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Population: 979,884

Mayor: Sergei Koliukh

Main industries: Aviation, heavy machinery, agriculture

Founded in 1586 as a fortress to protect the borders of the Grand Duchy of Moscow.

Interesting fact No. 1: The early Soviet government proposed making Voronezh the capital of Russian Soviet Socialist Republic.

Interesting fact No. 2: The city is the birthplace of two world-known novelists, Ivan Bunin and Andrei Platonov, and the place of exile of poet Osip Mandelstam from 1934 to 1937.

Helpful contact: Yelena Gudkova, head of City Hall’s international relations department (+7 473-253-0610).

Sister cities: Sliven, Bulgaria; Brno, Czech Republic; Leon, Spain; Charlotte, North Carolina, United States.

VORONEZH — When President Dmitry Medvedev appeared on television last November to speak about Russia's answer to the U.S. missile defense system, he proudly announced that a new early warning radar, called the Voronezh DM, would be located in Kaliningrad.

Voronezh locals said they were proud that the radar is named after their native city. But some also joked that it wouldn't help to attract many tourists to the city, once difficult for foreigners to access because of its integration into the country's military-industrial complex.

"The last thing that we want to do is to scare foreigners," one city official said.

The radar, built by a Moscow company, actually has nothing to do with Voronezh, a city of 980,000 inhabitants that still has several Soviet-era enterprises, including VASO, the aviation company that produced the Tu-144, the Soviet replica of the legendary Concorde supersonic jet. The only operational Tu-144 is stored in the city.

Voronezh, located near the Ukrainian border and 500 kilometers southwest of Moscow, also proudly calls itself the birthplace of the Soviet Union's first videocassette recorder, produced in 1984 and a carbon copy of the Japanese-made Panasonic.

Major Businesses

VASO (27 Tsiolkovsky Ulitsa; +7 473-244-8666; vaso.ru) produces long-range Il-96 passenger planes in the -300 and -400 series. It also makes parts for the Ukrainian Antonov plane producer and collaborates with Airbus. 

TMP (31 Solnechnaya Ulitsa; +7 473-239-2968; tmp-press.ru) makes giant metal presses and exports them to former Soviet republics, Europe, China and the United States.

Amtel-Chernozemye (41 Rostovskaya Ulitsa; +7 473-244-5009; amteltyre.com) is a Russian-Dutch joint venture and produces more than 40 types of tires for sale here and abroad.

The city's military ties date back to 1585, when the city was founded as a fortress under orders from Tsar Fyodor Ioannovich to defend Moscow's kingdom from the Tatars. The first city was fully destroyed in 1590, after being attacked by Ukrainian Cossacks. It has been rebuilt many times and went though a complete reconstruction after World War II.

Voronezh's ability to bounce back is a source of pride for residents.

"Voronezh was completely destroyed during the war, and it was rebuilt from scratch in the late '40s and early '50s, followed by the mass construction of new districts from the 1960s to 1980s," said Mayor Sergei Koliukh.

Throughout its history, Voronezh has been known for its rebellious spirit. After the authorities levied an enormous tax burden on the city, which was suffering from a poor grain harvest, in 1605, locals rallied behind False Dmitry who was fighting the rule of Tsar Boris Godunov. Almost 100 years later, the locals supported another anti-tsar uprising led by Stepan Razin.

For MT

Sergei Koliukh,

Q: What attracts investors to Voronezh?
A: The city has many competitive advantages: its location, a well-developed urban infrastructure, a large labor force with various skill levels, a diversified economy, and a vast scientific, technological and industrial base. Rainer Hartmann, the chairman of the Association of European Businesses, says the region meets all the criteria for doing business.
We believe foreign investors are attracted by the opportunity to localize their business in Voronezh, a city located close to the capital. We have established a fruitful cooperation with Germany’s Siemens, Italy’s Pirelli, the French company Leroy Merlin and American hotel operator Hilton Worldwide, which plans to open a Hampton by Hilton in early 2013.
Today we are welcoming businesses to invest in the construction of roads, logistic facilities, new hotels, a waste-recycling company and world-class cafes and restaurants.

Q: What are the main problems that the city is facing today?
A: Narrow roads and the fact that about 70 percent of the city’s infrastructure, which has not been updated in years, is worn out and does not meet modern requirements. As a result, we were forced to abandon railroad transportation in the city. The local economy was focused on the defense industry, but 90 percent of the companies failed to find a niche in today’s market conditions.
On a bright note, we have renovated several roads and built a new water-pumping station to resolve a water shortage.

Q: What are your favorite places in the city?
A: I recommend visiting Uspenskaya Church and Akatov Monastery, walking through the historic part of the city center and the embankments, and, of course, stopping by Scarlet Sails, the only park in Russia that meets European standards.

— Alexander Bratersky

In 1947, local poet Anatoly Zhigulin founded an anti-Stalinist underground youth movement in the city. Zhigulin, who was jailed and freed after the dictator's death, described the movement and his ordeal in the gulag in his 1988 autobiographical novel "Black Stones."

Not everyone is aware, however, that the city became the cradle of ship construction for the Russian Navy under Peter the Great in 1696. Historians say the tsar chose the city because of the larger-than-life trees growing in the area at the time. The Voronezh River is also close to the Don River, which flowed to the Azov fortress and its Black Sea harbor filled with Turkish ships. A total of 215 ships were built in the city under Peter the Great, including the first major ships for the fledgling Navy, the 58-gun Goto Predestinatsia (God's Providence), the 70-gun Stary Dub (Old Oak) and the 80-gun Stary Oryol (Old Eagle) in 1700.

But with its defense industry in decline for years, Voronezh has tapped into its other advantages, such as its rich, black earth, skilled workforce and location close to Moscow.

The city's proximity to Moscow nearly turned it into the capital of the Russian Republic during the early Bolshevik era, while Moscow would have been the capital of the Soviet Union, said Edward Pesov, a deputy governor under Voronezh region Governor Alexei Gordeyev, a former deputy prime minister and agriculture minister.

Voronezh might also market itself as a nice getaway, especially during the summer, because it is full of historical landmarks, and its center, packed with cozy restaurants and cafes, resembles a small European city.

Voronezh's Ballet and Opera Theater is known across Russia, and several local universities attract medical and agricultural students from African and Latin American countries.

What to see if you have two hours

Walk across the city's main Prospekt Revolyutsii to admire historical buildings from tsarist Russia and more modern architecture such as the Voronezh Shut Puppet Theater. Built in 1984, the theater looks like a monument in its own right with puppet characters on top of its columns.

In front of the building stands a sculpture of a lonely dog in honor of a Gordon setter portrayed in local writer Gavriil Troyepolsky's well-known book "White Bim Black Ear." The international award-winning book, written in 1971 and made into a movie six years later, tells the story of a white setter with a black ear that became homeless because of his owner's illness and goes off on a globe-trotting search for his owner.

Another local landmark worth seeing is a monument of a kitten sitting next to a crow on a tree near a McDonald's restaurant located on 4 Ulitsa Lizyukova. Both characters are from a Soviet cartoon that takes place in Voronezh. Bored of living in the city, the kitten asks a crow to help it travel to Africa. The crow obliges and turns the kitten into a hippo. But the kitten finds the continent unfriendly and asks to be brought back. A local newspaper once said the kitten has beaten Peter the Great as the city's unofficial mascot.

For MT
Alexei Poslukhayev,
Head of Somovo Furniture,
Horse breeder

Q: What needs to be done to improve the business climate in Voronezh?
A: I think that the improvement of transportation flows in the city would improve the business climate significantly. Traffic jams are worse here than in Moscow, although things have become better under the new governor. I also believe that we need to develop cities around Voronezh to help them meet European standards.
I am also worried about my furniture production business. We can make furniture comparable to European furniture — we work only with natural wood — but we are worried that energy tariffs might become higher because of Russia’s accession to the WTO.

Q: How did you get involved in horse breeding?
A: I was inspired by God. This is a hard job. There are no laws that regulate horse breeding, but the Orlov breed of horse is the symbol of our region and we can’t lose it. The Orlov is named after Prince Alexei Orlov, who spent money awarded by Catherine the Great on an Arabian horse, which he bred to get the Orlov horse. Today we have 120 horses, among which my favorite is Ukladka, presented to me for a birthday.

Q: What would you recommend to see in Voronezh?
A: I highly recommend visiting the Hoper conservation park (Varvarino settlement; +7 473-534-8134; e-mail: hoperzap@mail.ru). It has very beautiful nature, and you can swim in Voronezh Lake in the summertime. I also would recommend visiting our Russkaya Usadba hippodrome (2/3 Sovkhoznaya Ulitsa, Byabayakovo settlement; +7 473-294-0005). We have experienced trainers who can teach you how to ride a horse. Many parents who want to get their children away from the computer come to us, and the kids get so excited riding the horses.

— Alexander Bratersky

While walking around the city, don't miss the 18th-century German Mary Magdalene Lutheran Church, built during the time of Catherine the Great. The elegant blue building on 72 Moskovsky Prospekt was a place of worship for German expatriates living in the Voronezh area and involved in working for the local shipyard. The building was occupied by an electricity company during Soviet times and was restored as a church in 2008.

What to do if you have two days

Kramskoy's Voronezh Regional Art Museum (18 Prospekt Revolyutsii; +7 473-255-38-67; kramskoi.vzh.ru), one of Russia's leading regional museums, stores a collection of Russian and European art from the 18th to 20th centuries, ancient Egyptian artifacts and a collection of Russian icons. The museum, located inside a historic mansion used by local nobility, has more then 20,000 items. A virtual tour can be taken on its web site.

Stop by 3 Bolshaya Dvoryanskaya Ulitsa to admire the modest wooden house where Ivan Bunin, a Russian classic novelist and a Nobel Prize winner, was born in 1870.

You can also take a trip outside the city to the Khokholsky district to see the world-famous Kostyonki, a Paleolithic site known for its high concentration of human and mammoth remains. The site's name means "small bones" in Ukrainian, and it was discovered during the construction of Peter the Great's naval fleet. A historical museum was built on the site in 1979. (2 Solnechnaya Ulitsa, Khokholsky district; +7 473-220-55-26; http://kostenki-museum.ru)

What to do with the kids

The Voronezh Shut State Puppet Theater (50 Prospekt Revolyutsii; +7 473-255-1736; puppet-shut.ru) is considered one of the best in central Russia and is worth taking your children to in order to see "Aladdin's Magical Lamp" or Nikolai Gogol's drama "Overcoat," which can be understood without much knowledge of Russian.

A must-see in the spring and summer is the Scarlet Sails park (Voronezh Aliye Parusa, 93 Arzamasskaya Ulitsa). It is known for its collection of roses, brought over in 2011 by the French gardener Philipp Mangi, who said the park reminded him of France. The park was completely renovated in 2011, and equipped with attractions for toddlers and older children.


PROspekt Club (46 Prospekt Revolyutsii; +7 473-290-3904; prospekt-club.ru), located on the main drag, is a club where you can dance to old disco music and new hipster tunes and cozy restaurant popular among the local VIPs. It has a "Chill Out" hall to smoke hookah.

If you are looking for a quieter atmosphere to take your business partners, try the Kosmos nightclub (13 Pushkinskaya Ulitsa; +7 473-235-6060; kosmosclub.ru), which combines a nightclub, restaurant and conference hall.

The Voronezh Opera and Ballet Theater (7 Lenin Square; +7 473-255-3927; theatre.vzh.ru) is among the country's best, and you can catch performances of "The Barber of Siberia" and Mozart's "Magic Flute." In April, "Romeo and Juliet" will premiere here.

Where to eat

The Kirovsky restaurant (1 Ulitsa Kirova; +7 473-271-2767) located close to the regional parliament building, offers a cozy, homey atmosphere in which to sample a selection of Russian and European dishes. In fact, the restaurant proudly calls itself a "home" — a description that is not far from the truth because it offers affordable Russian food. A meal for two without alcohol costs 2,000 rubles ($65).

Rokabu (rokabu.allvrn.ru) is a local fast-food chain with six locations offering traditional Russian blini with jam, cheese or ham, different kinds of salads and soups, and a selection of alcoholic cocktails and beer. Lunch for two with alcohol costs about 1,000 rubles ($30).

But if you want to spend an evening in a more prestigious place, try the Parma Italian restaurant (24 Prospekt Patriotov, +7 473-270-78-77; parma-r.ru), known for its fish dishes and mutton. The restaurant is considered one of the city's best, and dinner for two costs 2,300 rubles to 3,000 rubles ($75 to $100), alcohol included.

Where to stay

Petrovsky Passazh (54 20-Let VLKSM; +7 473 255-6070; petrohotel.ru), whose downtown entrance is graced by a Peter the Great statue, is the city's most prestigious hotel. With 41 suites, ranging from 4,000 rubles ($150) for a single to 10,000 rubles ($300) for a luxury, the hotel is popular among foreign businesspeople. Liberal politician-turned-business coach Irina Khakamada used the hotel to present a book in October 2011.

The Azimut Hotel (9 Plekhanovskaya Ulitsa; +7 473-296-5219; azimuthotels.ru/ru/hotels/Voronezh) is another prestigious address located in the heart of the city center. Part of a Russian hotel chain, the Soviet-era building has undergone a complete refurbishment of its interiors and is known among locals for its Don restaurant, serving Russian and European cuisine. A single costs 2,500 rubles ($78), while a double goes for 4,000 rubles ($125).

But if you want to try something different, check out Voronezh City Inn (+7 473 251-5626, 256-2626; city-inn.ru), which offers "hotel-style" apartments around the city from 2,500 rubles to 6,500 rubles ($85 to $215) per night.

Conversation starters

Local football fans are proud of the local team Fakel-Voronezh and are happy to talk about it and the state of Russian football in general. Another topic is politics, and discussions often revolve around Governor Alexei Gordeyev, the only governor who served as a deputy prime minister during Vladimir Putin's tenure.

How to get there

UTair flies to Voronezh from Moscow's Vnukovo Airport daily. Tickets for the one-hour flight cost about 5,000 rubles ($150) roundtrip.

Trains to Voronezh run daily from Paveletsky Station, and roundtrip tickets cost from 3,000 rubles ($100) for a regular seat to 5,000 rubles ($150) for a cabin with a bed. The trip takes 10 to 13 hours.