Barnaul was founded by the family of Demidov, who intended to develop the production of copper and silver of Russia, which continued after the factories were taken over by the Crown of Russia. Barnaul became a major center of silver in Russia. Barnaul's city status was founded in 1771. In 1738 a silver-refining works was established and Barnaul became the original hub of the Altai mining region of Russia. It was a major trade centre in 1850. Barnaul has good communications by Ob River, by the South Siberian, Turk-Sib, and Omsk-Barnaul railways, and by roads to the Kolyvan-Rubtsovsk mining area and Novosibirsk. As a result after that, its industrial importance has increased and its range of products grown wider. Barnaul's engineering industries produce boilers, presses, diesel motors, and radios; other industries make cotton textiles, chemical fibres, cellophane, tires, and lumber and forest products. There is also a range of consumer-goods industries. Barnaul has a research institute of agriculture, livestock husbandry, institutes for engineering, teacher training, and medicine.
Barnaul was located in the Forest steppes of the West Siberian Plain. It is 345 kilometers northeast of the Kazakhstan-Russia border, 3,622 kilometers southeast of Moscow, 4,051 kilometers southeast of Saint Petersburg, 3,159 kilometers southeast of Nizhny Novgorod, 1,823 kilometers southeast of Yekaterinburg, 232 kilometers south of Novosibirsk, 5,810 kilometers northwest of Vladivostok, and 5,015 kilometers southwest of Yakutsk.
Barnaul is an important industrial center of Western Siberia. There are more than 100 industrial businesses and companies in the city, giving work to approximately 120,000 people. These industries include diesel, carbon processing, production of heavy machinery, tyres, furniture and footwear.
As of 2018, the city has over 632,372 people. In 2010, the city has 612,401 people and in 2014, the population rose to 632,784.