- By Khristina Narizhnaya
- Apr. 24 2011 20:08
Main industries: Manufacturing of metals, weapons, cars, chemicals, food, construction
Acting mayor: Mikhail Ivantsov
Founded in 1146, although not clear by whom
Interesting fact: During the 1917 Revolution, Tula workers were so well off that they didn’t rebel.
Acting Mayor Mikhail Ivantsov (+7 4872-56-63-50);
City Hall spokesman Igor Shcherbakov (+7 4872-30-69-93).
TULA — At first glance Tula looks like another grim post-Soviet capital, with timeworn pastel buildings, a colossal statue of Lenin in the central square and surly people mingling on the streets.
But as is often the case in Russia, things are not what they seem. This ancient city could be a cultural Disneyland in the making.
Although the city, wealthy until the Soviet collapse, has seen better days, its potential as a manufacturing and cultural center is getting notice.
International and domestic companies including Procter & Gamble, Unilever and Centrgaz have set up operations in or near Tula, and major domestic chains such as M.Video are expanding into the ancient city. New office buildings, malls and hotels have recently popped up all over town.
“Without a doubt, the city is developing,” City Hall spokesman Igor Shcherbakov said.
Tula Arms Plant (1A Sovetskaya Ulitsa; +7 4872-32-17-01; Tulatoz.ru/en/main.html) is Tula’s biggest weapons factory, founded in 1712. It produces rockets, grenade launchers and various types of guns, and exports them throughout the world.
Tula Rubber Technical Articles Plant (15 Ulitsa Smidovich; +7 4872-35-41-02; Tularti.ru/site/) produces a significant amount of rubber parts for defense, transportation, engineering and car construction.
Tulmashzavod, or the Tula Engineering Plant (2 Ulitsa Mosina; +7 4872-32-10-09; Tulamash.ru/en/), makes defense, mining, oil-field and agricultural equipment and engines.
The Tula region’s three weapons factories make a significant share of the country’s missiles and firearms. Millions of dollars worth of Tula-made weapons are exported every year to the Middle East and elsewhere.
But the priority for Tula’s administration is restoring and preserving the city’s heritage as a cultural center — home to Leo Tolstoy, Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin and many other literary figures.
“We are looking for investors,” said Sergei Demidov, chief researcher at the Tula Kremlin Museum. “The future can be anything, even a cultural Disneyland.”
Tula has existed since at least 1146, when it was first mentioned on record. It grew into a metals and weapons manufacturing center under Peter the Great, thanks in no small part to native son Nikita Demidov, a blacksmith born in 1656 who founded the Demidov industrial dynasty. A main supplier for Peter the Great’s army, Demidov in 1696 built one of Russia’s first metals factories in Tula, churning out the first domestic iron that rivaled stock produced in Britain and Sweden.
Tula today boasts museums to Demidov, its other prominent natives and local products like weapons, samovars and pryaniki.
Q: What is Mosenergostroi building in Tula?
A: A lot of housing, a new suburb. We have a long history in Tula.
Q: What’s it like to work in Tula?
A: The administration is very helpful — they warn us ahead of inspections and don’t check up on us too often. There is a lot of old housing that needs to be rebuilt. The manpower here is good.
Q: What challenges have you faced working in Tula?
A: Nothing region-specific, just the usual problems a construction company faces — not enough resources, not enough space to build. Nothing major. There is an understanding here that construction companies are necessary.
Q: What do you recommend to see in Tula?
A: Yasnaya Polyana. It’s so nice to be among nature after the city. It rejuvenates.
Until the 1990s, Tula was closed to foreigners because of its status as the Soviet military manufacturing center. Since then, foreigners go to Tula as tourists and on business trips.
Tula residents, known as Tulaks, like foreigners and say they appreciate visitors who want to learn about their city.
“Foreigners are kind and tactful,” said Natalya Nesterova, 30, who works in child services. Nesterova said she deals mostly with Americans, British and Western Europeans in her line of work. “They have better salaries and standard of living.”
“It depends on the person,” said Dmitry Kochetkov, a 24-year-old student. “If we get along, we’ll find things in common.”
The welcoming attitude extends mostly toward white foreigners, however. Non-white tourists, Chinese and African students and guest workers are seen less positively, and there is often no distinction made between the different races.
In addition, gruff service staff in many of the city’s restaurants, museums and shops may be off-putting to some visitors. But it’s nothing to worry about, locals said.
“People here are mean,” Kochetkov said.
But Tulaks can be friendly. An old man with three gold teeth stopped unprompted and explained to The Moscow Times the history of the picturesque, yet dilapidated Ulitsa Metallistov, one of the most ancient streets in the city. But not without first expressing indignation at the poor education that young people receive.
“What do they teach in schools these days?” the old man said, angrily. Then he relaxed.
“It used to be a merchant road. There were many shops. Demidov lived here,” he said, before disappearing into one of the gated courtyards that line the street.
What to see if you have two hours
Q: Why should an investor come to Tula?
A: The city is growing. Manufacturing is growing. Consumer potential is growing. Our gross domestic income is 16,000 rubles per month, higher than in the rest of the region.
Also, our city is a historical manufacturing center. We produce weapons, metals, cars, train cars and dairy products. One of the biggest Baltika beer breweries is here. We have highly skilled manpower — engineers, metals smiths and laborers.
A chicken won’t lay an egg unless it’s safe. We’ll help investors feel secure.
Q: What would you advise a foreigner to invest in?
A: Foreigners should invest in Tula’s manufacturing. Infrastructure is also a big area; our city is a major transportation hub. Affordable housing development is also a major investment.
Q: What is worth seeing as a tourist in Tula?
A: Have you heard of Kalashnikov? Leo Tolstoy? The samovar? All the most famous Russian brands come from this city.
— Khristina Narizhnaya
Take a walk through the local kremlin, which was built in the 16th century and is one of the best preserved in Russia. Original bricks are still visible in parts of the wall. Art and artifacts are exhibited in its towers. Tours in English can be organized by calling +7 4872-36-27-45, prices range from 800 to 1,000 rubles ($28 to $35) depending on the size of the tour group.
While inside the kremlin, stop by the church housing the Tula State Arms Museum (+7 4872-31-24-06 for English tours; Arms-museum.tula.ru). The museum, which speaks to the city’s military history, offers an extensive collection of Russian, American, Asian and European weapons from the 16th century to the present.
Don’t miss taking a look at the flea in horseshoes, an exhibit that can only be seen with the aid of a microscope. The horseshoed flea is a nod to an 1800s children’s story about a Tula blacksmith named Levsha, or Lefty, who made horseshoes for a flea.
What to do if you have two days
Tula’s artisans arguably make the best samovars in Russia, and Tula has been a production center since the 18th century. There is even an old saying, “You don’t take a samovar to Tula.” Take in the history of the metal urns used to heat water or make tea at the Tula Museum of Samovars (8 Mendeleyevskaya Ulitsa; +7 4872-31-25-38/24-58; Shopsamovar.com.ru/museum.html). The museum also showcases several famous samovars, including five miniatures presented in 1909 to the children of Tsar Nicholas II and a samovar presented to Josef Stalin on his 70th birthday in 1949.
Another thing Tula is famous for is pryaniki, ginger-honey cakes with fruit filling that make excellent gifts for family and friends. A visit to the Tula Museum of the Pryanik (45 Oktyabrskaya Ulitsa; +7 4872-34-70-70; www.pryanik-tula.ru) offers a close-up look at how the cakes are still made by hand in hundreds of different designs. Tours must be ordered 14 days in advance.
No trip to Tula would be complete without a stop outside the city at Yasnaya Polyana (+7 4872-39-35-99; +7 4872-47-67-12; Yasnayapolyana.ru), the estate where Leo Tolstoy was born in 1828 and lived 60 years. Admire Tolstoy’s original furniture and library in the house museum before taking a walk through the estate’s breathtaking park, orchards and forest. Directions to the estate are published in Russian, English and German on the museum’s web site.
What to do with the family
Q: What do you like about working in Tula?
A: It’s close to Moscow. Manpower here is good. Right now there are many projects to develop in the city, so we are in demand. The administration treats us well, but then we don’t have to deal with them directly — we dress other people’s projects.
Q: What challenges have you faced?
A: The company does work in 11 other regions. The farther away the region, the less efficient the project. It’s harder to control projects because of the distance.
Q: What is a profitable business to get into in Tula?
A: Construction. Everything starts with construction. Without construction you can’t have development.
Q: What do you recommend to see in Tula?
A: The Tula State Arms Museum. It has weapons from bows and arrows to modern guns from all over the world. Also, Kulikovo Pole.
— Khristina Narizhnaya
Kids like snakes and lizards, and the Tula Zoo (26 Oktyabrskaya Ulitsa; +7 4872-47-53-92; Tulazoo.ru) claims one of the best reptile collections in Europe. Don’t miss the dinosaur statue in front of the zoo, nicknamed “Mother-in-Law” by locals. On International Women’s Day every March 8, locals dress the statue in a skirt and paint lipstick on it. Newlywed grooms bring bouquets to the statue on their wedding day for good luck.
Soak up medieval Russian history at Kulikovo Pole, the site just outside Tula of the Battle of Kulikovo when Russian troops led by Dmitry Donskoi defeated the Golden Horde. The Kulikovo Pole State Museum of Military History and Nature Preserve (+7 4872-36-28-34; Kulpole.ru) puts on a re-enactment of the battle during the summer and operates several museums in and around Tula. It also offers one- and two-day guided tours of Tula and the surrounding region that take in all of the local sights and include meals and lodging. See the museum’s web site for details in English or Russian.
Party the night away at Tula’s best-known club, Casanova (14 Krasnoarmeisky Prospekt; +7 4872-56-29-35; Casanovaclub.ru). A mix of business and government officials, college students and celebrities like pop singer Mikhail Grebenshchikov have been spotted converging here to dance to the sounds of Moscow’s trendiest DJs, sip a cocktail or play pool. The club also features laser shows, contests, karaoke, a bookmaker and a movie theater.
For live music and one of the biggest pool halls in Russia, Mirazh (45 Ulitsa Kutuzova; +7 4872-48-05-25; inside the hotel Mirazh) is the place to go. The hotel boasts two dance floors, five bowling lanes, karaoke and an international menu that includes Japanese and European dishes. The crowd is 30+ and from all walks of life, according to hotel staff.
Where to eat
If you are in an intellectual mood, visit Biblioteka, a French restaurant whose name translates to “Library” (91 Prospekt Lenina; +7 4872-35-05-76). Here you can read a book from its extensive collection while you wait for your food. The restaurant boasts a French chef and a sophisticated menu that includes duck with chicory and terrine de foie gras. Dinner for two with a bottle of wine costs about 3,000 rubles ($106).
Beerlin, a beer hall with Central European and German cuisine, (4 Krasnoarmeisky Prospekt; +7 4872-21-02-70) is a Tulak favorite, popular with businessmen, government officials and ordinary people alike. Huge portions of mostly meat dishes include char-grilled steaks and sausages made at the restaurant. For those in the mood for something other than beer, the restaurant offers a good selection of wine, cognacs, whiskies and cigars. Dinner for two with beer is about 1,500 rubles ($53).
Where to stay
Q: What’s it like to run a small business in Tula?
A: Very difficult. Distributors are irresponsible; taxes are high. The best thing the government can do is not get in the way. It took us three years to register our property, but the process should have taken one month!
Q: How do you manage?
A: I got lucky. We have a very strong team of smart people. We try to stay away from the administration and rely on ourselves. Our company functions like its own little kingdom.
Q: What advice do you have for an investor considering Tula?
A: You need to have a lot of drive and strong nerves. It’s very difficult. But if I were to go back 18 years, I wouldn’t do anything differently. I love my job.
— Khristina Narizhnaya
Hotel History (24 Ulitsa Shukhova; +7 4872-41-93-23; Hotelhistory.ru/en/) is located in a quiet neighborhood near the city center. Rooms range from 2,500 ($88) for a standard double to 4,000 rubles ($141) for a deluxe suite with two rooms and one large bed, per night.
Hotel Ind-Garnik (47 Sovetskaya Ulitsa; +7 4872-25-06-00; Ind-garnik.ru) is a new swanky hotel right in Tula’s central plaza. Rooms range from 3,600 rubles ($127) for a standard single, with breakfast, to 13,200 rubles ($465) for the presidential suite.
Tulaks are very proud of their history, so showing interest in the city will get you a long way with the locals.
Other helpful hints
Bring toilet paper with you. Some public restrooms are nothing more than holes enclosed by stalls where toilet paper is not provided.
How to get there
There is no airport in Tula, so the easiest way to travel the 200 kilometers from Moscow is by car, train or bus. By car, take the M2 highway south to Tula. It’s best to use public transportation or taxis once in the city. The roads are old and filled with potholes.
Express trains from Moscow’s Kursky Station leave several times a day and cost 250 rubles ($8.70). Check the schedule at Tutu.ru.
Or take a bus to Tula from the metro stations Domodedovskaya, Prazhskaya or Ulitsa Akademika Yangelya. A timetable can be found at Avtovokzaly.ru/avtobus/Moskva-Tula/.