Yesterday I was standing on the balcony of my friends apartment and watching the outskirts of Novosibirsk from the 7th floor. It could have been any city in the world – Seoul or Moscow or any other big city.
A child was climbing a huge pile of snow, two construction workers were sitting on a pipe and having a smoke break and a guy with a snowboard was crossing the street as I was thinking of what is Novosibirsk like.
Novosibirsk doesnt try to impress you and you might even not like it at the first bite because it leaves a bit of the soviet era aftertaste. Being the 3rd biggest city in Russia by population it spreads along Ob river covering the territory equal to Seoul, South Korea, or 5 Barcelonas.
It has no great natural resources, or middle aged historical heritage or outstanding nature beauties. How come Novosibirsk is the capital of Siberia?
I was standing on the balcony of the friends apartment and thinking about this while watching the city that stretches all the way to the horizon.
And you know what? You never get to understand the city while standing on your friend’s balcony so today I went out to explore.
Novosibirsk is huge and it’s not just in it’s size but also in the complexity of the city and modesty at the same time. You cant grasp it at once and it will not boast out all the secrets to you.
It’s like that guy who’s got a million dollar on his bank account but still has a take away pizza at the bench of the central park.
I didnt quite get to understand this city yet but while wondering around the city center today thought that the whole phenomenon of Novosibirsk is about it’s people.
Founded in 1893 as a future site for the Trans-Siberian railway bridge across Ob river, Novosibirsk later became one of the largest industrial centers of Siberia during the Stalin times and adopted 170000 of refuges during the Great Soviet Famine at the beginning of the 1930s.
The industrialization plus the rapid growth gave it the nickname of the Chicago of Siberia, but the modern Novosibirsk was formed in the 1950s when Academgorodok was built.
Academgorodok is the academy town that became the educational and scientific center of Siberia which at it’s peak was the home for 65.000 scientists and their families.
Not sure that any other industrial city in the world ever got that amount of scientists who obviously changed the city’s perspective.
And even though nowadays Novosibirsk does have quite a number of the plants still it’s mostly known as a brain capital of Siberia. The locals wouldnt proudly tell you about it. They’ll criticize the start ups that originated from here and became famous it the whole country and then will get back to work, doing it not that much for the money but working for the idea.
Last night my friends Anna and Sasha took me to a coffee place in academgorodok, and the people who were having a loud drunk conversation next to us where elderly professors.
I’ve never seen drunken elderly professors having an argument in public but guess that’s what Novosibirsk will always be for me – brainstorming anywhere, anytime.
I would love to see Siberia and the whole Russia to develop this way – not trying to dazzle you with the oil and gas money glitter but instead puzzling you with it’s simplicity that hides the beautiful mind.