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Irkutsk. Bely Dom.

Irkutsk. Bely Dom.

It's an austere three-storied building in the Russian Empire style typical in Russia at the beginning of the 19th century. Local people referred to it as Bely Dom (what means White House). It was the property of one of the richest merchant of Siberia. His name was Ksenofont Sibiryakov. The building is an original reproduction of the Currency Bank (now the Voznesensky Institute of Finance and Economics in St. Petersburg) built in St. Petersburg by the eminent architect Giacomo Quarengi (1744 - 1817). It has the same six powerful Corinthian columns with the bell-shaped capitals typical of this style. But they are more restrained in St. Petersburg and more flamboyant in Irkutsk), the same neat triangular pediment, the same exquisite stuccoed ceilings and bright mirror-like walls. The interior of the house was decorated with the most superb tapestries and paintings.

In 1838 Bely Dom was turned over to the government and became the residence of the Governor-General of Eastern Siberia. Top state officials, foreign ambassadors and Russian emissaries on their way to China were received here and balls and banquets in honour of special occasions were held here too. The house was visited by the exiled Decembrists in the 1840s and 1850s, and later by Piotr Kropotkin (1842-1921), a Russian revolutionary, one of the theoreticians of anarchism, and renowned traveler and geographer. Mikhail Bakunin (1814-76), a Russian revolutionary and one of the founders and theoreticians of anarchism and Populism, stayed with his relative, Governor-General Nikolai Muraviov-Amursky in one of the house's ground-floor rooms. In 1857, for his revolutionary activity Bakunin was exiled to Eastern Siberia from where in 1861 he fled across Japan and USA to London.

In October 1917 Bely Dom was used by the Central Executive Committee of the Workers', Peasants' and Solders' Soviets of Siberia, all power in the province and Eastern Siberia had been transferred into their hands at that time.

A year later Irkutsk University was opened here. When later it was transferred to another building Bely Dom became the home of the University's scientific library, containing over 3,000,000 volumes, including over 10,000 very rare old books, Russian and foreign classics published during their authors' lifetime, unique manuscripts, sets of very rare journals. The History Library in Moscow, one of the largest in the country, contains a similar number of volumes.

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