Irkutsk, founded in the middle of the XVII century. as a winter settlement of traders and tax collectors, grew strongly at the beginning of the XIX century. Members of the Decembrist revolt against Tsar Nicholas I, sent en masse to Siberia, Irkutsk turned into a cultural center. Today it is one of the largest and most important cities in Siberia, where more than half a million people. In Irkutsk, numerous universities, historic churches and museums. The road from the city to Lake Baikal is only an hour away by train.