Smolensk is an administrative center of Smolensk region.
Smolensk is one of the first cities in Russia. It is older than Moscow and as old as Kiev and Novgorod. Smolensk was first mentioned in the chronicles in 863. The name of the city is derived from the name of Smolnaya River originating from the Russian word smola that means both tar and resin or from the old Slavic word smol which means black soil.
In IX century Smolensk was a fortress and the capital of Krivichi tribe.
In 882 Smolensk entered into Kievskaya Rus (Russian state). It was an active participant of trade and military campaigns of the ancient Russia. In 1054, Smolensk Duchy was founded. In XII century Smolensk reached the highest degree of its development and became the most important strategic centre of Russia and a reliable fort post of the state.
Situated close to the state borders, Smolensk was often a frontier city that provided the county’s defense. It was captured by the Mongols in 1238-40, suffered from Lithuanians in 1408 and Polish invasion in 1609-1611, fought with Swedish troops in 1708. The battle under Smolensk in August 4 - 5th during the Patriotic War of 1812 disturbed the plan of Napoleon to destroy Russia. The city, scene of some of World War II heaviest fighting, was captured by the Germans in 1941 and retaken by Soviet troops in 1943. There were fierce battles against the fascist army in July - September 1941 and this helped a lot to detain the enemy's attack on Moscow for more than 2,5 months. The battle under Smolensk in 1941 was the greatest battle of the initial period of war.
Economy and Transportation
Smolensk region is rich in natural resources. Among them are brown coal, peat, a number of deposits of construction materials (loams and loam soils, chalk, marl, limestone and other). Deposits of sulphate and calcium and magnesium mineral waters are also widely explored.
Smolensk is among the most important industrial centres of Russia today. It is famous for its Kristall diamond-cutting factory, which production is exported to all over the world and is a part of world-famous Diamond Fund. Other important industries are engineering, metalworking, machine building, flour milling, food processing, manufacture of textiles, linen and printing industries. The city, a major linen producer, has one of Russia's largest flax-processing mills.
Smolensk had risen on the commercial ways connecting Baltic countries with the Black Sea on the one hand and Moscow with the Central and Western Europe (Belorussia, Lithuania etc.) on the other. A convenient transport communication between Smolensk and Moscow is due to the fact that Smolensk is located on the lively railway and highways. Smolensk is a port and the head of navigation on the Dnieper River.
Smolensk has lived through many centuries and it has many historical monuments. The historic city features the Cathedral of Assumption, XII century Peter and Paul Cathedral, XII century Archangel Michael Temple and fragments of XVII century Kremlin.
The oldest church in Smolensk is the church of St. Peter and St. Paul, the prominent example of outstanding monuments of the Russian architecture of XII century. There are also two more churches of the same period - the Temple of Ioan Bogoslov and the Temple of Archangel Michael. There is also beautiful Cathedral of Assumption built in 1677-1679 and completed in 1740.
The City Fortress wall erected in 16th century by the famous architect Fyodor S. Kon. It’s length was 6.5 km, the width about 6 meters and the height was 12-16 meters. Although only 18 of the multiple towers are remaining, picturesque City Fortress wall has no similar examples in the Russian architecture.
There are also numerous monuments devoted to the War of 1812. The most remarkable of them is perhaps the Monument with Eagles, which was created in 1912 and is situated in the Square of Memory. One can see the Eternal fire there, the symbol of our memory. The monument of the Grieving mother, the Barrow of Immortality is the remarkable memorial complex, which was founded on the place of the former concentration camp in memory to those who died during the Great Patriotic war of 1941-1945.
There are 3 theatres, 5 cinemas, 20 libraries and several museums in Smolensk. The oldest culture institution in Smolensk is the State Theatre of Drama, which repertoire includes the plays of Russian and foreign classic.
Old houses, remarkable monuments, green parks, magnificent sceneries and landscapes - all these give the city its inimitable atmosphere, its enjoyable beauty. City is growing, modern houses are being built making Smolensk more attractive day by day.