Zakharovo and Bolshye Viazyomy
Zakharovo and Bolshye Viazyomy are two estates not far from each other, which has quite close connection to the most prominent Russian writer and poet Aleksander Pushkin. The estates sometimes are even called a poetic home of Pushkin. Here he found the inspiration for such works as Dybrovsky, Barishnya-krestyanka (The Squire's Daughter), Boris Godunov, and Pikovaya Dama (the Queen of Spades).
Both estates compose a museum complex devoted to Alexander Pushkin.
Zakharovo was the place where Pushkin had spent his childhood. His grandmother Maria Gannibal bought it in 1804 for her grandchildren to spend there their summers. It is also a place where Pushkin and his nanny Arina Rodionovna met and became precious friends.
The Pond and the Hill stayed the same they had been in those times. The Zakharovo museum exhibits early years of Pushkin.
The closest church to the estate was in the Bolshie Viazyomi village, which little Pushkin often visited in his childhood.
Bolshye Viazyomy Originally the village was the last station on Smolenskaya Road to Moscow. Once it belonged to Boris Godunov and later Peter the Great presented the estate to his teacher Boris Galitsin. During the Napoleonic war of 1812 the headquarters of Russian army were located there.
Anyhow Alexander Pushkin often visited Golitsin’s estate. The story says that the prototype of the old lady from “Pikovaya dama” was Princess Natalia Golitsina, and her son Boris was the prototype of Lensky from “Eugene Onegin”. Locals call the main building of the estate “the house of the Queen of Spades”.
The estate boasts of the most beautiful church in the Moscow region, the Transfiguration Cathedral built by Boris Godunov in 1694. The white stone two-stores church has all kinds of traditional decoration and nuances.
For the two golden centuries of history of Russian art, Abramtsevo had been the land of artists’ pilgrimage. Actually, it was the very place where Russian Art Nouveau was born.
Abramtsevo is a sweet estate with a lovely park and a lake. Until late 19 century it belonged to Sergei Aksakov, a devout Slavophile writer. That time the estate often hosted famous friends of Aksakov’s, writers Gogol, Turgenev and others. After Aksakov’s death the estate was bought by art patron Savva Mamontov. He used to invite to Abramtsevo promising painters to live and create there. Many of them later became the pride of Russian art. Ilya Repin, Issaak Levitan, Vasily Suriokv, Michail Vrubel, Viktor Vasnecov, Vasily Polenov and others lived in Abramtsevo together forming a kind of artistic colony. They sought to recapture the spirit and the quality of Russian medieval art.
Not far from the estate runs beautiful Aksakov’s spring, where the owners and guests of the estate used to take water for their needs.
Genial artists that lived in Abramtsevo left their mark on its architecture. A plain but picturesque Church of Spas Not Made by Human Hand with asymmetrical decorations was designed by Polenov nad Vasnetsov who also painted its murals. Church’s iconostasis was glided by Repin and Nesterov. After the church they built the House on Chicken Legs, a fairy-tale abode of an evil witch, Baba Yaga. Teremok Baths was built traditionally but with unorthodox folk carvings. There is no need and no room to mention all the famous pieces of art that had been created there. One of them “Pictures at an exhibition” is well-known also because it had inspired Modest Mussorgsky to compose his famous piano suite.
After the Revolution of 1917 the estate was nationalized, but despite of that fact it still remained to be a significant place for Russian art. Here worked the sculptors Vera Mukhina, the author of the monument of worker and kolkhoz woman, Konchalovsky, Mashkov, the famous opera singer Shalyapin, and many others.
The initial village at the place had been a part of Iosif-Volotsky monastery territory, which later was bought by Ivan the Terrible and became the favorite hunting place of Russian tsars and nobility.
One account the city’s name origination suggest it was the name of the 12th century prince Yaropolk. However there is another account, that the name was derived from the words “Yaroe pole” (field of fury), which referred to the place of kennels of Russian tsars there.
The main attraction of the city is another Russian Versailles, a neo-classical estate of the wealthy family of Goncharovs. Alexander Pushkin’s wife was a member of this family and he himself visited the estate several times. The estate with a beautiful palace, Regular Park and sculptures was one of the wealthiest ones in Moscow area. The prominent architectures Shubin, Martos, Reshet, and others designed it.
The estate demonstrates how a stately country house of 1780 looked.
Another attraction of Yaropolets is a hydropower plant, which was built by locals inspired by the state electrification plan. It was the first countryside hydropower plant. Lenin and Krupskaya visited Yaropolets in 1920 to see the plant.
This is a small provincial town with long history. It is supposed to have existed sine the 13th century. And unlike most cities, Borovsk managed to preserve much of its appearance of the 16-17th centuries practically intact. Thus the architecture of the city combines several old styles, ancient, neo-classical, and modern.
Nowadays a local amateur painter Ovchinnikov has covered many of the city’s buildings with paintings of historical events.
The city is closely connected to the history of Old Believers movement.
Celebrated Old Believers Pafnutiyev Monastery was founded near Borovsk in 1444. In the late 17th century when Russian Orthodox church experienced a schism, and a group of Old Believers was attempting to preserve their belief and rituals against the new law, the Monastery became a prison for the leader of old-believers movement Avvakum Petrovich and boyarynya Feodosiya Morozova (the plot used by famous Russian artist Surikov for his most famous painting).
This settlement is famous for its exquisite carved wooden sculptures, figures, and toys. The art of wood carving practiced here has been kept and handed down through many generations of masters.
The village became a part of the Trinity-Sergius Monastery at the end of the 16th century gravitated to the Trinity-Sergius monastery as a cultural center of the country. Probably the village adopted carving handicrafts from the monastery.
The symbol of the Bogorodskoe toys tradition is “a man and a bear” plot in different situations. The action of a twirling wooden ball on a string makes the bear perform actions, such as playing the drums or piano, play at chess, or juggle balls.
Another traditional toy consisting of two rocking figurines of blacksmiths balanced on two opposite ends of a plank that is moved by a wooden ball.
The most pretty little town near Nizhni Novgorod stands on a bank of Volga River, and the natural landscape of it is peaceful and beautiful. In present times it scarcely can be called well-known even among Russians, but there were times when it played a significant role in the life of the country.
The city was reputed for its lace and Dutch tile manufactures. Balakhna’s laces were exported into Europe and colored tiles were used for decoration of the St.Basil cathedral in Moscow. Balakhna was one of the few Russian cities shown on the 1689 Amsterdam World Map.
For many centuries Balakhna has been one of the most powerful centers of Orthodox Christianity. It was also the birthplace of Kuzma Minin – the organizer of the famous Home Guard that in 1612 liberated Russia from Polish invaders.
The oldest structure in the area is the tentlike church of St Nicholas (1552). Of all the tentlike churches built in brick, this is the nearest approach to their wooden prototypes.
Gorodets is the oldest city in Nizhny Novgorod area. It was founded in the late 12th century by Prince Yuri Dolgoruky who is better known to the world as the founder of Moscow. Another famous Prince of ancient Russia - Alexander Nevsky, the brave warrior and the Saint of Russian Orthodox Christian Church, died there on his way back to Novgorod from the Golden Horde in the 13th century.
But mostly Gorodets is renowned for the numerous folk crafts: golden embroidery, painting and icon painting, wood carving and inlaid work, weaving, wooden jug whistler, vine plaiting, pottery craft, baking honey cakes (pryanik) and others.
Gorodets painting is one of the most famous artistic crafts of Russia, the brightest phenomenon of so called “na?ve painting”. The painting is very rich in colours of Russian summer; it is filled with the bright sunshine of the cloudless noontide. The luxuriant garlands of flowers, the whimsical birds and a famous Gorodets horseman are the highly recognizable marks of the style.
Dmitrov is an ancient town founded by Yuri Dolgoruky, who is better known to the world as the founder of Moscow.
In spite of the fact that Dmitrov is situated not far from Moscow, it looks like a quiet and tidy provincial town. Here Prince Peter Kropotkin, one of the first theorists of Russian Anarchism, spent his last years after he had rejected the offer of ministerial position, enjoying long conversations with members of swamp examination Committee.
The oldest examples of Dmitrov architecture are the Dmitrov Kremlin (12th century), and the fourteenth century monastery of St.Boris and Gleb.
Since the 12th century the Kremlin acquired further fine development. In the beginning of the 16th century the black-domed Assumption Cathedral was built there, decorated with unique bas-relief with a picture of St.George the Victorious. Another sight of Kremlin is the history art museum with paintings of Zherar, Rokotov, Aivazovsky, Borovikovsky.
Gorokhovets is one of the remarkable old towns of Russia that is located between the Volga River and Oka River, on the right bank of Klyazma River.
There is evidence that it had existed since the 11th century, but two centuries later the city was burnt to ashes by Mongols. In the 16th century the Tatars of Kazan were also about to burn it, but according to the legend they retreated upon seeing a ghost in shape of gigantic knight with a sword. The hill that had been the scene of this notorious event acquired later a name of Puzhalovo (“frightening”). Along with its supernatural history the mountain is rather good as a viewpoint from which there opens a marvelous view of the whole town and town’s churches.
The brick architecture of the 17-18th centuries (St. Nicholas and Sretensky Monasteries, Ascension Cathedral etc.) as well the wooden modern style architecture of the 19th century (merchants houses) are preserved in Gorokhovets quite well.
Gorokhovez is also a native town of Stirlitz, the fictional character of the Soviet TV series “Seventeen Instants of Spring” (1973). According to the plot, Syirlitz was a Soviet spy in Nazi Germany and a kind of Soviet superhero. The series had a tremendous success over all Soviet Union.
The name of the town can be translated as "crystal goose". It stands on the Gus (Goose) River and is known as one of the main centers of crystal industry in Russia. It naturally appeared near a crystal plant founded in 1756 by merchant Akim Maltzov.
The Museum of Glass is located in the Cathedral of St.George’s built in 1892 by the architect L.Benua, the brother of the celebrated Russian artist A.Benua. The church is embellished with mosaic made by V.Vasnetsov.
The picturesque village near Moscow that gives its name to the oldest and most famous Russian style of ceramics. Gzhel porcelain is a sort of majolica of blue and dark blue ornaments and floral design against the background of white glaze.
Gzhel follows old Russian traditions of folk arts and crafts.
Holui is an ancient village near Vladimir and Suzdal. During the Golden Horde invasion the cities of Vladimir and Suzdal were practically destroyed. Their inhabitants, among which there were many artists, escaped in woods and founded Holui on the river Teza, where they were safe from the Mongols. The village soon became known as a center of icon painting.
The Holui icon style was marked by slight deflection from the church canons. Often these icons show scenes of day-to-day life of mere farmers. St. Christopher is painted with a head of either a horse or a dog. They say that this is that very Christopher who was given a different face to make the women in the church listen to him instead of staring at the handsome priest.
After the proscription of religion following the Revolution Holui masters were forced to look for another type of creating activity. This problem was common for all icon centers, and by all of them was solved by the transition to lacquer painting. Holui masters worked out their own style in lacquer painting applying to lacquer boxes the same principles they had learnt from painting icons. Typical plots of miniatures are adapted from everyday life, from classical literature and fairy tales, heroic epics, and folk songs.
Kaluga is an old Russian town on the both banks of the Oka river. Today the town is considered to be small and provincial. But in the past it played a significant role in Russian history and in many ways too. The town was founded as a boarder fortress in the 14th century. Therefore it is strongly connected with the list of Russian wars over the centuries. During the Mongol invasion Kaluga participated in numerous battles. During the Time of Troubles Kaluga was deeply involved in the affair, because of its close position to Moscow. During Napoleon invasion of the 1812th, the town was the stronghold of Russian Army. And during World War II the city was the scene of heavy fight with the Nazis.
But along with its warlike glory, Kaluga is also significant as a fine example of the 18th and 19th century classical architecture. Most of its historical buildings are built by the famous architects – Pyotr Nikitin and Ivan Yasnigin who supervised Kaluga’s town planning and construction.
Prominent writers, artists, and scientists lived and worked in Kaluga: writers Derzhavin, Aleksandr Pushkin, Nikolai Gogol, Aksakov, Lev Tolstoy and others. Decembrists Batenkov, Svistunov, Obolensky also lived here after their Siberian exile
In the 20th century Kaluga acquired an unofficial title of “The Cradle of Space Exploration” since the father of Russian space exploration Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1892-1935) lived and worked there.
Kolomna is one of the biggest provincial towns in Moscow area. It is situated at the confluence of the Moskva and Oka Rivers that determined its strategic role as the Southern border of Moscow. In Kolomna Dmitri Donskoy raised troops for Kulikovo Battle, Ivan the Terrible also raised there troops for the attack against Kazan and the last Emperor Nicholas the Second greet and cheer up troops going to Manchuria in 1905.
In the 15-16th centuries Kolomna was one of the wealthiest cities, and the second capital of the country. But since the 17th century the city appeared to be in the rear. Due to this fact it was possible to preserve its architectural heritage of various ages.
In the 16th century, like in many other ancient Russian towns, a Kremlin was built here - a citadel similar to the more famous one in Moscow, and built alike the latter of red brick. Its walls reach 18 meters high, and it has strong towers. One of the towers bears the name of Marinkina. According to the legend the wife of Lzhedmitry II Marina Mnishek was locked there after Lzhedmitry’s defeat in (1614).
Inside the Kremlin on the Cathedral Square there is an assemble of ancient temples: the Tikhvinskaya church with the large pyramid bell tower, and three-domed Assumption cathedral of the 17th century, the ornaments of which were created by the celebrated Theophanes the Greek.
Near the Assumption cathedral Novo-Golutvin functional convent is situated, established in 1801, which is notable for three-storied Empire style bell tower (built there later in 1825).
Old-Glutvin Monastery was founded in 1385. The place was chosen by St. Sergius of Radonezh and was devoted to reconciliation of Moscovy Prince Dmitry Donskoy and Ryazan Prince.
Brussensky Convent founded in 1552 in commemoration for Ivan the Terrible victory over Kazan
Kulikovo Battlefield is one of the largest fields in Russia that lies near the picturesque Don River. A crucial episode of Russian history took place there in 1380 – the battle of Kulikovo Field. Grand Duke Dmitry Donskoy’s victory on the Kulikovo field was the first significant event in the liberation from the Golden Horde.
The battlefield is commemorated by a memorial church built by Aleksey Shchusev. Now it is the Kulikovo Field Museum.
Every year on the 3-d week of September the Military Historical Festival "Kulikovo field" and the Kulikovo battle re-enactment are held.
A minor planet 2869 Nepryadva discovered in 1980 by Soviet astronomer Nikolai Chernykh was named in honor of the Kulikovo Battle that actually took place near the small Nepryadva River.
Kolyazin is one of the oldest cities near Tver, on a bank of the Volga River.
According to the legend the city was called after a boyar Ivan Kolyaga, who attempted to kill a priest. Pestilence came to his family as a Heaven’s punishment and killed everybody but him, after which drama he repented and decided to become a monk.
In the 15th century on the opposite side of the Volga River the Kalyazinsky Monastery was founded. Soon the monastery became popular throughout the country. Many Russian tsars visited it, among them were Ivan the Terrible, Boris Godunov, Peter the Great and others. Icons made in the monastery are still famous and valued around the world.
But unfortunately in the beginning of the 20th century the Monastery was flooded during the construction of Uglich reservoir, so the main monument of the city was inundated. Nowadays the Bell Tower (the church’s belfry) is the only part of the monastery visible above the water.
Many prominent Russian people are connected with Kolyazin: the writer Saltikov-Schedrin was born there, writers and poets Ivan Krilov, Fonvizin, Zhukovsky often visited the city.
Pereslavl-Zalessky is an ancient city on the shores of Pleschevo Lake. It was founded in 1152 by Duke Yury Dolgoruky. Some people say that it is the most beautiful city of the Golden Ring. The quietness of its narrow streets with traditional Russian-style houses, the slow flow of the river Trubeg, and the boats next to the river houses add to the city’s special atmosphere indeed.
The first part of the city’s name, and also its oldest part can be translated as “the one who has taken the glory”, the second part Zalessky means “the one which is located behind the woods”.
In the 14th century the city was the most famous and saw practically all Russian Dukes.
In Pereslavl there is a number of ancient monasteries. The oldest building is the white stone 12th century Spaso-Preobrazhensky Cathedral. In front of the Cathedral, in the city’s Red Square there is a monument of the famous Duke Aleksandr Nevsky, who was born in Pereslavl.
Peter the First at the age of 16 has built on Plescheyevo Lake an “amusement fleet” (the famous "funny flotilla"), which was the forerunner of the real Russian fleet. One of the surviving boats, the Fortuna was saved at the Botik museum.
A charming city, sometimes called Russian Switzerland, was founded in the 15th century on the right bank of the Volga River. The city is a part of the Golden Ring.
Plyos has a great history - it was built as a fort of Russian border, survived from Tatar Horde, intestinal feuds, and several other fights.
Later due to the marvelous beauty of the place itself (Plyos is situated on the hilly banks of the river) the city became a famous summer colony, and many gentries visited it, such as Shalyapin, Repin, and others. Well known artist Isaak Levitan lived and worked here. He made Plyos a famous sight, and Plyos made Levitan a famous painter.
The village is one of four lacquer box centers in Russia.
It grew up as a settlement near the Monastery of the Epiphany (near Vladimir and Suzdal) in the 17th century. Later on since the 18th century the village became famous as a center of icon production in the traditional style. Many talented artists lived there and developed different kinds of folk art such as icon painting, gold and silver embroidery and engraving.
The icon-painting style of the village was determined by Old Believers’ tastes and in contrast to opulence of Palekh and Kholuy icons Mstyora masters sought the austerity of the 15th and 16th centuries icons. Mstyora miniatures usually represent characters from real life, as well as folklore, literary, and historical works.
Murom, located on the Oka River, was first mentioned in 862. Its name derives from the name Muroma of Finnish-Ugric tribe which lived in this area before Slavs.
Saviour monastery one of the most ancient in Russia was founded in 11th century on the site where local prince Gleb who had been expelled from the city by pagan people for his attempt to introduce Christianity settled down. The five domed church of Transfiguration of Our Saviour goes back to the time of Ivan the Terrible, 16th century.
Murom oldest chuch is the 16th century Church of St. Cosmas and Demian, on a hill overlooking the Oka river. From this spot Ivan the Terrible observed his troops crossing the river on the way to Kazan, the church is a monument to the victory over Tatars in Kazan.
In the center of the town is standing the Annunciation monastery. It was founded in 1553 by Ivan the Terrible on the site where the remains of prince Konstantine and his two sons were discovered. The Annunciation cathedral was built in 1664 on place of the older one. It has a baroque wooden gold painted iconostasis, remains of prince Konstantine, his sons Mikhail and Fedor who christianized Murom.
Trinity convent was founded in 1643, and Trinity church is distinctive for green and brown decorative tiles, with the shrine of Peter and Fevronia –local Romeo and Julliet- inside.
Murom was a home town of epic hero Ilija Muromets. The site of the kremlin (pulled down in times of Elisabeth- 18th century) is the city park now with the stature of Ilija Muromets
A male monastery that was built in the 17th century on a side of the Istra River by Patriarch Nikon.
This site was chosen for its resemblance to the Holy Land. The River Istra represents the River Jordan, a hillock nearby is known as Mount Zion, and the buildings represent the holy places of Jerusalem. Monks of different origins, which were chosen by Nikon, represented the multinational Orthodoxy of the Heavenly Jerusalem.
The main structure of the monastery is the Cathedral of the Resurrection, a copy of Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchure.
Most famous architectures worked on creation of the monastery, among them were Bartolomeo Rasrelli, Matvei Kazakov, Karl Blank, Yakov Bukhvostov and others.
Novgorod is the oldest Russian city, also called Velikiy Novgorod (the Great), with over the top number of monuments. The city is a museum itself.
It is the place where the Russian State has begun. In 862 the Scandinavian prince Rurik was invited by the inhabitants of Novgorod to rule them, and there he has founded the dynasty that ruled Kievan Rus.
Novgorod also is the cradle of Russian democracy. In 997 Novgorod obtained self government (veche) with special rights and benefits. Later on the city acquired autonomy from the capital Kiev. Veche was a mass assembly of Novgorod citizens who elected and exiled the dukes, and had judicial power, as well as legislative and administrative functions in times when duke was not able to perform them.
Novgorod is the oldest Russian center of Christianity. In 988 Prince Vladimir Svyatoslavovich baptized Rus with the rules of the Eastern Orthodox Church, and Novgorod played an important role in this process. Novgorodian higher clergy were rewarded by their appointment to the archbishopric. These achievements made the Novgorodian Holy See one of the most important religious establishments within the Russian Orthodox Church.
Besides Novgorod was the major medieval international trade center due to its location on the most important trade route “from the Varangians to the Greeks”, near Lake Ilmen.
Novgorod was the center of medieval culture and the center of literacy and education. Culturally the city was equal to Kiev. There were lots of monasteries in Novgorod, and the bulk of ancient manuscripts originated there.
Because Novgorod remained unconquered throughout Tatar invasion, its cultural monuments and traditions survived since the ancient times.
Novgorod Kremlin also called Detinets (Young Man's Compound) was first mentioned in 1044. In contains the main Russian Orthodox Cathedral Church, the oldest one preserved in Russia and a symbol of the city - St.Sophia Cathedral (1045-1050)
On the opposite side of the Kremlin there is the Yaroslav's court, the economical and political center of ancient Novgorod. Yaroslav’s court is named after Prince Yaroslav the Wise who built a palace there. Novgorodian veche often met in front of the court.
One of the most important monasteries in the medieval Russia was the St.Antony’s Monastery. The legend statues that the monastery was founded in 12 century by St.Antony of Rome who flew to Novgorod from Rome on a rock on the day of the Virgin’s nativity. The same year he founded the Church of the Virgin’s Nativity – one of the few three-domed churches in Russia. The church contains unique frescoes from the middle ages.
The museum of wooden architecture contains the typical wooden structures of the ancient Russia from all over the area of Novgorod – the churches, houses etc.
Nizhny Novgorod is one of the oldest Russian cities. It was founded in 1221 at the confluence of two most important rivers, Volga and Oka, which was a very convenient place for a trading city.
During the Golden Horde invasion Nizhny Novgorod was among several newly founded towns, which escaped the devastation on account of their insignificance. Thus later on these cities grew into important centers. By the end of the Horde period, in the 16th century, a Kremlin was built in Nizhny Novgorod, which is well preserved till today. In the Kremlin there is Archengel Michiel Cathedral of early 17th century with the grave of Kozma Minin.
In the 17th century the city prospered commercially, partially because one of the wealthiest merchant family Stroganovs chose it as a base. They invested a lot into the city development, and even gave their name to a new style of architecture, the Stroganov style. Nativity or Stroganov Church - a good example of Stroganov style – with colorful domes, white carvings, baroque iconostasis and icon of Savior which has resemblance to Peter the Great. Generally the architecture of the city is very diverse, ranging from baroque to modern, Art Nouveau, and Stalin Empire style.
The land of Nizhny Novgorod is also reach in art craft: carving and painting on wood, embroidering in gold, handling of metals and clay, bone lacing, making toys.
In the 20th century during the communist regime the city acquired a new name of Gorky, in honor of the famous writer Maxim Gorky, who had been born there. Later, in 1990 this name was changed for the old one. The city is also famous as a place of exile of the scientist and human rights activist Andrei Sakharov.
Optina Pustyn is an active male monastery in the Kaluga area, one of the most significant monasteries of contemporary Russia. It was founded, as the legend states it, in the 15th century by the repented outlaw named Opta. Much later, in the 19th century Optina Pustyn gradually became a real spiritual centre of the Russian Orthodox Church and had significant influence on the cultural life of Russia. Many visitors of the monastery experienced spiritual renewal. One of the reasons of this extraordinary fame was the “startsy” (old people) of the monastery: the old sage monks, who were of the absolute authority for the rest of people of Optina Pustyn. In recent times most notable “startsy” were canonized. One of the “startsy” Saint Amvrosy was the prototype of Father Zosima, the character of Dostoyevsky’s novel “Brothers Karamazov”.
Dostoevsky stayed in Optina Pustyn for a short time. Nikolay Gogol thought of taking the monastic vow there, which he never did though. Lev Tolstoy, who is also known as a great rebellion against Orthodox Church, came there just before his death. The legend of the monastery says that he touched the handle of the door to Saint Amvrosy’s cell, stayed for a wile deep in thought, then turned away and went out.
The rich library of the monastery was collected with help of brothers Kireevsky, who where among the leaders of Slavophile movement in Russia.
After Russian Revolution in 1917, all the monks and the “starets” were forcibly deported from the monastery. The hegumen was executed in Tula in 1938. The starets died in a remote village Kholmischi, miserable and ill-treated. In Perestroyka times Optina Pustyn was among the first abbeys returned to Russian Orthodox Church.
It is a marvelous city on the picturesque banks of Oka River, famous for its literary traditions and gorgeous nature and architecture. Its central streets have preserved their 19th century atmosphere.
The town was founded in the 16th century by Ivan the Terrible as a fortress to defend south borders. But the defensive career of the town failed because of its location.
Nonetheless during the 2nd World War this was the place where in 1943 the final Nazi counter-attack was stopped. The events of that time are shown in the local museum-diorama of the 2nd World War.
In the 19th century Orel took an important role in cultural life of the country. During that time surprising number of Russian intellectuals lived there. The writers Ivan Turgenev, Ivan Bunin, Nikolai Leskov, Leonid Andreev are only a few of the long list of all those famous men who thrived in the city.
This city was built in the 12th century by novgorodian merchants at a portage spot on the waterway from Novgorod to Moscow, and that is how Volokolamsk acquired its name.
The location of the city on one of the most important trade routs in medieval Russia helped the city’s flourishing. But lately this very location caused many troubles, since the city was situated between the two powerful principalities: Novgorod and Moscow. For three centuries during the Time of Trouble it had been the subject of argument between Moscow, Novgorod and Tver, which caused the city’s decline and loss of importance as a merchant city.
In the 15th century St.Josef’s Monastery was built in Volokolamsk – one of the wealthiest monasteries which played a key role in the 16th century political and ecclesiastic life.
The monastery was founded by Joseph Volotsky, Russian monastic reformer who fought for independence of the church from the state. The monastery became a stronghold of struggle against heretics and its vaults were used as a prison for dissenters and public enemies. Among its inmates were Maximus the Greek, tsar Basil IV, Polish prisoners of Russian-Polish war of the 17th century, and French prisoners of the Napoleonic war of 1812.
During the bloodiest periods of Russian history, the Time of Troubles and Poland invasion, as well as the World War II, some monastery’s construction were harmed, especially its walls, which were rebuilt later in the 17th century. Enormous octagonal bell-tower that was the tallest structure of the 16th century Russia was blasted during the World War II, but luckily the frescoes of the Assumption Cathedral created by the great icon-painter Dionisius were preserved.
During the World War II German forces occupied Volokolamsk and the famous phrase was told there: “Russia is vast but there is nowhere to retreat. Moscow is behind us!” Through the great mass sacrifice of Russian soldiers German army couldn’t get any further. The famous feat of 28 panfilovtsy took place near Volokolamsk.
A village not far from Vladimir and Suzdal. According to the legend Palech was founded by the people who had left Vladimir and Suzdal escaping from the Golden Horde invasion. They burnt the forest and built a settlement named Palekh.
The city was once famous for icon painting. Palekh painters took part in renovation of cathedrals and the Faceted Chamber of the Moscow Kremlin, churches of the Holy Trinity in St. Sergius Lavra, and the Novodevichy Convent. But after the revolution of 1917 and religion proscription Palekh icon-painters were forced to look for new ways to implement their art. Thus they turned to the manufacturing of non religious lacquer miniatures. Palekh miniatures became famous throughout the world. Typical plots of these miniatures are adapted from everyday life, classical literature and fairy tales, heroic epics, or folk songs.
It is one of the most ancient towns, which was first mentioned in 862 in “The Tale of the Years of Time”. In the eve of the Tatar-Mongol invasion Rostov was one of the largest Russian towns.
Only two cities carry “great” in their names, those were Novgorod, Russia’s northern capital, and Rostov, the city with a thousand year history, cultural and artistic centre of old Russia, a land of fairy-tale warriors and epic heroes.
There was born St. Sergius Radonezhsky, a spiritual leader and monastic reformer of medieval Russia, and a venerated Russian saint. Besides this city was the home of prominent chroniclers and icon painters.
Contemporary Rostov is a fairy tale town: stone and wooden houses of the 19th century, picturesque locals, wells, architraves, horses, birches. The major decoration of the city is the Nero Lake. On the shore there is a white-stone Kremlin of the 17th century with the Assumption Cathedral (16th century) which bells are among the largest and most famous in Russia and the Church of St.John the Apostle (1683). These churches are famous for their unique 17th century frescoes and remarkable decoration.
From the 18th century Rostov became famous for its enamel painting came to Russia from Byzantium and famous enamel works can be seen in the museum of enamel of the Kremlin.
Serpukhov is an old Russian town that is situated at the confluence of the Oka and the Nara Rivers. The town was established in 1339 to protect the Southern approaches to Moscow.
In the 15th century a Kremlin was built in the city as a part of the Great Abatis Belt, which was designed to protect Moscow from Crimean Tatars and Mongols. The height of the Kremlin’s walls was up to 8 meters. But in 1934 parts of the citadel were demolished for construction of the Moscow metro. By now there are only ruins of that Kremlin left.
The main monument of the Kremlin is the Trinity cathedral, built in 1696 in Moscow baroque style.
On the opposite banks of Nara river two monasteries are facing each other, both built in the 14th century, almost at the same time. Those are the Vysotsky Monastery and the Vladychny Convent.
The Vysotsky Monastery features a five-domed cathedral from the late 16th century, as well as the miracle-working icon of Inexhaustible Chalice, which possesses miraculous power, that can heal from alcohol connected disorders, as well as others ailments and sorrows.
The Vladychny Monastery’s main buildings are the Presentation cathedral, and a tent-like St. George's church. They were erected during Boris Godunov’s reign.
Serpukhov Art Gallery is one of the best galleries in Moscow area. After the revolution a part of the exhibition was sent to Moscow galleries, but even what was left in Serpukhov Gallery is no less impressive: paintings of Rokotov, Polenov, Aivazovsky, Shishkin, Levitan, Savrasov, Vereshchagin, Vasnecov, Goncharov.
Tula acquired enormous fame due to the three things produced there: the traditional Russian Pryaniki (cookies with honey and gingerbread), samovars, and weapons.
The city is one year older than Moscow, it was founded in 1146. A few centuries later in the 16th century a brick Kremlin was built to serve as the key fortress of the Great Abatis Belt, which successfully resisted the siege of Tatars in 1552.
In the 17th century Russia began to import tea from China, in the 19th century it became a national drink, and in the 18th century the first factory of samovars was opened in Tula. Almost at the same time the weapon factory was established there. During the World War II the city was important in the production of amaments.
Nowadays at the Kremlin territory in the Bogojavlensky Cathedral there is a Museum of Weapon. The collection there displays the evolution of arms since the late 16th century till the present day
A charming provincial town situated on the Tvertsa River preserves the atmosphere of a prosperous merchant’s city of the 19th century.
Torzhok was one of Russian oldest settlements first mentioned in the chronicle in 1139. Its name is translated as the market place, for it was supposed to be one of the most important trade cities due to its location on the Novgorod trade route.
The city met almost all invaders known in medieval Russia. It had been raided and burnt by Tatars, later on the Poles also had burnt the city. Anyway by the 19th century the city reached the peak of its prosperity. After the foundation of St.Petersburg Torzhok became an important station on the highway from Moscow to St.Petersburg.
Celebrated Russian poet Alexandr Pushkin used to pass through the city on a number of occasions and today there is a museum devoted to him. Besides Pushkin many other literary people visited the city and were charmed by its beauty, among them were Zhukovsky, Vyazemsky, Belinsky, Aksakov, Gogol, Ostrovsky, and others.
At that time many buildings in the city were rebuilt by most famous Russian architects. The major cathedral of Torzhok, the Church of Transfiguration of the Savior was reconstructed according to the plan of renowned architect from St.Petersburg Carlo Rossi. The 11th century monastery of Boris and Gleb was also reconstructed in the neoclassical style, designed by one of the most talented Russian architects Nikolai Lvov. The monastery is considered to be one of the greatest monuments of Russian neoclassicism.
Besides the neoclassical style the city preserves examples of traditional wooden architecture that rarely can be found somewhere else outside museums such as 17th century wooden Ascension Church.
The city is also glorious for the people who were born there, among them were the expressionist painter Alexei von Javlensky, and the theorist of anarchism and revolutionary Michail Bakunin.
Tver was built in 12th century at the confluence of Volga and Tvertsa Rivers, and it is famous for its architecture of the 18th century.
The woods and bogs around the city have not only made it to be one of the wealthiest ones in Russia, but also saved it from the Tatar raids. This allowed the city to vie with Moscow for supremacy in Russia, and determined the key role of the city during the Time of Troubles. But Tver lost, and Moscow is the capital.
With the foundation of St.Petersburg Tver gained importance as the main station on the highway from Moscow to St.Petersburg, and many Russian royalty and nobility visited the city traveling from Moscow to St.Petersburg and back.
Following the great fire of 1763 the city was rebuilt in neoclassical style, according to the design of the most celebrated architectures (Matvei Kazakov and Lvov). For example the most important sights of the city are the Travel Palace of Catherine the Great designed by celebrated Matvei Kazakov as a place to rest on her journeys between Moscow and St.Petersburg , and the Ascension church, designed by Lvov.
Besides the oldest building in the city is the 15th century White Trinity Church, which has never been shut down over its history. It contains unique iconostasis and murals of the 18th and 19th centuries.
During the World War II German forces occupied Tver for 2 months. Tver was the first major city in Europe to be liberated from the Wehrmacht. During that period the city was the center of the largest resistance movement in Russia.
The hilltop fortress founded in the 12th century on the left bank of Moscow River.
The town’s name derived from two roots meaning “to ring bells” and “town”. It can be translated as “the town where bells are rung”. The legend says that when the bells were rung in Zvenigorod the sound could be heard in Moscow, thus Zavenigorod could warn Moscow of a coming enemy.
Once during the Time of Troubles the city competed with Moscow to be the nation’s capital, but lost, than eventually lost its independence, and became a part of Muscovy.
The local Kremlin, called Gorodok was the major part of the town. It contains examples of the 14th and the 15th century’s architecture such as the Assumption Cathedral (1399).
In the 14th century the white stoned Savvino-Storozhevsky monastery was built nearby. The founder of the monastery was one of the disciples of St.Sergius Radonezhsky. In the 17th century the monastery was chosen by tsar Alexis as tsar’s suburban residence.
Within the Monastery stands the Nativity of the Virgin Cathedral (1405) with an interior of 15th, 16th, and 17th century paintings.
In the beginning of the 20th century several icons painted by the celebrated Andrey Rublev were found at the monastery. They were transferred to the Tretiakov Gallery. Besides there is a suspicion that the frescoes of the Assumption Cathedral were also featured by Andrei Rublev.
In the beginning of the 20th century a number of healing springs was found in Zvenigorod. Thus during the Soviet time the city became a famous health resort was given the name of Russian Switzerland.
Ostafievo and Dubrovitsy
Melikhovo is an estate of famous Russian writer Anton Chekhov. There he has written his brightest plays, “The Seagull” and “Uncle Vanya”.
For Anton Chekhov Melikhovo period was not only the time of literal creation, but also the time of medical and public activity. Therefore the huge heritage left by the writer in the estate was saved as a museum. The interiors of the home stayed untouched after Chekhov.
The estate is surrounded by magnificent lands. Deep in the park there is an Alley of Love with an old elm, which was called Mamvrisky Oak by Chekhovs. Local women led by some legend touch the elm, hug and kiss it. They don’t reveal the secret but to be on the safe side they advise to touch the tree anyway.
Ostafievo is the 18th century estate of Prince Viazemsky, one of the teachers of Peter the Great. There is an account that Prince Viazemsky designed the estate by himself. After the Prince’s death there lived his son Peter Viazemsky, a poet, a literary critic, and a friend of Pushkin.
In 1830 the formidable-looking palace, surrounded by an old park, was the venue for artistic parties, attended by prominent people such as Pushkin, Karamzin, Griboedov, Baratinsky, Kuhelbeker, and others. There the historian Nikolai Karamzin spent 12 years writing his famous "History of Russian State".
The legend says that Pushkin called the beautiful estate’s park Russian Parnassus, which name later generalized to the whole estate.
Not far from the estate Prince Golitsin built an extravagant Church of the Sign of Our Lady in Dubrovitsy, in a picturesque river valley. The baroque style of the Church was not common for Russian Sacred architecture. It is believed to be the only construction supervised by a foreign architect or architects.
When the church was built churchmen were dismayed at its odd architecture, so they refused to sanctify it. Thus built by the end of the 17th century the church was not consecrated until 1704.
During the Soviet times Peredelkino became a famous writers’ colony.
In 1931 Maxim Gorky, who was considered to be a patriarch of Soviet literature, came back from abroad to head the USSR Writers Union that was being established at that time. Stalin apparently asked Maxim Gorky, ‘Where do writers live abroad?’ – ‘They live in country houses, away from city hustle and bustle, comrade Stalin.’ – ‘Do our writers have dachas?’ – ‘No.’ – ‘That’s too bad. Soviet writers should have dachas. Send me a list of 40 to 50 best-deserving names.’
Thus Peredelkino appeared to be a place of summer residence of many prominent Russian writers, such as Ilia Ilf, Isaac Babel, Ilia Erenburg, Boris Pilniak, Vsevolod Ivanov, Alexandr Fadeev, Arseny Tarkovsky, Bulat Okudzhava etc. Boris Pasternak lived and died there, there he has written his famous novel “Dr. Zhivago”. Kornei Tchukovsky also lived in Peredelkino and used to read his tales to children from the villages around. Later on Alexander Solzhenitsyn stayed in Peredelkino at the dacha of Kornei Tchukovsky.
The clearest air of the village surrounded by pinewood made the place to be a popular resort. The place was full of children’s campuses and sanatoriums. Also during the soviet period there was a sanatorium for consumptives, but it was destroyed during perestroika.
The owner of this estate was Russian famous painter Vasily Polenov. After selling his painting “Christ and the sinner” to the emperor Aleksander the Third, he received money enough to buy the land and build there according to his own ideas. Indeed all the buildings in this estate and the park on the Oka River surrounded by primeval forests were built after Polenov’s drafts.
Inside the main house there is an outstanding art collection: paintings by Polenov, Repin, and Korovin, together with art collection from the 15th century.
In the estate there also is a diorama – a journey around the world in pictures
The former estate (now a museum) of the great Russian writer Ivan Turgenev. He spent there his childhood and in the adultery visited the estate to rest from the world.
The main house, with its shady park, groves, meadows and steppe surrounding the estate, were commemorated in Turgenev's books and inspired much of his splendid prose, for example The Hunter's Sketches. Here he also wrote his best works, the Fathers and Sons, A Nest of Gentlefolk, and On the Eve.
The city, settled in 1246, is located at the Oka River.
For the last 8 centuries Tarusa acquired fame of Russian Barbizon. This marvelous place was one of the favorite summer colonies for Russian intellectuals. The left bank of the river is a long ravine with a brook, the slopes of which are scattered with bluebells and strawberries. It was called the Dream Valley by Marina Tsvetaeva, a famous Russian poet who used to live in Tarusa.
In Tarusa lived and worked such people as the painter Victor Borisov-Musatov, writer Aleksei Tolstoy, poet and writer Marina Tsvetaeva, her father Ivan Tsvetaev, the founder the Pushkin Art Museum in Moscow, Nobel Prize-nominated writer Konstantin Paustovsky, director Andrey Tarkovsky, and others. Poet Iosif Brodsky was hiding here from the soviet authorities, and Aleksandr Solzhenitsin visited Richter’s dacha there.
After the World War II, the town was completely forgotten by Moscow people. It’s not until the set of essays “Letters from Tarusa” by Konstantin Paustovsky was published in the Novy Mir magazine, that the Soviet intellectuals recalled the beauty and simplicity of the place and came back to inhabit it.
The city thoroughly preserves the memory of its famous guests and inhabitants. In the museum of Tsvetaevs the personal belongings of the poetess and the interiors in which she spent most of her childhood are saved. Another piece of sightseeing is the house of Paustovsky and his tomb at the city cemetery nearby.
Yasnaya Polyana was the estate where the celebrated Russian writer Leo Tolstoy was born, lived most of his life, died and was buried. There he has written his celebrated novels, the War and Peace and Anna Karenina.
Immediately after Tolstoy’s death the estate was designated to be his memorial museum. At first it was run by his daughter Alexandra Tolstaya, and until nowadays the directors of the museum have always been his descendants. Thanks to Lenin and his saying that Leo Tolstoy as a mirror of the Russian Revolution, the estate of Yasnaya polyana was fast the only one untouched by the communists.
Tolstoy’s house was preserved in the state it had before the writer’s death. Not far from the house there is the grave of the writer unmarked – a raised grassy patch on the edge of a gully.