- By Tsvetelina Miteva
- Mar. 10 2013 21:37
Main industries: electronics manufacturing, instrument making, chemicals, construction materials, nuclear power engineering, pharmaceuticals, medical radiology, meteorology, ecology and environmental protection
Mayor: Alexander Avdeyev,
Founded in 1954
Interesting fact: For the first 30 years of its existence, Obninsk was essentially closed to foreigners. Only occasionally were official delegations permitted by invitation from the city's authorities or scientists.
Sister cities: Oak Ridge, Tennessee, United States; Mianyang, China; Visaginas, Lithuania.
Helpful contacts: Natalya Tsaryova, secretary of Mayor Alexander Avdeyev. +7 484-395-8080.
OBNINSK, Kaluga Region — Many experiments of the Soviet period came with great risks to people and the environment, and the creation of Obninsk is no exception. "The skin of the earth was slit by iron, the tender sky was choked by dust. Nature paid the price for this newborn city," is how poet Vera Chizhevskaya describes the establishment of her native city, where the U.S.S.R. first harnessed the energy of the atom to make it serve mankind.
Obninsk was born in 1946 based on a decree by Josef Stalin that a secret laboratory to carry out research in nuclear physics should be built on the left bank of the Protva River, a tributary of the Oka. The facility was built in stealth mode and even workers did not know exactly what they were constructing.
German scientists captured during the war, along with their Soviet colleagues and talented university graduates from around the country, came to work in this organization. As a result, the world's first nuclear power plant was unveiled here in 1954 — the midst of the Cold War.
In 1956, the nameless community that developed around the plant was officially granted municipal status.
The new city was called Obninsk after the nearest railroad stop. The name of the station came from the noble family of Obninsky, which used to own the picturesque wooded land where the nuclear plant was constructed.
But the history of the area has roots stretching back to the middle ages. Early records about the villages of Samsonovo, Belkino and Pyatkino, which are now parts of modern Obninsk, date back to the 16th century.
Signal instrument factory ( +7 484-399-3588;
Typhoon research and production association (+7 484-397-1953;
Ruukki-Ventall steel plant (+7 484-386-0035, 6-0065, 6-0040;
The first owner of an ancient estate with its center in the village of Belkino was Malyuta Skuratov, one of the most odious supporters of Ivan the Terrible's oppressive domestic policies. Later, village ownership changed hands many times and finally came into possession of the Obninsky family.
In 1911, they provided land and money to the pre-eminent Russian pedagogue and educator Stanislav Shatsky, who built a boarding school for orphans that he named Cheerful Life. This establishment functioned until 1941 and became a shining example of pedagogic science. Shatsky's writings are now world-renowned.
In 1936, a special home for Spanish children who were refugees from the civil war in their country was set up next to Cheerful Life. In the fall of 1941 Germans occupied the Kaluga region, but at the end of that year the Red Army liberated the territory.
By May 1942, buildings of the Spanish children's home and the boarding school housed the headquarters of the Western Front under the command of Marshal Georgy Zhukov.
After the end of World War II, Soviet leaders acted quickly to develop nuclear arms, and the first step toward this was the construction of a nuclear reactor, christened Atom Mirny, or Peaceful Atom. It was used to generate electricity and heralded Obninsk's role as a major Soviet scientific city, a status it retains as the first science city of Russia. At present, the nuclear power plant is only used for research.
The road to modern prosperity was not an easy one for Obninsk.
"It was one thing in Soviet times, when the city enjoyed a soft 'budget pillow' and an entirely different matter after the regime changed. The city had to prove itself. Officials had to fight for federal funds as many other cities also wanted to get them," local historian and journalist Nonna Chernykh wrote in her book "Obninsk: From House to House."
A: In 2001, when Vladimir Putin became Russia's president, he signed a decree granting Obninsk the status of science city. Officials used the funds allocated in accordance with this decree to establish the Municipal Industrial Park, with a total area of 50 hectares. This was the first such facility in the region. Currently eight companies are working there, and they provide jobs to more than 3,000 people. The taxes raised from these companies make up 16 to 18 percent of the city budget.
We are currently developing a unique project — an innovation development zone. It will host research companies, startups and innovative firms engaged in the high-tech sector. We have all the necessary mechanisms that investors and businessmen need. The Obninsk city administration and Kaluga Region's Innovation Development Agency, which is based in Obninsk, offer advice for those who want to start a business in the city.
Q: Which segments of Obninsk's economy are particularly attractive to investors?
A: The sphere of medical services. In Soviet times, the Institute of Medical Radiology was established in Obninsk. It brought the best scientists and medical professionals to the city. In the 1990s, several employees of this institution opened their own medical firms in Obninsk. All these factors helped create a very advantageous environment for businessmen who want to start an enterprise in the medical sphere. Obninsk has enough professionals engaged in medical science, chemistry, pharmacy development and biology, educational centers and clients of such services — who even come from Moscow. That's the most important thing.
Despite its venerable history, the city remains youthful. The average age of its citizenry stands at 39, thanks in part to the fact that Obninsk boasts 12 scientific research institutions and a technical university.
Research is focused on nuclear-power engineering, physics, radiation technology, medical radiology, meteorology and environmental protection. The activity of famous scientists such as nuclear physicists Igor Kurchatov and biologist Nikolai Timofeyev-Resovsky began the city's legacy of innovative research. Today, Obninsk scientists work both in traditional scientific areas and new ones like biomedicine, pharmaceuticals, IT and nanotechnologies.
Modern Obninsk encompasses the intellectual atmosphere of Russia's first science city and the vivid spirit of a young rapidly developing community. Its proximity to Moscow and the quietness of the city create wonderful conditions for fruitful work and research.
The city boasts a well-developed infrastructure and communication network, manufacturing base and a highly educated population. All these factors attract investors and new business to the city.
Obninsk also hosts many scientific conferences, seminars and symposiums, which gather researchers from all over the country. Over the years, some of the best scientists from Europe, America, China and Japan have participated in these meetings.
What to see if you have two hours
Take a stroll through the old part of Obninsk. It is relatively small and easy enough to get around on foot. Start your trip at the train station, and walk along Prospekt Lenina to see the Stalin-era houses, a statue to nuclear energy pioneer Igor Kurchatov, a defunct water tank of red brick and finally reach the gates of the Physics & Power Engineering Institute, or FEI.
In the 1950s, when Obninsk was founded, it was populated mostly by young people, mainly physicists, engineers, biologists, meteorologists, medical professionals and construction workers. Several of them still live in the old part of the city. On your way back, take a minibus that will drop you back right at the train station.
Regardless of where you are in Obninsk, you will see the tall, thin Meteorological Mast rising 315 meters over the city. It stands at the intersection of the Guryanova and Komarova streets.
The territory around is enclosed by a fence and guarded. It was completed in 1958 to track the spread of radiation from the power plant, and it still is studded with platforms covered in equipment used to measure radioactivity and meteorological data.
The Obninsk City Museum (128 Prospekt Lenina; +7 484-397-6472; +7 484-397-5562;
It also has a collection of historical items that date from World War II. The museum is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, except Monday and the last Friday of each month. Admission is 20 rubles (65 cents).
A: The best thing about doing business in Obninsk and in the Kaluga region is the productive economic environment encouraged by local officials. There are several industrial clusters near Obninsk including pharmaceutical, automotive and consumer products manufacturing facilities. Recently, the Kaluga region's mayor was awarded an Order of the Lion of Finland. This is the way that Ruukki and other Finnish companies operating in the region expressed their gratitude to the regional government and honored its efforts to develop a really attractive investment climate.
Q: What advice would you give to other outside investors and businessmen looking to enter Obninsk?
A: The Kaluga region is one of the most innovative regions in Russia. The local government strives to create favorable conditions for foreign investors in all aspects. For example, they help enhance people's professional capabilities. Many specialists in the region are learning foreign languages.
Q: What is your company's contribution to city life?
A: In May 2012, together with Obninsk residents, we celebrated the opening of Olimp Sports Arena, an innovative sports facility with the total area of 24,000 square meters. An ultra-strong metal construction produced by Ruukki was used to build this facility. It provides entertainment and sports opportunities for Obninsk citizens.
Kids and adults enjoy the center's swimming pool and skating rink. The facility also hosts sports and dance competitions. A number of other high-tech manufacturing facilities in the Kaluga region were built using Ruukki structures. Including the Ruukki staff, about 2,500 Kaluga region residents work in Finnish companies. So, all our contributions enable better living, working and moving!
Because of Obninsk's expertise in reactors, the country's first training center for nuclear submariners was set up here in 1952. It boasted two reactors, which were used to test cutting-edge technologies and to train crews.
The captain of the U.S.S.R.'s first nuclear submarine K-3 (Leninsky Komsomol), Leonid Osipenko, was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union and is an honorary citizen of Obninsk.
Obninsk's monument to K-3 is worth a visit. It was unveiled in 2008 at the intersection of the Kurchatova and Pobeda streets. The conning tower of a K-14 submarine has been installed on a slightly inclined pedestal coated with black marble as if the vessel was popping up from an ocean abyss.
If time and weather permit, you can explore the city's Aksyonovskaya Ploshchad and relax by the bank of the Protva River.
What to do if you have a day or more
There are two must-see trips outside the city: Belkino imperial estate in the northwestern suburb and the Morozovskaya Dacha mansion in the east. Several years ago, the Belkino estate was restored by a group of enthusiastic businessmen. After the reconstruction the abandoned site was turned into a picturesque park, which is now very popular among the locals.
The Boris and Gleb Church was constructed in 1773 in the village of Belkino. The building includes both classical and baroque elements. In Soviet times it was transformed into a warehouse, but in the 1990s, the church was reopened and a reconstruction began.
The Morozovskaya Dacha mansion (1 Ulitsa Pirogova) was built in the very end of the 19th century for Count Viktor Obninsky (1867-1916), who was a deputy of the State Duma of the Russian Empire and a powerful member of the country's Freemason's lodge.
His son Peter Victor Obninsky (1901—1997) moved to the United States, where he married an American girl and became an architect. His grandchildren, Waren Obninsky (engineer, IT specialist) and Mary Catherine Obninsky (U.S. Navy lieutenant commander), also live in the United States.
Historians and regional ethnographers say the mansion was constructed in accordance with Freemason's architectural principles: It has seven entrances, Gothic decorative elements on its facade, a hidden chamber and a vast underground space. Enthusiasts have uncovered four secret passages leading out of the building and hope to find another three.
The last owner of the mansion was Margarita Morozova (born Mamontova), a famous philanthropist and patron of the arts. She turned her home into a center of cultural life in the vicinity of Moscow. After the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, she was forced to leave the building and spent the rest of her life in misery. Sadly, the mansion is closed to visitors, so it can only be viewed from the outside.
What to do with the kids
A huge children's play center named ATOM has recently opened in Obninsk's main shopping mall, Triumf Plaza (45 Prospekt Marksa; open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily). You can leave your young ones for a while in the center's playroom, or together enjoy bowling, arcade machines and other amusements.
A: The living standard is quite high. The city is growing rapidly. New residential estates, trade centers and plants are being built in the city. In terms of business activity, Obninsk is a Moscow in miniature. The entrepreneurial community is very strong. Several companies that started in Obninsk are now present in other regions. The most successful businessmen set up a charity fund and allocate money for the restoration of the Belkino estate outside the city. We have lots of private and state-run media that cover all the events that take place in Obninsk.
Q: What is your favorite place in Obninsk?
A: The city is very comfortable and cozy. It was built from the ground up in Soviet times. It lacks the sad and time-worn historical center, typical for many other central Russian cities.
It's very nice to walk in Obninsk, especially when it's spring or summer. The city is blanketed by lush vegetation.
Prospekt Marxa is my favorite place in Obninsk. That's the city's main trade street. It is always very lively. Cars, people, lots of light — all this helps feel the city life, the beat of its heart.
If you are looking for a unique way to spend an evening, then there is nowhere better than the Obninsk Palace of Culture (126 Prospekt Lenina; +7 484-393-0344; 3-2095; 3-3224). It frequently hosts theater plays, musical gigs, exhibitions and fairs. But locals lament that it's rare to find productions by local directors and actors, though, touring troupes, including ones from Moscow, come frequently.
Where to eat
Several decent restaurants dot the town. Among the places recommended by locals is Restaurant Obninsk (21 Prospekt Lenina; +7 484-395-9176; 9-4142). It offers a reasonably priced quality menu consisting mainly of traditional Russian dishes, such as pelmeni and borshch, though regulars know to ask about the daily specials. An average bill without alcohol is 1,800 rubles ($60) per person.
Another popular place is lounge-cafe Rezidentsia No. 1 (121 Prospekt Lenina; +7 484-392-0101). This establishment is a high-end place to drink and dine geared toward wealthy visitors. Come here and eat grilled meat, sip cocktails and smoke hookah. An average bill for a meal with drinks will be about 2,200 rubles ($73).
More budget-conscious visitors should try Kulinaria, a local chain of cafes serving salads, sandwiches and baked goods at very affordable prices (68 Prospekt Marksa; 119 Prospekt Lenina; 46 Ulitsa Kurchatova). Come here for buns with fish or mushrooms. An average bill for one will be 200 to 500 rubles.
Where to stay
Greenway Park Hotel (9/5 Prospekt Lenina; +7 484-395-9510;
Gostinitsa Yubileinaya (57 Prospekt Lenina; +7 484-396-3765;
Get a smile from the locals by mentioning the Meteorological Mast. Ask whether it is leaning, since the younger crowds like to speculate about the angle of its inclination.
To break the ice with citizens of the older generation, mention the scientific role of Obninsk and its contribution to the military might of the Soviet Union. Obninsk residents are proud of the glorious past of their native city.
How to get there
Obninsk is a hundred kilometers to the southwest of Moscow at the intersection of Kievskoye and Varshavskoye highways. To get to Obninsk, you can take a suburban electric train from Moscow's Kievsky Station. The price of a one-way ticket ranges from 100 to 300 rubles.
Every hour, a minibus departs from Kievsky Station in Moscow to Obninsk. The one-way ticket costs 200-250 rubles. But think twice before taking a minibus, as traffic is heavy all week long.
If you want to get to Obninsk from the regional capital Kaluga, take a commuter train. The trip will take about two hours and thirty minutes and will cost 100 to 200 rubles depending on the category of the train.