The city was founded in 1723 by Vasily Tatischev and named after Saint Catherine, the namesake of Tsar Peter the Great's wife Empress Catherine I (Yekaterina). The official date of the city foundation, however, is November 18, 1723. The city was named Sverdlovsk after the Bolshevik party leader and Soviet official Yakov Sverdlov from 1924 to 1991.
Soon after the Russian Revolution, on July 17, 1918, Tsar Nicholas II, his wife, Alexandra, and their children Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and Tsarevich Alexei were executed by Bolsheviks at the Ipatiev House in this city. In 1977 the Ipatiev House was destroyed by order of Boris Yeltsin who later became the first President of the Russian Federation.
In the 1920s, Yekaterinburg became a large industrial center of Russia. It was the time when the famous Uralmash was built, becoming the biggest heavy machinery factory in Europe.
During World War II, many government technical institutions and whole factories were relocated to Yekaterinburg away from the war-affected areas (mostly Moscow), with many of them staying in Ekaterinburg after the victory.
In the 1960s, in the days of Khruschev's government, a number of lookalike five-story apartment blocks sprung up all over the city. Most of them still remain today in Kirovsky, Chkalovsky, and other residential areas of Yekaterinburg.
On May 1, 1960 an American U-2 spy plane, piloted by Francis Gary Powers while under the employ of the CIA, was shot down over Sverdlovsk Oblast. The pilot was captured, put on trial, and found guilty of espionage. He was sentenced to seven years of hard labour, though he served only about a year before being exchanged for Rudolph Abel, a high-ranking KGB spy, who had been apprehended in the United States in 1957. The two spies were exchanged at the Glienicke Bridge in Potsdam, Germany, on February 10 1962. Since the end of World War II, the Glienicke Bridge was the most popular captive-trading place when the west and the east felt it necessary to negotiate.
There was an anthrax outbreak in Yekaterinburg (then Sverdlovsk) in April and May 1979, which was attributed by Soviet officials to the locals eating contaminated meat. However, American agencies believe that the locals inhaled spores accidentally released from an aerosol of pathogen at a military microbiology facility. Dr. Kanatjan Alibekov's account of the Sverdlovsk anthrax leak in his book Biohazard agrees with the American agencies' view. In 1994, a team of independent American researchers lead by Matthew Meselson concluded based on a number of sources of evidence that it was conclusive that the illnesses were a result of an anthrax release from the Sverdlovsk-19 military facility.
Ural Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences (UB RAS) and numerous scientific research institutes and establishments are situated in Yekaterinburg. With its 16 state-owned universities and educational academies, as well as a number of private higher education institutions (2005), Yekaterinburg is considered the leading educational and scientific center of the Urals. Ural A.M. Gorky State University, Ural State Technical University, Ural State Pedagogical University,Ural State University of Forestry, Ural State University of Mines, Ural State University of the Railways, Russian State Vocational Pedagogics University, Ural State University of Economics, Military Institute of Artillery, Ural State Conservatory, Ural State Agricultural Academy, Ural State Academy of Law, Ural State Academy of Medicine, Ural State Academy of Performing Arts, Ural Academy of Public Service, and Ural Academy of Architecture are among them.
Yekaterinburg, still called by its Soviet name Sverdlovsk in rail timetables, is an important railway junction on the Trans-Siberian Railway, with lines radiating to all parts of the Urals and the rest of Russia. As the economy grew stronger after the slump of the 1990s, several European airlines started or resumed flying to the city's Koltsovo International Airport (SVX). These include Lufthansa, British Midland, Malév, Austrian Airlines, Czech Airlines and Finnair(begins in September 2008)
Yekaterinburg is also served by the smaller Yekaterinburg Aramil Airport.
The city has several dozens of libraries including the V. G. Belinsky Scientific Library, the largest public library in Sverdlovsk Oblast.
Yekaterinburg is famous for its theaters among which there are some very popular theater companies: Yekaterinburg Academic Ballet and Opera Company, Sverdlovsk Academic Theater of Musical Comedy (legendary company known in Russia and in ex-soviet republics as Свердловская музкомедия - Sverdlovskaya muzkomedia), Yekaterinburg Academic Dramatic Theater, Yekaterinburg Theater for Young Spectators, Volkhonka (popular chamber theater), Kolyada Theater (chamber theater founded by Russian playwright, producer and actor Nikolai Kolyada). Yekaterinburg is the center of New Drama - movement of contemporary Russian playwrights: Nikolai Kolyada, Vasily Sigarev, Konstantin Kostenko, Presnyakov brothers, Oleg Bogayev. Yekaterinburg is also often called capital of contemporary dance for a number of famous contemporary dance companies residing in the city: Kipling, Provincial Dances, Tantstrest with a special department of contemporary dance at the Yekaterinburg University of Humanities.
A number of popular Russian rock bands, such as Urfin Dzhyus, Чайф, Chicherina, Nautilus Pompilius, Nastya, Trek, Agata Kristi and Smyslovye Gallyutsinatsii, were originally formed in Yekaterinburg (Ural Rock is often considered as a particular variety of the rock music, Yekaterinburg and St. Petersburg are considered to be the main centers of rock music in Russia). Besides some famous opera singers - Boris Shtokolov, Yury Gulyayev, Vera Bayeva - graduated from the Urals State Conservatory. The Ural Philharmonic Orchestra (current conductor - Dmitry Liss) founded by Mark Paverman and located in Yekaterinburg is also very popular in Russia and in Europe as well as the Ural Academic Popular Chorus - famous folklore singing and dance ensemble.
In Yekaterinburg there are more than 30 museums, among which: several museums of ural minerals and jewellery, some art galleries, one of the largest collections of Kasli mouldings (traditional kind of cast-iron sculpture in the Urals), the famous Shigirskaya Kladovaya (Шигирская кладовая) - Shigir Collection including the oldest wood sculpture in the world - the Shigir Idol found near Nevyansk and estimated to be made about 9,000 years ago).
Yekaterinburg has also a circus building.
In Yekaterinburg, there is one of the tallest incomplete architectural structures in the world, the Yekaterinburg TV Tower.
The largest city in the Urals and one of the top five in Russia, Yekaterinburg has a number of consulates of major countries. For people wishing to make a visa application and needing to attend interview, this can easily take a half-week off the travelling time to get to the interview (in the event that there are internal flights to Yekaterinburg, they may only be once per week).
Yekaterinburg is a sister city of
This is a short list of the most notable honorary citizens of Yekaterinburg (title conferred every year on the Day of the City):