Russia's Golden Ring - Facts and Information
History and Geography
What and where the Golden Ring is and its place in Russia's history
Viking trade routes, the emergence of Russia, seats of power, ecclesiasical centres and amazing architecture and culture.

 

GOLDEN RING

Golden Ring Main Index
  Suzdal - Pokrov
  Suzdal - Euthymius
  Suzdal - Kremlin
  Suzdal - Churches
  Suzdal - Street scenes
  Suzdal - Wood Museum
  Bogolyubovo & Vladimir
  Kostroma - St Ipaty
  Kostroma - Wood Museum
  Yaroslavl - Street scenes
  Yaroslavl - Kremlin
  Yaroslavl - Church of Elijah
  Yaroslavl - Icon Museum
  Rostov - Kremlin
  Rostov - Gate churches
  Rostov - Miscellany
  Sergiev Posad - Kremlin
  Sergiev Posad - Refectory

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The Golden Ring
The Golden Ring is the name given to a loop of towns stretching out for about 150 miles to the north-east of Moscow. Some are large industrial centres, some little more than villages, but what they all have in common is a wealth of monastic, ecclesiastic and other historic buildings still standing along with magnificent collections of church and other art.

The name 'Golden Ring' is generally applied to an increasingly popular tourist route, but there is no precise definition. About a dozen towns qualify for inclusion, although most visitors probably go to less than half of these.

Viking origins
About 1,500 years ago Viking traders established trade links between the Baltic and Caspian Seas making use of the Volga. This north-south route was crossed by others between east and west. A number of city states emerged and in 862 Rurik of Jutland founded Novgorod, sowing the first seeds of Rus. Later Kiev became dominant and in 988 Prince Vladimir persuaded the Patriarch of Constantinople to establish a bishopric there, effectively creating the Russian Orthodox Church.

Kiev's position as capital of Rus declined, partly due to invasions from the east in 1093 when the city was sacked but also to the Crusades which reduced Arab control of the region to the south thus opening it as a more direct east-west trade route. The centre of influence moved north to fertile land around Suzdal and in 1169 the capital moved to the recently founded city of Vladimir.

Emergence of Muscovy
In 1237 the Mongol-led Golden Horde swept through the area and Rus began to disintegrate into separate princedoms. Moscow became independent in 1252 and by 1500 was the effective capital. Meanwhile the towns of the Golden Ring continued, wars and fires apart, to thrive on trade and manufacturing, the proceeds of which endowed dozens of churches and monasteries. Several of the towns retained their importance as bishoprics and provincial capitals with eighteenth and nineteenth century developments often creating attractive town centres centred on the older Kremlins.

Twentieth century
The winds of change following the Bolshevik Revolution led to the closure of most churches with many being put to other uses. However Lenin believed the cultural heritage of Imperial Russia should be valued and as a result much of what we see today in the Golden Ring survived. In fact in 1923 a Commission declared that "the whole of Suzdal is one great museum", a view more recently endorsed by UNESCO.

Today restoration work started in Soviet times appears to be continuing apace, and later town centres which had fallen into disrepair are beginning to be renovated.


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