Ulyanovsk (Russian: Ульяновск; IPA: [ʊlʲˈjænəfsk]) is a city and the administrative center of Ulyanovsk Oblast, Russia, located on the Volga River 893 kilometers (555 mi) east from Moscow. Population: 613,786 (2010 Census); 635,947 (2002 Census); 625,155 (1989 Census).
The city, originally founded as Simbirsk (Симби́рск), is the birthplace of Vladimir Lenin (originally named Ulyanov), for whom it was renamed in 1924.
Simbirsk was founded in 1648 by the boyar Bogdan Khitrovo. The fort of «Simbirsk» (alternatively «Sinbirsk») was strategically placed on a hill on the Western bank of the Volga River. The fort was meant to protect the eastern frontier of the Russian Empire from the nomadic tribes and to establish a permanent Imperial presence in the area.
In 1668, Simbirsk withstood a month-long siege by a 20,000-strong army led by rebel Cossack commander Stenka Razin. Also in Simbirsk another country rebel, Yemelyan Pugachev, was imprisoned before execution. At the time Simbirsk possessed a wooden kremlin, which was destroyed by a fire during the 18th century.
As the eastern border of the Russian Empire was rapidly pushed into Siberia, Simbirsk rapidly lost its strategic importance, but nonetheless began to develop into an important regional center. Simbirsk was granted city status in 1796.
In the summer of 1864, Simbirsk was severely damaged by fire; however, it was quickly rebuilt and continued to grow. The Holy Trinity Cathedral was constructed in a restrained Neoclassical style between 1827–1841. The population of Simbirsk reached 26,000 by 1856 and 43,000 by 1897.
In 1924, the city was renamed Ulyanovsk in honor of Vladimir Ulyanov, better known as Lenin, who was born in Simbirsk in 1870. Two other Russian political leaders, Alexander Kerensky and Alexander Protopopov, were also born in Simbirsk.
The construction of the Kuybyshev hydroelectric plant (completed in 1957) 200 kilometers (120 mi) downstream of Ulyanovsk resulted in the flooding of significant tracts of land both north and south of Ulyanovsk and increasing the width of the Volga by up to 35 kilometers (22 mi) in some places. To this day, some populated neighborhoods of Ulyanovsk remain well below the level of the reservoir, protected from flooding by a dam: it is estimated that its catastrophic failure would submerge parts of the city comprising around 5% of its total population with as much as 10 meters (33 ft) of water.
During the Soviet period, Ulyanovsk was an important tourist center, drawing visitors from around the country because of its revolutionary importance.
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the tourist importance of Ulyanovsk sharply decreased. In the 1990s, the city went through the hardest times—a slump in production in all branches, mass unemployment, and a population impoverishment. Besides the policy of the regional authorities of that time leaning against the grants and the Soviet system of managing, has led to serious crisis of a city infrastructure. In the first decade of the 2000s the economy started to grow.
A major series of explosions occurred at an arms depot of the Russian military near Ulyanovsk on November 13, 2009. At least two people were killed in the explosion and 43 were rescued from a bomb shelter where they had taken refuge.
A heat-wave in the city in July–August 2010 caused the deaths of 300 people.