Irkutsk is a pleasant town, especially in the center. Very walkable and plenty of cafés, beautiful old wooden houses and renovated 19’th century classical buildings. It was founded in the 1700s, when Russia expanded eastwards at an amazing pace, conquering kingdoms and khan-doms. During the 1800s, it was filled up through deportation. Hundreds of thousands of Russians from all over the Tsar’s empire were sent to Sibiria for small and large crimes, and were not allowed to come back to European Russia. One prominent group were the Decembrists, a group of upper class intellectuals who tried to start a revolution in 1825, who ended up in Irkutsk, with plenty of money to build nice houses and bring ‘culture’ to the town. During the Soviet era, the Decembrists were used in propaganda as ‘good revolutionaries’ and many new stories were invented. Read more on Wikipedia about Irkutsk and the Decembrists.