WHAT IS IT: The so called "Golden Ring of Russia" is a symbolical ring connecting historical towns and cities to North-West of Moscow. They represent 1,000 years of rich Russian history written in stone and wood, from a 850-year old church in Rostov to a 19th-century log house in Suzdal's open air museum. Each of "golden" towns once played an important role in history of Russia and was conected in one way or another with famous historical figures such as Alexander Nevsky, Ivan Terrible, Peter Great and many others. If you would like to see true, patriarchal Russia, to experience grandeur of nature and magnificence of ancient towns then a Golden Ring tour is well worth taking. It is one of most popular routes among Russian and foreign lovers of old Russian history and architecture.
WHAT TO SEE: The cities and towns of Golden Ring are listed here in alphabetical order:
Aleksandrov (founded in 1530, population 68,000) - The town is situated 100 km from Moscow on crossway of ancient roads from largest historic centers of Russia - Vladimir and Suzdal, Rostov and Yaroslavl, Sergiev Posad and Pereyaslavl-Zalessky. In 1564- 1581 town was residence of Ivan Terrible. In Aleksandrov tsar proclaimed establishment of his select, terror-inspiring corps, Oprichniki and signed harsh conditions of truce with Poland and Sweden after losing long war with Livonia. From Aleksandrov Ivan Terrible led his army of Oprichniki to strike at big trade centres of Novgorod, Pskov, Klin and Tver. Here cruel tsar killed his son in a rage and soon after that left Aleksandrov forever coming back to Moscow. The very first in Russia publishing house was established in Aleksandrov in 1576. One of leading textile manufacturing centres in Russia in 19th century.
Bogolubovo (founded in 990, population 4,000) - a tiny quiet town near city of Vladimir. The town was named after Russian prince Andrey Bogolubsky (God-loving) who built first fortified settlement here in 1165. It was a strategically important point overlooking Kliazma River. Tourists can see remains of Andery Bogolubsky's residence including some residential chambers of 12th century and beautiful Church of Intercession of Virgin on Nerl (1165) which is considered to be one of finest specimens of old Russian architecture.
Gorohovets (founded in 1239, population 30,000) - The town was founded under Vladimir prince Andrey Bogolubsky. The town is picturesquely settled on high bank of Klyazma River. Played role as a fortified forepost until 1600-s. Reached its developmental pick in 17-th century as a local centre for blacksmithing, textile-making and making of leather and also as an agricultural trade centre for grains and flax.
Gus-Khrustalny (founded in 1756, population 80,000) - Over 200 years ago a merchant built here first workshop of glass casting. Today town is one of district centers of Vladimir region, well-known in Russia and abroad as national center of glassmaking. The name Gus-Krustalny can be literally translated as Chrystalline Goose. The old part of town is a workmen's settlement of 1900-s. with its own Church of St. Joachim of 1816.
Kholuy (founded 1650, population 1,000) - The village of Kholui did not begin producing lacquered miniatures until 1930s, and though iconography had been an important trade in region in previous centuries, Kholui was never bound to any particular artistic tradition. Rather, Kholui miniatures share some traits with both Palekh and Mstera art, yet maintain a distinctive lyrical quality of their own. As in Palekh and Mstera, Kholui artists use egg tempera paints. Kholui paintings tend to be brighter than Mstera's, though like Mstera, pigments used are opaque and background is usually fully painted. Sometimes, as with Palekh miniatures, Kholui miniatures will include some fine gold and/or silver ornamentation within painting, and Kholui artists can create fantastic border ornaments on par with those of Palekh. Since 1960-s products of Kholuy's 200 artists have been widely represented and promoted internationally.
Kostroma (founded in 1213, population 300,000) - In past Kostroma was known as "the flax capital of north"; it supplied Europe with world's finest sail-cloth. The city has been also called as "cradle of Romanov dynasty". Mikhail Romanov, first of Romanov dynasty, left Ipatievsky Monastery for Moscow in 1613 to become tsar of Russia. During Polish intervention in turbulent years of early seventeenth century Kostroma was a significant stronghold for resistance movement. The city is spreaded on left bank of Volga river. Nowadays Kostroma is an important industrial center (textile, metal works), a capital city of Kostroma province.
Mstera (founded in 1628, population 6,000) - town takes its name from little Msterka River, which flows through it merging with Kliyazma. It is in Vladimir Region, but not far from border with Ivanovo Region, south of Palekh and Kholui, in breathtakingly beautiful countryside - one that forms backdrop to its paintings. Mstera was a respected center of icon production until trade was banned after Revolution of 1917. Since then its artists has been creating world-famous masterpieces in form of lacquered miniatures. In keeping with traditions of iconography, egg tempera paints are still used. The landscape is of central importance to painting with people and objects integrated to setting. Mstera paintings are frequently larger than those from other schools but some fine miniatures are also produced and because of their rarity are highly prized. Typical themes include exquisite floral designs with lacy gold ornamentation, traditional fairy tales, traditional activities and events such as a winter festival, and sometimes portraiture.