Formerly an engineering town, it was established as a place where all manner of metalworking was done, especially the manufacture of machinery and arms. Izhevsk is the site of one of the most famous arsenals in Russia, at which Mikhail Kalashnikov designed his famous AK-47 assault rifle. Kalashnikov still lives in Izhevsk. There are also automobile and motorcycle production plants — the vehicles bear the brandname IZH (ИЖ). The city is also the birthplace of current NBA player Andrei Kirilenko, who, incidentally, bears the nickname "AK-47" (from his initials and uniform number with the Utah Jazz).
During Soviet times Izhevsk was a closed city, with restricted access for foreign people, due to the large amount of military manufacturing that was done there.
In 2006, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez visited Izhevsk to tour the Izhmash manufacturing center where many modern armaments and other goods are still produced. During this visit he announced his government's intention to purchase a large number of Izhevsk-produced rifles.
Izhevsk is the scientific and cultural center of the Udmurt Republic. The state took a major share in childcare and education from early on. 320 public kindergartens/preschools provide affordable childcare for 32,000 children. 100 public schools provide free general education to over 100,000 Izhevsk students. A wide variety of technical colleges and two-year professional schools award associate degrees, most notably in medical assistance, performing arts and teaching.
The Ural department of the Russian Scientific Academy is represented in Izhevsk by several institutions, specializing in physics, applied mechanics and technical sciences, and economics, and the Institute of History, Language and Literature of Udmurtia does the same. Four out of five higher education institutes in the Udmurt Republic are located in Izhevsk: Udmurt State University, Izhevsk Technical University, Agricultural Academy, and Medical Academy. Each of these educational institutions admits foreign students.
Udmurt State University celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2006. It is the oldest educational institution in the Udmurt Republic. Some 28,000 students are currently studying at the University, which offers 86 different majors. The University has thirteen departments and seven institutes. Out of 1,000 faculty members 130 hold Doctors of sciences (Dr.Sc.) degrees, and 460 are Candidates of sciences (Cand.Sc., equivalent to first year of Ph.D.). UdSU graduate school offers 11 attestation committees qualified to award Cand.Sc. and Dr.Sc. degrees in ecology, economics, law, psychology, pedagogics, ethnology, history, culture, linguistics of the Ural region, and Udmurt linguistics.
Izhevsk's most notable museums include the Kalashnikov Museum (weapons), the Arsenal Museum (history of Izhevsk), the Galina Kulakova Museum, the Gallery of National Arts (paintings), the "Galeria" Arts Center, the Izhmash Museum, the National Kuzebai Gerd Museum (part of the Arsenal), and the Gennadiy Krasilnikov Apartment-Museum. The Presidential Palace is also popular with tourists.
The Izhevsk pond is now one of the favorite places for recreation. Its area is over 22 sq.km, yet it was artificially created (in parts dug by hand) in the 1760s for industrial needs. Empress Elizabeth of Russia granted Count Peter Shuvalov official permission to create three factories in the Kama River region September 15th, 1757.
The Izhevsk factory became the second to be built and it would not have existed without the pond. Construction of the three-step industrial dam at the critical point where the two rivers (Izh and Yagul/Podborenka) join started both the pond and the city in April 1760. However water in the pond had reached a level sufficient for factory operation level only by June 1763.
The dam was reconstructed in 1809–1815 when Alexander Deryabin converted the original metalworking factory into the new arms producing facility. It was subsequently modernized again in 1983–1984 in order to extend the dam. Today a number of major Izhesk industrial plants are still located along the pond.
In 1972, the Izhevsk Pond Embankment, a three mile-long walkway and a system of boulevards and squares, was extended along the pond. Some consider the resulting esplanade and pond embankment to be the greatest achievement of Izhevsk architects and artists. The monument and square “Friendship of Nations”, celebrating 400 years since Udmurt Republic became part of Russian Federation, is a focal point of the esplanade and a hip place for youth recreation. A popular summer boat ride goes from Izhevsk to the village of Volozhka. The trip takes about an hour.