Yekaterinburg alternatively romanized as Ekaterinburg, is the fourth-largest city in Russia and the administrative center of Sverdlovsk Oblast, located in the middle of the Eurasian continent, on the border of Europe and Asia. At the 2010 Census, it had a population of 1,349,772. Yekaterinburg is the main industrial and cultural center of the Ural Federal District. Between 1924 and 1991, the city was named Sverdlovsk after the Communist party leader Yakov Sverdlov. Yekaterinburg was founded in 1723 by Vasily Tatishchev and Georg Wilhelm de Gennin and named after Tsar Peter the Great's wife, Catherine I (Yekaterina). The official date of the city's foundation is November 18, 1723. It was granted town status in 1796. The city was built, with extensive use of iron, to a regular square plan with iron works and residential buildings at the centre. These were surrounded by fortified walls, so that Yekaterinburg was at the same time both a manufacturing centre 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 highway 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. There was a proliferation of small manufacturing and trading businesses. In 1781 Russia's empress, Catherine the Great, nominated the city as the administrative centre for the wider region, which led to a further increase in the numbers of military and administrative personnel in the city.