The city produces much heavy machinery, steel, chemicals, tires, and petroleum. Gem cutting is a well-developed light industry.
Yekaterinburg is an important railway junction, with lines radiating to all parts of the Urals and the rest of Russia. The city is the leading cultural center of the Urals and has numerous institutions of higher education, including the Urals A.M. Gorky State University (founded 1920), a conservatory, and polytechnic, mining, forestry, agricultural, law, medical, and teacher-training institutes. The Urals branch of the Academy of Sciences and many scientific-research establishments are also located there. Yekaterinburg is situated 1,667 km (1,036 mi.) east of Moscow.
There was an anthrax outbreak in Yekaterinburg (then Sverdlovsk) in April and May 1979, which was attributed by Soviet officials to the locals eating contaminated meat. However, American agencies believes that the locals inhaled spores accidentally released from an aerosol of pathogen at a military microbiology facility.
Soon after the Soviet revolution Tsar Nicholas II his wife, Alexandra Romanova, and their children Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and Tsarevich Alexei were executed in this city.