Chelyabinsk Oblast, Russia

The Chelyabinsk region is perhaps the most diverse of the Ural regions. Here, the forests spread across the mountains give way to rocky tundra on the peaks, and at the foot of the mountains they border on forest-steppe, which turns into a real steppe to the south. The area adjacent to the Sverdlovsk region to the north and west of Chelyabinsk was populated during the construction of Ural factories. The southern, steppe part historically belongs to the Orenburg region, which arose from Cossack villages and fortresses, outposts of Russia on the border with the Great Steppe. Add to this the traces of the ancient steppe civilization in Arkaim, wealthy merchant cities like Troitsk and Verkhneuralsk or the 20th century industrial giants Magnitogorsk and Chelyabinsk, and you get a wide range of historical attractions against a backdrop of wonderful nature. The mountains of the Chelyabinsk region are not the highest, but by a large margin the most accessible in the Urals, since they are located close to civilization. In the mountains there are many beautiful valleys, rocks, caves, waterfalls, as well as ornamental stones and famous Ural minerals. There are also lakes in the Chelyabinsk region, both mountain lakes, which are rare for the Urals, and a huge number of flat lakes. All this together is a very interesting and diverse part of Russia.




Taganai National Park
Zyuratkul National Park



The mountains of the Southern Urals and the Trans-Ural steppes in the south of what is now the Chelyabinsk region have been inhabited by humans since ancient times. The first settlers lived in caves, including Ignatievskaya, where rock paintings remained. A larger, although hardly more visible, legacy has been preserved from the Country of Cities - an ancient civilization that lived in the southern Ural steppes at the turn of the 3rd and 2nd millennia BC. and engaged, for example, in copper smelting, as evidenced by the excavations of Arkaim, one of the largest archaeological sites in Russia. Over the next 3,000 years, a wave of migration of peoples swept across the Great Steppe. The Scythians, Sarmatians, Huns and many others left their mark on the Southern Urals (nowadays, mainly on the shelves of local history museums), and eventually, starting around the 10th century, the Bashkirs settled in the mountains of the Chelyabinsk region and the Trans-Ural steppes.

After the defeat of the Kazan Khanate by Ivan the Terrible, the Bashkirs living west of the Ural Mountains voluntarily joined Russia in 1557. The Eastern Bashkirs, who lived on the territory of the modern Chelyabinsk region, remained under the rule of the Siberian Khanate, which, however, happily ceased to exist in 1598. After this, the entire future Chelyabinsk region came under Russian rule in the sense that no one else laid claim to this area. The Bashkirs, however, were in no hurry to recognize the power of anyone and even at the beginning of the 18th century they posed a considerable threat to the Ural factories under construction. In the 17th century, Russia had no time for the Southern Urals: wars on the western borders, Turkish raids, exploration of the vast territories of Siberia and the Far East. Russian development of the Southern Urals began only at the turn of the 18th century and occurred in two directions. The Demidov factories, built in the vicinity of Yekaterinburg, gradually expanded to the south, as a result of which the cities of the north of the Chelyabinsk region arose. All of them were founded between 1730 and 1790. The southern part of the region was settled even faster. In 1731, the Junior Zhuz, part of the future Kazakhstan, came under the protectorate of Russia, which required the construction of new fortifications, but not inside the Kazakh territories, but along their northern border - so that the Kazakhs had a place to hide from raids from the south. This is how a line of fortresses appeared along the Ural and Uy rivers, including Verkhneuralsk and Troitsk - at that time the largest settlements in the southern Trans-Urals. At the beginning of the 19th century, the steppe was also settled by Russians, and the Cossacks, who returned from the war against Napoleon, named their villages after the cities they had seen in Europe. In the Chelyabinsk region there are Paris, Varna, Ferchampenoise and other villages. In the 1830s. a “new line” of fortresses is being built between Troitsk and Orsk, forming the border of the current Chelyabinsk region, which, however, did not exist either then or almost a hundred years later.

There were no external wars on the territory of the Chelyabinsk region, but internal ones happened twice. First, from south to north, through all the fortresses and factory cities in 1774, the army of Emelyan Pugachev passed, leaving behind enormous destruction (some factories were not restored after that), and in 1918-19. In the vicinity of Chelyabinsk, the Civil War raged, a reminder of which is served by memorials and monuments erected in every city. A particularly important event, which they will tell you about in any local history museum, was the campaign of Blucher’s army in the rear of the White Army - one of the operations that ensured the victory of the Red Army in the Urals.

Until the beginning of the 20th century, Chelyabinsk was an ordinary Ural city and was part of either the Orenburg or Ufa provinces. An independent province with a center in Chelyabinsk arose only after the revolution, reflecting the rise of the city at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, when the Trans-Siberian Railway passed through it, that is, the paths from Central Russia to Kazakhstan and Siberia converged. Factories in the vicinity of Chelyabinsk back in the 19th century were known for their high technologies: damask steel smelting in Zlatoust or figure casting in Kasli, and at the beginning of the 20th century. Electrometallurgy appears in the Southern Urals. The course towards the development of heavy industry continued during Soviet times. In the pre-war 1930s, Chelyabinsk and Magnitogorsk, built almost from scratch, became the largest industrial centers of the Soviet Union. After the war, the nuclear industry was added to them, several closed cities were created in the Chelyabinsk region, including Ozyorsk, where the Mayak plant was and is engaged in uranium enrichment, and in 1957 the Kyshtym accident occurred - the largest radiation disaster in the world after the explosion in Chernobyl. Soviet Union. Around the same time, the south of the Chelyabinsk region was affected by a campaign for the development of virgin lands, the steppes were plowed, but this did not have much success: now agriculture here is of a local nature.


Nature and geography

The Chelyabinsk region covers the southern part of the Ural ridge and the Trans-Urals. The western part of the region is occupied by mountains covered with dense mixed forest, characteristic heights from 400-500 m above sea level in the valleys to 800-1400 m at the peaks. The highest point - Mount Nurgush (1406 m) - is quite accessible for climbing, like any others. Above 1000 m the forest ends and the rocky tundra begins with a kurumnik - a scattering of stones that are not easy to climb and even more difficult to descend. But the views from the mountains are wonderful, since there are almost no trees on the peaks. From north to south, the heights first increase, reach a maximum south of the Ufa-Chelyabinsk highway and then smoothly decrease to the border with the Orenburg region, where the Ural ridge ends. There are several lakes in the mountains (the most famous are Turgoyak and Zyuratkul), but there are many more of them on the plain, from the border with the Sverdlovsk region to Chelyabinsk itself. Within the mountainous part of the region, two national parks have been formed - Taganay and Zyuratkul.

The eastern (i.e., trans-Ural) part of the Chelyabinsk region is divided approximately in half into the northern forest-steppe and southern steppe zones. The forest-steppe is completely flat, in places lacustrine and swampy. It ends about 50 kilometers south of Chelyabinsk, the lakes disappear along with it, but relief appears. The Chelyabinsk steppe is spread out on hills, some of which can be considered mountains, such as Mount Magnitnaya, now partially buried by the Magnitogorsk Iron and Steel Works. In the steppe, especially along river banks, there are rocky outcrops. The area is very picturesque, although the beauty here is not at all the same as in the mountains.

There are no large rivers in the Chelyabinsk region, but even those that exist played a significant role in the history of the region, since defensive lines were built along them in the 18th century. The main river is the Miass (not to be confused with the city of the same name), which originates in the mountains and descends to the plain in order to provide Chelyabinsk with a city pond. The source of the famous Ural River is located on the border of the Chelyabinsk region and Bashkiria. From there the river flows strictly south through Magnitogorsk. The symbolic border between Europe and Asia runs along the river. To the north of the river, the Europe-Asia border runs along the watershed of Ufa and Tobol. The railway crosses this border between Zlatoust and Miass (Zlatoust in Europe, Miass in Asia).

The Ural Mountains are a storehouse of ores and minerals, and there are many of them in the Chelyabinsk region. Iron ore mining near Magnitogorsk or Bakal continues to this day and can probably continue for a very long time. Minerals, of course, are not lying around underfoot, and the area richest in them has even been turned into a special Ilmensky nature reserve, closed to outsiders. However, the opportunity to buy stones or even find them yourself exists. If you prefer contemplation to searching, pay attention to the rocks, the color of which changes from the usual gray to dark brown, thanks either to iron oxides or lichens, and often to both at the same time.

There are many wild animals in the Chelyabinsk region. It is unlikely that you will meet a wolf or a bear, but tourists see their tracks regularly. In the mountains, moose and deer are bred in nature reserves. The easiest way is to see birds. In summer, eagles and kites circle over the steppe, and if you move away from the main roads, it is not difficult to observe them very close and even while hunting.


How to get there

By plane
There are two operating airports in the Chelyabinsk region - Magnitogorsk and Chelyabinsk. Both have a purely local significance and regular communication mainly with Moscow. Ekaterinburg is more promising, from where Chelyabinsk is only 200 km away.

By train
The old route of the Trans-Siberian Samara-Ufa-Zlatoust-Chelyabinsk-Kurgan passes through the Chelyabinsk region, as well as roads to Yekaterinburg, Orenburg and Kazakhstan's Kostanay. Most trains come from Ufa, which is 380 km away, but 9 hours away, which is ideal for an overnight train. Trains to Yekaterinburg run less frequently and are also slow, so it’s more convenient to take a bus here. If you are interested in Kurgan, then it is very close: 3.5-4 hours by train, there are several long-distance and even suburban ones. The farthest is Orenburg: 14-15 hours, few trains. The only train running to Kazakhstan is Moscow-Astana. West of Zlatoust the road is an interesting engineering structure and passes through several tunnels.

By car
Highways lead to the Chelyabinsk region from all neighboring regions. From the Bashkortostan side there are highways to Chelyabinsk (M5) and Magnitogorsk (the latter is much freer and more picturesque). From Orenburg highway P361, from Yekaterinburg M5, from Kurgan P254. The main road to Kazakhstan (A310) passes through Troitsk and leads to Kostanay.

The M5 highway on the Ufa-Chelyabinsk section is the main route for freight transport from the west to the east of the country. The road is mostly two-lane, there are few advance lanes, there are a lot of long climbs in the Ural Mountains, and service suffers. Because of this, in winter the road is famous for many hours of traffic jams and blockages: one truck that has stalled on a snowy or icy slope can completely stop traffic, and there are a lot of trucks here. The area around the cities of Sim and Ust-Katav is especially difficult. Check the weather forecast for snowfall, check road conditions in navigation services and look for detour routes - they are available for passenger cars.



By train
Suburban service is most in demand on the Chelyabinsk-Miass section, where electric trains run several times a day and are not inferior to buses. Beyond Miass, trains run twice a day to Zlatoust and from there to Kropachevo (between Ust-Katav and Minyar), where suburban service ends and is absent until the very suburbs of Ufa. At least a dozen long-distance trains run along the same line, making stops in all more or less significant settlements, but seated carriages on such trains are rare, and traveling a short distance in a reserved seat will be expensive.

In the northern direction, twice a day there are electric trains Chelyabinsk-Verkhniy Ufaley (via Kyshtym), and from them you can, in turn, transfer to electric trains to Yekaterinburg. However, they all go so slowly that you will gain a lot of time by taking the bus. Long-distance trains rarely run here and are not intended for short trips at all. Both electric trains and long-distance trains are quite active on the Chelyabinsk-Kamensk-Uralsky line, but it is absolutely unclear where to go along it except, perhaps, to Kamensk itself.

The same situation is with the eastern direction Chelyabinsk-Kurgan, where there are 2 electric trains with a connection at the Shumikha station, an express train to Kurgan itself and a bunch of long-distance Siberian trains, but there is little interesting along the way.

The railway goes to the south in a not entirely trivial way: from Chelyabinsk to Troitsk, from there either directly to Kazakhstan (Kostanay), or to the Russian city of Kartaly, but also through the territory of Kazakhstan (there is no border control). In Kartaly there is a fork to the west (Magnitogorsk, Beloretsk, Ufa) and to the south (Orsk, Orenburg). There are several long-distance trains running steadily on the Orenburg direction, making stops at least in large populated areas, and you won’t need others. Rare electric trains cover the Chelyabinsk-Kartaly and Kartaly-Magnitogorsk sections.

By car
There are not very many roads in the Chelyabinsk region, but given the low population density this is quite enough:
Ekaterinburg highway (completion of M5). From Chelyabinsk there are 60 km of a four-lane road with very broken asphalt, after which a very busy two-lane road begins.
Ufa highway (M5). One of the most difficult and congested Russian roads. From Chelyabinsk it begins as a four-lane highway, before Miass it narrows to two lanes and then extremely rarely widens to three - only on long climbs, and even then not on all of them. There is a lot of truck traffic here, so be prepared for slow traffic and difficult overtaking. The road is quite mountainous, and there are no exits for emergency braking, so brake failure is fraught with the most serious consequences. From the point of view of landscapes and surroundings, the route is not very interesting and mainly passes through the forest, there are only a few good viewpoints.
From Chelyabinsk to the south there are 30 km of four-lane road, then a busy two-lane road to Yuzhnouralsk, where the flows diverge to Troitsk and Magnitogorsk. The Magnitogorsk highway is relatively free and runs through a very picturesque, although somewhat monotonous, steppe. From Magnitogorsk you can drive further through the steppe in the direction of Orenburg, or turn off and cross the mountains in the direction of Ufa and Beloretsk, where more than 100 km of very beautiful and truck-free mountain road with wonderful views of the Southern Urals awaits you.

Be prepared for the fact that in the south of the Chelyabinsk region there are very long distances, but you can drive quickly, the roads are quite straight, and the flow of cars is small. In the mountains it’s the other way around: it’s close from one city to another in a straight line, but the road winds and it’s impossible to drive along it quickly. The condition of the roads varies from average to poor; off the main roads there are regularly broken sections with deep potholes and other surprises.



History and architecture

The ancient monuments of the Chelyabinsk region can be counted on the fingers of one hand: these are rock paintings in the Ignatievskaya cave, the excavations of Arkaim and the Kesene mausoleum located near Varna - a monument of the 14th-16th centuries, to which, according to legend, Tamerlane was related, and this beautiful legend, perhaps , more interesting than the mausoleum itself, which after reconstruction in the 1980s. Doesn't look ancient at all.

Although most of the cities in the Chelyabinsk region were founded in the 18th century, their regular development dates back to the 19th century at best. From the first years of the existence of the South Ural factories, only the luxurious Demidov estate in Kyshtym has survived. In Miass and Zlatoust there are good monuments of classicism, but they are smaller and more modest than in the neighboring Sverdlovsk region. Of the pre-revolutionary monuments, the best represented are merchant houses, of which there are especially many in Troitsk. There is extensive pre-revolutionary development in Verkhneuralsk and also in the old part of Miass, where you will, in addition, see the division of old and new centers specific to the South Ural factory cities (in Miass they are separated by many kilometers). The Chelyabinsk region is rich in carved wooden houses. There are many of them in Chelyabinsk itself, in Troitsk, in Kasli, and in any other old city there are interesting specimens.

The mediocre architecture in the southern Urals is compensated by the picturesque location of old factory towns. Zlatoust is completely unique, sandwiched among the mountains and additionally limited by a pond. Rocky outcrops, steep ascents and descents, views of the peaks of Taganay - this landscape is deeply unusual for Russian cities, all the more strange are ordinary huts in it, and this is exactly what every single town in the mountains looks like - Ust-Katav, Yuryuzan and so on.

There are few cities in the steppe; there are mainly villages, some of which are notable for their European names. The most famous of them is the village of Paris with a small copy of the Eiffel Tower. In addition to the already mentioned Kesene Mausoleum, there is only one historical landmark in this region - the stone new-line fortresses of the 1830s preserved in the villages of Naslednitskoye and Nikolaevka. The fortresses of the 18th century were wooden and remain only in the form of models, which will be shown to you in the local history museums of Verkhneuralsk or Chelyabinsk.

With rare exceptions, the working-class neighborhoods of Chelyabinsk and Magnitogorsk showed constructivism in the 1920s. does not exist in the Chelyabinsk region, but pre- and post-war buildings of the Stalinist style are found everywhere. In Chelyabinsk they are centered on the majestic and luxurious central avenue with the local university building - a smaller version of the main building of Moscow State University - and the metallurgical plant area contains a mixture of Stalinist with real German Gothic. The center of Magnitogorsk is completely built in the Stalinist style, while other industrial cities - Miass, Satka, Minyar - have unique cultural centers and simply good buildings from the early 1950s.

The temple architecture of the Chelyabinsk region is extremely nondescript. Among the Orthodox churches, there is, perhaps, not a single one that deserves serious attention, and if you look at the mosques built in the mid-19th century, which are in Troitsk and Chelyabinsk, and in the first there were as many as seven of them at one time: here was the center of the Ural Islam. Also of minimal interest are the churches of Magnitogorsk, built after the war during the years of state atheism.



There are a lot of factories in the Chelyabinsk region, but there are only a few monuments of industrial history. The main one is the Porozhskaya hydroelectric station (see Satka), which has not changed since the beginning of the 20th century and even applied for inclusion in the UNESCO list. The remains of furnaces, workshops, and narrow-gauge railways are scattered throughout the Southern Urals, but all this is not preserved or even protected, and gives practically no idea of how the industry was organized. It is more interesting to see the operating production with your own eyes: for example, in Satka there is a small metallurgical plant with old blast furnaces, recovery columns and other necessary attributes. The museum of the metallurgical plant in Magnitogorsk is interesting: there are models of modern workshops and factory lines. Of course, it is worth seeing the gigantic metallurgical plant itself, the largest in Russia - it is an unforgettable sight.

Chelyabinsk industry has generated a lot of infrastructure. In the town of Korkino near Chelyabinsk there is a huge coal mine with a depth of 540 m and 2.5 km in diameter. A variety of careers are found everywhere. In their active form they are simply impressive, and when flooded they are beautiful bodies of water and a good place for a summer holiday. Large industrial cities, both in terms of population and area, cannot do without public transport, including trams. In the Chelyabinsk region there are three operating tram systems (Chelyabinsk, Magnitogorsk, Zlatoust) and another service (test) in Ust-Katav, where trams are produced. There are old rumbling cars running everywhere, which are nevertheless very pleasant to ride, since the tram routes are very winding and laid over difficult terrain, guaranteeing excellent views of the mountains (in Zlatoust) or factories (in Magnitogorsk and Chelyabinsk). The Samara-Zlatoust Railway, built in the 1880s, is very picturesque, crossing the Ural Mountains and passing through several tunnels that have survived from the 19th century.

The apotheosis of Chelyabinsk industry is the city of Karabash, where a copper production plant scorched the earth for kilometers, creating not even a lunar, but a post-apocalyptic landscape with smoking chimneys and copper-colored streams.



If you still need to look for historical and architectural monuments in the Chelyabinsk region, then the nature is wonderful almost everywhere, be it the lake region north of Chelyabinsk or the endless steppe in the south. However, all the main natural attractions are in the mountains. Lake Turgoyak lies at an altitude of 320 m and is surrounded by peaks up to 900 m, which are covered with forest. Despite all this, the lake is located on the outskirts of Miass, easily accessible by public transport, which, however, means an abundance of other vacationers. A little further from civilization is the Zyuratkul park - this is a mountain lake (724 m) and peaks up to 1200 m, that is, those with stones at the top, not forest. In the Taganay National Park north of Zlatoust, the mountains are slightly lower, but both of them (in Zyuratkul) are excellent for one-day ascents, which also do not require any experience or equipment: just good shoes, weather and the desire to climb up the rocks . The highest mountains of the Chelyabinsk region are the Iremel and Nurgush massifs south of Zyuratkul. There is almost no infrastructure, so climbing will require more time and effort.

The Ural Mountains are old and flat, there are few rocks and no deep gorges at all. However, there are a lot of cliffs and simply good viewpoints; they can be found in any factory town, and you’ll see a lot just from the road, especially if you stay away from the Ufa highway, giving preference to local roads. What there are a lot of caves in the Urals, however, in the Chelyabinsk region, none of them are cultivated. The most famous is Ignatievskaya, where prehistoric rock paintings seem to have been preserved. To visit the cave, all you need is a flashlight, the ability to remember the way and the absence of claustrophobia, although whether you will find drawings there is a separate question. Other caves will require skills and special equipment.


What to do

The Chelyabinsk region is the richest in recreational areas in the Urals. There are a large number of sanatoriums and ski resorts in the region. The Chelyabinsk lakes are a traditional vacation spot for the Urals. Even twenty years ago, vacations on the cold shores of the region’s salt and fresh lakes with rocky and sandy beaches were a worthy substitute for trips to the distant and crowded Krasnodar region. However, now the situation has changed. The increased number of personal vehicles among the residents of the Urals has led to the fact that recreation on the lakes has exceeded all reasonable limits in terms of mass numbers. Fishing in many lakes has declined, and almost all beaches and more or less convenient camping areas have been commercialized. Now on the forest road you will be greeted by a barrier; to access the lake you need to pay an entry fee of 300 to 600 rubles. (as a rule, the fee is charged per car), but this does not in any way affect the improvement of heavily polluted beaches. The most active season for tourists is July-August, when the water in cold lakes warms up best. Despite the entrance fee, at this time the shores of the lakes are crowded with vacationers, and it can be difficult to find a place for a tent. The most popular lakes for summer recreation are Turgoyak (near Miass) and Uvildy (near Kyshtym).


Ski resorts

There are fewer ski resorts in the Chelyabinsk region than in its northern neighbor, the Sverdlovsk region. The largest of them is Solnechnaya Dolina (near Miass). In addition, there is skiing from the mountains in Zlatoust (Balashikha and Urenga), Asha (Adzhigardak), Kyshtym (Egoza), Kasli (Vishnevaya), Minyar (Minyar) and Trekhgorny (Zavyalikha). The popular Abzakovo resort is located in Bashkiria on the border with the Chelyabinsk region and is conveniently accessible from Magnitogorsk.



Particularly famous is the Nagaibaksky district in the south of the Chelyabinsk region, whose villages in the 19th century were named after the places of military glory of the Russian army (mainly in the campaign of 1813-1814, in which local Cossacks actively participated): Ferchampenoise, Chesma, Berlin, Paris, Port Arthur, Leipzig, Varna, Bredy, Arsinsky, Kassel, Balkans, Warsaw - all together the so-called. Ural Europe. The tourism infrastructure in this area is poorly developed, because... These are fairly remote villages, and there are absolutely no other attractions nearby. However, lately, tourists are increasingly driving along local off-road roads to take pictures at the signs at the entrances to villages, as well as with Parisians and Berliners, and then have fun fooling their friends.