Tomsk woos visitors with its old Siberian charm
Published on: Sunday, June 30, 2019
By: Lorena Binisol
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With only about 500,000 population, Tomsk, as one of the oldest cities in Siberia, has a lot to tell about its unique architecture designs, history and culture.

With just a glimpse of sight-seeing at the city centre, visitors could easily spot its magnificent and unique style of buildings that capture the attention of visitors.

Its transformation from what seemed like a cold and unfriendly place has attracted many foreign students to further their studies there.


Architectural designs in Tomsk. 


Dr Igor Rozhdestvenskiy from St Petersburg, Russia, who was in Tomsk for a conference, said Tomsk had evolved and further upgraded its economic status.

“Today, we can see more young people living in the city. It is a liveable and lovely place to be and there are many good facilities, too. There are nine universities offering major courses to students from all over the world.  

“Young people contribute to the population of the city,” said Igor.

Apart from buildings, statues of several “icons” are also seen at certain spots which added the attraction to the city.

Vladislava Lozano @ Lada said the statues are not necessarily of famous people or politicians.  It can be anyone who the community would like to remember for their good deeds.


An old house being preserved in Siberia.

At Lenin Street, one statue belongs to a local resident, “Uncle Kolya” who captured the heart of the community due to his constant contributions in his service and kindness, said Lada.

“Uncle Kolya is the name we fondly called him.  He died in 2011. He was a traffic police who served for 40 years before his retirement in 1994.

Although he was just an ordinary officer, he went the extra mile by extending his assistance to the people who needed help in terms of services (or even financial). He was always remembered for his generosity and kindness.

“Young and old today remember him for who he was.  Uncle Kolya will always be in our hearts forever,” said Lada.

Lada said the community used their own personal funds towards the building of the statue.  They did not wait for government to assist financially. Instead, they took the initiative to have the statue erected.

“They were proud to have it built so Uncle Kolya would be remembered by the residents of Tomsk,” she said.


Lada shared a photo of Tomsk taken last winter.

At the city centre, at a big roundabout, stands a big statue of Lenin with his hand as if in welcoming gesture.

Lada said Lenin was the actual “saviour” of Russia who vowed to stop the war and made progress for its citizens.

“Well, the majority would think he was a good guy (Lenin) but there were some who think otherwise.  

“As for me, he was the person who put women as equal with men.  He introduced education to all regardless of gender. He gave voting rights to women.

“He changed the country by insisting on the importance of education for all.

“It was Lenin who made the great revolution happen,” she said.


The statue of Lenin in the centre of Tomsk city.

Lenin, whose real name Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, was against Stalin – another leader who used dictatorship to rule the country.

“After the reformation, it saw progress and there was less poverty.  Everyone had opportunity to go to school,” she said.

“I am not saying he was a saint because during his leadership, there were bad things happening, too.  Civil war happened and caused big number of deaths and so on.

“But he was a great person who did a lot for Russia, especially going against the cruel leadership of Stalin,” said Lada.   

“Stalin was responsible for the execution of 27 million people in WWII who died in the hands of the dictator.”

Today, Siberia has changed and opened its door for young people from other countries to study there.

With the extreme snowfall in Tomsk, the residents accepted it without qualms. 

“We can’t change the condition as it is an act of God.  We can change our attitude towards what happened to our country. 

“I am proud to be called a Siberian as my family contribute in some way. Women today have every right to receive what men receive as well.”

Tomsk river, located at the back of the township, is where the residents go to fish – even at midnight.

Lada said, in Tomsk, the people experience more daylight hours than night time.

“During summer, we have daylight almost 24 hours, with only a slight darkness for two hours.  It is amazing to experience such phenomenon,” said Lada.


People taking photo with the Uncle Kolya statue. 

However, Igor said during winter, the daylight is shorter and darkness longer.

“Our Christmas in Russia is gloomy, dark and wet. In December, we have the most snow. During daytime, it is dark and gloomy.  You can imagine how our Christmas be like,” said Igor.

Lada shared her photo taken during last winter and said nobody wanted to take selfies during winter due to the extreme cold.

When she was younger, she said Russian women always wore long dresses and most of the time they were in the kitchen, cooking.

“Today, we no longer just stay at home, cooking. We also have the opportunity to have our own careers,” Lada, who is an English translator at an agency, said.

She reminded the writer to pay careful attention to the fine laces on the windows on any buildings there.


A deserted area turned into a vibrant mural canvas. 

She said Russians are good with details.  They are creative and have the ability to beautify an ordinary thing into something amazing, just like the laces of the windows.

There is a spot by the riverbank where many people hang colourful padlocks with their names on it. 

Lada showed the writer how couples go to the place and pledge their love for each other.

“It is just a gesture showing how deep your love is towards your partner.  It is a sweet thing to do,” she said, smiling.

Another area worth visiting is more isolated. The buildings there became vibrant after mural paintings were done on the walls.  It turned out to be a creative idea by giving opportunity to painters to show their skills.

Lada also brought the writer to visit one of the oldest universities where she once studied.

Built in 1878, Tomsk State University produced thousands of learned and talented Russians who vowed to make their country better through their respective careers.

Offering science, education and innovation as the main courses, the university gained popularity among the students locally and abroad.

As for Lada, she still has long way to go. At 24, she is an English translator and married to an American. She has a young child, Xander.  

She said living in Siberia and close to her family is a good thing. Only time will tell when she and her husband would move to America. 


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