[From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]
Chita (Russian: Чита; IPA: [tɕɪˈta]) is a city and the administrative center of Zabaykalsky Krai, Russia, located at the confluence of the Chita and Ingoda Rivers and on the Trans-Siberian Railway, 900 kilometers (560 mi) east of Irkutsk. Population: 324,444 (2010 Census); 316,643 (2002 Census); 365,754 (1989 Census).
The region was originally inhabited by local Mongolic and Turkic tribes, along with various Chinese traders for several centuries before the Russians arrived there. The settlement of Chita is known since 1653, when it was founded by Pyotr Beketov’s Cossacks, but it had been overshadowed by Nerchinsk until the 20th century. Chita was granted town status on July 11, 1851. By 1885, the population had reached 5,728, and by 1897 it increased to 11,480.
After 1825, several of the Decembrists suffered exile to Chita; thus, Chita is on occasion called the «City of Exiles». Many of the Decembrists were intellectuals and members of the middle class, and consequently their arrival had a positive effect. The well-educated exiles made an effort to educate the citizens of Chita and to pursue trade. Through these efforts, the city became a major trading portal in Siberia, particularly since the natural resources of the area included timber, gold and uranium.
At the end of the 19th century, many Muslims settled in Chita, attracted by its trading potential. These Muslims were mainly of Tatar origin. They settled down near the Jewish quarter and built a mosque. Many Tatars living in Chita descend from these immigrants.
Perhaps due in part to the influence of the early revolutionary exiles, Chita became a center for worker unrest in the early years of the 20th century. After the massacre of Gapon and his workers in St. Petersburg in January 1905, Chita became a center for worker demonstrations, which led to armed revolutionaries taking control of the city and declaring the «Chita Republic». Troops sent by the Nicholas II of Russia quickly crushed the new government and its leaders
Chita was occupied by the Japanese between 1918 and 1920. From 1920 to 1922, Chita served as the capital of the Far Eastern Republic. From the 1930s to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Chita was a closed city. During this period, foreigners were prohibited from traveling to Chita, as were many Russians. The basis for the closing of the city was apparently its proximity to China and military installations. During World War II, a significant number of Japanese soldiers were taken as prisoners of war and put to work in the construction industry. Chita has since been famous for hosting numerous examples of Japanese-inspired architecture, especially in the city center.
In 1945, Puyi, the last Emperor of China, and some of his associates were held prisoner in the city, in a former sanatorium for officers.