Izhevsk (Иже́вск)Udmurt Republic
Izhevsk is the capital of the Udmurt Republic located which is located to the West of the Ural mountains. It has a population of over 600,000 people. Izhevsk is located on the Izh river which is a tributary to the Kama river. The city's history is predominantly industrial and this is still the case in the city today.
Izhevsk is built besides a man made lake commonly known as the Izhevsk Pond. The use of the word 'pond' is a curious translation used by most locals for the lake. Izhevsk Pond is certainly large enough to be considered a lake by almost all definitions (22 square km). The lake was formed on the Izh river in early 1760s in order to build metal working factory on it's shore. The settlement would grow to become the city of Izhevsk. The city's focus would remain metal working and arms production.
Izhevsk is the home of Michael Kalashnikov who in the late 1940s designed the AK-47 assault rifle which has proved to be one of the most successful small arms designs in history. More AK-47s have been manufactured than any other in history (over 100 million). Although Izhevsk is the home of Kalashnikov production, numerous unlicensed factories around the world produce the AK-47. During World War II Izhevsk supplied around 12.5 million arms for the Russian army. Izhevsk was also the birthplace of the Russian motorcycle industry. Izhevsk factories still produce small arms as well as other weaponry, cars and motorcycles. A Kalashnikov museum has recently been built in Izhevsk.
Izhevsk was a closed city during soviet times. No foreigners were allowed to visit the city. It was even difficult for Russians to visit Izhevsk. This was mainly due to the weapons manufacture that takes place in the city. Today Izhevsk welcomes visitors, and it is a wonderful way for tourists to escape the tourist trail. In fact Izhevsk isn't even listed in the lonely planet.
Izhevsk has a typically continental climate. Mild summers and cold winter. Average temperatures ranging from +20C in the summer to -15C in the winter. As the city is so far from the ocean temperatures often feel more mild than they actually are, especially when compared to a city like Saint Petersburg.
Getting to and around Izhevsk.
Izhevsk is serviced by daily trains for Moscow and Saint Petersburg. The Moscow trains leave from Kazanski station and take about 20 hours to get to Izhevsk. These trains offer three classes of travel. Trains also connect other cities, however Izhevsk is not on the trans-Siberian route, so you will normally need to change trains to travel to Eastern Russia. You can take a tram the train station to the centre of Izhevsk.
Izhevsk is also serviced by the nearby Izhevsk airport. Izhavia is the main operator. Izhavia are considered the national airline of the Udmurtia. Twice daily flights operate to Moscow. Less regular services operate to other Russian domestic destinations including Saint Petersburg, Kazan, Sochi, Yekaterinburg and Mineralnye Vody.
Izhevsk is served by three forms of public transport: tram, trolleybus, and bus. Public transport in the city is both cheap and effective. Single trip tickets can be bought from the on board conductors, and those spending more time in Izhevsk can purchase a monthly pass from a ticket kiosk.
Taxi services are also cheap and generally reliable. As Izhevsk is off the tourist trail taxi drivers almost never attempt to take advantage of tourists and it's easy to get the locals rate. Locals commonly hitch-hike as a mode of transport, although they will normally pay a negotiated fee to the driver, which is normally similar to a taxi rate. We advise caution if you wish to try this alone, however the practice is so common it is probably quite safe. If you don't like vibe of the person who stops then wave them on, and don't accept a ride if there is more than one person in the car.
Spending Time in Izhevsk
Izhevsk is not particularly famous for it's tourist attractions. In fact none of them would probably warrant a special visit to Izhevsk, but there are still some attractions that are worth checking out if you are in the city. The attraction of Izhevsk for many western visitors is finding a large industrial city that is off the tourist trail. The locals are friendly and the nightlife is great fun, especially once you have made a few friends in the city.
The main city square and esplanade for the central axis of Izhevsk. You can follow it form the top near the government buildings down to the lake. There is a monument dedicated to friendship of people (Udmurt and Russian). Izhevsk's centre features the more architecturally significant buildings in the city, including the government administration buildings, old plant buildings, and cathedrals. There are some areas of central Izhevsk where traditional wooden buildings have been preserved, which add a unique feel to the central city.
The new Kalashnikov museum is well worth a visit. The Izhmash museum also provides an insight into the industrial history of the city. Visitors may also enjoy a visit to the Izhevsk circus housed in purposely built stadium. It is worth noting that Russian circus's still heavily feature the use of animals, so if you don't like this it may be best not to visit. There are also theaters and cinemas in Izhevsk.
Izhevsk's ice hokey team Izhstal plays in the Russian major league. If you have never been to a live ice hokey game, it is well worth a visit. The stadium is also available at times for public ice skating, there is also the opportunity to ice skate outdoors in the winter.
There are several nightclubs and bars to keep you entertained in Izhevsk. Some clubs have a very western feel, others feel more uniquely Russian and operate in bomb shelters. Be sure to ask the locals the best places to visit as popular places naturally change from time to time. There are also a number of nice restaurants and cafes in Izhevsk which are generally well priced. Once again check with the locals for the best places to eat. Cafes, restaurants, clubs and bars have been springing up quickly throughout Izhevsk since the end of communism, and this growth continues. Izhevsk is becoming a more cosmopolitan city.
There are two universities in Russia. The Udmurt State university offers courses in Russian for foreigners. Izhevsk would be a great place to study Russian because you will have plenty of opportunity to practice your Russian. Very few shop assistants are able to speak English, so you will be forced practice your Russian.Udmurt Republic