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One of the oldest cities in the Far East, Yakutsk was founded in 1632 as a Cossack fort, and later served as a base for expeditions to the Pacific coast. The most unrepentant dissidents (including Decembrists and Bolsheviks) were exiled here. It was a 'jail without doors, ' as the swamps, mountains, ice and bug-infested forests did a pretty good job of keeping people from going anywhere. In the late 19th century, Yakutsk became a kind of 'wild east' version of Dodge City - a boozy, bawdy rest-and-recreation centre for the region's increasing number of gold-miners.

Today, money is more noticeably being spent on striking modern architecture around the city, the legacy of former republic president Mikhail Nikolayev. A good example is the angular Sakha Theatre on pl Ordzhonikidze.