Balashikha (Балашиха, bɘɫɘ'ɕixa) is a city in Moscow Oblast, Russia, located on the Pekhorka River east of Moscow. It is known for its unique river and waterway system. The Pekhorka river system covers an area of from north to south and from east to west, and many small lakes and ponds were created by damming to provide water power for the cotton mills in the 19th century.
Its population stood at 147,909 in 2002 according to the Census, growing from 92,400 in 1970.
Balashikha is a comparatively young city, established in the 1820s. Only in 1928 was it given the status of a town, although several rural hamlets had existed long before on the site of the modern city.
The city stands on the famous Vladimirka road, which led out of Moscow to the east. This was the route along which convicted criminals were marched to forced labour camps in Siberia. The road was renamed Gorky Highway in the Soviet era. The failure of the Decembrist Revolt against Czar Nicholas I led to the execution of its ringleaders and the exile of many nobles to Siberia. Soviet era schoolchildren were told that the prisoners were marched in chains along this road followed by their wives. In truth the Decembrist prisoners were sent from St. Petersburg, the Czarist capital, through Yaroslavl and not through Moscow and Balashikha and the story was invented as part of celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the event in 1925.
Between 1830 and 1870, a cotton factory was in operation in the area, with its fabric called Balashikha. A railway station was built at the end of the 19th century, again called Balashikha Station.
As it grew, Balashikha absorbed other villages, including Gorenki, a suburban estate of Count Andreas Razumovsky, and Pekhra-Yakovlevskoe, an estate of a Prince Galitzine, the latter being in use for 250 years from 1591 to 1828. This is the site of a stone church, built from 1777 to 1782.
Saltykovka, part of Balashikha, has long been known for its attractions to the artistic community. Isaak Levitan, the famous landscape painter, lived there in 1879. Lev Tolstoy was another frequent visitor.
During soviet era Balashikha became a major industrial center with industries in metallurgy, aviation industry, cryotecnics, machinery and other fields.
Balashikha sent many of its sons to the front to fight the Germans during World War II. Among those who fought and died was Ivan Fleorov who commanded a Katyusha rocket division and is remembered by several monuments and museums in the area.
Along with many other Russian Orthodox Churches, the Cathedral of Saint Alexander Nevsky was destroyed by the communists. The Cathedral was blown up in the 1960s but was rebuilt, on its original site, in 2002 after the collapse of communism.
Balashikha is the site of a large Russian Army base and was closed to foreigners during the Soviet era, a ban which, in theory, remains to the present day. It is also home to several music schools, including the Sviridov School of Arts.
Although not part of the extensive Moscow subway system, Balashikha is home to many office workers who commute to Moscow each day. It has several thriving markets and retail centres and is quickly modernising in the wake of the fall of communism. It is surrounded by attractive woodland and countryside.
Source: "Balashikha in stories" (Балашиха в очерках и зарисовках) - А. Галанин и др.