Overnight from Kazan we have to put our clocks forward by 2 hours so there were a few slightly glazed expressions this morning at 08:15 as we pulled into Yekaterinburg ready for our short visit to the city. The time change from London means that we’re now 5 hours ahead but the impact of this is manageable because it’s occurring incrementally instead of in one Big Bang like airborne jet-lag.
Yekaterinburg, formerly Sverdlovsk is a city of about 1.5 million and is the most important city in the Ural Mountains. The Ural Mountains are the natural West/East dividing line in Russia. They aren’t particularly high, reaching no more than 500 metres, but that’s enough to provide a useful strategic barrier when Russia defends itself. The Urals are also the natural barrier between Europe and Asia, between European Russia and Siberia.
Most people will know Yekaterinburg as the place where Tsar Nicholas II and his family were murdered by Bolshevik forces in 1918 as the Russian Civil War raged. Nervous that the approaching forces of the White army would liberate the Tsar from captivity, his Bolshevik captors shot the entire family of 9 in the cellar of their house and hid and later destroyed the bodies. The house was demolished and a church was built over the site, known as the Church on Blood in Honour of All Saints Resplendent in the Russian Land.
After lunch we drove off to see the dividing line monument (see below) and on the way stopped at this touching memorial. 18,000 bodies were discovered buried at this site, all victims of one of the Purges of 1937/1938. The bodies were recovered and the names recorded on plaques near the statue. Think of this event as being five times the casualties involved in 9/11 and as only one of numerous similar events.
The monument below shows the marked dividing line on the ground between Europe and Asia. It’s traditional to visit the place and stand with one foot on each side while sipping Russian Champagne and eating chocolates, so that’s exactly what we did!