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About Yaroslavl

Comprehensive information about Yaroslavl can be found here. The following description of Yaroslavl comes from a former student of YRLC:

Yaroslavl is situated on the junction of two rivers: the Kotorosl and the Volga. The Kotorosl runs into the much larger Volga at a beautiful place called the “Strelka” (“Junction”), where there are fountains. It’s part of a picturesque embankment with pagodas running along the banks of both rivers and is a nice place for a stroll. Yaroslavl was founded at that spot in 1010 by Prince Yaroslav the Wise of the Rostov Principality. He came to this place in order to secure the borders of his principality, to baptize the pagans who lived in a settlement there and to stop these pagans attacking the merchant ships travelling between the Volga cities. The pagans sent a female bear – their tribe’s sacred animal – against the prince, but Yaroslav the Wise killed the bear with his pole axe. That’s why you can now see a bear with a pole-axe on the coat of arms of Yaroslavl. Now Yaroslav had conquered the tribe, he ordered a fortress to be built, thus founding the base of the present-day city.

In the eleventh century Russia was invaded by Tater and Mongol hoards. The inhabitants of Yaroslavl resisted the oppressors until the famous battle on Tugova Mountain in 1238. The occupation lasted another 150 years until the Kulikovskaya Battle 1380. Once the ravages had ended, Yaroslavl started growing very quickly. At the beginning of the seventeenth century it became the capital of Russia and in 1761 the first Russian theatre was founded here by Fyodor Volkov. Today you can still see and visit this birthplace of Russian theatre, situated on Volkov Square.

The city expanded quickly due its advantageous location on the trading route between Europe and Asia and Yaroslavl merchants soon became extremely wealthy. The town became very large and important and by the seventeenth century there were already more than eighty foreign embassies. All the merchants and wealthy people wanted to build churches and so a specific architectural style developed. There were more than seventy churches within the centre of the city alone. You can still see most of them, though some were used as gymnasiums or warehouses under Communism. The most beautiful is situated on Soviet Square and is named after Elijah the Prophet. It was built in the sixteenth century during the period of architectural blossom and contains exquisite frescos. In the seventeenth century the large monastery of the Transfiguration of Our Saviour was built. Behind the thick, white walls that served as a fortress, there are beautiful churches and a bell-tower. Today it houses both a history and natural history museum.

Modern Yaroslavl is a big cultural, educational and industrial centre of Russia with a population of 700,000. There are more than one hundred schools, six higher educational institutions, ten theatres, five cinemas, numerous beautiful parks and gardens and lots of bars, restaurants, cafes and nightclubs, as well as hotels and health resorts. There are several big industrial plants, such as an oil refinery, a tyre plant, a motor plant and dairy, confectionary and meat factories. There are also lots of museums and art galleries. For example, the Former Governor’s House on the embankment is a fine art gallery and there’s a lovely little private museum called “Music and Time”. Lots of different art festivals and craft fairs are held in Yaroslavl. The most well-known – “Festival Preobrazhenie”, is held in August and involves a famous bell-ringers’ and church choirs’ competition. The bell-ringing school in Yaroslavl is second only to one in Belgium, so you can hear beautiful bell-ringing on Saturdays and Sundays, inviting people to services.

In the Yaroslavl region there are other small, old, ancient, lovely towns such as Rostov-Veliky, which has a beautiful Kremlin and a museum displaying a particular type of enamel painting unique to Rostov. The biggest bell in the monastery, called Sisoi, weighs 32 tonnes and can be heard 20 km away. The town of Uglich is famous for it watch factory and beautiful churches. Rybinsk is a trading town with well-preserved old buildings and in the depths of the man-made Rybinskoe Morye, created under Stalin, you can still see the houses and churches it flooded. Myshkin is a tiny little town famous for its Mouse Museum. And there are lots more places you can visit too! Around the city of Yaroslavl there are lots of little villages and many beautiful meadows, fields, forests and woods full of mushrooms, berries and wild animals, so scenic countryside is also within easy reach. Welcome to Yaroslavl, and you can see everything for yourself !

Best wishes from Sarah Jenks, Oxford.