The city of Orsk was founded by decree of Empress Anna Ioanovna, under the name of Orenburg in 1735 in order to strengthen the borders of Russia with «Kyrgyz-Kaisak horde» (present Kazakhstan) and open trade ways into the Middle Asia and India. However, in every winter the city at the place of confluence of rivers Or and Ural (Yaik) was cut off from the European part of Russia because of snowbound mountain passes, and in spring the city was flooded. 200 meters wide river Yaik was overflowing to 4000 meters wide. So, in two years, Orenburg was moved to a new location, more convenient for administrate center, and the Fortress of Orsk became a frontier outpost.
First decades of Fortress of Orsk were marked with military operations against the local population of the Bashkir, which were rebelling against the illegal exactions and oppressions, and with complex diplomatic maneuvers in relation to adjacent Junior Zhuz (unification of the Kazakh nomadic tribes). In the Fortress of Orsk famous khan of Junior Zhuz Abulkhair came at Russia’s service. Kazakh name of the Fortress of Orsk «Zhaman-Kala» («bad city»), which today can be found on road signs of Aqtobe-Orsk road, reminds about hard times of pacification and colonization.
On the 11th June 1837 Russian poet Vasily Zhukovsky visited the Fortress of Orsk, accompanying the heir to the throne Crown Prince Alexander II (the future Tsar Alexander II) in his journey through Russia
A lot of famous people visited the Fortress of Orsk. Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko (some streets of Old City of Orsk have his name), academician Peter Simon Pallas, German scientist Alexander von Humboldt, astronomer Christopher Eiler.
The first wave of population of the city of Orsk included soldiers, Cossacks, merchants and cattle dealers. In 19th century borders of Orsk moved far to the south. The fortress lost its military significance and became a place of exile. At the end of the century gold mining added to the livestock trade and colonial goods. Gold Rush to the north-east of the city led to the replenishment of the population of Orsk with new active population. Adventurers, farmers-migrants, exiles formed the second wave of immigrants in Orsk. Merchants were getting richer, ornate stone buildings were constructing in flood-free area at the foot of the mountain of Preobrazhenskaya (Namaz-Tau). Telegraph, telephone, cinema, railway from Orenburg appeared.
By the irony of destiny, the revolution in Orsk was headed by the telegrapher Malishevsky. Litvak the merchant, the owner of the best house on the Main Street, was called to the Red Army and killed in 1918 in one of the battles with the White Cossacks. The Civil War in Orsk was marked by a three-month siege in summer of 1918. Troops of white chieftain Dutov stormed Orsk several times. Traces of trenches on Kumak and Novotroitsk heights remind of those fights, and rusty fragments of shells still can be found there.
At the years of industrialization and, as a result of evacuation of industry from European USSR in 1941, there was a rapid transformation of Orsk into a major industrial center. Population grew from 13 000 to 63 000 people. One by one factories appeared in the steppe: in 1931-1935 - Meat-packing factory, in 1936 - oil refinery factory, in 1939 - Nickel factory, in 1942 - South Ural Machine Building Factory. Besides the evacuees of Ukraine and European Russia, there were a lot of constructors and factory workers from exiled Volga Germans. The time since 1950 to 1975 was a period of aggressive industrial expansion, population of the city was replenished with graduates of the best Moscow and Ural universities.
The last large industrial construction began at 70s – it was tractor trailers factory. Before that there was a wide extensive archaeological excavation of Sarmatian Kurgans (burial mounds). Most valuable exhibits entered the Hermitage in St. Petersburg and the State Historical Museum in Moscow. Many memorials were lost under the modern constructions forever, today dozens of kurgans waiting for their researchers in the city and its immediate environs. Even more ancient era of history of Orsk is Bronze Age, forty ages ago. Orsk is on the south border of «Land of Cities» - mysterious motherland of all Indo-Europeans.