Nevyа́nsk (ru: Невья́нск) is a historic town in the central part of Sverdlovsk Oblast. Unofficial capital of 18th-century Ural industry, Nevyansk retains little of its former heritage, but the single edifice that remains from those glory days–the Leaning Tower–is well worth seeing. The unique and bizarre Leaning Tower is testament to the greatness of the Demidov family, who stood at the roots of the region's industry. Further attractions include artifacts from the Old Believers who once lived here, local crafts, and the scenic landscapes of the Central Urals.
Coat-of-arms with symbols of Nevyansk: the leaning tower, cannonballs, and Y-shaped tools for ore discovery
Nevyansk (formerly Nevyansky Zavod) is sited on the Neyva river, 75km north of Ekaterinburg and 50km south of Nizhny Tagil, and a short distance east of the Ural mountains. Though the town is surrounded by flat fields, gentle wooded hills are visible from any vantage point. Its population is 25,000, as of 2010.
Despite the discovery of iron ore in the middle 17th century, the official foundation date of Nevyansk is 1699, when Peter the Great commissioned the construction of state-owned ironworks that were completed in 1701. One year later, the factory was granted to Nikita Demidov, the future tycoon who was already renowned for his ironworks in Tula. Thanks to Demidov's efficient management, Nevyansk thrived throughout the 18th century, and remained the leader of the rapidly developing region in which the Demidov family was the undisputed master. They settled in Nevyansk, thus making it an unofficial capital (the official one had been Ekaterinburg since its foundation around 1725). This period is commemorated by the Leaning Tower, as well as the first professional college in the Ural region (tsifirnaya shkola, later transferred to Nizhny Tagil). The principal manufactured goods of the town were elaborate chests and, naturally, cast iron traded under the brand name "Old Sable". By the end of the 18th century, the supplies of iron ore had diminished, local forests had been mostly cut down, and the empire of the Demidovs had disintegrated. More efficient iron production was performed in Nizhny Tagil, while industries in Nevyansk cast and forged the iron as well as producing the gold and platinum that were discovered in early 19th century. The town's factory was renamed the Nevyansk Mechanical Plant (presently named Nevyansk Machine Factory) and began to produce a variety of simple cast-iron items, such as girders, shovels, and wheels. In the Soviet era, the plant was repurposed to produce ammunition and large-scale machinery for heavy industry. This reorganization halted the smelting works and distinguished Nevyansk, with its gorgeous skyline that boasted a tower and cathedral, from a raft of neighboring industrial towns dominated by lofty and rusty blast furnaces. In 1914, a cement factory was launched in a new district located a few kilometers south-west of Nevyansk.
While the lack of an unsightly rusty blast furnace can be seen as an advantage, by the same token Nevyansk is missing most of its historical buildings. Until the 1990s, few people recognized the historical significance of the town. The unique Leaning Tower belonged to the factory and might have been demolished if not for the continuous efforts of architecture buffs. Recently, the situation reversed itself: the factory has diminished in importance, whereas the Tower was proclaimed a major regional landmark. Ample funding facilitated its rapid renovation, making the Tower fully accessible to the public. Active promotion of the tower as a local landmark drew many visitors and rendered Nevyansk a popular day trip, to the extent where it should perhaps be avoided on weekends. The tourist business is largely focused on the Leaning Tower, but there are more things to see: for example, the artifacts from the Old Believers, who were allowed to reside in neighboring villages because of the pragmatically tolerant attitude of the Demidovs toward religion. The so-called Old Believers, who did not support the reform of the Russian Orthodox Church in the mid-17th century, are supposed to be the originators founders of Nevyansk icons, a distinct painting tradition that features soft hues, lavish gold decorations, and strictly canonical imagery. Nowadays, these icons are mostly showcased in the museums at Ekaterinburg, but you can also see them in Nevyansk or, preferably, in the village of Byngi which boasts authentic houses and an old church designed by Old Believers. Tourists with less interest in history and arts enjoy numerous local crafts, especially the production of pottery.
Tourist information is available from the local museum . They also offer a great variety of guided tours, though they are generally given in Russian and largely exaggerate the real significance of the town.
The nearest international airport is Koltsovo International Airport in Ekaterinburg. Nevyansk is accessible via Ekaterinburg, or direct buses are available to Nizhny Tagil (#1036) and Krasnoturyinsk (#825). The buses depart early in the morning and return to the airport around midnight. Travel time is 2.5 hours.
The train station is in the western part of Nevyansk: 8 Popova St., phone: +7 (34356) 2-30-40 (information), 2-14-46 (booking office). Follow Krasnoarmeyskaya Street to the town center (about 1.5km).
The bus station is contiguous with the train station. Similar to the railway, passengers can choose between Ekaterinburg and Nizhny Tagil. However, travelers should take care as some of the buses do not stop in Nevyansk.
From Ekaterinburg: buses depart from the northern bus station (автовокзал «Северный») bound for Nevyansk (#686), Nizhny Tagil]] (#640, ask explicitly if it stops in Nevyansk), Nizhnyaya Salda (#630), Verkhnyaya Salda (#602), and Serov (#810). Buses depart approximately hourly, travel time: 2 hours.
Departing from Nizhny Tagil is somewhat complicated. Minibuses directly to Nevyansk exist, in addition to regular buses to Ekaterinburg (#602, 630, 640, 810; check if they stop in Nevyansk), Rezh (#526), Tyumen (#957), and Chelyabinsk (#593). Buses depart every hour, travel time: 1 hour.
Follow the P352 highway from Ekaterinburg (92km) or Nizhny Tagil (54km); take any of the exits labeled "Nevyansk". They are all close to the town center. Another local road comes from Rezh (92km).
Map of Nevyansk
Nevyansk features a simple rectangular layout, with the dam and dilapidated factory complex in the very center. The dammed Neyva river and the adjacent reservoir (literally translated from Russian as Nevyansk Pond) cut the town into western and eastern parts. Major streets in the western part are Lenina Street and Dzerzhinskogo Street (leading from Ekaterinburg), Stepana Razina Street (leading from Nizhny Tagil), Kirova Street (from Byngi and Tavolgi), and Krasnoarmeyskaya Street linking the train station to the historical center. In the eastern part, Oktyabr'skiy Avenue and Shevchenko Street lead to Rezh.
The town is relatively small and easily explored by foot. If you need a lift, flag down one of the minibuses running from the train station to the historical center, which is at the bus stop universam Yuzhny (универсам «Южный») at 23 Lenina St.
Gorod (Город) — +7 (34356) 2-22-22, 2-33-99
Iva (Ива) — +7 (34356) 2-21-22
Motor (Мотор) — +7 (34356) 2-30-95
Shturman (Штурман) — +7 (34356) 2-10-55
Most of the sights are clustered around the pedestrian area adjacent to the dam and Revolyutsii Square (пл. Революции).
The Leaning Tower depicted on a souvenir coin
Acoustic room with rounded ceiling and cast-iron bars
Transfiguration Cathedral seen from the Leaning Tower
Monument to Peter the Great and Nikita Demidov
Nevyansk museum (former power plant) and the Leaning Tower
Cultural center of the machine factory
Nevyansk (Leaning) Tower. This gorgeous structure was built between 1721 and 1742. Its history, purpose, and style are a matter of numerous local myths. A piece of undisputed information is the Tower's original shape, with a lofty rectangular base surmounted by three octagonal tiers and a spire. The tilt is smaller than in Pisa, but still clearly visible. Scientists believe that the Tower unintentionally leaned during the construction and, nevertheless, remained stable because of a proper change in the design. Legend has it differently: cellars of the Tower were flooded to conceal counterfeiting, thereby the ground sank, and the tower leaned. Others claim that Demidovs admired Italian architecture and deliberately commissioned a leaning tower for their own residence. There is, indeed, some Italian flavor in the style, although Nevyansk Tower is far from being an exact copy of any specific building. It does not resemble Russian fortresses either. The whole structure is threaded with bars made of locally produced cast iron. These bars are not merely a framework (although they do form a rebar, and the whole tower is an early example of a reinforced-concrete structure), but also parts of the lightning rod, which is, supposedly, the first ever constructed. Both architecture and interior of the tower by far excel most 18th-century Russian buildings. The Tower not only distinguished Nevyansk from a raft of dreary industrial settlements in the neighborhood, but also epitomized the consequence of the Demidovs family.
The inside of the Tower is also fancy as well. First of all, you will see tons of weighty cast iron shaped into doors, stairs, and, of course, bars forming the framework (those are best viewed from the porch). One of the levels is occupied by the chemical lab (legend relates this lab to counterfeiting), while another one is a so-called acoustic room, where two people can whisper and hear each other from opposite corners. Upstairs, you find a sumptuous clock manufactured in England in 1730, and an observation deck. Genuine decor is not preserved, and most rooms are filled with dull exhibits. The unusual structure and peculiar clock are, nevertheless, a good reason to go inside.
Entering the Tower is only possible on a guided tour organized by the local museum. This costs 200 rubles per person or 1250 rubles for a group of up to 5 people (2012). Tedious tours, typically given in Russian, largely narrate local myths and do not require booking. English translation can be provided for an extra price (book at least one week in advance). On weekends, tours start every half an hour, rendering the Tower with its narrow passages very congested.
Vicinity of the Tower looks bizarre, because brand-new constructions blend with the unkempt and defunct area. Bright-yellow Transfiguration cathedral built in classicism style (1824-1830, desecrated in 1930s and rebuilt in 2000s) boasts a fine faience iconostasis. The bizarre monument to Peter the Great and Nikita Demidov adjoins a copper-colored brick building from early 20th century, formerly a power plant, presently a museum. This building is heavily influenced by the Oriental architecture and matches the Leaning Tower in its outlandishness. Local designers tried to exaggerate the effect and replaced one side of the building with a glass wall, which unfortunately looks anything but congruent.
While one side of the square is fenced in by a nicely cast iron railing, the northern side exposes a concrete wall of the dilapidated factory. Peek behind the wall by climbing the tower and watching the factory from above. If you prefer more quaint and fascinating views, though, cross the dam, pass by a short section of village houses, and climb the Lebyazhka mountain to enjoy the panorama of Nevyansk with the tower, cathedral and large pond in front.
Nevyansk History and Architecture Museum (Невьянскийисторико-архитектурныймузей), 2 Revolyutsii Sq. (пл. Революции, 2), ☎ +7 (34356) 2-43-99, 2-20-56 (guided tours) (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Tu–F 8–17, Sa–Su 9—17, May–Sept 9–19. The collection is split between the two buildings: the former power plant behind the Leaning Tower and the small house on Revolyutsii Square. The latter also has a tiny and free outdoor exposition of local products. The common exhibition of dried herbs and stuffed animals is flavored by some regional specialties, such as Nevyansk icons, artifacts from the peat bog of Shigir, and iron castings from Casli. Since similar (and more enticing) things are on display in Ekaterinburg, the museum is not really worth visiting, unless you have to pass the time before going to the tower, or look for a guided city tour (a pretty odd idea, though).Entrance fee: 60+40 rubles for the two museums (2012).
Nevyansk Icon Museum (ДомНевьянскойиконы), 2 Krasnoarmeyskaya St., ☎ +7 (34356) 2-40-05, . A part of the icon-painting workshop, this small collection occupies only two rooms. One contains old icons, while the other one is taken by an exhibition of brand-new icons produced by the workshop. Even though all viable masterpieces were taken to Ekaterinburg long ago (never to be returned), the museum is well worth seeing for its spiritual ambiance and avid staff.
Nevyansk Factory Museum (МузейНевьянскогозавода), ☎ +7 (34356) 2-27-13. This museum showcases a bunch of local products, varying from construction elements of the Leaning Tower and fancy cast-iron tools to large-scale machines and ammunition. The factory itself is a riot of abandoned buildings including some 19th-century workshops. It also harbors another bizarre monument to Peter the Great and Nikita Demidov, who is now portrayed as a noble. The museum does exist, but neither the schedule nor access information are available. If you feel interested, inquire at the History and Architecture Museum.
Out of the center
Churches are few. Trinity church (Троицкая церковь) at the marketplace (20 Kirova St.) was built in 1853 and lost its dome in 1930s. Re-consecrated in 1990s, it remains rather bland. The smaller Church of the Ascension (Вознесенская церковь) at the cemetery (built in 1871; Kos'kovich St.) is embellished with a wooden bell-tower, and looks pretty.
Tiny park at Revolyutsii square features a freaky war memorial and a huge piece of iron commemorating pre-revolutionary industrial strikes. This piece, colloquially known as kozyol (literally, a goat), was intentionally solidified to block and damage the blast furnace. The square is flanked by pale-green post-war (Stalinist) residential buildings surrounding a pretty one-story house topped by statues of young pioneers.
Regular buildings are mostly bland or even ugly. Note the nice art nouveau house (former female school) at 6 Karla Marksa St. and a block of 19th-century merchant's houses at Komsomol'skaya St., Krylova St., and Kirova St. While wooden carvings typically adorn window frames, the house of Afanasiy Abramov (54 Kommuny St.) transcends this ordinary manner of decoration and sports elaborate carving all over the surface. Scarce examples of adequate Soviet architecture are the gloomy pale-green buildings on Revolyutsii square and the neoclassicism-style cultural center of the Machine Factory (1 Malysheva St.) Five-story residential buildings from 1960s are "decorated" with light-brown paste (presumably, for the sake of warming) and look even more disgusting than they normally are.
Lebyazhka mountain is a pretty hillock in the north-eastern suburb of Nevyansk. It is likely the best vantage point, with a panoramic view of the town and distant mountains. To reach the top, follow Shevchenko St. towards Rezh and hold left at the point where the main road veers right (Gorodskaya St.) Given some driving skill, you can also get to the top by car.
Pottery craft, 39 Kuybysheva St., Nizhnie Tavolgi (14 km north-east from Nevyansk; second house on the left-hand side as you drive in), ☎ +7 (912) 614–88–37, . Sergey Maslennikov, the self-employed potter, gives guided tours and master classes in his workshop. While Sergey makes a variety of earthenware, his wife molds and paints clay toys. Their crafts are on sale, but you can also get something for free, once you manage to produce it (using the potter's wheel is not that simple). Arrange the visit in advance and bring work clothes.
Tavolga earthenware (Таволжскаякерамика), Nizhnie Tavolgi and Verkhnie Tavolgi, ☎ +7 (34356) 3-92-26 (shop, tours), (912) 253-44-49 (tours), (34356) 3-92-10 (shop, tours), . Tu—Su, 10—17. A large-scale version of the potter's workshop, this enterprise has only one strong point: facilities to feed, accommodate, and entertain large tour groups. Otherwise, you may deem it a bit disappointing to discover primitive tableware and toys that are abundant in gift shops (podarki) throughout the country. Facilities and exhibitions are located in twin villages Verkhnie Tavolgi and Nizhnie Tavolgi. Souvenir shops are placed in both villages to make sure that nobody leaves without a purchase.
Diverse crafts are advertised by the History and Architecture Museum:
The information on these workshops is vague: inquire at the museum.
Ski resorts and all kinds of mountain-related activities are sited west from Nevyansk, around Kirovgrad and Verkhny Tagil.
Stock up with food and houseware in small shops that are available throughout the town center. Chain supermarkets have not reached Nevyansk yet.
Bookstore: 12 Malysheva St.
Bakeries: 2 Karla Marksa St., 11a M. Gor'kogo St.
Drinks and beverages: 1 Volodarskogo St.
Simple souvenirs and local food specialties (gingerbread, jams) are on sale at the Leaning Tower. Lots of regional products — both usable, decorative, and totally useless — can be purchased from local crafts. If you fancy to buy local icons, contact the workshop.
16 Krasnoarmeyskaya St. (phone: +7 (34356) 4-06-01) M—F 8:20—18, Sa 9:20—16; 24/7 ATM
12 Malysheva St. (phone: +7 (34356) 2-29-52) M—F 8:30—18, Sa 8:30—17; lunch break 13—14; 24/7 ATM
1 Kirova St. (Sberbank, 8—23)
13 Lenina St. (Gazprombank, 9—20)
15 Lenina St. (Sberbank, 24/7)
21 Lenina St. (VTB24, 24/7)
10 Matveeva St. (Sberbank, 24/7)
Akinfiy (кафе «Акинфий»), 5a Lenina St., ☎ +7 (34356) 2-22-28, (904) 388-12-94, . 12—23, F & Sa till 24. A hodge-podge of culinary styles, including Russian, Italian, and Japanese cuisine, is mingled with an austere interior and a strict alcohol policy (beer only).Main dishes: 100—150 rubles (2010).
Simba (кафе «Симба»), 30 Lenina St., ☎ +7 (34356) 2-23-48. A decent self-service cafe with freshly cooked and savory meals. All served in normal dishes (no plastic stuff). A good choice of ice-cream and desserts.Main dishes: around 100 rubles (2010).
Sirius (кафевразвлекательномцентре «Сириус»), 2 Oktyabr'skiy Av. Lunch menu.
Byn'gi (Быньги́, accent the second syllable) is a former village of Old Believers 7 km north-east from Nevyansk. Nowadays, the distinction between Old Believers and "conventional" Orthodox Christians is largely gone, but the churches remind of the time when schismatic groups were severely oppressed by the government. The Church of St. Nicholas (1789—1797, presently belongs to Moscow Patriarchate) was built during a short period of religious tolerance, and looks like incorporating all styles local people could know of. It is a strange but pretty amalgam of baroque and classicism flavored by Byzantine style and supplemented with an old-fashioned clock on the bell tower. The church was in service during the Soviet times, thereby preserving lots of Nevyansk icons and exhibiting them in the most natural ambience. Dim lights illuminate the anticipated stocks of cast iron that cover the floor and enclose the iconostasis. The abundance of dark metal amplifies the mystic atmosphere. The Kazan Church (late 19th century, a kind of neo-Russian style) is way more bland and still belongs to Old Believers (edinovertsy). On regular houses, elaborate wooden carvings abound.
Get in: minibuses depart from universam Yuzhny in the center of Nevyansk.
Kunara, a village 18 km south-east from Nevyansk, is known for a funky and somewhat psychedelic house of Sergey Kirillov, a late smith. His hobby of wooden carving developed into an art of studding the house with naive decorations, eventually making it look like a gingerbread or a birthday cake. There is no official museum, but the widow of the smith is friendly to travellers.
Get in: minibuses to Ayatka (Аятка), #102 via Shayduriha (Шайдуриха), 8 times a day.
Lake Ayatskoe — a scenic lake with swampy shores and tiny islands. Perfect for fishing. Boats and other tools are for rent from rangers who can be found on the north-eastern shore near Shayduriha (Шайдуриха) village.
Get in: by car only. Drive local roads via Shayduriha or take P352 and turn right towards the lake.
Shurala is a village 6 km south from Nevyansk. Formerly an industrial settlement, it now boasts the bulky Alexander Nevsky cathedral (early 20th century, classicism) and gold mines in the neighborhood.
Get in: local trains to Ekaterinburg, take off at the 419 km station. Alternatively, take a bus bound for Kirovgrad.
Verkhnie Tavolgi (Верхние Таволги) and Nizhnie Tavolgi (Нижние Таволги) are twin villages 12-14 km north-east from Nevyansk. Diverse pottery craft supplied with a hotel and place for lunch.
Get in: minibuses depart from universam Yuzhny in the center of Nevyansk.