when the west and the east felt it necessary to negotiate.
Statue of the city founders – Vasily Tatishchev and Georg Wilhelm de Gennin
There was an anthrax outbreak in Yekaterinburg (then Sverdlovsk) in April and May 1979, which was attributed by Soviet officials to the locals eating contaminated meat. However, American agencies believe that the locals inhaled spores accidentally released from an aerosol of pathogen at a military microbiology facility. Dr. Kanatjan Alibekovs account of the Sverdlovsk anthrax leak in his book Biohazard agrees with the American agencies view. In 1992 Boris Yeltsin admitted that the anthrax outbreak was caused by the military. In 1994, a team of independent American researchers lead by Matthew Meselson concluded based on a number of sources of evidence that it was conclusive that the illnesses were a result of an anthrax release from the Sverdlovsk-19 military facility.