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Population: 408,826
Main industries: Textiles, logistics
Mayor: Vyacheslav Sverchkov
City manager: Alexander Kuzminchev (Twitter: https://twitter.com/A_S_Kuzmichev)
First mentioned in 1561
Interesting fact No. 1: Ivanovo is famous in Russia as the "city of brides" because the dominant textile industry attracted more women than men. The city's most famous woman now is Svetlana Kuritsyna, a pro-Kremlin youth activist who shot to fame after appearing as "Sveta from Ivanovo" in a video that went viral on YouTube. She now has a show on NTV television.
Interesting fact No. 2: One of Russia's richest men, steel mogul Vladimir Lisin, was born here in 1956.
Interesting fact No. 3: After a merger with the village of Voznesensky Posad, the city was known as Ivanovo-Voznesensk between 1871 and 1932. Some people want to return to this name.
Sister cities: Hannover, Germany; Plano, Texas, U.S.; Lodz, Poland
Helpful contacts: Yury Vladimirovich Korotkov, aide to the mayor +7-910-985-5014
IVANOVO — The Niagara Restaurant is smack in the center of town, overlooking the river, right next to the falls.

Just that the river is not the Niagara but the Uvod, and the falls are not 58 meters but just 1 meter high. And the restaurant, naturally, serves Georgian food.

Welcome to Ivanovo, a city northeast of Moscow that doesn't cater much to tourists but may offer the unexpected to those who look carefully.
At first sight, it is hard to find anything attractive in this city of just over 400,000. The central Ploshchad Revolutsii boasts a monumental sculpture paying tribute to the revolution of 1905, which was sparked by a local textile workers' strike. Behind it towers a yellow-red building that looks like a run-of the mill apartment block but houses the city administration.

Ivanovo's relative lack of historic monuments has been explained by large-scale demolition by the Soviets during the 1920s and 1930s, when most of the city's more than 20 churches were knocked down. Today, just four survive. Those policies were carried out more ruthlessly than elsewhere because of plans — later abandoned — to make Ivanovo the capital of Russia proper, while Moscow would remain the capital of the Soviet Union, according to an essay on the city's official website.

Major Businesses

Avtokran (61 Ulitsa Nekrasova, +7-495-741-06-66, cranes.ru) A leading manufacturer of construction cranes.
Sun Inbev (143 Parizhskoi Kommuny Ulitsa, +7-4932-33-96-97 www.suninterbrew.ru/rus/factory/ivanovo/default.aspx) One of 10 breweries run by the Russian subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world's largest brewer.
Egger Drevprodukt (1 Yuzhnoye Shosse, 155908 Shuya, +7-49351 39000, +7 495 2312828, www.egger.com/RU_ru/index.htm?lang=ru_RU) A wood-panel factory run by a large Austrian manufacturer

Today, Ivanovo is famous for two things: brides and the textile industry. The two are directly related. For generations, the textile industry attracted mainly female workers to the city. In the 19th century, textile manufacturing was so big that Ivanovo became known as the Russian Manchester.

Like its British counterpart, Ivanovo has seen industrial decline, most acutely during the 1990s, when the country's textile industry crumbled in the face of foreign competition, which had been absent in Soviet times. The city's population, which peaked at 481,000 in 1989, shrank to 403,000 in 2010.

The city is far from deserted, however, and roads can get clogged with traffic, a sign that the local economy has picked up during recent years. A walk through the center also reveals that textiles still dominate the locals' hearts and minds. Shops selling huge ranges of cloth in different styles and colors abound, and customers were plenty during a visit on Nov. 5, a public holiday. While the fabric is no longer produced locally, textile-related know-how is still strong among locals, and city authorities are keen to put that to use. Their plan is to focus on textile trade and sewing and transform Ivanovo from a city of textile workers into a fashion city, as Mayor Vyacheslav Sverchkov puts it (see interview). Supporters of the plan point out that more than half the country's textile production is sold out of Ivanovo. However, it would be an exaggeration to say the atmosphere in downtown Ivanovo has an air of Paris haute couture. The dilapidated infrastructure does not differ greatly from that of other cities of similar size in Moscow's vicinity. There are revamped retail outlets, newly opened eateries and some major construction projects, but large gaps between buildings and fenced-off ruins serve as a constant reminder that the restructuring is still in its early phases.

For MT

Vyacheslav Sverchkov,
Ivanovo mayor since 2010

Q: How do you attract foreign investors to Ivanovo?
A: We give potential investors all the support we can as municipal authorities. We work closely together with the Ivanovo region's interagency council for production and investments, headed by the governor, [Mikhail Men].

Q: What are your main tasks for the near future?
A: Quite a few. First we focus on improving the quality of life for our population. But we keep supporting Ivanovo's brand as Russia's textile capital. Even today, a significant amount of products associated with this are being produced in our city. But Ivanovo has also become a big logistics center where products from Ukraine, Turkey and China are sold to buyers from all over Russia.
We have successfully developed into a fashion city. Ivanovo is proud of its young but already recognized clothes designers, graduates of our textile academy. And our (fellow) townsman fashion designer Vyacheslav Zaitsev is already widely known beyond Russia. It's not an accident that Ivanovo hosts a range of annual fashion festivals.

Q: What do you like most about your city?
A: I like Ivanovo because of its youth. Most of our citizens are students. Deservedly, our city this year became a finalist in the European Youth Capital contest. I like Ivanovo's wide roads and its green corners. And I am deeply impressed by our people's striving to progress.
While the demographic situation has changed, our young women remain the prettiest in the country. Ivanovo's brides attract people from other regions, and many young families settle in our city.

— Nikolaus von Twickel

What to see if you have two hours

From Ploshchad Revolutsii, stroll down Prospekt Lenina, the city's busiest thoroughfare. You can do some basic shopping here before you hit the golden-domed Holy Trinity Church. From here, the road morphs into a highway with metal guardrails in the center. Do not let this deter you. Start your descent to the river either well right or left of the road.

There is plenty of open space and green in front of you. To the right, the massive Palace of Arts, which houses the city's main theaters, towers above the riverbank. The building was erected in the 1930s over the ruins of a large Orthodox complex housing the city's main cathedrals, torn down in 1931. Although construction lasted nine years, the new building was riddled with structural difficulties and eventually closed in 1965 for more than 20 years for renovation. The reopening in 1986 was postponed for another year after a fire destroyed much of the interior. This unfortunate history has fed popular legends about the place. A lengthy article on the Ivgorod.ru website claims that a whole string of tragedies at the location after 1931 stem from a curse of a witch called Dosifeya, who was taking revenge for the destruction of the holy buildings, which included a venerated cemetery.

To the left you can see two high-rise apartment buildings called Ogni Moskvy (lights of Moscow), which have a whimsical address on Konspirativny Pereulok (Conspiracy Lane). Walk down to the Uvod River, which in Soviet times was said to be so dirty that it contained no fish.The cause of the pollution was the textile factories, one of the biggest of which was here in the very center of the city. The former Big Ivanovo Manufacture, better known as BIM, looms large over the other embankment. But the factory, which traces its roots to 1751, closed for good in 2008.

While BIM is waiting for business to return one day in the form of a shopping mall, fish and even swans have returned to the water that slowly flows in front of the now-silent behemoth.

What to do if you have two days

Past the impressive city circus, the highway leads upward into more pleasant quarters, with some fine pre-revolutionary and constructionist mansions. One of them houses the Museum of Ivanovo Chintz, a must-see that shows off luxurious fabrics and includes a proud exhibit of national fashion icon Slava Zaitsev, one of the city's most famous native sons. (11 Ulitsa Baturina, +7-4932-41-6424; www.igikm.ru/o-muzee/muzey-ivanovskogo-sittsa/) Directly opposite, the palatial home of Dmitry Burylin, an industrialist who died in 1924, has been converted into the Museum of Industry and Art. (6 Ulitsa Baturina, +7-4932-32-74-05; www.igikm.ru/o-muzee/muzey-promyshlennosti-i-iskusstva)

Some 500 meters farther from the center along Prospekt Lenina, you can find the Ivanovo region's arts museum, which shows a collection of lacquer art from the famous Palekh Miniature school. Most notable are the works of the Kukuliyev dynasty, which show how traditional icon painters reoriented their work in Soviet times to depict revolutionary leaders and space heroes like Yury Gagarin (33 Prospekt Lenina, +7-4932-32-6504). While lacquer art is also widely available in Moscow, it might be worth hiking out to Palekh itself, which lies just 65 kilometers southeast of Ivanovo. The local museum is said to boast thousands of works (50 Bakanova Ulitsa, +7-493-34 2-10-54)

An even more compelling reason to take this route is the beautiful town of Shuya, halfway between Ivanovo and Moscow. This architectural gem boasts the world's highest free-standing bell tower, the 106-meter-tall Resurrection Cathedral's tower, and a palace that hosted Tsarina Elizabeth in 1729. The Ivanovo Arts Museum also offers classes to children, whose impressive paper and plasticine works are displayed in a ground-floor corridor that you might not find if you don't ask the elderly lady at the coat check.

For MT
Richard Wallner,
head of east European operations for Austrian wood-panel manufacturer Egger, which has a particle-board factory in Shuya, a town some 30 kilometers southeast of Ivanovo.

Q: Why did Egger come to the Ivanovo region?
A: When our expert team looked for an investment location in Russia in 2004, we chose to be close to our raw material — wood. Shuya was a very attractive option because it not only offers plenty of wood but it also already had a large factory building from an uncompleted car plant. And it was not too far from Moscow, the biggest place to sell the products.

Q: Are you happy with the decision?
A: We consider it very successful. Business has been steadily rising, even through the crisis of 2008-09. Today, we have an annual output of 300,000 cubic meters and employ more than 300 people in Shuya.

Q: What are the biggest challenges?
A: Bureaucracy and the many rules. It is definitely advisable to carefully adhere to each one of them, which means that it takes longer than elsewhere to develop business. But today we feel able to master everything.

Q: What is your advice to other investors?
A: Concentrate on developing personal relationships and trust. In Russia, it is far more important to build close contacts with your clients than in Western Europe.

 — Nikolaus von Twickel

Where to eat

A good place to choose from a range of eateries is the area down by the river at Teatralnaya Bridge. Located on the northern embankment, the already-mentioned Niagara restaurant caters to upmarket clientele and offers several dining rooms, some of which might be booked for banquets.

Apart from Georgian dishes, the extensive menu offers a wide range of European cuisine. Expect the bill to run between 1,000 and 2,000 rubles, depending on alcohol. (11 Prospekt Lenina, +7-4932-59-50-85, www.ivdosug.ru/niagara)

On the other side of the river, the Restaurant Veranda (13 Pushkin Square, +7-4932-592-105, restoran-veranda.ru) also offers a huge menu that caters to the typical Russian palate, which naturally includes sushi. An average bill with alcohol runs 1,500 rubles.

A budget option close by is Cafe Vernissage (11 Pushkin Square, +7-4932-41-68-76), which is housed in an eccentric pavilion and offers stolovaya-style self-service canteen food. A homemade burger costs 60 rubles, meaning that you can buy more than you can eat for 200 rubles. There is also free Wi-Fi.

Pricier but popular is Cafe Freddo (9 Prospekt Lenina, +7-4932-47-15-60) on the ground floor of the Plaza shopping mall. Apart from coffee-shop staples, the menu has Russian items like borshcht and pelmeni, and an average meal will cost you 1,000 rubles.

Moscow coffee shoppers might appreciate the presence of Coffee Bean, whose Ivanovo outlet is popular with regional governor Mikhail Men. It is just across from the Plaza mall (16 Prospekt Lenina, +7-4932-59-14-90, www.coffeebean.ru/coffee-houses/ivanovo/ivanovo-address.html)

Where to stay

The Hotel Voznenskaya (64 Prospekt Lenina +7-4932-37-2547, voznesenskayahotel.ru) used to be the No. 1 place to stay. The atmosphere is a bit reminiscent of bygone days, when it was called Sovyetskaya, but it has a nice gift shop. Rooms cost from 840 to 4,560 rubles per night.

Similarly large and downtown is the Hotel Ivanovo (46 Ulitsa Karla Marxa, +7-4932-37-65-45, www.hotel-ivanovo.ru). Single rooms range from 672 to 2,976 rubles per night.

The Sosnovy Bor Hotel at the southern city limits (3 Ulitsa Lyubimova, +7-4932-54-1994, www.ivsbor.ru/hotel/scheme) is a modern upmarket development that caters to both business and leisure travelers. Single rooms cost from 2,900 to 4,500 rubles per night, and there are wooden cottages, saunas and a conference center.

Conversation starters

While the brides theme remains popular, especially with local officials, visitors might not find overwhelming evidence that Ivanovo's female population is more attractive than, say, Moscow's. A typical conversation might therefore focus on the local economy's ongoing transformation. During a recent visit, a reporter was told by an elderly saleswoman that the reason for the textile industry's downturn lies in Central Asia. "The people who used to produce cotton for us no longer want to work there. They have all gone to Moscow, where they work as dvorniki (janitors)," said the woman, who gave only her first name, Yelena.

How to get there

Ivanovo is accessible by car in less than a day, but the 300-kilometer drive can be extremely tiring if traffic is bad. The fastest route is via Moscow's Shosse Entuziastov, which is infamous for its congestion, and past Vladimir and Suzdal. Expect to be on the road for at least five hours. Trains leave Moscow at 10 p.m. and arrive in Ivanovo seven hours later, meaning you have to get up well before 5 a.m. The return journey has similar schedules. A compartment-class round-trip ticket costs 2,200 rubles.
Ivanovo has a small airport, which reopened in 2008 after reconstruction. It offers flights to Domodedovo Airport Monday through Friday twice a day, plus one flight on Sundays. A round trip costs 3,899 rubles. Flights are operated by Dexter, an air-taxi company that flies Pilatus turboprop planes. (www.ivavia.ru/node/42)