Ekaterinburg, the City of Seven Districts
A large-scale study of remote districts of the Ural capital and development of various products for citizens and tourists on its basis.
The project deals with the problem of perception and self-awareness arising from living in remote districts of Ekaterinburg that trace their roots to former industrial or late Soviet residential areas.

Most of the city residents live there and yet they hardly perceive the environment as something positive: These districts seem empty, there are no sights, no places of interest. At the same time, there is a demand for developing of local territories and restoring of lost social ties within local communities. Many territories or microdistricts built around large enterprises used to be deemed as self-sustaining entities ("a city within a city"). They used to satisfy all the diverse needs of residents. But the situation has changed: Both infrastructure and self-awareness are now lost. Today, many citizens do not associate themselves with a particular territory. They know nothing about its history, its landmarks and legends, and their neighbors are total strangers to them. Bedroom communities. Nothing personal. The living environment is perceived passively and often depressingly. The space feels gray and empty. This can indirectly affect the development of creative projects in such areas and the willingness of creative class representatives to live there. According to Russian and foreign studies, there is a stable correlation between the places where creative clusters are formed and a manifestation of local identity and maturity of cultural and tourist environment.

Nevertheless, there is potentially everything one may need in these districts, including narratives, stories, and development prospects. It is important to allow it all to reveal itself; to provide people with the opportunity to be proud of the place of their residence, to make it fascinating; and to promote networking within these districts. Doing this in the scale of all remote districts of the city is what became the ambition and dream of the Ekaterinburg History Museum team.
What have we managed to do?
The study of remote parts of the city began in 2015 when the Ekaterinburg History Museum launched the Uralmash: Production of the Future project and set the famous anti-excursion Bus Route No. 33 in motion. Back then, our team set itself the task of changing the appearance of the city by the date of its 300th anniversary: primarily at the level of the history of various districts.

From 2016 to 2022, the museum team has studied 19 microdistricts, created over 30 unique tours, 10 exhibitions, 5 documentary performances, 22 local maps, 3 thick guides, and a series of souvenirs; and also launched the People's Universities 2.0 project and a tourist website dedicated to remote districts of Ekaterinburg.
How are we doing it?
When collecting materials about the city, we pay great attention to oral history.

1. In the district representation, an important role is played by formats that are used to convey such a delicate matter. A documentary theater and so-called "anti-excursions" are of particular importance. For example, Bus Route No. 33 is a tour based on the memories of Uralmash residents, places and events they consider important. Each stop on the route is dedicated to the history of one particular family. It is a game-changing format. We are used to seeing the city as something created by great forces or by important structures. But on this route, we help people realize that any place is actually assembled from ideas, ambitions, and stories of individuals. And thus, we increase the understanding that the history of the city consists of many separate stories—the stories of people like us.

This is also actualized through full-fledged documentary performances—for example, our promenade performance which is held in the building of an old community center in the Uralmash District where we tell stories about different people and the district itself as if it all was some kind of a myth (just because this whole area was once built around a factory that no longer operates). This performance is almost a kind of farewell to the place. A respectful one. Even though the past of the district disappeared, it still does matter. And at the same time, we are talking about what will happen with this district next.

Another regional documentary theater project is the play Grandma's House(m-i-e.ru/babushkin-dom), dedicated to the history of an indigenous family that has been living in the Nizhneisetsky/Khimmash District for over 150 years. This play is all about a particular member of this family who discovered this history and is now trying to develop an understanding of it. The Grandma's House is a very warm, lively story, where each family member is brought to life. The big narrative is assembled from the private stories of the heroine about her grandmother.
2. Another important way of representation is the creation of a tourism website dedicated to peripheral Ekaterinburg. It features a collection of the main accumulated knowledge about the city's microdistricts. The website has three main sections.

The About the Districts section contains general historical long-reads—voluminous multimedia materials. They are the product of our large-scale study of the microdistricts. This information is supplemented by the History section. This section provides detailed information on some places and phenomena of the districts while putting things into layman's terms and featuring some rare old and contemporary photos. The same section features some district routes: they are just easy strolls for those who want to get familiar with the area without delving too deeply into its history. You won't find many historical details here. But there are maps, lunch places, and landmark locations for memorable pictures.

The second section is called Map. It features a map of Ekaterinburg that shows the boundaries of the city's administrative districts and the seven microdistricts mentioned in the project. The map also displays the landmarks, historical and cultural sites of the districts. You will find more places here than in our long reads. You can hover your mouse over any object to see its photo, name, address, and year of build. The map has several filters: by district and by site type.

Last but not least, the third main section, Games, comes with seven quizzes about the seven microdistricts. Here you can have some fun: either test your knowledge after reading long reads or learn some additional historical facts. The tests are pretty simple. There is a statement and you have to either agree or disagree with it.
3. Another product that is really important to us is our printed media. The museum releases both small maps and heavy tomes, which are 250-page guides offering extensive information about the area. For example, the guidebook titled The Worlds of Elmash is written by six authors. It contains seven routes and over 250 pages that include witnesses' recollections, newspaper paragraphs, and photographs, as well as implemented and might-have-been projects. Every route is a new author, a new perspective on the "houses and nooks" of the district, its history, and stories of people who lived there. From impassioned narrative to fragments of a biographical manuscript, it's a true literary patchwork. The cover features an amazing "veil of memory"—a hand-embroidered map of Elmash by artist Daria Kuznetsova who grew up in that district.
4. A more traditional way of representing district stories is exhibitions. In total, the museum launched over ten expositions that can be divided into three main groups. The first one consists of general district exhibitions featuring historical photographs and artifacts. Unique, previously unknown private and governmental photo archives were often shown here for the first time. The second focus area is various art projects where artists, jointly with historians, interpret the district specifics through studying historical materials and embarking on district tours. The first exhibition was held in the Uralmash District. Three other projects were later displayed at the Metenkov House. The third group of exhibitions encompassed all projects dedicated to certain phenomena and institutions. An example would be an exhibition devoted to consumer goods produced by large machine-building colossi and non-core enterprises. Or an exhibition about the Sverdlovsk Regional Clinical Hospital No. 1, one of the key institutions in the Yugo-Zapadny District.

5. Another way to treat the city districts is hosting a series of festivals that promote local identity, help active local people manifest themselves, and raise the question of the district development prospects. These include the Days of Uralmash, festivals of district tours, the local identity festival The Southern Gates (in the Khimmash Microdistrict), and a series of creative laboratories titled The Nineties: The Time of Poets(in the Vtorchermet Microdistrict).
6. Last but not least are various souvenirs and board games. A corporate identity was developed for the project. It was materialized in a souvenir line that included postcards, magnets, and a sticker pack collection designed by local artists. Another museum's product took the shape of a game. It was A Mega Day Off in Ekaterinburg, a game developed in partnership with the Mega shopping center. The main heroes of the game were characters from different parts of the city.
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