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Early History
Strange as it may seem, Siberia was already inhabited during the Stone Age some 10-14 thousand years ago! There are some uncovered sites in the vicinity of Omsk that clearly show that the first Omskovites were nomads and their main occupation was cattle-breeding. Some of them (the Hungarians) moved through unknown reasons later to the West ( the first Siberians to emigrate!).

At the beginning of the thirteenth century the Mongolian Golden Horde was an undisputed master of these lands until its demise from the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries.

In the sixteenth century Russia emerged as a strong state which tried to expand in all directions. The frontrunners of this process were powerful Russian merchant families. The Stroganov merchants were very active in the Ural Mountains, founding the first smelting industries there. The Urals were fabulously rich in iron-ore, precious and semi-precious stones, and etc. But of course it was not enough for the Stroganovs, as they scented even more riches beyond the mountains. They also experienced constant raids from Siberian tribesmen who used hit and run tactics, bringing death and devastation to the first Russian settlements in the Urals. This had to be ended!

At the same time in the then capital of Russia Moscow the tsars dreamed of a short and safe access (a kind of Siberian Silk Road) to India, China and Central Asia. So there was an ideal combination of a firm political will and striving economic aspirations. The man who was chosen to carry out this daring mission was a Don Cossack Ermak, later called the Conqueror of Siberia. At that time this part of the world was practically uninhabited and was used by the remnant tribesmen of the Golden Horde as a wonderful grazing ground for their horses, having beautiful lush meadows and plenty of water. Towards fall the bulk of the nomads used to migrate with all their sparse belongings to a warmer south, leaving only small outposts to guard their Siberian kingdom. Ermak aptly exploited this as he marched into Siberia in September 1582 and wiped out the nomads from their capital near todays town of Tobolsk. The nomads fought bravely but were unable, just as the Indians in America, to do anything against rifles and later cannons which frightened them to death and forced them to flee, forgetting everything.

Even now the Russians and the descendants of the nomads Kazaks and Tatars are divided about Ermak. For the Russians he is a national hero glorified in folk-songs and poems, but for the Tatars and Kazachs he is a bandit that brought white rascals to the sacred steppes. The truth lies, as always, in-between. Many Tatar and Kazak chiefs saw in the then-powerful Russian state a protective force against internal power struggles and the danger of an invasion and later assimilation from the territory of todays China.
Foundation of Omsk
As a result of this splendid military operation, the Russians managed to found their first settlements in the northern part of the West-Siberian Great Plain. They were, however, unprotected from the south and were permanently under attack in the seventeenth century from rebellious tribesmen. The local Russians complained to the Tsar on many occasions about the awful nomads, but it was only at the beginning of the eighteenth century with the Tsar Peter the Great that these complaints were heard and properly understood. A military mission under the command of a native German Buchholz was formed, and it was entrusted to prospect for gold and to establish Russian settlements on its way south. The mission started in Tara (as if we were in the novel Gone with the Wind!) and at first was quite successful in pushing its way deep into the south. But then Buchholz ran out of luck. He was greatly outnumbered by the nomads and had to retreat to the north, aiming to reach his headquarters in Tara (as you remember, the oldest Russian settlement on the territory of the Omsk Region). This proved to be unrealistic, however, because his troops were totally exhausted and would not cover the remaining distance of 400 km to Tara. Buchholz decided to halt and to carry out another order by the Tsar and founded in May 1716 a fortress against the pursuing nomads. As this fortress was founded at the confluence of the rivers Om ( from the Tatar language translated as small and quiet) and Irtysh, it was later named Omsk! To commemorate Buchholzs contribution, one of the central squares in Omsk bears his name. Its nice to stand today at the spot where Buchholz went so many years ago for the first time ashore to found our city - to watch the beautiful sunsets (as we have clear skies most times of the year) and to think about something lofty and distant as the mighty Irtysh carries its waters to the Arctic Ocean.
The Nineteenth Century
Another unforgettable name for Omsk, but now in the nineteenth century, is Dostoevsky, who 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 Dostoevskys 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. A real breakthrough for Omsk and in fact for the whole of Siberia was the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railroad. In 1894 Omsk was linked up by rail to Cheliabinsk in the Urals. The construction itself was a masterpiece of engineering achievement and proof of the stamina of the people. Just imagine: 700 km were laid annually through mountains and barren steppes, mighty Siberian rivers and endless marshlands 7,000 km in just 10 years with practically no mechanization! This amazing achievement was compared at the time to the construction of the Suez Canal and to the colonization of America! But few know that the main strategic reason for the construction of the Trans-Siberian was the appalling rural overpopulation in Central Russia and the dire need to transfer millions of these starving peasants to free and fertile lands in Siberia. With the existing birth rates in mainland Russia, before the wars and revolution of the twentieth century, Russia would have today a population of 700 million. The same situation existed at the time in Germany, and the problem was solved as some 140 million Germans emigrated gradually to America. For some reasons this was not possible for Russian peasants, and clever heads in the country first and foremost the great Russian statesman Stolypin with his land reforms - tried to find a solution to this burning issue.

At first the peasants were reluctant notwithstanding significant governmental benefits. They usually sent a representative of their village or community who had a task to study everything and especially record the winter temperatures. These fact-finding-missions were mostly positive. The land was given free, and it was fertile black soil. Nature was abundant in game and fish. Winters were only 5-7 degrees colder than in Central Russia. But most importantly, there was freedom in Siberia, unheard of and impossible in mainland Russia. The ice was broken, and millions of settlers came over to Siberia. In the 25 years after the start of colonization, more than four million settled down in Siberia. Alas, it was too little and too late, and Siberia would never become another America because of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917.

Beginning of the twentieth century
Between 1906 and 1911 Russia was administered by the greatest statesman of the late imperial era, Pyotr Stolypin. Stolypin both ruthlessly suppressed disorders and carried out extensive reforms. The most important of these were laws allowing peasants to withdraw from the commune and establish independent farmsteads. Stolypin hoped to create a self-reliant yeomanry to act as a stabilizing force in the countryside. He also had other social and political reforms in mind. These were frustrated by the hostility of the court as well as of the opposition parties. He was murdered by a revolutionary in 1911.

Just before the revolution of 1917, the territory of the present-day Omsk Region was really flourishing. The first and the last All-Siberian Exhibition, held in Omsk in 1911, was a vivid example of that. The ads for this Fair were placed in leading European and American papers, streetcars in St. Petersburg carried impressive posters, inviting people to visit Omsk. And then came a terrible collapse, and the Bolsheviks plunged Siberia into starvation, death and oblivion.
Revolution and the Civil War
The revolution of 1917 was disastrous for Russia and especially for Siberia. From 18 November 1918 to 12 November 1919, at the peak of the Russian Civil War, Omsk became the third capital of the Russian Empire and center for anti-Bolshevik resistance of the whole country headed by admiral Kolchak.
Alas, Kolchak was not able to stop the Reds and was doomed. He began a hasty retreat to the east. He was arrested with his closest associates in Irkusk and was gunned down with his comrades without trial, like the Tsar and his family, on the ice of the Angara River.

With Kolchak the good old Tsarist Russia where Lenin as the worst enemy of the regime was exiled to Siberia with a piano, wife and personal library was gone. What ensued were over 70 years of the special Russian way which cost millions of lives, deprived the country of most of its wealth, and led to the final collapse of the USSR in the late 80s.
Soviet Period (1920-1941)
After the Civil War Russia was a broken country. Millions were dead, and millions more fled abroad. The remaining millions were mostly deceived and disillusioned. What the Bolsheviks had promised free land, freedom and peace was trampled down, ruined and dead. Lenin became a human wreck, and his party comrades betrayed him and isolated themselves from him more and more.
The ruthless, terribly efficient machine of terror started by Lenins revolution gained speed with now Stalin as the head of the State. A vivid example for this can be seen on the territory of the Achairsky Monastery some 40 km away from Omsk, where thousands of political prisoners were held in a concentration camp there in the late 30s. In the center of Omsk, near a stunningly beautiful water tower (a remnant, of course, of the bad tsarist regime!), there stands a small chapel where earth samples from all the major political camps of the Stalin era are kept. Needless to say, most of these camps were in Siberia. Two quotations from Dostoevsky and Solzhenitsyn on the walls of the chapel artfully describe the horror and the tragedy of those years.
The Great Patriotic War
In our days the free press often has compared Stalin to Hitler. This is partly true, but at the same time, it is quite wrong. Of course Stalin engineered the death of millions of innocent people in his own country, but he, his system and ideology were better than the sheer racial madness of Hitler. The fact that the USSR won the war is the final proof of that.

The war left terrible scars on every Omsk family. Out of nearly 300,000 solders, only half returned home. But the war also gave a tremendous boost to the local economy, as Omsk was considered to be quite safe in the rear of the front. The basis of the modern industrial power of Omsk was laid during the war as dozens of major defense enterprises from the European part of the USSR were displaced to Omsk. The City produced during the war the famous T-34 tank, aircraft and hundreds of other military goods, thus greatly facilitating the Final Victory in this most horrible war in human history. There is a special Victory Park in Omsk, dedicated to those lost in action, and a military museum with a sculpture dedicated to the Siberian mother who lost all of her 8 sons in the war.
Soviet Prosperity ( 1954-1979) and Its Collapse ( 1985- 1991)
After the war the development of the defense industry in Omsk proceeded at an even quicker pace as the USSR embarked on a confrontational path with the West. Omsk became one of the major defense centers of the USSR. Tanks, rockets, launchers, and etc. were produced as if they were buns. The Soviet state was very generous with the producers of defense goods, so Omsk had a relatively high standard of living.

In general, Omskovites will warmly remember the time of the 60s and 70s. The revolution, pre-war mass executions and the terrible war itself were things of the past and were discussed only during history lessons. Omsk was famous in the USSR as the city of beautiful girls and many many flowers.

As Omsk harbored during the war many prominent persons from besieged Leningrad, there was a special relationship to this Great City after the war, with intense cultural exchange and engineering assistance.
Omsk 300
It is also worth mentioning that Omsk had in those years maybe the best regional party secretary of the USSR Manyakin who governed the region with astonishing efficiency, especially in agriculture. Omsk was always envied by our starving neighbors in Novosibirsk and in the industrial centers of the Urals as being too well-fed in Soviet terms. Basic foodstuffs were cheap and available to anyone.

We arrive here at the final years of the golden times in the USSRs history, which was actually terminated with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Of course, it had been evident long before this war that there was a need for reform. The Chinese started at the time their reforms, and the senile leadership of the USSR also knew about their positive results. The war in Afghanistan was a breaking point - from that time on there was no way back, to reform or to perish.

As always, the USSR/Russia had gone its own special way it both reformed and perished. Its leaders and its people share the same amount of responsibility for what happened to their country. One thing struck us most of all, as we studied the causes and consequences of the Gorbachov and Yeltsin reforms they resembled very much the revolution of 1917! The weak Tsar and Gorbachev both gave up fighting and cowardly abdicated. Lenin and Yeltsin both had a handful of supporters first and then absolute power; then ensuing turmoil, disintegration of the country, collapse of the economy and mass emigration abroad.

Omsk will be 300 years old in 2016.
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