In the land now occupied by Yekaterinburg, there have been settlements of people since ancient times. The earliest of the ancient settlements dated back to 8000 BC to 7000 BC during the Mesolithic Period. In the area of Isetskoe Pravoberezhnoye I, a settlement dating back to 6000 BC to 5000 BC of the Neolithic Period, stone processing workshops were found with artifacts such as grinding plates, anvils, clumps of rock, tools and finished products. According to the analysis of artifacts, the inhabitants of the settlement used over 50 different rocks and minerals to make tools, which indicates a good knowledge of the population of that time of the region's natural resources. On the peninsula Gamayun (left bank of the Upper Iset Pond), there are archaeological monuments dating back to the Chalcolithic Period: in the upper part there were found workshops for the production of stone tools, in the lower part - a settlement of two dwellings belonging to the Ayat people. Also in this area traces of his stay (the original dishes with the image of birds, evidence of metallurgical production) left the population of the Koptyak people, dating back to 2000 BC , while on the monument of Tent I were found the only traces of burials of this culture in the Urals. In the Bronze Age, the Gamayun people lived in the area, leaving behind fragments of ceramics, weapons, ornaments.
Archaeological artifacts in the vicinity of Yekaterinburg were discovered for the first time at the end of the 19th century in an area being constructed for a railway. Excavations and research took place starting from the 20th century. The artifacts are kept in museums such as the Sverdlovsk Regional Museum of Local Lore, the Hermitage, and the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography of the Academy of Sciences.
Russian historian Vasily Tatishchev and Russian engineer Georg Wilhelm de Gennin founded Yekaterinburg with the construction of a massive iron-making plant under the degree of Russian emperor Peter the Great in 1723. They named the city after the emperor's wife, Yekaterina, who later became empress regnant Catherine I. The official date of the city's foundation is 18 November 1723, when the shops was carried out a test run of the bloomery for trip hammers. The plant was commissioned on 24 November, 6 days later, which its size and technical equipment exceeded all metallurgical enterprises not only in the country, but also in the world. It was granted town status in 1796.
The city was one of Russia's first industrial cities, prompted at the start of the eighteenth century by decrees from the Tsar requiring the development in Yekaterinburg of metal-working businesses. The city was built, with extensive use of iron, to a regular square plan with iron works and residential buildings at the center. These were surrounded by fortified walls, so that Yekaterinburg was at the same time both a manufacturing center and a fortress at the frontier between Europe and Asia. It therefore found itself at the heart of Russia's strategy for further development of the entire Ural region. The so-called Siberian Route became operational in 1763 and placed the city on an increasingly important transit route, which led to its development as a focus of trade and commerce between east and west, and gave rise to the description of the city as the "window on Asia". With the growth in trade and the city's administrative importance, the ironworks became less critical, and the more important buildings were increasingly built using expensive stone. Small manufacturing and trading businesses proliferated. In 1781 Russia's empress, Catherine the Great, nominated the city as the administrative center for the wider region.
Following the October Revolution, the family of deposed Tsar Nicholas II were sent to internal exile in Yekaterinburg where they were imprisoned in the Ipatiev House in the city. In the early hours of the morning of July 17, 1918, the deposed Tsar, his wife Alexandra, and their children Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and Tsarevich Alexei were executed by the Bolsheviks at the Ipatiev House. Other members of the Romanov family were killed at Alapayevsk later the same day. On 16 July 1918, the Czechoslovak legions were closing on Yekaterinburg. The Bolsheviks executed the deposed imperial family, believing that the Czechoslovaks were on a mission to rescue them. The Legions arrived less than a week later and captured the city. The city remained under the control of the White movement in which a provisional government was established. The Red Army took back the city on 14 July 1919, and restored Soviet authority.
In the years following the Russian Revolution and the Russian Civil War, political authority of the Urals was transferred from Perm to Yekaterinburg. On October 19, 1920, Yekaterinburg established its first university, the Ural State University, as well as polytechnic, pedagogical, and medical institutions under the decree of Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin. Enterprises in the city ravaged by the war were nationalized, including: the Metalist (formerly Yates) Plant, the Verkh-Isetsky (formerly Yakovleva) Plant, and the Lenin flax-spinning factory (formerly Makarov). In 1924, the city of Yekaterinburg was renamed Sverdlovsk after the Communist party leader Yakov Sverdlov.
During the reign of Joseph Stalin, Sverdlovsk was one of several places developed by the Soviet government as a center of heavy industry. Old factories were reconstructed and new large factories were built, especially those specialized in machine-building and metal-working. These plants included Uralmash, Magnitogorsk, and the Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant. During this time, the population of Sverdlovsk has grown more than 3 times, and it has become one of the fastest growing cities of the USSR. At that time, very large powers were given to the regional authorities. By the end of the 1930s, there were 140 industrial enterprises, 25 research institutes, and 12 higher education institutions in Sverdlovsk.
During World War II, the city became the headquarters of the Ural Military District on the basis of which more than 500 different military units and formations were formed, including the 22nd Army and the Ural Volunteer Tank Corps. Uralmash became a main production site for armored vehicles. Many state technical institutions and whole factories were relocated to Sverdlovsk away from cities affected by war (mostly Moscow), with many of them staying in Sverdlovsk after the victory. The Hermitage Museum collections were also partly evacuated from Leningrad to Sverdlovsk in July 1941 and remained there until October 1945.
In the postwar years, new industrial and agricultural enterprises were put into operation and massive housing construction began. The lookalike five-story apartment blocks that remain today in Kirovsky, Chkalovsky, and other residential areas of Sverdlovsk sprang up in the 1960s, under the direction of Khrushchev's government. In 1977, the Ipatiev House was demolished by order of Boris Yeltsin in accordance to a resolution from the Politburo in order to prevent it from being used as a rallying location for monarchists. Yeltsin later became the first President of Russia and represented the people at the funeral of the former Tsar in 1998. There was an anthrax outbreak in Sverdlovsk in April and May 1979, which was attributed to a release from the Sverdlovsk-19 military facility.
During the 1991 coup d'état attempt, Sverdlovsk, the home city of President Boris Yeltsin, was selected by him as a temporary reserve capital for the Russian Federation, in the event that Moscow became too dangerous for the Russian government. A reserve cabinet headed by Oleg Lobov was sent to the city, where Yeltsin enjoyed strong popular support at that time. Shortly after the failure of the coup and subsequent dissolution of the Soviet Union, the city regained its historical name of Yekaterinburg on September 4, 1991. However, Sverdlovsk Oblast, of which Yekaterinburg is the administrative center, kept its name.
In the 2000s, an intensive growth of trade, business, and tourism began in Yekaterinburg. In 2003, Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder negotiated in Yekaterinburg. From June 15 to 17, 2009, the SCO and BRIC summits were held in Yekaterinburg, which deeply affected the economic, cultural and tourist situation in the city. In July 13–16, 2010, a meeting between Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and German Chancellor Angela Merkel took place in the city.