Vignette 27.1. Profile of Biysk

Biysk (52°31'N, 85°10'E) is a typical medium-sized industrial city in Siberia. It is located near the confluence of the Biya and Katun Rivers, which form the Ob; it is about 160 km southeast of Barnaul, the capital of Altaysky Kray. Biysk is a city of 220,000 people, about the size of Olympia, Washington. It was established as a fortress under Peter the Great in 1709. The city is the final stop on the Novosibirsk–Altay railroad. Downtown Biysk has a wealth of late-19th-century historical buildings, including merchant houses, warehouses, banks, and stores. Biysk was a center for missionary activities of the Russian Orthodox Church in the mid-19th century, and a beautiful Russian Orthodox cathedral serves as a reminder of this. Biysk was chosen as a location for a number of Soviet chemical factories, including the top-secret “Altay” enterprise and other factories making explosives and solid rocket fuel. The Polyeks factory is one of the largest producers of cotton- and other-fiber-based products, including fire hoses, surgical cotton, varnishes, and enamels. Also, two large pharmaceutical factories (Altayvitaminy and Evalar) are busy with orders. Other factories include a boiler plant, an oleum plant, a fiberglass factory, an electric furnace manufacturer, and a tobacco factory.

In 2007 Biysk was named as one of about 10 naukograds (scientific cities) of Russia, which should result in a major infusion of federal cash. The city is home to a large regional university—the Shukshin Biysk Pedagogical State University with about 5,000 students. It also has a foreign-language lyceum, a few technical colleges, a medical college, and a college of economics and law. There is a fine museum of regional studies named after Vitaly Bianki, a well-known Soviet nature writer. An academy of science and arts and a small drama theater provide needed cultural influences. There are three local TV channels and four radio stations. Biysk's future may not be only in the chemical industry: It is the gateway city to the greater Altay, which begins about an hour's drive south along the federal Chuya highway. Itineraries for trips to Teletskoe Lake, Mt. Belukha, and the Katun River gorge all begin in Biysk.