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Magnitogorsk is a mining and industrial city in Chelyabinsk Oblast, Russia, located on the eastern (Siberian) side of the extreme southern extent of the Ural Mountains by the Ural River. It was founded in 1743 as part of the 'Orenburg Line' of forts. It remained insignificant until about 1929.
The rapid development of Magnitogorsk stood at the forefront of Joseph Stalin's Five-Year Plans in the 1930s. It was a showpiece of Soviet achievement. Huge reserves of iron ore in the area made it a prime location to build a steel plant capable of challenging its Western rivals. However, a large proportion of the workforce, as ex-peasants, typically had few industrial skills and little industrial experience. To solve these issues, several hundred foreign specialists arrived to direct the work, including a team of architects headed by the German Ernst May.
A steel production facility in Magnitogorsk in the 1930s
Magnitogorsk State Technical University
According to original plans Magnitogorsk was to be inspired by Gary, Indiana and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, at the time the most prominent centers of steel production in the United States. It was to have followed the linear city design, with rows of similar superblock neighborhoods running parallel to the factory, with a strip of greenery, or greenbelt, separating them. Planners would align living and production spheres so as to minimize necessary travel time: workers would generally live in a sector of the residential band closest to the sector of the industrial band in which they worked.
However, by the time that May completed his plans for Magnitogorsk construction of both factory and housing had already started. The sprawling factory and enormous cleansing lakes had left little room available for development, and May, therefore, had to redesign his settlement to fit the modified site. This modification resulted in a city being more "rope-like" than linear. Although the industrial area is concentrated on the left bank of the river Ural, and the most residential complexes are separated and located on its right bank, the city inhabitants are still subjected to noxious fumes and factory smoke.
Town status was granted to Magnitogorsk in 1931.
In 1937 foreigners were told to exit and Magnitogorsk was declared a Closed city. There is not much reliable information about events and development of the city during the closed period.
The city played an important role during World War II because it supplied much of the steel for the Soviet war machine and its strategic location near the Ural Mountains meant Magnitogorsk was safe from seizure by the German Army.
During perestroika the closed city status was removed and foreigners were allowed to visit the city again. Years after perestroika brought a significant change in the life of the city, the Iron and Steel Plant was reorganized as a joint-stock company Magnitogorsk Iron and Steel Works (MISW or MMK), which helped with the reconstruction of the railway and building a new airport.