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.
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