Famous for its legendary guerilla founders - the Cossacks - the 392 year-old city of Uralsk is the very symbol of the Republic of Kazakhstan's rich cultural and historical heritage. Established in 1613, it bore witness to many uprisings that had deeply impacted the course of the nation's history, such as the rebellions of Stenka Razin in 1667 and Yemelyan Pugachev in 1773. Since that time, the city has grown considerably to become a major ecomonic and cultural center in the region.
Nestled in the grand steppes of Eastern Europe, the city boasts of the famed Ural River, which for centuries has been an important route for traders and travelers traversing Siberia and Central Asia. Being located as close as it is to the border of neighboring Russia, it necessarily has a distinct Soviet influence in its culture and architecture. Its beautiful buildings and infrastructure are the main tourist destinations, and they include museums, art centers, historical sites and majestic Russian churches.
The city also has a unique winter festival known as the "Eskimo Swim." Celebrated annually, it is in essence a religious practice in the area that is said to cleanse one of sins and assures him a year of good fortune. Participants dive into a supposedly blessed (but frozen!) river three times - clad only in their underwear. That can be cold indeed as cold can be!
Uralsk also prides itself on its magnificent and mostly unspoiled landscape, rare wildlife and unique plant species. Its steppes and forests contain a lot of small animals such as hares, foxes and boars and a vast flock of different kinds of birds. The city is also known for its sizable fishing grounds that are stocked with schools of carp, pikes and breams. The beautiful countryside is like a soothing invigorating balm for the senses - featuring a stunning backdrop of snow-capped mountains, grassy steppes and gently sloping hills.
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