Yekaterinburg or Ekaterinburg (both: yĭkäˌtĭrēmbŏrkˈ) [key], formerly Sverdlovsk svyĭrdlôfskˈ, city (1989 pop. 1,365,000), capital of the Sverdlovsk region and the administrative center of the Urals federal district, E European Russia, in the eastern foothills of the central Urals, on the Iset River. One of the largest cities of the Urals, it is an air and rail junction (a western terminus of the Trans-Siberian RR) and a leading industrial, scientific, and cultural center. Yekaterinburg is among Russia's leading producers of turbines and ball bearings. Other industries include metallurgy, gem cutting, and the manufacture of chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and tires. The city's educational and cultural institutions include the Urals branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Urals Law Institute, several mining schools, and a meteorological observatory.
Sverdlovsk began as a fort and metallurgical factory built in 1721 on the site of an earlier settlement. In 1723 the city was named Yekaterinburg in honor of Peter I's wife, who became Empress Catherine I. The first ironworks were established in 1726, and the city developed steadily as an administrative center for the mining towns of the Urals and Siberia. Its importance was enhanced by the building of the Great Siberian Highway through the city in 1783, but even more so by the construction of the Trans-Siberian RR in the 19th cent. Czar Nicholas and his family were imprisoned and shot by the Bolsheviks at Yekaterinburg in 1918. The city was renamed in 1924 for the Communist leader Y. M. Sverdlov. The transfer of much Soviet industry from European USSR to the less vulnerable Urals during World War II further stimulated the growth of Sverdlovsk. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the name of Yekaterinburg was restored to the city.