Chapter Eleven
IRKUTSK: THE “PARIS OF SIBERIA”

“The few descriptions of Irkutsk had spoken of it as the Paris of Siberia.
The only points of likeness that a casual survey gives are that Irkutsk
has the sins, the false hair, and the perfume, for which Paris is noted.”

Mrs John Clarence Lee, Across Siberia Alone, An American Woman’s
Adventures, 1914

Irkutsk dates back to the early 1650s, when a winter stockade was established on the banks of the Angara river at the mouth of the Irkut. Almost one decade later, in 1660, a Yeniseysk-born son of the aristocracy by the name of Yakov Pokhabov received instructions to travel to the Irkut in order to build a permanent fortified settlement on the location, collect yasak and “protect” the local indigenes from harassment by the Cossacks of Krasnoyarsk. In 1661, without waiting for the formal order to arrive, Pokhabov set off with his men and established the permanent fort, which was to have its own garrison and be administered from Yeniseysk. He gave it the name Yandashky after a local ruler, Yandash Doroga, but it almost immediately became known as Irkutsk.

Crossing the Angara in Irkutsk (1886) by N. Dobrovalsky

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