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Regions of Russia: Nizhegorodskaya region

Nizhegorodskaya region

Region center of Nizhegorodskaya region is Nizhny Novgorod

History of Nizhegorodskaya OblastFrom the very start, Nizhny Novgorod has played an important part in the history of the Russian state, constituting a significant and colourful part of the Volga region.  No history of any period of the Russian state, from Kievan Rus, through the era of Muscovite rule, to the Communist period, would be complete without the involvement of people from the province.  The region was a stronghold of patriotism, a powerful centre of trade and enterprise, the birthplace of many famous Russian industries and a cradle of the natural sciences and culture.

Every Russian knows the names of Ivan Kulibin, Kuzma Minin, Valery Chkalov and Maksim Gorky, who were all from Nizhny Novgorod.  The once-renowned Nizhegorodskaya Trade Fair (Yarmarka) is undergoing a renaissance, hosting guests from across the globe.  Legions of tourists come to see the legendary Lake Svetloyar.

Many scientific achievements can likewise be linked to Nizhny Novgorods scientists.  From ancient times through to the present day the Nizhgorodskaya region has been, and in the future will continue to be, an indivisible part of the history and culture of the Russian state, and a source of its continued development.

The princes of Vladimir and Suzdal saw the confluence of the Oka and the Volga as a key strategic point, as it stood right on the trade route which the rivers constituted, and secured the princes southern and eastern borders from Bulgar raiders, who had fortresses along the Volga.

The area was important from both an economic and military point of view.  The fighting for control of the region took on an especially vicious character.  In 1152, Prince Yury Dolgoruky built the town which is now known as Gorodets 60 km upriver along the Oka.  In 1164 Prince Andrei Bogolyubsky led a successful expedition against the Bulgars, and the mouth of the Oka became the usual muster point for Russian soldiers before an expedition.

The founding of Nizhny NovgorodIn 1220, the Bulgars were forced to seek peace, which was agreed to under strict conditions.  To reinforce the treaty, Grand Duke Yury Vsevolodovich built a town at the confluence of the Volga and the Oka, which he named Nizhny Novgorod.  The town became an economic, military and political centre of the Rus culture of the time, being especially important in permitting relations between Russia and the East.

However, Nizhny Novgorod and Gorodets were both captured by the Tatar invaders in the years that followed.  Under the Mongol yoke, Nizhny Novgorod continued to grow and strengthen, despite the oppression of the Tatars.  In 1341 it became the centre of its own principality, whose borders stretched across huge swathes of what is now Russia. 

However, after a series of military defeats by the Tatars, and under constant threat of attack, Nizhny Novgorod joined forces with Moscow, becoming Moscows entry point to the Volga.

Handicraft and cottage industry

More than two thousand types of handicraft and cottage industry owe their origins to and have flourished in the Nizhny Novgorod Region. Many of them have been widely acclaimed in Russia and have become popular items for international visitors. In terms of the quality of folk and decorative arts, the Nizhny Novgorod Region occupies a leading position within Russia.

Khokhloma Woodpainting

Khokhloma woodpaintingOne of the most ancient and widespread folk industries in the Nizhny Novgorod Region is that of spoon carving. In honour of this ancient craft, which has already existed for more than a millennium, a commemorative statue to Semyon the cooper was set up to in the town of Semyonovo.

When in 1916, the town saw the opening of the Artistic School for Woodcarving, the centre of the famous black and gold decorative motif Khokhloma moved from the neighbouring Kovernino district to the area in and around Semyonov. Ever since then, spoons have been painted with gold and vermilion glazes - and this is not the case for spoons alone: today, dishes, jewelry boxes, vases, buckets, clocks, nested Russian dolls, scoops, swan-shaped cups, and much more besides are all produced at the workshops Khokhloma Rospis, Semyonovsky Souvenir and the private firm Abris.

Khokhloma Rospis has started to use the ancient techniques used in icon painting with the blessing of the Patriarch Alexy II.

Today, the Khokhloma design is one of the most famous in Russia. The unique and ancient methods used have undergone practically no changes at all. Carved out of lime or aspen Gorodets woodpaintingwood, the objects are prepared by being rubbed with aluminium powder, decorated with heat-resistant paints, glazed and then fired in special kilns. The varnish turns slightly yellow due to the heat, and turns the silvery surface golden: and so a wooden dish becomes similar to a precious stone.

This unique connection with the past has earned Semyonov the title "Capital of Golden Khokhloma"; the Kovernino district is known as "the cradle of Khokhloma". The current range of products from the Kovernino workshop Khohlomskoi Khudozhnik numbers more than 1000 differently named types of practical, decorative and souvenir items.

Gorodets Woodpainting

Painted wooden designs from Gorodets (known as Gorodetskaia Rospis) are no less famous today than designs from Khokhloma. Using thick and brightly coloured oil paints, peasant motifs are painted onto bast baskets, yarn boxes, children's furniture, looms and distaffs. Typically depicted scenes would be peasants celebrating or drinking tea, festivals or a Gorodets horse and rider.

Polkhov-Maidan WoodpaintingPolkhov-Maidan Woodpainting

The design known as Polkhov-Maidanskaia usually shows scenes from the legend of Alena Arzamaskaia, most frequently at the place where she died, where a beautiful scarlet rose is said to have grown. This scarlet rose was also incorporated into motifs found on Polkhov-Maidansk Russian dolls where up to fifty dolls can be nested one inside the other. You can find out more about the art of carving and decorating Russian dolls at the craft centre in the village of Voznesenskoe or even go straight to Polkhov-Maidansk, where practically every second villager is involved in carving or decorating these dolls.


Decorative metalworkWhere decorative metalwork is concerned, the Nizhny Novgorod region boasts several production centres. The main ones are in the towns of Pavlovo, Vacha, Vyksa, Vorsma and the village of Kazakovo in the Vacha district.

The town of Pavlovo could be considered the very centre of the production of cutlery and table decoration in Russia. Its methods include decorative designs, caulking and guilding with what is known as Near-Gold. Pavlovo also forges sabres and all kinds of knives: here you find them as souvenirs, for use in hunting, as a present, with a decorative carving on it, with an adjusted end to the hilt, as well as knives made of stone and precious metals. The knives, sabres, daggers and swords made by the master craftsman Valery Safronov enjoy particular popularity.

The traditions of ductile metal forging are continued in Pavlovo by in Ermoshin's workshop. You can get to know more about the history of Pavlovo handicraft production in the museum attached to the Arts and Crafts College.

The village of Kazakovo in the Vacha district is where high quality filigree work is carried out. Among the objects decorated in this way are vases, jewelry boxes, coasters, women's jewelry, lamps, icon lamps and much else besides.

In the factory in the town of Vacha, artistic metalwork designs are used according to old master craftsmen's traditions particularly in the production of table cutlery and kitchen knives. The factory was started in 1839 by the serf D. Kondratov.

The town of Vorsma produces more than 30 types of jackknife and ceremonial axe. The knife handles are made of precious woods such as beech, oak, walnut and red arbor.

The Towns of Bogorodsk and Reshetikha in the Volodarsky raion have retained their status as large centres of tannery.

22Bone carving using techniques of openwork, relief and volumetric bas-relief are what the village of Varnavino is famous for.

The village of Bornukovo (Buturlinsky district) is famous for its old stone masonry workshops. The works of Bornukovo stone masons, including bowls, vases and miniature animal sculptures have won prizes at Russian and international exhibitions on more than one occasion.

The Nizhny Novgorod Region is also famous for its ceramics trade, set up by talented potters from the town of Bogorodsk, the village of Smirkino (Gorodetsk district) and Kazarinovo (Bolshoe Boldino district).

The main centres for basket weaving and objects made from birch bark are the towns of Arzamas, Lyskovo, Pavlovo and Semyonov.

The birthplace of the embroidery known as Guipure is considered to be the village of Katunka (Chkalovsk district). The production of handmade transparent embroidery known as Gorkovsky Guipiure is developing even today both in Katunka and Chkalovsk itself. In the museum of the factory Guipure you can find out all about the history of the handicraft; its shop includes examples of openwork fabrics and napkins.

The Gorodets factory Tatiana is renowned for its golden embroidery. Here, several different embroidery techniques are employed: openwork embroidery, chain stitch and gold thread sewing. The techniques involved in gold thread sewing are native to Arzamas.

The town of Shakhune has preserved the old type of folk craft, remiz: a high quality type of weaving using old Russian hand-held tools.

The master craftsmen of Bor also make use of traditional embroidery techniques in their work. A widespread method of folk embroidery using white strips, sometimes with the addition of a coloured counterpoint, was used in the works of the embroiderers of Lyskovo. They work with gold thread and thread known as vyderga or Lyskovsky guipure. The basis of the decorative techniques used on items from the Per-vomaiskaia Embroidery Workshop are white and coloured satin stitch, chain stitch, "Richelieu" and applique.

Nizhny Novgorod

Nizhny NovgorodIn Russia's past, Nizhny Novgorod has been called famous, even glorious. And to truly be able to believe it, one really needs to stand on the beautiful spot among the legendary Diatlov Hills - on the embankment of the river Volga in front of the Statue to the great pilot Valery Chkalov, where expanses of the far north open out in front of you as far as the eye can see -and admire the famous reach where the rivers Volga and Oka meet, both flowing hurriedly on towards the south; it is not for nothing that our forefathers worked hard to the glory of their city, as they transformed it into such a beautiful sight.

The artist Ilia Repin described the city "in a mighty position", Velimir Khlebnikov spoke of the town as "tender Nizhny", Boris Kornilov united his love for the city with the romance of Spring and youth: "These utterly boundless expanses, where every garden glistens".

And there is no doubt that it was not only a matter of calculation but also of the heart that convinced the Prince of Vladimir-Suzdal, Yuri Vsevolodovich, the grandson of the founder of Moscow.

The most important monument from Nizhny Novgorod's distant history is its Kremlin - a unique ensemble of buildings, combining the rigour of medieval fortified walls and towers with the austerity of classical architecture of the 19th century. As it was erected in accordance with a high level of military and defence technology of past times, despite a large number of attempts, the Kremlin was never captured by an enemy force.

The construction of the stone Kremlin started in 1500 and was completed in 1512. The masons were directed by the talented Italian engineer and architect Petro Francesco. The Kremlin consisted of 14 towers, but only 12 have survived to the 21st century. In the summer, by climbing up the brick-built Kladovaya Tower, one can go for a fascinating stroll and admire the expanses of the Volga region and views of the Strelka (the confluence of the Volga and Oka rivers).

The very first church to be built in Nizhny Novgorod is considered to be the Church of the Archangel Michael in the Kremlin - one of the best examples of a hipped-roof construction of all the religious architecture in the Nizhny Novgorod region. The church used to be wooden and as such must have been built before the foundation of the city. During its last reconstruction in 1631, it was rebuilt in stone to commemorate the victory of the militia under the leadership of Kuzma Minin and Dmitry Pozharsky. It was on their initiative in 1612 that a militia was formed in the Nizhny Novgorod region. The militia later liberated Moscow from Polish-Lithuanian occupation. In 1962 the ashes of Kuzma Minin were laid in the church.

Right from the very foundation of the city, The Annunciation Monastery - one of the most famous monasteries of the Nizhny Novgorod region - has had a hand in the shaping of local history. It was constructed with the aim of guarding the river crossing of the Oka and the approach to the Kremlin. The restoration carried out on the Monastery complex at the end of the last century has broadly preserved the buildings as they would have been in the 17th century.

A remarkable example of Russian Baroque in the context of the history of Nizhny Novgorod and Russian Architecture is the Church of the Birth of the Virgin Mary. It was built at the beginning of the 17th century on the orders of the famous merchant and salt trader, G. Stroganov. Entirely covered in magnificent finery, richly decorated in golden-leaf motifs, the iconostasis startles one with its beauty and majesty even today.

The cathedral of Alexander Nevsky, a monumental structure containing elements of a medieval castle, was built at the end of the 19th century using funds obtained from merchant trade fairs.

Today, the solemn-looking building of the Nizhny Novgorod Trade Fair recalls the glorious history of the city's mercantile past as does the Staroyarmarochny Spassky (Old Market Sudarium) Cathedral (which was built according to the model of St Isaac's Cathedral in St Petersburg) and the grandiose merchants' mansions of the 19th and 20th centuries. The city has managed to preserve even older buildings belonging to the Nizhny Novgorod trading community - stone houses from the 17th century which belonged to Chatygin, Pushnikov and Olisov, constructed in the style of ancient Russian tower-chambers.

In Russia, the symbol of the enterprising merchant classes, who were frequently generous patrons, became the flourishing Nizhny Novgorod Trade Fair. It was transferred from Makariev in 1817 and the trading complex was put under the direction of the architect Augustin Betancur. The Trade Fair was dubbed "The Babylon of Nizhny Novgorod" and the city became highly reputed as a trade centre - "the moneybag of Russia".

The city grew in wealth through merchant trading and in repute through the names of traders such as Bugrov, Rukavishnikov, Sirotkin and the Bashkirov.

Nizhny Novgorod is the birthplace of the world-renowned writer Maxim Gorky. The town was named after him from 1932 until 1990.

Today, it is the museums and exhibition halls of Nizhny Novgorod that tell the story of the town's glorious past, its famous inhabitants, its traditions and everyday life.

The most important of these institutions in the Nizhny Novgorod region is the Architectural and Historical Fund, which is made up of seven museums. The museum of architecture and folk culture of the Nizhny Novgorod and Volga regions, located on the Shchelkovsky Khutor, presents a detailed account of the culture, traditions and everyday life of the inhabitants of the Nizhny Novgorod region. The museum on Bolshaya Pokrovskaya Street holds materials about the history of folk art and cottage industry, including the famous decorative style Khokhloma.

One of the city's oldest museums can be found in the Dmitrievskaia Tower in the Kremlin. Its opening coincided with that of the All Russian Exhibition of Industry and the Arts which took place in Nizhny Novgorod in 1896. The museum keeps a careful record of the history of the Kremlin itself, a beautiful collection of handmade porcelain and everyday objects from the mansions of the Nizhny Novgorod merchant classes and intelligentsia.

The other museum that can be found in the Kremlin - the Nizhny Novgorod State Museum of Fine Arts - is housed in the former residence of the military governor. It was built at the end of the 19th century. The collection includes more than twelve thousand Russian and international works of art, from 14th century ancient Russian icons to the latest works of the 20th century.

There are three museums which tell the story of the lives of the famous citizens of Nizhny Novgorod from the world of arts, culture and science: they are The Museum of the Nizhny Novgorod Intelligentsia, the Gorky Museum of Literature, and the Sakharov and Dobroliubov Commemorative Museum.

Antique cameras and the works of famous Nizhny Novgorod photographers are housed in the Russian State Museum of Photography.


LyskovoThe town of Lyskovo can be found in a picturesque spot on the right bank of the Volga, 90 km from Nizhny Novgorod.

The town started life as an ancient fort on the Olennaia hills, defending the borders of the Russian State from incursions by the Golden Horde. The first memorable date in its history is 1367. Sadly it is memorable only due to tragic events the sacking of the area around Lyskovo by the Hun Bulat-Temir. According to official chronicles, Lyskovo has existed since 1410. It took its name from the nearby hills called "Lysie Gori" or "Barren Hills", however there is another legend that says that the town received the name of the Tatar Hun, Lysko, who once captured an ancient settlement in the area.

From 1646 to 1665, Lyskovo belonged to the aristocrat Boris Ivanovich Marozov (the governor and mentor of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich) and for the subsequent three hundred years, was the property of Prince Gruzinsky.

Prince Georgy Alexandrovich Gruzinsky left us a rather special monument in the history of Lyskovo. He spent enormous amounts on the construction of various buildings. He had several churches built which have been preserved right up until today: the Church of Saint Georgy the Victorious (1814) and the Ascension Cathedral (1830), the former designed by the professor of fine arts from Arzamas, AV Stupin. The burial vault of the Gruzinsky Princes is in the Church of the Transfiguration (17th century).

As a result of the 1641 Trade Fair which took place in the shadow of the Makarevsky Monastery on the opposite bank of the river Volga, artisan trade and industry experienced a rapid period of growth. It was here that workshops for the production of all types of crafts were set up: wood carving, tanning, textiles, and pottery. The town was particularly renowned for its Lyskovo-style chests which came in many different shapes and sizes. They are decorated with carved figures and special snowflake and frost patterns, imbuing the chests with a real quality of fine art. Lyskovo-style chests and strong boxes were especially popular with traders. According to the needs and wishes of the merchant, the master craftsmen incorporated ingenious inner and outer locks with alarms attached which warned the owner of any attempts to steal the chest"s contents.

Even far from the limits of this region, Lyskovo flour and bread was highly reputed. In the past, there was a very healthy bread trade here.

The local museum houses a diverse collection of artifacts from Lyskovo master craftsmen. The pride of the museum is a collection of 24 samovars - from a huge 50 litre affair to a small, portable apparatus and a separate collection of Lyskocvo chests. There is also an exhibition dedicated to brewing. Among the different bottles which were all once filled with beer, there is one particularly amazing bottle, called the Khaliava (the freebie). From the outside, the bottle looks large, but because of the raised bottom inside, there is much less space in there for beer than there would be in a normal bottle. The museum also keeps a record of the trademarked technology of bottle topping from bottles produced in Lyskovo. They were used by brewers to guard their produce from counterfeits.

The production of pottery, wickerwork, caulking and iron founding are all practised in Lyskovo even today. At the factory "Lyskovo Arabesques", you can see exactly how the talented master craftsmen embellish and embroider clothes, textiles, napkins and towels.

The jewel in the crown in the Lyskovo District has for many generations been Makarevo-Zheltovodsky Monastery.


Arzamas town

The town of Arzamas is one of the oldest towns in the Nizhny Novgorod region. It was built when the area was part of the State of Mordova as a defensive fort to guard against incursions from the Muscovite state. Legend has it that the town was founded by the Tsar Ivan the Terrible (Ivan IV) during the military campaign to capture Kazan in 1552.

The name Arzamas is the result of the mixing of the Mordovan words erzia, the name of a Mordovan tribe, and mazi, meaning red or beautiful. And so, we can translate Arzamas as "Beautiful Place of the Erzia People".

Towards the middle of the 18th century, Arzamas was divided into ten districts, including four of national status. The evolution of trade and industry was aided by the evolution of a rich merchant class of all levels, who owned trading houses and shops not only in their own town but also in all the main trading centres across the country. The results of this evolution were not slow in making their mark on the town. The merchants of Arzamas built churches using their own means, competed with each other in decorating each church and made large contributions to the acquisition of religious artifacts. The Cathedral of the Transfiguration (built in 1643), the Ilinsky Cathedral (1746) and the Church of Holy Jerusalem (1717), the Monastery of St Saviour (18th century), The Church of the Nativity (built in 1852, according to the plans of the architect K. Ton, who was also behind the building of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow), the Church of the Intercession of the Virgin (the Protecting Veil) in the village of Verigino (1821), the Church of the Assumption (1813) the Church of the Ascension (1813) and many more makes up a set of buildings of huge proportions. The Smolensk Cathedral in the village of Vyezdnoe (1815) is where the picture "The Crucifixion" is kept. Painted on canvas, it is the work of the 17th century Spanish artist Murilo. This is also where the miraculous icon, the Virgin Mary of Smolensk is housed. The Church of the Resurrection in the village of Kostylikha (1652) is a state-recognized historical monument.

The majestic pentagonal Resurrection Cathedral soon became the main attraction of the town. It was built entirely by contributions from the town"s inhabitants in honour of the Russian people"s victory in the Napoleonic War of 1812. The director of the project was the Professor of Architecture MP Korinfsky. The interiors of the cathedral were realised by the director and pupils of the Arzamas-Stupinskaia School. The Lomakiny brothers were the creators of the richly decorated icanostasis, painted in a classical style.

 Not far from the Resurrection Cathedral are the grounds of the Nikolsky Convent, whose construction had already begun at the end of the 16th century. Works of gold-threaded embroidery by nuns from the Nikolsky and Alexeevsky convents have even been used to decorate churches in Greece and Jerusalem. The buildings and grounds of Cathedral Square include a church dedicated to an icon of the Virgin Mary known as "Relieve my Suffering".

In the 19th century, there were more than 30 churches and four monasteries in Arzamas. It is due to this abundance of churches and the town"s close ties with Moscow that this saying came to be: "Arzamas is only a little town but is only just around the corner from Moscow".

In terms of administrative buildings dating from the 18th century, the only one to have been well preserved is the Arzamas Magistrat. Magistrats were organs of regional government at the time of Peter the Great, and they needed special buildings a town hall or Magistrates" Pokon.. It was here that the merchant committees had their meetings and where the civil courts sat. The two-storied Magistrat can be found on the main square and is built in a Baroque style.

Many of the merchants" mansions have also been preserved in the town, among which are the houses of Podsosov, Sinitsyn, Khanukov and other merchants. There is also the old trading street where one could find shops and groceries as well as the workshops of tanners, blacksmiths and potters.

It was also in Arzamas, at the beginning of the last century that the first provincial Fine Arts School was founded under the guidance of the Academic AV Stupin. The school nurtured a whole range of talented artists, among whom were BG Perov, VE Raev, N Rachkov, NA Koshelev and many others.

The writer Maxim Gorky spent his exile in Arzamas. He frequently had famous visitors to stay, such as LN Andreev, BI Nemirovich-Dachenko and SG Skitalets. Subsequently, Gorky set up the first public library in Arzamas in his own home. Today, the house is used as a commemorative museum to the writer.

The children"s writer A Gaidar (AP Golnikov) was born in Arzamas. With a rarely encountered and touching care, the present inhabitants of Arzamas preserve various places in memory of Gaidar the writer"s childhood home, the Secondary School buildings, a Literary Museum in his name and a monument to the writer, the work of the sculptor IP Struchkov.

Exhibits in the Museum of History and Fine Arts keep alive the memory of the town"s ancient past and its bygone heroes, such as the fearless Alena Arzamaskaia, who took part in the peasant uprising led by Stepan Razin. The exhibits include chainmail, bells, embroidered women"s dresses and much else besides. On the second floor of the museum is a picture gallery, remarkable for its collection of works from the Stupinsky Fine Arts School. The museum also has a recital room.

The Balandin family spent more than 20 years collecting rare artwork from the 18th and 19th centuries. The result of their work is two private museums, each with a wide collection of icons, all sorts of different types of bronze lamps (including icon lamps), porcelain, glass and brass objects, antique musical instruments and clocks. Also exhibited are artifacts from everyday life mixers, butter beaters, fruit juicers, coffee grindersits hard to believe that they date back to the 18th and 19th centuries but this does not diminish their value anything but!

Visitors to Arzamas can look forward to theatres, exhibition halls, the picture galleries of the AV Stupin Fine Art School, a centre for folk art and cottage industry, where more than 20 artisans work, concert programmes from the folk group Zolotie Uzori or the musical ensemble Zolotaiushka and much more.

After a long walk around Arzamas, you could call in on the cosy café Papa Carlo or the restaurant Russkaia Kukhnia and try tasting some goose, cooked according to an old Arzamas recipe.


The town of Balakhna The town of Balakhna was founded in 1474 and along with Arzamas and Gorodets, holds the status of Historical Town of the Russian Federation.

The rather unusual name of the town is explained by several different legends. One of them links the name of the town to the decree of the Tsar Ivan the Terrible that all those working in salt production should be given white overalls (known in Russian as balakhoni). Another legend explains the name by the presence of so many marshes (balakhtin) in the area. And a third postulates that as the old town evolved under "natural law" ie: there were no import and export offices set up, and there was no town administration the following saying came into being:  "If you move to Balakhna, you will start to dress untidily".

After Tsar Ivan III had conquered Veliky Novgorod in 1478, several citizens of Novgorod who were familiar with salt production were sent to Balakhana to help rejuvenate the local salt industry. Balakhana had, for many centuries, been a significant centre of salt production and had even vied for pole position with salt from Vychegde.

Balakhana was the hometown of the Russian patriot, Kuzma Minin. At the beginning of the 17th century, together with Dmitry Pozharsky, Minin led a popular uprising which liberated Moscow from its occupiers and enabled the first members of the Romanov dynasty to accede to the throne.

By the middle of the 17th century, Balakhana was becoming a significant center for shipbuilding. Balakhana shipbuilders constructed special ships for the campaign on the Sea of Azov and took part in the construction of boats for the Holstein embassy. The boats produced, especially those for trading purposes were richly decorated with carvings. They were the pride of the town, and this is reflected in the town"s coat of arms: two boats on a silver heraldic field, representing the repute of the town" shipbuilders. Every year, more than sixty different types of ship left the shipyards at Balakhana.

Between 1668 and 1702, in the Kuznechny District, a reputed Balakhana salt producer and trader from the highest guild, Grigory Dobrynin built a private chapel, dedicated to St Saviour in memory of his father and brother. The church was richly decorated with multicoloured tiles from Balakhana.

At the very centre of Balakhana, on the former site of the Monastery of the Intercession of the Virgin (Protecting Veil) stands the second oldest monument in the whole of the Nizhny Novgorod region a pent-roof stone church the Church of St Nicholas. It was built in 1552 to commemorate the conquest of Kazan.

The Churches of the Intercession of the Virgin and of the Nativity are beautiful examples of 16th and 17th century Russian architecture. The church of the nativity boasts an iconostasis from the second half of the 18th century, decorated with wooden fretwork.

Towards the turn of the 17th century, Balakhana was one of the main centres of tile production in Russia. On Red Square in Moscow, St Basil"s Cathedral is decorated with tiles from Balakhana. All brick buildings in Nizhny Novgorod dating from the 17th century were erected using Balakhana bricks. Balakhana is also famous for the bobbin method of lace making. The town used its own "Balakhana style" of making lace, the basis of which lay in a multipair approach. There is a collection of Balakhana lace in the local museum. The museum also houses icons from the 17th to the 19th century, 16th - 19th century tiles, wooden sculptures from the 19th century, antique sleighs and bicycles and much else besides. In addition, the museum possesses a clock two metres across which survives from the Church of the Ascension (1772).

In the town"s children"s library, you will find a small museum dedicated to Kuzma Minin and the popular uprising of 1612. 

In the village of Pravdinsk which adjoins Balakhana, there is a children"s cultural centre where Balakhana-style lace making and wood carving is being revived and applied and decorative arts are flourishing. The houses in Pravdinsk are remarkable for the abundance of intricate bas-relief fretwork.

On the first Sunday of September, Balakhana celebrates its own civic holiday. It is on this day that the inhabitants honour the most famous inhabitant of the town, Kuzma Minin. People dress up in 17th century costumes, remember the heroes of the 1612 uprising, celebrate its victorious outcome and delight visitors to the town with a large-scale theatrical pageant. Master craftsmen and artists set up stalls on the main square to demonstrate their methods of painting, carving, pottery, lace making, basket weaving and whistle carving.


BogorodskThe delightfully beautiful town of Bogorodsk developed from a small 16th century settlement which was named in honour of the chapel built here dedicated to the birth of the Virgin Mary. The settlement was built along an old cart track that ran between Nizhny Novgorod and Murom.

In 1615, Bogorodsk was made over to one of the leaders of the Nizhny Novgorod popular uprising, Kuzma Minin "for his tireless work". Later, the land came under the control of Prince Cherkassky, and then for two centuries, belonged to the ancient Russian family, the Sheremetevs. The remains of this period are mainly to be found in the layout of the grounds: a steeply sloping hill and a manmade lake which was originally dug in the shape of a woman"s body.

The town"s central square has kept the look of its trading days; the Church of the Assumption, built in 1816 from Sheremetev family funds, completes the ensemble. The church also contains the family vault.

The generally acclaimed renown of the Bogorodsk district attracted to it many pottery and tanning workshops. In turn the high quality of the pottery produced here even attracted master craftsmen from Veliky Novgorod. Ceramics and pottery produced by craftsmen from Bogorodsk fared very well on the markets of Nizhny Novgorod.

The local Bogorodsk museum houses a unique collection of antique ceramics. You can also find out more about another well-known Bogorodsk industry tanning. At the beginning of the 20th century, Bogorodsk boasted more than 150 separate tanneries. The workshop of the famous tanner IV Khokhlov was one of the most prolific in Russia in terms of production of high-quality chrome-hardened leather.

By going for a little walk around the town with one of the museum guides, you can learn a little more about the famous inhabitants of Bogorodsk  - about potters, tanners, merchants, and those involved in the sciences and arts.

Today, the Bogorodsk Crafts House and the workshop Gorshenia continue the traditions of Bogorodsk ceramics. A museum of ceramics was set up in the Crafts House which displays all sorts of different types of ceramic and clay objects from small items to high class artistic ceramics.

In the 19th century, the area surrounding Bogorodsk was jokingly dubbed "Nizhny Novgorod"s Versailles", as it was here that a large number of private estates were to be found.

High up on the banks of the river Oka, in the village of Podviaze, is a landed estate dating from the 18th and 19th centuries; it is considered to be an excellent example of the architecture and town planning so typical of Russian classicism. The estate first belonged to BM Priklonsky and subsequently to SM Rukavishnikov.

A beautiful park and lake has been preserved from the family estate of the Bestuezhev-Riumin"s near the village of Kudreshka. The famous musicologist, AD Uliybyshev once owned an estate near the village of Lukino, and in the villages of Savyolovo and Lazarevo the estates of SV Sheremetev.

Bolshoe Boldino

Writers, artists and musicians come to Bolshoe Boldino from the four corners of the earth to honour the memory of a great Russian poet. There is something particular about the appearance of the historical reserve at Boldino. An ancient Lord"s mansion, a park attached to the estate with a series of small lakes and waterfalls, an alley of silver birches and weeping willows, the sweet smell of an apple orchard, fairytale summer houses and bridges, a breathtaking view of the countryside stretching into the distance all this fills the heart with strong emotions which immediately call to mind the lines written by Alexandr Pushkin: "And the world fades away, in the sweet silence, my own imagination sweetly listens to me and poetry itself is roused within my soul: it is afraid of lyrical emotions, it trembles and cries out and searches, as if in its sleep, but  at last gives vent to unfettered emotional expression"

The great Russian poet spent three autumns (those of 1830, 1833 and 1834) at the Pushkin family estate at Bolshoe Boldino.

The autumn of 1830 spent at Boldino was one of the most prolific periods of the poet"s creative life. Within three months, he had started more than 30 compositions of varying styles. In all, by the end of these three inspired autumns, the poet had written about 50 compositions: Tales of Belkin, the Little Tragedies, The Bronze Horseman, The Story of Pugachev, The Queen of Spades, the two last chapters of Evgeny Onegin, the narrative poem The House in Kolomna, The Tale of Popp and his servant Baldo, some individual poems, polemical articles and literary criticism. Academics researching his works have referred to this period as a miracle.

There is also one more mystery connected with the poet"s stay at Boldino. After visiting the family estate in 1830, the poet"s attitude to the Church altered and he composed works imbued with a deep faith in God. In the margins of one of Pushkin"s manuscripts a sketch of an old man genuflecting appears. One explanation of this is that in the autumn of 1830, AS Pushkin went to visit the Venerable Serafim in the well-known Sarovskaia pustin" (or Sarov Monastery). Quite by chance, one of the poet"s compositions was blessed by the old hermit.

The village of Boldino belonged to the Pushkin family for three centuries. Today, on the old estate of the hereditary landowning Pushkin family, you will find a commemorative literary museum and archive. Here, much has been preserved including the manor house, a freestanding wooden construction with a mezzanine. As for the surrounding buildings the estate office remains, as well as the Bania (a Russian version of the sauna), the stables and a Chapel to the Archangel Michael, built in honour of the Pushkin family forebears.

A museum to Pushkin"s fairytales was set up in two wooden houses adjoining the estate. To commemorate the two hundredth anniversary of the poet"s birthday, Boldino"s 18th century stone church dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary was restored. The cinema Lira showed films inspired by Pushkin"s works.

One can also take a ride in a 19th century carriage to the forest reserve Luchinik, Pushkin"s favourite place for walks. Each year for a good number of years now, the All Russian Poetry Prize takes place here on the first Sunday of Juneas well as a special concert. Famous poets, actors and folk ensembles take part. Every September there are also the festivals Boldino Readings and Boldino Autumn.

Only a few kilometres separate Bolshoe Boldino from the village Lvovka, where, nestling among a beautiful park of lime trees, with a wooden church and picturesque lake is the estate of the poet"s elder son, AA Pushkin.

Two kilometres from Lvovka is the ancient centre of black-glazed ceramics the village of Bolshoe Kazarinovo. Here the production of ceramic dishes and bowels had already begun in the 16th century and still goes on even today.

Twenty kilometres north of Boldino is the only property which personally belonged to AS Pushkin the village of Kistenevo. Pushkin imortalised the name of his modest estate by using it in one of his short stories Dubrovsky.

When approaching Boldino you might like to have a closer look at the old windmill. After having looked around the great sites of the local area, there is the possibility of staying at a three-star hotel in Bolshoe Boldino. The accommodation available to tourists are comfortable rooms for one two or three people. The rooms are graded as luxury or standard. There is also a bar restaurant, snooker room and sauna.


GorodetsSeventy kilometres from Nizhny Novgorod, on the left bank of the Volga, stands the oldest town in the Nizhny Novgorod Region Gorodets. It was founded in 1152 by Prince Yuri Dolgoruky with the aim of strengthening the borders of the Rostov-Suzdal principality. The town was built on the site of a small settlement called Maly Kitezh. The route of the armies who opposed the Volga Bolgars led directly through Gorodets; for their enemy"s devastating raids had laid waste to Russian lands on more than one occasion. At that time, the town acted as a shield for the eastern part of the principality. The wooden fort and defensive earth ramparts have been preserved right up to the present day, and could even now serve as a defense against unwanted incursions.

The foundation of The Monastery of St Fyodor was an important date in the town"s history. In 1263, Alexandr Nevsky was returning from the Golden Horde, and it was here that he took his monastic vows, choosing the Christian name Alexei. Soon after, he passed away. In the 1990s, a Prince"s helmet was found during excavations. It was dated as being from the 13th century, but its ownership has still not been established. Following Alexandr Nevsky"s death, his son Andrei succeeded him as prince of Gorodets and took the title Andrei of Gorodets. In the 17th century,a set of annals was written in the monastery: The Chronicles of Kitezh bear witness to the sorrowful events at the time of Baty"s invasion of Rus (the name for ancient Russia).

In the 14th century, Princes were already minting their own currencies out of silver here. By the 17th century, the city had become one of the centres of wooden ship building on the Volga. Embroidery from Gorodets started to gain a high reputation along the whole river. In 1772, Peter the Great paid a visit to the dockyards at Gorodets, and in 1767, the empress Catherine II was present at the consecration of the church of St Fyodor and The Virgin Mary. Catherine II made over a considerable part of Gorodets to Count Grigory Orlov; subsequently this part became the property of Count Panin and Princess Volkonsky. In the 17th century, the city became the bulwark and unofficial capital of The Old Faith {2}. By the 19th century, Gorodets had turned into an important trading and economic centre as well as a stronghold of shipbuilding.

The wooden houses of Gorodets, decorated with dense bas-relief and deeply cut wooden fretwork now seem as if they are fairytale castles. At the base of the fretwork, floral ornamentation was added so as to be in harmony with the other carvings of river mermaids and celestial birds (Sirini) as well as gentle lions and a host of other mythological creatures. The town"s glorious past has been preserved in the form of the merchants" stone houses, decorated by awnings, with finely- wrought rounded iron porches, metal chimney tops and drainpipes. The Museum of Regional History is housed in one of these mansions, which once belonged to the merchant IP Oblaev.

In memory of the generous contributions made by the merchants of Gorodets and in recognition of their patronage of the arts, a commemorative statue to the Russian merchant classes was erected in Gorodets in 2002.

The district around Gorodets carefully preserves and nurtures folk traditions and the artistic output of the area. In the past, this was where Gorodets painting and embroidery flourished, not to mention woodcarving, pottery, basket weaving, the production of honey cakes, and the making of decorative gingerbread; this required a high level of skill and has now become a genuine art in its own right; it is no surprise then, that the Gorodets of today has been dubbed "the town of master craftsmen". Every year, on the last Sunday in June, a festival of cottage industry and handicrafts takes place; the second Sunday of September is Gorodet"s own municipal holiday, the town becomes not only a theatre, but also a museum, and trade fair, giving each visitor his own "private viewing".

Twenty minutes ride from Gorodets is the town Zavolzhe. The central part of this town has been given the status of Construction of Historical Interest of the Soviet Period. In Zavolzhe, you will have the opportunity to visit the museums of the hydroelectric power station, The Volga Region Engine and Shipbuilding Factories, The Centre for Children"s Art, and simply have the opportunity to enjoy the views of the Gorkovsky Lake.


PavlovoHigh up on the right bank of the river Oka, in all its beauty, stands the town of Pavlovo. It officially entered the annals of history in 1566 when it was first referred to in writing in the papers of Ivan the Terrible.

Pavlovo was situated on both the water and land trade routes between Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod. This aided the development of, among others, the iron, steel and leather industries. Metalwork, arising from the fact that the surrounding marshes contained ore gradually overtook all other local industries. Items from Pavlovsk were sold not only in Russia but also abroad. "Surely there is nobody who isn"t familiar with Pavlovsk metalwork?" asked the Russian writer Pavel Melnikov-Pechersky. "Almost every one of us has eaten his dinner with a Pavlovsk knife and fork, repaired his pen with a Pavlovsk penknife, locked up their belongings with a Pavlovsk lock and, from a certain age, began to shave with Pavlovsk razors.

The collections and exhibitions at the Pavlovsk History Museum tell the story of steelwork with the breathtaking mastery of one of the magic-fingered metalworkers themselves. The main reserve alone contains more than 20,000 exhibits. The collection of locks is particularly interesting, with exhibits weighing from a mere 0.7 grammes to fifty kilogrammes. Several exhibits are only visible with the aid of a microscope: for example, the mechanical golden flea with platinum legs, or the lock, mounted in the eye of a needle, both executed by the master craftsman Pavel Kupilov. It is also worth mentioning that if the flea is wound up with a miniature key, it begins to merrily hit the block it is mounted on with a little hammer. In this way, today"s experts from Pavlovsk have outclassed even  the master craftsmen from Tula.

The museum complex has been set up in the mansion of a hunchbacked merchant from the second guild called VI Gomulin. It is a fine example of mid-19th century architecture, constructed in the Eclectic style. Much has been preserved: stucco ceilings, tiled stoves, carved doors and antique furniture.

The closing decades of the 18th century were, for Pavlovo, a period of exponential growth in the number of stone buildings, and rapid development of trade and industry. Three churches were built practically simultaeneously: the Churches of The Resurrection (1778), The Intercession of the Virgin (Protecting Veil, 1782) and the Ascension (1795). Not far from the trading areas, the stone mansions of renowned personalities sprang up and administrative buildings also started to appear. Thick walls and small windows, vaulted ceilings in the cellars, storerooms and halls on the ground floor, architectural details in Baroque style these are the characteristics that have been preserved in the majority of the town houses found here. The harmonious combination of the dominating bulk of the churches compared to the surrounding one, two or three-storied houses lends the town"s skyline a particular flavour. At the beginning of the 19th century, the local industrialists built stone houses in a style where the characteristics of classicism dominated but with the addition of provincial decoration. Even if the houses that we know today have sustained considerable damage following reconstruction and conversion, they do, nevertheless, bear witness to a high level of construction among the industrialists of the 19th century. In the centre of Pavlovo, the structure of the Trinity Cathedral (1813) rises upwards to the sky. Two additional churches have survived to the present day, those of The Assumption and Our Lady of Sorrows.

Among all the villages in Russia, Pavlovo marks itself out as having original and unusual attractions. Local selectors bred their own type of lemon here based on cuttings from Turkey imported during he 19th century. The residents of Pavlovo were real lovers of cock and goose fights and the melodious song of canaries. Special breeds of these birds were even developed; breeders won awards for them at Russian agricultural exhibitions. Even today the taste for the exotic has not entirely disappeared in the traditional pastimes of the inhabitants of Pavlovsk. Why not go to the Pavlovsk club Liubava. Every year the club runs a canary festival and cock and goose fighting events.

Where production and business are concerned, there are still plenty of entirely praiseworthy items produced in small private workshops and forges. The buildings of the Pavlovsk Car Factory Museum, the decorative metalwork factory Souvenir, The Kirov Decorative Arts Factory and private workshops open up new and interesting vistas for visitors to the region.

Metal roses, all sorts of hunting knives and commemorative decorations are all wrought by the skilled hands of our contemporaries: you can even see them at work at the exhibitions that are regularly organised at Pavlovsk.


Semyonov is an ancient but prominent centre for decorative woodcarving. The area is rich in forests, and was actively settled in the 17th century. It gathered many skillful master craftsmen from among the Old Believer community and as well as fugitive artisans who were experts in woodcarving and wood treatment for use in making Khokhloma designed dishes (with the famous black and gold motifs).

A decree issued by Catherine II in 1779 changed the status of the village of Semyonovo to that of a town.

Semyonov is included in the list of historical settlements which serve as a memorial of the so called "Open Sky" method of town planning. The designer of the town"s layout was a famous Russian architect IA Ananin. He used the architectural principals of French town planning, whereby all streets lead to one square. Even today modern architects follow the theory of town planning developed in the 18th century.

The extremely well preserved merchants" houses  - those of the Rekshinskys, Nosovs, Shliapnikovs  - serve to remind one of the glorious past that the town enjoyed in trading. Here, Old Believers  built large houses for their families out of red brick. The older inhabitants used to say that a specialized team of masons used to work on the production of bricks, each one with a different type of edge, even including semicircular ones.

A two-storied mansion of the Old Believer and merchant Pyotr Sharygin has, since 1980, served as The State History and Arts Museum of Semyonov. Exhibits in the museum include unique items by popular artisans which the director of the Handicrafts and Fine Arts Museum, GP Matveev, has been collecting and taking care of for a long time. As well as some excellent examples of Khohloma dishes, the museum also owns woodcarvings, sculpture and some toys from Semyonov.

The first room in the museum is decorated in the style of the 19th century: there are carved benches, old kerosene lamps and dishes from famous Russian porcelain factories. The next room deals with the history and everyday life of the Semyonov district before the revolution. Material about the Old Faith occupies the most important place in this part of the exhibition. The literature room is dedicated to the life and works of the local poet, Boris Kornilov. There are also displays about the work of the remarkable writer and performer Sergei Afonyshin. In addition, the museum includes thematic exhibits and exhibitions organized by significant dates in the town"s history, renowned people and the reason for their fame.

The museum organizes a traditional folk festival "At the Semyonov cooper"s house". Here you can find out about the traditional events that the local population enjoys, in particular the Handicrafts Fair and the town"s master craftsmen"s day.

We are reminded about Semyonov"s past connection with the Old Believers by the Church of St Nicholas (which is still working). It was built by the Old Believer family, the Nosovs at the end of the 19th century.

To find out more about the origins of Golden Khokhloma design or the beauty of Russian nested dolls, you might like to visit the Arts Companies Khohlomskaia Rospis and Semyonovskaia Rospis. The products from these affiliated companies have attained world-class status.  

The town"s Production House will allow you to get to know the secrets involved in basket weaving and straw incrustation.

The traditions and beliefs the Old Believers of the Volga are described in PI Melnikov-Pechersky"s book In the Forest. The museum of Old Believers, set up in one of the Old Believer"s mansions, also has material on this theme.


ChkalovskThe town of Chkalovsk started life as an ancient 12th century settlement called Vasilevo in honour of its founder Prince Vasily Yuriievich, the son of Yuri Dolgoruky. For a long time the territory belonged to Prince Shuisky who eventually became Tsar Yuri Shusky. The territory was then acquired by the church and from 1764, became crown property. At the end of the 19th century a state enterprise was opened here to deal with repairing the national fleet of dredgers, which determined the town"s future as a centre for shipbuilding. Today only two streets from the original village of Vasilevo survive, together with attractive wooden houses and several merchants" mansions from the 19th and 20th centuries. The majority of the village was flooded during the construction of the Gorkovsky Reservoir. In 1937 Vasilevo was renamed Chkalovsk and in 1955 the village gained the town status.

The most famous pages of history where Chkalovsk appears are connected with the name of the great Russian pilot and inventor, Valery Pavlovich Chkalov. He was born and brought up here and spent a lot of his time here as well.

In 1937, a team consisting of Chkalov and two of his colleagues Beliakov and Baidukov completed the first non-stop flight from Moscow to Vancouver via the North Pole. The legendary plane, the ANT-25 which completed the trip is now housed in a hangar which makes up part of the VP Chkalov Memorial Museum. For its time the ANT-25 was unique; at that point it had the very latest radio communication, airborne navigation and control systems. Chkalov occupies a very special place in Russian aviation history. He designed and performed a whole host of new and innovative stunts: the ascending spiral, the slow barrel roll and coming out of a dive upside down.

Eighteen months after Chkalov"s death, in 1940, a memorial museum was set up in the house where he had been born and brought up. Chkalov"s papers, photographs and personal belongings are carefully kept in the squat wooden house with a mezzanine and veranda, surrounded by apple orchards and flower gardens. The government also decided in 1940 that next to the commemorative museum, a majestic building in the form of a plane should be constructed the VP Chkalov Cultural Centre. Opposite the Cultural Centre, an unusual monument was set up: a modern MIG-21 fighter jet, placed as if shooting up into the sky.

Today, the Cultural Centre houses the folk museum The Village of Vasilievo, an exhibition which tells the story of the town and the development of Nizhny Novgorod shipbuilding. There is an exhibition to be found on the second floor of the Cultural Centre displaying pictures by the award winning Russian artist Alexandr Kamanin as well as a separate display room. A good number of journalists have dubbed Chkalovsk "Monmatre with the red mountain ashes". In the past few decades, the Chkalovsk region has given Russia more than ten artists.

Chkalovsk is renowned for its artistry in embroidery, especially in its own special technology Nizhegorodsky Gipuir.

Fifteen kilometres from Chalovsk in the village of Miakotino, a unique example of wooden architecture can be found a house with intricate bas-relief fretwork. On the way to Miakotino one can also have a look round the Centre for Handicrafts and Folk Activities where the trades of barrel making and basket weaving are being revived.

The ancient village of Purekh is famous for the casting of bronze church bells. There is also a memorial to Prince DM Pozharsky. The property was presented to him by Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich as a token of gratitude for his feat of heroism -  liberating Moscow from Polish and Lithuanian invaders. DM Pozharsky had a monastery built on the property in honour of the venerable Makary Zheltovodsky. Today, the main church from the monastery, the Church of the Transfiguration, is all that remains.


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