Barnaul was one of the earliest cities established in Siberia. Originally chosen for its proximity to the mineral-rich Altai Mountains and its location on a major river, the site was founded by the wealthy Demidov family in the 1730s. In addition to the copper which had originally attracted the Demidovs, substantial deposits of silver were soon found as well. In 1747, the Demidovs' factories were taken over by the Crown, and soon became the major silver center of Russia.
By the 18th and early 19th centuries, 90% of Russian silver was produced in the Altai region. Barnaul was the site of the country's largest silver-smelting factory, and as production expanded, so did the population. In 1771, the once-small settlement acquired the status of a mining town that was one of the largest in Siberia.
By the 1900s, Barnaul had grown into a major center of trade and culture of the region, especially after the construction of the Turkestan-Siberia Railway.
In 1914, Barnaul was the site of a draft riot, Russia's largest during World War I, which resulted in over a hundred casualties.
World War II
Although the city was thousands of miles away from the actual fighting, hundreds of thousands of citizens from The Altai Krai fought and died at the front in the course of the Second World War, a fact commemorated by a large memorial in central Barnaul.
The same period saw Barnaul's economic importance increase dramatically as a result of the relocation of major Soviet industrial facilities from the west of the country to the safety of distant Siberia. As a result, Barnaul continues to host one of the largest ammunition factories in Russia