The Golden Ring of Russia
The Golden Ring (Золотое Kольцо) is a series of cities arranged in roughly the shape of a ring just northeast of Moscow that played significant roles in the development of Russian history, and particularly the Russian Orthodox faith. These beautiful cities are often described as some of the most picturesque in all of Russia, and for those of you studying with Liden & Denz in Moscow they can provide a view into a side of Russia much more representative of the country as a whole than either Moscow or St. Petersburg.
There are eight main cities which comprise the Golden Ring: Sergiyev Posad (Сергиев Посад), Pereslavl-Zalessky (Переславль-Залесский), Rostov (Ростов), Yaroslavl (Ярослaвль), Kostroma (Кострома), Ivanovo (Иваново), Suzdal (Суздаль), and Vladimir (Владимир).
Pereslavl-Zalessky’s main claim to fame is being the birthplace of Alexander Nevsky, widely regarded as the father of the Russian state. Nevsky was a shrewd diplomat and skilled warrior who struck a deal with the Golden Horde and achieved devastating victories over the Teutonic Knights from what is now Germany, as well as the Swedes. In the modern day, statues of Alexander Nevsky and buildings bearing his name adorn many cities in Russia.
Rostov, known to the Russians as Rostov the Great to differentiate it from Rostov-on-Don, was once a major trade center for the emerging Russian state, and became a part of Muscovy early on. The importance of the trade which flowed through Rostov necessitated the construction of a Kremlin, which is today regarded as one of the most impressive in all of Russia, after the Moscow Kremlin.
Yaroslavl is an ancient city founded, according to legend, by Yaroslavl the Wise immediately following his killing of a bear on the area that would become the heart of the city. The historic center of the city stands where the Volga and the Kotorosl rivers meet, is a World Heritage Site renowned for the beauty of the traditional Russian architecture found there. The city was of critical importance during the Time of Troubles and served as Minin and Pozharsky’s base of operations, from which they worked to liberate Moscow from the Polish invaders.
Kostroma is most famed for the beautiful Ipatiev Monastery (Ипатьевский монастырь). Founded in 1330, the Ipatiev is one of the best preserved monasteries for its age in all of Russia. During the Time of Troubles the monastery was occupied by supporters of the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth, and it took a massive siege by forces loyal to Moscow to unseat them. Following the 1917 revolution the monastery was turned into a museum, and it was not returned to the church until recently.
Vladimir is no doubt the most significant city on this list, having been a former capital of medieval Russia, this city was once perhaps the greatest in all of Russia. Two churches, and a monastery in Vladimir are designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites. Vladimir-Suzdal was one of the first states to come after the crumbling of Kievan Rus’, and it is widely held as the birthplace of the Russian language, and Vladimir’s importance and power are credited with spreading the language today known as Russian farther and giving if more weight than either Belorussian or Ukrainian. Vladimir-Suzdal would eventually evolve into the Grand Duchy of Moscow, or Muscovy, an important precursor to Tsarist Russia.
Each of these cities and many more spread between them are home to beautiful churches, monuments, museums, and historical sites, many of which were critical to the formation of the Russian state. In addition to this, these cities make for a nice escape from Moscow to the quieter and more traditional life of Russia. If you have the time, the Golden Ring offers up a superb combination of historical significance and beauty, ideal for anyone wishing to see as much of Russia as they can during their stay.