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Discover Russian North: lakes, huge monasteries and Kolyma stories traces
December 22, 2010 12:06

Russian North is a region on the north-west of Russia, full of forests, lakes, rivers, ancient towns and monasteries keeping dozens of their secrets. This region is one for encounter with Russia and for the tourists visited Moscow or St. Petersburg only. It is situated not far in the East and gives much of specific national color, from old Russian fortresses and monasteries to life of the Russian province in the 19th century, described in the world-known books of Russian classic writers like Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and Chekhov. Each region of Russian north is known for something special: Vologda Region - for its wooden Art Nouveau architecture, lacework and fortress of Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery, the biggest one in Europe. Yaroslavl Region known for monuments of Old Russian architecture and art doesn't need any special introduction, Tver Region is a place where a bell tower sticks from waters of artificial lake, flooded in the early Soviet time and place where wooden Art Nouveau architecture is also to be seen. It distinguishes from Vologda one. Moreover, Tver is a scene of Dostoevsky's novel "The possessed" (or Demons in another translation).

We offer you to begin with Vologda Region.
Although 80% of Vologda Region are covered with forests, there are 3,5 thousands different cultural heritage sites are situated here. It is interesting that Vologda Region (which is situated next to Karelia and not far from Finland) is tied with Indo-European civilization in some mysterious way: many toponyms of the Eastern part of this region can be translated from Sanskrit only. There are no any satisfactory scientific explanations for that, although many speculations but it is so.


Ustyuzhna district of this region is notable for Danilovskoye, home estate of Konstantin Batyushkov, one of the Russian 19th century writers, not very famous outside Russia, but worth to be visited. It is very fine preserved and gives complete idea of Russian noble every day life in country estate. All the interiors of poet's house look still the same as in Batyushkov's lifetime. Besides guided excursions, guests are offered tea with pancakes.

Ustyuzhna town itself is one of the Russian historical ones. First it was mentioned in 13th century chronicles as Ustyug Zhelezny. Main sights of it are however not so old, but notable as well. One to be visited is Nativity of the Virgin cathedral of 17th century, now functioning as a local history museum, where icons, oil painting and folk crafts are exhibited. Due to museum politic of Soviet time, Russian provincial art museums possess works of absolutely not provincial quality together with naive ones.

Kirillov, together with Ferapontovo is the main tourist stronghold of the region. The town, still very small, appeared around mighty fortress of Kirillo-Belozerskiy closter, founded in the late 14th century on the shore of Siverskoye Lake and obtained its fortification works in 16 and 17 centuries. It occupies 12 hectares and is recognized as the biggest cloister in Europe. Now it has status of a museum and state reserve. It is a place where Russian rulers of 16th century, including Ivan the Terrible, came for a prayer instead of its apartness from Moscow. They left there enormous sums of money and really rich gifts, like luxurious manuscripts, pictorial embroidery, icons of the best painters. All that made possible construction of the huge fortress and rich collection of the museum which is exhibited in one of the monastery buildings.


There is a souvenir shop not far from the monastery walls, where you can buy not only usual souvenirs, but different ceramic things, work of authorship: Kurakino ceramics from Nina Mishintseva's studio. Her curious house and pottery is situated in a village not far from Kirillov.

An other object no-doubt to be visited in Vologda Region is situated in 12 km from Kirillov. It is Ferapontov monastery with fully survived painter decorations in its cathedral of Nativity of the Virgin of 1502, created by Dionissiy, one of the most famous Russian painters. The date and name of master Dionissiy and his sons is in an inscription, which contains other information as well and situated above portal. The wall paintings are famous not for their condition, but for very high art quality. Icons from this temple The place itself is very picturesque: the monastery stays on the hill, down there is Borodavskoye lake, which is by the way not so cold as Siverskoye. You can stay here longer if you'd like: there is a new hotel, which was opened after this place, Museum of Dionissiy frescoes became a part of UNESCO world heritage list.

Vologda as itself is an ambivalent place: it is a town of wooden houses of early 20th century, Kremlin and old Russian Sophia cathedral, city which could be turned into a new Russian capital. It was Ivan the Terrible who had such idea and even moves towards this: he began constructing fortress and cathedral. Traces of active cultural life of that period are to be seen in the museum, situated next door to the cathedral, in the former bishop's residence. At the same time Vologda was the south line of the GULAG area. It is curious, but early years of writer and poet Varlaam Shalamov, author of "Kolyma Stories", stories written in prison camps and mainly about GULAG prison camps of Kolyma far on the north east.


Tags: Russian tourism Russian North Vologda Region   

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