- By Ingrid Nevenchannaya
- Nov. 11 2012 00:00
Main industries: Oil, gas and timber
Mayor: Oleg Kazartsev
Founded in 1929
Interesting fact No. 1: Ukhta is known for its many language schools. As a result, a lot of its residents speak English, particularly young people.
Interesting fact No. 2: Ukhta is the birthplace of the well-known keyboard artist Andrei Derzhavin, a member of the band Mashina Vremeni.
Interesting fact No. 3: Ukhta is nicknamed the “Northern Pearl” because of its northern lights during winter, which lasts most of the year.
Sister cities: Usinsk, Komi republic; Naryan-Mar, Yamal-Nenets autonomous district.
Helpful contacts: Ilya Semyonov, spokesman for the Ukhta City Hall (+7 8216-789-034;
UKHTA, Komi Republic — If you drive a car in Moscow, chances are the gasoline in your tank came from this city located smack in the middle of the northern Komi republic.
Oil springs were found near the Ukhta River during the days of Ivan the Terrible in the 17th century. But the first oil well — one of the first in Russia — was only drilled by industrialist Mikhail Sidorov in the 19th century.
The drilling started in earnest a few years after the 1917 revolution, leading to the founding of the village of Chibyu along the Ukhta River in 1929. In 1939, the village was renamed Ukhta, and it gained the status of a town in 1943.
While the local climate is known for being chilly, even during the short summer, the well-educated, often-English-speaking population is warm and friendly.
But this wasn't always the case. The Soviet government used prisoners as slave labor to develop the area starting in 1938, and many people died through brutality and torture. This tragic chapter in Ukhta's history is noted in Alexander Solzhenitsyn's book "The Gulag Archipelago."
These days, Ukhta is called the industrial capital of the Komi republic — and not without reason. It is where much of the regional production of oil, gas and bricks is concentrated. Most of Moscow's automobile gasoline and diesel fuel comes from Ukhta.
Sever Gazprom Company (39 /2 Ulitsa Lenina; +7 2167-762605;
LUKoil-Komi (31 Ulitsa Neftyanikov; +7 2167-55-111;
Northern Main Oil Pipelines (2/1 Ulitsa A.I. Zeryunova; +7 8216-76-01-71;
Perhaps it's no coincidence that one of the city's best-known former residents is billionaire Roman Abramovich, who made his fortune in the oil industry.
Both of Abramovich's parents died when he was young, and he grew up here with an uncle, Leib Abramovich, who worked in the local timber industry and lived in an apartment at 22 Oktyabrskaya Ulitsa. Abramovich studied at the Ukhta Industrial Institute (now Ukhta State Technical University) but left without graduating to enter compulsory military service in 1984.
After his time in the army, Abramovich moved to Moscow and enrolled in the Moscow State Automobile and Road Technical University — and again didn't stay through graduation. While in Moscow, he stayed with another uncle, Abram Abramovich.
The famously shy billionaire, ranked by Forbes magazine as the ninth-richest Russian, with a fortune of $12.1 billion in 2012, rarely talks about his days in Ukhta. But after he had amassed his wealth, the director of School No. 2, Abramovich's alma mater, asked him to contribute money for repairs. In 2000, Abramovich donated 2 million rubles (worth roughly $70,000 at the time).
What to see if you have two hours
Q: Why should an investor consider setting up a business in Ukhta?
A: Ukhta is one of the most effective places to invest money in Russia. The unique advantages of the city and its infrastructure are favorable to business.
Q: What challenges do investors have to contend with?
A: Ukhta has its share of corruption, and local bureaucracy can be sluggish.
Q: Which sectors are the most promising for investors?
A: Ukhta’s strengths include oil and gas production, refining and transportation, good roads, local geological exploration capabilities, the production and processing of minerals and timber, and support services for all of the aforementioned businesses.
Q: What has the government been doing to attract investors?
A: Unfortunately, the efforts of the government have not been particularly effective — or visible — in involving investors in new projects.
— Ingrid Nevenchannaya
Head straight for the History Museum at Ukhta State Technical University (13 Pervomaiskaya Ulitsa; +7 216-77-44-02;
While on the university campus, pay your respects at a chapel built to commemorate 25 people who died in an arson attack on the local Passazh shopping mall in 2005. Two 20-somethings were jailed for life by a local court after a second trial in 2009. But two investigators from the case made headlines that same year when they said the suspects were scapegoats and appealed to then-President Dmitry Medvedev to intervene. The two investigators were subsequently jailed on spurious charges.
What to do if you have two days
For an incredible weekend trip, catch a train to the Yugyd Va National Park (
At the park, the Pechora River and surrounding area is the place to try your hand at fly-fishing or hunting. The river is stocked with freshwater graylings, which are used in traditional local dishes. The park also offers many streams and rivers for boating.
For the more physically active, climb up Mount Manaraga, which, at 1,663 meters, is an easy hike depending on the season and the chosen route. On the way up, take a break in Moroshkovy, a national cherry orchard, where you can spot wild deer walking among the trees. Locals believe that this mountain has magical powers, and even if you aren't convinced, you will be enchanted when you look down on the beauty of the wooded taiga from the top of the mountain.
What to do with the family
Q: Why should a foreign investor choose Ukhta?
A: Ukhta is open for business. We are looking for new and cooperative projects in industry, science, health care, education, culture and sports. We also wish to emphasize the increasing investment appeal of Ukhta as a place with a highly qualified workforce.
With the cooperation and help of our city government, we hope to demonstrate why Ukhta is indeed the “Northern Pearl.” Ukhta is already the heart of the oil and gas industry in the Russian northwest. In addition to a large oil refinery, we have major enterprises for the repair of oil and gas equipment and for energy research, as well as institutes working on the needs of the energy industry.
Q: What business advantages does Ukhta enjoy over other Russian cities?
A: We have many strengths and competitive advantages, including the availability of a considerable amount of municipal property for development; the codification of land use and construction rules and a city master plan; and the availability of rich natural resources. We also have a well-developed transportation system of roads, rail and air; a qualified workforce; a developed banking system; a developed community of small and mid-sized businesses; a wide network of educational and research institutions; and cultural and historical attractions including museums, monuments and many parks.
Q: How are you looking to develop the economy?
A: Our first priority is the development of human capital and the improvement of services. We are tackling this issue by constructing housing, introducing a program for energy savings and power efficiency, developing high-tech medical facilities and continuing the advancement of Ukhta State Technical University.
Priority No. 2 is to develop small and mid-sized businesses, primarily by creating conditions favorable to the development of tourism.
Our third priority is to develop technology business by promoting innovation.
— Ingrid Nevenchannaya
With the weather cold for most of the year, locals love the banya, and a stop by the State Banya Complex (47 Prospekt Lenina; +7 2167-72-43-78) for a steam bath will leave you and your family refreshed. Another popular local sauna is the Shaggy Beaver (Mokhnaty Bober, 4 Stroitelnaya Ulitsa; +7 2167 -77-90-41), which in addition to the sauna has a good restaurant on site.
The Recreation Center (26 Prospekt Lenina; +7 2167-72-17-74;
If you want to dress up in evening clothes (and perhaps participate in a striptease competition), visit the club White Nights (3a Oktyabrskaya Ulitsa; +7 2167-752-054;
For a place to dine in a refined atmosphere, visit Planeta (24 Yubileinaya Ulitsa; +7 2167-745-696;
For a disco, pub, bowling center and sushi bar all under one roof, try the Crystal Entertainment Center (3 Pionergorsky Proezd ; +7 2167-700-010;
More places to eat
Dvoryanskoye Gnezdo (2/15 Ulitsa Lenina; +7 2167-73-49-58;
Many locals travel abroad, and when they come back, they say the best pizza is found at Pizza Khata (22 Prospekt Lenina; +72167-41-29-19;
Where to stay
The Chibyu Hotel (38 Prospekt Lenina; +7 2167-278-30;
If you want a cozy, smaller place, try the Hotel on Oktyabrskaya (23 Oktyabrskaya Ulitsa; +7 2167-40-044;
A new business hotel, the VIP Grand Hotel (7e Stroitelei Pereulok; +7 216-767-980;
Ask about people's work. Residents are ready to work and earn money — the very reason they live here. This is illustrated by a popular local joke: An Ukhta resident travels to the sea for a vacation at the end of the summer, and his lily-white complexion is greeted with astonishment.
"Excuse me, where are you from?" people ask.
"From Ukhta," he answers.
"Doesn't Ukhta have summer? You couldn't sunbathe at all?"
"What do you mean?" the Ukhta resident says. "Of course we had summer. But I had to work that day."
How to get there
The easiest and fastest route to Ukhta is by plane. The Ukhta airport (
The train takes 27 hours and costs 2,000 to 9,000 rubles.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Roman Abramovich attended the Gubkin Moscow Institute of Oil. In fact, he attended an institute now known as the Moscow State Automobile and Road Technical University.