(Locator); (Russia Tourist Map). Chita is a city and the administrative center of Zabaykalsky Krai (region) located in Eastern Siberia 6200 kilometers east of Moscow. It was founded in 1653 and today has about 325,000 residents. The city was originally a boat-making center known as Plotbishche. Many of its boats would later travel down the Amur River to the Pacific Ocean. Today's Chita is more known as the point where Trans-Siberian Line meets the Trans-Manchurian Railway. Trains going south from Russia to China pass through the border town of Zabaykalsk (Russia) and Manzhouli (China). Under the Soviet Union, Chita was a closed city because of its proximity to the highly militarized border zone. But since a series of treaties between the two countries in the late 1990s and 2000s, the area's strategic significance has been downgraded.
If you are in Chita for a short time, take the stroll around Chita's central square (Ploshchad Lenina) to view the old headquarters of the Siberian Military District, the local Russian Railways offices and the regional administration under the watchful gaze of Lenin. Take a tour to the Decembrists museum housed in the Old-Chita Mikhailo-Arkhangelskoi Church, the oldest (1776) wooden building in the Zabaikalsk region. If you would prefer a military topic, you could visit the small Odora Park, filled with old army and Air Force hardware, including a MiG fighter. Those with a particular interest in the Decembrists history could extend the trip by taking the four to six hour drive to nearby Petrovsk-Zabaikalsk town, the last major stop on the Trans-Siberian Railway west of Chita. Transferred to Petrovsk-Zabaikalsk in 1830, the Decembrists lived in a specially constructed prison. Today there is a museum, and in the cemetery, the grave of the only Decembrist, Ivan Gorbachevsky, who decided to stay in Petrovsk-Zabaikalsk after the Czar permitted the exiles to settle elsewhere in Siberia. Other possible trips from Chita include the Chara sands, a small desert in the far north of the region. Or the haunting and extensive Kheetei caves to the south, where the remains of long-extinct animals, including a saber-toothed tiger, have been discovered.