Novosibirsk is city that prides itself on size: it
is the third-largest city in Russia
(the biggest city east of the Urals), has the biggest railway station
along the trans-Siberian route, the biggest library in Siberia,
and the biggest opera/ballet theater in all of Russia -- even bigger
than Moscow's Bolshoy. The red-brick Cathedral of St. Alexander Nevsky,
while not the biggest, is considered one of the finest existing examples
of pure Russian Orthodox architecture.
In 1943, the Academy of Sciences opened up its Siberian branch in Novosibirsk,
which signalled the beginning of the city's transformation into the
educational hub of Siberian Russia. While many research institutes are
located within Novosibirsk itself, still many more are clustered in
Academgorodok, a small city founded in the 1950's by the Academy, 30
km south of Novosibirsk.
At its height, Academgorodok was home to 65,000 scientists
and their families, and was a priviliged area to live in, with well-stocked
stores and dachas for the academic elite. Gorbachev's perestroika was
initially conceived here, by economists who where then relocated to
Moscow to author the economic revolution. In recent years, Academgorodok
has fallen on hard times thanks to slashes in government funding, and
many of the younger researchers who once populated the town have left.