- By Olga Razumovskaya
- Jul. 24 2011 00:00
Main industries: fuel, electrical energy, chemical and petrochemical industries, mechanical engineering, metalworking, timber, woodworking, food industries and IT.
Mayor: Nikolai Nikolaichuk
Founded in 1604
Interesting fact: Vyacheslav Shishkov, who wrote “Grim River” (Ugryum-reka), started his writing career in Tomsk.
Sister cities: Ulsan, South Korea; the U.S. cities of Monroe, Michigan, and Toledo, Ohio.
Alexander Tyomkin, deputy CEO of investor relations for the Tomsk Innovation Zone, one of 24 special economic zones in Russia (6 Tverskoi Bulvar, Moscow; +7 495-645-27-77; e-mail: email@example.com);
Arkady Eskin, president of the Tomsk Chamber of Commerce (71a Krasnoarmeiskaya Ulitsa; +7 3822-43-31-30, 43-31-26; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org;
TOMSK — The 19th-century writer Anton Chekhov praised Tomsk's food, criticized its women, and ultimately recommended that the city wasn't worth visiting.
"Tomsk is not worth a wooden nickel. It is the most boring of cities, and the people are the most boring," Chekhov wrote in his diary when he was traveling to Sakhalin and happened to make a brief stop at Tomsk.
"The city is not sober, the lawlessness is Asian. The dirt is impassible, but there occur the rudiments of civilization — at the inn where I was staying the maid, when giving me a spoon, wiped it against her backside. The dinners are excellent, unlike the women who are hard to the touch."
Today's Tomsk would beg to differ. A lot has changed since then.
The first thing that strikes you about Tomsk, if you have already visited Moscow and perhaps a few other big cities, is its people. They smile.
While the smiles may not be as plentiful as in the United States or some European countries, Tomsk might be one of the few cities in Russia where people will greet you with a polite smile. They'll also pause if you're lost and spend an extra minute with you in the restaurant as your waiter.
One explanation for this might be that 20 percent of the population are students at Tomsk's six universities. The city is proud that the first Russian university beyond the Urals opened here in 1878. The first technological university in Siberia also opened its doors in Tomsk, in 1896.
The Tomsk region is rich in oil and gas, metals, coal and timber.
Tomskneft (23 Ulitsa Burovikov, Sterzhnevoi, Tomsk region; +7 3825-96-96-81, 96-95-50;
Gazprom Transgaz Tomsk (9 Prospekt Frunze; +7 3822-52-80-13, 27-31-00;
Vostokgazprom (73 Ulitsa Bolshaya Podgornaya; +7 3822-61-21-00, 61-21-01;
The president of the Tomsk Chamber of Commerce, Arkady Uskov, also boasts that the Tomsk region has infrastructure to support both local and foreign businessmen, including a technopark, 11 business incubators and four innovative technology centers. A so-called innovation zone, one of four in Russia to specialize in implementing technologies, was also founded in Tomsk. It specializes in nanotechnologies, IT, electronics, biotechnology and medicine.
Today's Tomsk is a little innovation island in the middle of Russia. Fairly dense and with imperfect roads, it is not without its charms and legends: from underground tunnels to Alexander I, who came to Tomsk as elder Fyodor Kuzmich to die and be canonized.
Wherever you go, you will be touched by the Siberian charm and the sense of humor that is shown in almost all the local monuments of the city's recent history: from the monument to happiness depicting a well-fed wolf to Chekhov seen from the perspective of a drunken man.
If you are looking for a glimpse of the lives of Siberian merchants and boyars and the 19th-century sensibility of university professors, Tomsk is the place to go.
What to do if you have two hours
Q: Why should investors planning to invest in Siberia choose Tomsk?
A: We have an absolutely transparent system to consider investment proposals. Issues of land use and the work of the investment committee are transparent. You also should invest here because we have a system of project management in place where we basically single out a person from the administration to follow this or that investment project. We ensure that investors don’t have to run around in the corridors but instead our project managers find the solutions.
Q: What advantage does Tomsk offer investors compared with cities in the European part of Russia?
A: There is no advantage. On the contrary, our country’s transportation system worsens Tomsk’s investment attractiveness. Yes, the city is far away, and yes, it may often seem disadvantageous.
But those who choose to come here get a whole new level of opportunities through Tomsk’s special economic zone, innovation work, universities and foundation in the sciences. This gives investors three opportunities: the use of modern technologies, students from universities who don’t need training, and the support of the government. These three components, we believe, compensate for our remoteness and admitted disadvantageous situation compared with cities in the European part of Russia.
Q: What sectors should a potential investor consider?
A: I think that a potential investor should decide for himself what business he wants to have in Tomsk. If it is a beach business, then I doubt we could compete with Thailand. But if it is an issue related to innovation, the development of information technology, attracting students through business incubators or attracting the youth, then they should come to us.
— Olga Razumovskaya
For the time-pressured visitor, there is no better way to see the city than at Resurrection Hill. The oldest place in the city, it is where its history began. Walk up the cobblestones of Obrub, the city's oldest street, climb a few steps, and you are atop the hill. Here stands the old police station, which dates back to the 19th century and was likely in full operation when Chekhov visited. Today it houses the local history museum, where you can find artifacts like ceramics and arrows made from bone. The bird's eye view from the museum's tower is absolutely breathtaking. The Roman Catholic Church of St. Rosary is on the same hill and is worth stopping by.
If you still have time, walk back to Prospekt Lenina and Ploshchad Lenina and take a stroll along the Tom River. You will see Tomsk City Hall and the spellbinding white of the local stock exchange. The culmination of the walk should be Slavyansky Bazar, one of the most popular local restaurants, and the infamous monument to Chekhov, which was built in response to the author's uncomplimentary comments about the city. It is called "the monument to Anton Pavlovich Chekhov as seen by a drunk man who never read 'Kashtanka.'" ("Kashtanka" is Chekhov's odd tale of a lost dog.) The monument is a caricature of Chekhov with oversized bare feet.
What to do if you have two days
After completing the sightseeing tour around Resurrection Hill, you will want to enjoy a stroll past some of the most beautiful and well-preserved wooden houses in Russia. A sort of open-air museum of 19th- and early 20th-century wooden architecture, Tomsk takes you back in time better than any time machine. For the best examples of wooden architecture, try Ulitsa Shishkova, Ulitsa Gagarina, Ulitsa Belinskogo, Ulitsa Kuznetsova and Ulitsa Krasnoarmeiskaya. Don't forget to stop by the Museum of Wooden Architecture (7 Prospekt Kirova; +7 3822-56-40-97).
A walk in Lagerny Garden is an absolute must-do in Tomsk. The mixture of Siberian air, giant trees and a magnificent view of Tomsk are stunning. It is part of the beautiful university quarters that start at Novosobornaya Ploshchad.
Tomsk is also known for its monuments. In addition to the Chekhov monument, make sure to check out the monument to a pregnant woman outside the Siberian State Medical University at 38 Prospekt Lenina and the monument of a baby in a head of cabbage in front of Maternity Home No. 1 at 65 Prospekt Lenina. While storks may deliver babies in the West, Russian babies are born in cabbage patches.
The jazz cafe Underground (46 Prospekt Lenina; +7 3822-51-63-91;
The mayor can be spotted in Lagerny Garden, which serves as a venue for concerts, jazz picnics and the Dance Battle in June. You can also bump into Mikhail Rodionov, general director at Tomgiprotrans, and Itkin here. The garden is one of the most popular spots among the locals and dates as far back as 1798, when Russians set up camp in the area during the Crimean War. The garden overlooks Tomsk and features a giant monument depicting Mother Russia giving a weapon to her son — a tribute to those who died during World War II.
The city also has its own Chamber Drama Theater (7 Pereulok Nakhanovicha; +7 3822-53-15-80;), the Tomsk Regional Drama Theater (4 Ploshchad Lenina; +7 3822-51-22-23, 51-29-04;
Where to eat
Q: What sectors should a potential investor consider in Tomsk?
A: To a foreign investor, I would recommend taking a look at the Tomsk region’s investment strategy, which lists as priorities information technology, biotechnology, science and education, “new economy,” electrical engineering and equipment making. These are the trends that will be supported in Tomsk in the foreseeable future.
Q: What is holding the city back from reaching its investment potential?
A: Tomsk has a few touchy issues related to transportation and infrastructure. The city needs an international terminal at the airport. All the management decisions to make this happen have already been made, and the first international flights are planned for 2012. To effectively develop, Tomsk also needs high-speed trains and highways to the closest cities: Novosibirsk, Kemerovo, Krasnoyarsk. We could also use a big expo center.
Q: Why should foreigners and Russians should come to your city for tourism, work or education?
Many people, especially foreigners, note the special atmosphere of the city. It combines indigenous Siberian traditions with the comfortable atmosphere of a European city. Guests are especially taken by the wooden architecture, which is well preserved and of cultural significance worldwide.
But you should not only come to our city for tourism. Tomsk is the city of Russia’s oldest universities. Students from our country and the near and far abroad come here to study. You can work here, too. With each passing year, new companies appear and high-technology production expands, allowing workers to receive good wages.
— Olga Razumovskaya
Slavyansky Bazar (10 Ploshchad Lenina; +7 3822-52-81-67, 53-33-00) is a special place for those who live in Tomsk. Since 1888, it has been a restaurant popular among merchants who dropped in to shake hands over important deals. Chekhov took to the place and singled it out as one of the few establishments in the city worth visiting. Today, after a renovation by Yukos, it continues to be a place where people come to eat and talk business. The redbrick building stands right on the Tom River embankment. Serving dishes of Siberian and European cuisine, it is good for family brunches from noon until 4 p.m.
If you are in Tomsk on business or are looking for a romantic evening, make sure to stop by Parmesan (15 Ploshchad Lenina; +7 8322-51-17-74;
Tired of Starbucks, looking for a small and cozy cafe? Yes, Tomsk may not be Paris or New York, but the Bulange chain (133 Prospekt Lenina; +7 3822-40-22-22; see
Where to stay
Magistrat (15 Ulitsa Lenina; +7 3822-51-11-11;
Another option for high-level politicians and the wealthy is Delovoi Mir (1 Ulitsa Naberezhnaya, Siny Utyos village, Tomsk region; +7 3822-22-81-30; 70-19-51;
For a more affordable option, try hotel Oktyabrskaya (12 Ulitsa Karla Marxa; +7 3822-51-21-51, 51-39-62;
Anything student-related will get Tomsk residents talking, because every fifth person living in the city is a student. "The male part of the population talks about women because, in Tomsk, there are always a lot of female students walking by," Tomsk Mayor Nikolai Nikolaichuk said.
How to get there
If you are traveling from Moscow, there are three airlines you can use for the 4 1/2-hour flight to Tomsk's Bogashevo Airport (
A cab can take you from the airport to the city center. The number for the city's taxi is +7 3822-69-69-00.
More adventurous types can opt to take a train. The "Tomich" leaves Yaroslavsky Station at 10:40 p.m. on odd-numbered days and completes the 3,610-kilometer trip to Tomsk after two days and nine hours of travel. Prices start at about 5,000 rubles for economy class one-way.