Nizhny Novgorod

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Nizhny Novgorod

Population: 1.25 million

Main industries: car and machine building, chemicals, ferrous metallurgy, timber, paper and pulp, consumer and food industry. Nizhny Novgorod is also a cargo port.

Founded: 1221

Interesting fact No. 1: Maxim Gorky was born in Nizhny Novgorod, which bore his name for several years, including when the famous Russian writer was still living.

Interesting fact No. 2: One of the creators of Russia’s nuclear bomb, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and academician Andrei Sakharov, was exiled to Gorky for six years starting in 1980.

Interesting fact No. 3: The city was closed and not even on the map for 10 years.

Helpful contacts:
Oleg Kondrashov, city manager of Nizhny Novgorod (+7 831-439-1506; admgor.nnov.ru);
Dmitry Krasnov, chairman and general director of the Nizhny Novgorod Chamber of Commerce (1 Oktyabrskaya Ploshchad; +7 831-419-4210; tpp.nnov.ru).

Sister cities: Linz, Austria; Jinan, China; Matanzas, Cuba; Tampere, Finland; Essen, Germany; Novi Sad, Serbia; Suwon, South Korea; Sant Pol, Spain; Kharkiv, Ukraine; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.

NIZHNY NOVGOROD — Nizhny Novgorod, at different times in its history, has been called "the pocket of Russia," "Russia's Detroit" and "Russia's third capital." But today it ranks fifth by population and is inhabited by "leftover people." Those who could leave have moved to Moscow, located four hours away on the high-speed Sapsan train, St. Petersburg or elsewhere.

The scale and grandeur of the city remains — one look at the confluence of the Volga and Oka rivers from the Verkhne-Volzhskaya Naberezhnaya is enough. But the spirit of the city has been lost somewhere between the construction of the metro, which will connect the lower and upper parts of the city, and the decrepit historical wooden houses that are being burned to the ground and demolished for the amorphous modern buildings and shopping malls scattered across town.

Nizhny Novgorod, or Nizhny, as the locals call it, has long given up, it seems, on retaining the colorful nicknames that history and its own people have given it at various times.

Nizhny has complacently rested on its own laurels for several years now, although seemingly, the life of the city has improved: more cars and shopping malls, while gyms, spas, clubs and sushi/pizza places have mushroomed.

Nizhny is still capable of deceit. If you are a visitor pressed for time, you will, no doubt, find the city charming and want to go back. But only those who were born here and have left can trace the faint aroma of the old charm dissipated.

Nizhny will deceive you, and it is up to you to fall for it.

What to do if you have two hours

Major Businesses

GAZ (88 Prospekt Lenina; +7 831-299-0990; gaz.ru), a car plant in the Avtozavodsky district of the city, was founded in 1929 as a joint venture between Ford Motor Company and the Soviet Union. The famous Russian sedan GAZ-M20 Pobeda, or “Victory,” was first assembled at this plant in 1946.

Krasnoye Sormovo (1 Ulitsa Barrikad; 831-273-0649; krsormovo.nnov.ru) is one of Russia’s and the former Soviet Union’s biggest ship-building factories. Established in 1849, it started with steamboats and later and built steam locomotives. The factory also made tanks during World War II and, later, submarines. It is now known to most locals as the site of a local Chernobyl-style accident when in 1970 a nuclear reactor on a submarine was turned on, exposing more than 1,000 people to radiation. The people were sent home without any measures to protect them and later forced to sign a 25-year non-disclosure agreement about what had happened. Today just under 400 survivors remain.

Nitel (37 Prospekt Gagarina; +7 831-469-7122; nitel-oao.ru) is a former telephone factory that later switched to making radars.

A visit to the local kremlin is an absolute must. The red-brick two-kilometer fortress boasts 12 of its original 13 towers. Before the 14th century, the kremlin was made of wood and could be easily burned, which is why it was relaid with brick. It was only in the early 16th century that the kremlin took its modern shape. Inside you will not only see multiple pathways for walks, but also the Arkhangelsk Cathedral and an obelisk to Kuzma Minin and Dmitry Pozharsky, who played a key role in defending Russia from a Polish invasion in the early 17th century. A walk inside the Kremlin, which also houses a few tanks, will probably take up most of your two hours, so you might want to know about a legend surrounding the Koromyslova Tower (or Yoke Tower). According to one version, people from Nizhny Novgorod decided to lay in the base of the first tower — which happened to be Koromyslova Tower — the first living creature that approached it in an attempt to make the new kremlin structure firmer and stronger. It turned out to be a young girl, who was sacrificed and buried there.

When you walk out of the kremlin, check out the city's central square — Ploshchad Minina — and a monument to Valery Chkalov, a test pilot who was born in a village near the city and became a Soviet hero by pioneering the polar air route from Europe to the U.S. Pacific coast by making a 63-hour, 8,811-kilometer flight from Moscow to Vancouver, Washington, in 1937. At the base of the monument is a staircase shaped like a figure of eight and consisting of 560 steps leading to the right bank of the Volga River. Below you will see another monument, a boat called "Hero."

For MT

Oleg Kondrashov,
Nizhny Novgorod city manager

Q: Why should a foreign investor choose Nizhny Novgorod?
A: In addition to an advantageous geographic position and a large consumer market, Nizhny Novgorod offers several inherent advantages like an international airport and a river port that serves both passenger and cargo vessels.
Nizhny Novgorod also has an expo center called Nizhegorodskaya Yarmarka that holds about 70 Russian events every year as well as international forums.
We have 137 large and midsized companies that belong to 14 major industries employing 179,000 people, or 41 percent of the city’s work force.

Q: What industries would you encourage a foreign investor to consider?
A: Among the priority areas for investment in the region are car making, shipbuilding, radio electronics, energy, chemicals, petrochemicals, the food industry, innovative development, and the development of manufacturing infrastructure to solve energy and transportation problems.
The biggest socially relevant project in Nizhny Novgorod is the construction of the local subway.
Several projects are also planned, among them are the construction of a nuclear power station with two energy units, each with a capacity of 1,150 megawatts, with a possibility of expanding to four units, and the construction of a modern vapor-gas central heating and power plant.
One of the most important areas for Nizhny Novgorod’s innovative development should be public-private partnerships, including cooperation with nonprofit organizations that unite the interests of both industry leaders and entrepreneurs.

Q: What factors hinder investment?
A: Limited energy resources and frequent and abrupt changes in the tariff policy, especially in electric energy. It is well known that electric energy is one of the main issues that investors take into consideration when choosing a region.

— Olga Razumovskaya

If you do not feel like climbing up and down the Chkalov staircase — a favorite spot for local youth to hang out, drink beer and make out — you may want to take a stroll along Verkhne-Volzhskaya Naberezhnaya and take a look at the confluence of the Volga and the Oka.

All of these sights are conveniently located in one area, near Ploshchad Minina.

What to do if you have two days

After you've completed the tour of the kremlin, walked up and down the Chkalov staircase and strolled along the embankment, pop into the Nizhny Novgorod State Art Museum (Kremlin Building 3 and 3 Verkhne-Volzhskaya Naberezhnaya; +7 831-439-13-73; museum.nnov.ru/art). The collection of more than 12,000 artworks is split between two buildings, the primary one being Kremlin Building 3.

The buildings that house the collections might not be as big as Moscow's Tretyakov Gallery or the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, but the collection itself is indeed rich and impressive. From the paintings by Ivan Shishkin and Viktor Vasnetsov to chef d'oeuvres by Ilya Repin and Vasily Kandinsky, these works of art will leave an indelible impression.

Since the city used to bear the name of writer Maxim Gorky, born Alexei Peshkov, a good idea would be to visit one of Gorky's museums. Kashirin's House (21 Pochtovy Syezd; +7 831-234-1502, 236-5629; museum.ru/m1888) seems to be the most popular among tourists and locals. The museum is a wooden house with a preserved interior from the times when Vasily and Akulina Kashirin, Gorky's grandparents, lived here. A description of the house can also be found in Gorky's novel "Childhood."

For a full list of Nizhny Novgorod's museums, visit: admgor.nnov.ru/references/soc/museums.html.

Nightlife

Local party animals say that Z-TOP (16 Nizhne-Volzhskaya Naberezhnaya; +7 910-388-2222; ztopclub.com) is the place to be. It may remind you of Moscow, with a strict dress code and face control. It attracts beautiful young men and women alongside city officials, local lawmakers and bankers.

The second-best place is not everybody's cup of tea: Milo (63 Ulitsa Belinskogo, Etazhi mall, 6th floor; +7 831-416-7103; milomilo.ru), located at the top floor of the Etazhi mall, is a place exclusively for Nizhny Novgorod's "golden youth." The crowd, too, is a bit younger.

T.E.A.T.R.O. (141 Ulitsa Maxima Gorkogo; +7 910-877-7779; clubteatro.ru) and Indi Club (1v Nizhne-Volzhskaya Naberezhnaya; +7 831-429-0204; indi.premiocenter.ru) are also worth checking out. Indi Club has six VIP zones and claims to be the largest club in Nizhny Novgorod.

Among the local celebrities who can be spotted at the trendiest nightlife spots are Yana Arbuzova, editor of the popular local magazine VIP Shopping; Maxim Zasypkin, a stylist/designer; Lada Kroyte, a stylist with a well-known salon at Lobachevsky Plaza; Galina Klochkova, a local politician and director of the Mikhail Lomonosov private school; and DJ Topchy, well-known and loved across Russia.

For MT

Oleg Timofeyev,
chairman of the public committee on foreign investment in the Nizhny Novgorod Chamber of Commerce;
partner at law firm T&K Legal

Q: Why should foreign investors come to Nizhny Novgorod?
A: Nizhny Novgorod and the surrounding region offer a balanced regulatory framework of investment law and an advantageous geographic position with main transportation arteries close to Moscow that optimize the logistics for any project.
Another advantage is highly qualified potential staff. Nizhny Novgorod has long been known for preparing specialists in machine building, the chemicals industry, radio electronics and transportation.

Q: What sectors should a potential investor consider?
A: Investors who come to the Nizhny Novgorod region prefer to invest in the production of car parts, machine building, the petrochemicals industry, the production of construction materials, and glass making.

Q: What are the advantages and disadvantages of your city for small and midsized enterprises?
A: The advantages include a good balance of investment regulation, transportation and logistical infrastructure, and the availability of well-educated staff. As for disadvantages, they are similar to other “millionaire cities” — excessive administrative control over supervisory bodies, an imperfect city-planning policy, and high energy consumption and transportation expenses that contribute to the cost of a product.

Q: What challenges does Nizhny Novgorod face in attracting investors?
The instability of tariff policies in determining energy prices is a big issue. Still, foreign investors in the Nizhny Novgorod region have been able to find compromises with energy suppliers. The government of the Nizhny Novgorod region has been a great help here. Because of its efforts, the region has been among the leaders in terms of investment attractiveness for the past five years.

— Olga Razumovskaya

Nizhny Novgorod is also big on theater. It has the Comedy Theater (23 Ulitsa Gruzinskaya; +7 831-434-0424; comedia.nnov.ru), the Drama Theater (13 Ulitsa Bolshaya Pokrovskaya; +7 831-419-5259; drama.nnov.ru), the Children's Theater (145 Ulitsa Gorkogo; +7 831-428-3125; tyuz.ru), the Opera House (59 Ulitsa Belinskogo; +7 831-428-5056; opera.nnov.ru) and the Kremlin Concert Hall (Kremlin Building 2; +7 831-439-1596; kremlevsky-kontsertnyy-zal.rusmusic.info). The last two sites are usually booked by guest performers from Moscow and abroad. The Comedy Theater is the most interesting of all.

Nizhny Novgorod residents are also known for their healthy lifestyles. Those who can afford an expensive gym membership go to World Class, a place where the local elite meets to gossip and pump iron.

Where to eat

A classy and cozy place in the city center is Angliiskoye Posolstvo, or British Embassy (12 Ulitsa Zvezdinka; +7 831-433-6165; pir.nn.ru/englishpub). It is a go-to place for those wishing to have a business meeting or to relax over a pint of beer in a pub/restaurant-type establishment. It is also popular among the many Nizhny Novgorod students who want to impress their significant others. The prices resemble those in Moscow, so be prepared to walk out of it happy but with a lighter wallet. The wooden interiors — from the floors to the bar counter and a spiral staircase — take you back half a century and give the place an authentic English pub feel.

Angliiskoye Posolstvo is part of the PIR Group, which owns restaurants like the Asian Ali-Baba (61 Ulitsa Belinskogo; +7 831-220-7919; pir.nn.ru/alibaba), with an average check of 400 rubles, and La Cantinetta da Roberto (45b Rozhdestvenskaya Ulitsa; +7 831-461-8076; pir.nn.ru/lacantinettadaroberto), a cozy Italian restaurant with carved arches and a welcoming rustic interior.

For traditional Russian cuisine, make sure not to miss Kupechesky (9 Ulitsa Krasnaya Sloboda; +7 831-432-0108; rknn.ru), where weddings are often held. The restaurant is located in what used to be a factory that manufactured and repaired parts for steamboats in the mid-19th century.

Where to stay

Alexandrovsky Sad (3 Georgiyevsky Syezd; +7 831-277-8141, 277-8152; achotel.ru) is a cozy hotel of 49 rooms conveniently situated in the city center overlooking the Volga River and in close proximity to the Chkalov staircase and the city's main walking tourist street, Ulitsa Bolshaya Pokrovskaya. You will be charged 6,340 rubles to 24,000 rubles ($230 to $870) depending on the size of the room.

For MT

Maxim Zasypkin,
designer

Q: What makes the city attractive for small and midsized businesses?
A: At first glance, the city may seem advanced in many areas and attractive for its seeming provinciality. But in my opinion the city lacks financial and political stability, and this prevents investors from making any serious contributions to our region. Also, there are nearly no programs to support and develop small and midsized enterprises.
But what makes the city attractive is a cheap and highly qualified work force, as well as its proximity to Moscow. What is also important is the comparatively low cost of land for construction.

Q: What advice would you offer an entrepreneur considering Nizhny Novgorod?
A: Based on my experience, I can say that what is necessary is a 100 percent quality product and a strong publicity campaign to support it.

Q: How has working in Nizhny Novgorod helped or hindered your work as a designer?
A: Soviet society wanted innovation, and I managed to bring in extraordinary colors and an unrestricted outlook to fashion, in the best sense of the word. But the city, due to its clumsiness and the slow start of the consumer market, has lost fashion as an industry. Nizhny Novgorod had two fashion houses — Nizhny Novgorod Fashion House and Fashion House — but managed to wreck both in the 1990s and successfully sell them to create office space in the 2000s. As a designer, I am very upset by this situation. Other cities, as far as I know, are quite successful in this area and support their fashion houses.

— Olga Razumovskaya

Hotel Volna (98 Prospekt Lenina; +7 831-295-1900; volnahotel.ru) might be far away from the city center — it is situated in the Avtozavodsky district, only minutes away from the car factory GAZ — but it is a popular place for visiting celebrities. Its guests have included singers Filipp Kirkorov, Alla Pugachyova, Patricia Kaas and the bands Deep Purple and Boney M, as well as the model Natalya Vodyanova (a native of the city) and former ballerina Anastasia Volochkova. A single costs 5,700 rubles per night, with the presidential suite going for 42,000 rubles.

If you have a few days to spend in the area, check into the Chayka Resort Hotel (Zhelnino village, Nizhny Novgorod region; +7 831-324-3050; chayka-hotel.ru), located 45 kilometers from Nizhny Novgorod. The Scandinavian-style hotel, which stands on the bank of the Oka River and is surrounded by a pine forest, offers quad-bike races to the guests, a barbecue and a beach. Rooms cost from 3,900 rubles to 86,625 rubles. Among its prominent guests are singers Laima Vaikule, Oleg Mityayev and Anita Tsoi as well as stand-up comedians from Moscow's Comedy Club.

Conversation starters

Like many cities, Nizhny Novgorod has not been spared the traffic problem. The traffic jams are at times several kilometers long and remind you of those in Moscow — and annoy residents to no end. A conversation about the traffic will inevitably lead to the construction of the local metro, particularly about the stretch that will connect the lower part of the city with the higher part and help solve the traffic problem.

You will be treated as an honorary Nizhny Novgorod citizen if you mention the local circus, which is the biggest in Europe and took 23 years and several mayors and governors to complete.

How to get there

Nizhny Novgorod is a good place to visit if you are tired of trips to St. Petersburg and the adjacent cities and towns, and there are numerous ways to get there: plane, train, car or boat. This goes well in line with the city's historical role as a trade hub and contradicts the brief period in the city's history when it was closed and not even mentioned on maps because top-secret submarines were built there.

You can take a direct one-hour flight from Moscow on Aeroflot or S7 for 3,600 rubles to 5,900 rubles round trip. The Strigino International Airport (airportnn.ru) also offers direct flights to Germany, Turkey, Spain, Italy, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Israel, Armenia, Greece and Egypt. In the winter, you can also fly nonstop to Thailand and Indonesia.

By car, take the M-7 federal highway from Moscow to Nizhny Novgorod, a distance of 410 kilometers.

For the less adventurous, the high-speed Sapsan train from Kursky Station will get you to Nizhny Novgorod in three hours 55 minutes or four hours five minutes, depending on whether you take a train in the morning or in the evening.

Regular trains leave about every hour from the Kursky, Yaroslavsky and Belorussky stations, but not all of them are direct. For schedules and prices try rzd.ru, tutu.ru or poezdka.ru. One-way tickets start at 650 rubles ($23) for an economy-class ticket and go as high as 5,600 rubles ($200).

Olga Razumovskaya was born and raised in Nizhny Novgorod.