At the end of the 1860s, Omsk fortress was an administrative center of Western Siberia. In 1782, Omsk was granted town status. In 1785, Omsk was presented with its coat of arms. In 1822, Omsk became an administrative capital of Western Siberia. During the Imperial era, Omsk was the seat of the Governor-General of Western Siberia.
The history of settlement and development of the Irtysh area first of all is connected with legendary Yermak, though even before him, already in the fifteenth century, Russian trade visitors from the Cis-Ural Region visited the Siberian Khanate. The raid of a small Cossack detachment under the leadership of Yermak to the lands of Khan Kuchum in 1581 marked the beginning of an unprecedented fast process of Russian Siberia settlement, the movement of "towards the Sun."
After Kuchum's defeat, in 1582-1585, Yermak made several trips to southern Siberia, and reached the borders of the today's Omsk Region in 1584-1585.
During the whole seventeenth century, expanding Russian frontier to the West, Cossack detachments had to be at constant war with numerous nomads who were stealing and marauding. At that time the vast Irtysh Steppes were practically uninhabited and there were only two Russian towns -Tobolsk and Tara. Governors of Tara asked the tsar many times to allow them to build a new gaol up the Irtysh near the mouth of the Om. The tsar gave his permission to build a new gaol, but, for various reasons, it was not built until the beginning of the eighteenth century.
Only under Peter the Great, who placed great importance on exploring new lands and trade routes to China and India through Siberia, the construction of the new gaol began. In summer 1715, the military expedition of 57 vessels under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Ivan Buchholz started from Tobolsk up the Irtysh River. Almost three thousand people took part in that expedition. In autumn, Buchholz’ expeditionary unit was attacked by the army of ten thousand nomads and was under siege for four months. Only in spring 700 warriors survived managed to break out of the siege and reach the mouth of the Om River. And in summer 1716, they founded a fortress there which afterwards was developed into the City of Omsk.
The fortress was constructed in a short time by autumn 1716. In the spring 1717, the garrison with Cossacks arrived at the fortress. Initially, the residents of the fortress were soldiers, Cossacks and officers. The significance of Omsk fortress was not duly evaluated by Peter the Great and he gave the order to disestablish it. But due to his death in 1725 that did not happen. Omsk fortress soon became principal in fortifications of the Irtysh Land.
The first civil population appeared in Omsk fortress in 1730s, they formed here Lugovsk and Omsk quarters. Besides peasants, traders and convicts began to arrive at the fortress. Convict women were of greater interest, they were examined by governors and those who were under 40 were sent to Omsk fortress. That was a measure to solve a shortage of women. The majority of Omsk settlers were sent to crown arable lands and others carried out construction and earth works, served as coachmen, delivered cargoes down the Irtysh River. On the left bank of the River opposite Omsk fortress the Elizabethan light tower, a checkpoint for observation over “the Steppes”, was constructed. It was a trading place where merchants from Tara, Tobolsk and Tyumen came because there were no merchants in Omsk. The Kazakhs and Kalmyks used to drive horses, sheep, cattle to Omsk and received cotton and woolen fabrics, items of cast iron and iron, kitchenware, clothes and furs from merchants.
At the end of 1760s, Omsk fortress became the official administrative center of Western Siberia. For strategic reasons it was decided to relocate the fortress on the right bank of the Om River. A new fortress was constructed according to all rules of military engineering. A brick fortress had the form of a polygon with five bastions, a strong earthwork and a dry moat. Within the fortress there were the general's and commandant’s residencies, a chancellery, grain barns, officers’ houses and soldiers’ barracks. There were also a school, a hotel, the commandant’s office and the Resurrection Cathedral, the first stone building.
In 1804, according to new administrative division Omsk became a district town. 1822 marked an important event in Omsk history – two independent governor-generalships, Western Siberian and Eastern Siberian, were established. Omsk was chosen as a permanent seat of the Governor-General. So Omsk became a principal town of Western Siberia.
In the mid 19th century, Omsk became a place of political exile. From here convicts were sent to other Siberian fortresses for the hard labor. Having completed their hard labor and imprisonment, many of them settled in Omsk. Convicts wore the clothes with a yellow ace on the back and foot-irons which weighed up to 4–5 kg. A person was unchained only when he went at large or died. The prisoners of life sentence were put to the iron. They were marked on their cheeks and forehead with the letters BOP (which means a “thief”) or KAT (abbreviation of the word “katorzhnik”, which means a “convict”).
In this respect, the unforgettable name of Fyodor Dostoevsky should be mentioned. He was exiled for five years to Omsk in the second half of the nineteenth century for participation in the Petrashevsky Circle, a group of intellectuals in St. Petersburg arrested for promoting radical socialist ideas in the 1840s. There is a Dostoevsky museum and two Dostoevsky monuments in Omsk. But in Dostoevsky’s time, Omsk was a profoundly provincial town, important only as a military outpost of the Russian Empire in Asia and a splendid site of exile.
The industrial development of Omsk began with a cloth factory for the needs of line Cossacks. Later another seven leather and soap factories were opened. The most significant event for Omsk was the end of construction of the Western branch of the Trans-Siberian railway. In 1984, it started functioning. This provided a powerful impulse for the town’s development. The bridge was thrown across the Irtysh; the railway station was constructed. The railway connected Omsk with other Siberian centers. There was a flow of capital which significantly influenced the town’s development. By the end of 19th century, in Omsk there were 3,300 buildings, including 74 stone ones, among which churches, the Governor-General’s residence and the building of the Siberian Cadet Corps attracted more attention. The boys’ gymnasium, commercial and technical schools, feldsher-veterinary and agricultural schools, teachers’ seminary, etc. were founded in Omsk. Libraries, clubs, various societies and organizations, including Western Siberian Division of the Russian Geographical Society started operating. At the end of 19th century, Omsk attracted American, British, Danish and German firms which sold here agricultural machinery and purchased butter, leather, and agricultural products.
At the beginning of 20th century, the intensive construction of the town’s center changed the layout of Omsk. One-storeyed wooden buildings were replaced with many-storeyed brick ones. There were already more than 100 plants and more than 500 merchant houses with annual turnover of about three million rubles. The branches of foreign banks appeared in Omsk.
Shortly after the Great October Revolution of 1917, Omsk became the political center of Soviet authority newly set up in Western Siberia. From June 1918 to November 1919, Omsk became the capital of Russian White movement and the residence of Admiral Alexander Kolchak, who became the Supreme Governor of Russia. Even the Imperial gold reserves were kept in Omsk central bank.
During the years of industrialization Omsk had become the large center of agricultural machinery industry. Metal working industry had been rapidly developed as well. Ratio of metal working and machinery-producing industries in the gross output of the city enterprises increased by four times in comparison with the pre-revolution period. The technology had been improved and the production system had been mechanized at the enterprises of consumer goods industry.
The Great Patriotic War of 1941–1945 was a hard period for Omsk citizens. They had a difficult task to host about 200 evacuated industrial enterprises, 60 hospitals, a score of educational institution, theatres, museums and hundred thousands of refugee migrants.
The economy was urgently put on a wartime footing. Patriotic rise of Omsk citizens found its expression in the increase of labor efficiency at the factories and plants and in overfulfilment of industrial programmes. One of the slogans of those times was “Every worker of the home front assists the Red Army”.
The postwar years can be characterized as the reconversion of the industry. Some new enterprises were put into operation; all acting factories and plants were renovated and enlarged.
Since the mid 1950s, Omsk has become the center of oil-refining and petrochemical industry in Siberia.
The years of perestroika are described by the increase of financial investments into residential construction and by the development of engineering services. In 1985, Omsk took the 4th place by the industrial output in the RSFSR.
Social and economic crisis of the beginning of 1990s which took over the whole country affected Omsk life as well. In 1990, the decline in the production output of all industrial branches was to emerge. Unemployment was spreading through the city. However, in spite of economic difficulties, exactly in this period a tradition of the Omsk City Day celebrations was established. It takes place on the first Sunday of August.
Since the beginning of the 1990s, the private sector has been formed in the city economy. Market infrastructure, private enterprises, banks, financial and investment companies have been developed during this period. Production of Omsk industry enterprises has come to Russian and world market. It’s been in a fixed demand until the present time.
During its history Omsk has been built and developed. Nowadays it’s been changing, growing and getting younger, keeping and enriching a shadow of the name of a toiler-city and a city of a high culture. 2016 marked the 300th anniversary of Omsk.
Features of the City of Omsk
In the south, Omsk is the closest neighbour of the Republic of Kazakhstan, in the north – of Tyumen Region, where products of Omsk plants are traditionally in high demand. Omsk occupies the territory of 528 sq. km, the city is divided into five administrative districts.
The population of Omsk amounts to 1142.8 thousand people. The city ranks fifth out of ten (except Moscow and St. Petersburg) cities with population of over one million people.
Omsk is a large transport hub. There are air, water, rail, road and pipeline means of transport. The comfortable economic and geographic location at the junction of the Trans-Siberian Railway and the large waterway – the Irtysh River; existence of the airport provides its fast and balanced development.
Modern Omsk is an industrially unique city. The economy is manufacturing-based that is formed by plants of fuel and energy, chemical and petrochemical, machinery-producing and food manufacturing industries.
More than 27% of Russian output of two-wheel tractors and motor cultivators with changeable tools, 30% of technical carbon, 14% of polystyrene and styrene copolymers, 15% of tires for automobiles and trucks, 10% of automobile petrol, 8% of diesel fuel and 8% of synthetic rubber are produced in Omsk. Petrol, diesel fuel, fuel oil and technical oils are in steady demand in the national and global markets.