Rybinsk (Russian: Рыбинск, IPA: [ˈrɨbʲɪnsk]) is the second largest city of Yaroslavl Oblast, Russia, which lies at the confluence of the Volga and Sheksna Rivers. Population: 200,771 (2010 Census); 222,653 (2002 Census); 251,442 (1989 Census).
Rybinsk is one of the oldest Slavic settlements on the Volga River. The place was first recorded by chroniclers in 1071 as Ust-Sheksna, i.e. «the mouth of the Sheksna». During this period the settlement was a regional center for craft and metal based produce and for trade. In the mid-11th century, Ust-Sheksna was laid waste by invading Mongols. For the next few centuries, the settlement was referred to alternatively as Ust-Sheksna or Rybansk. From 1504, it was identified in documents as Rybnaya Sloboda (literally: «the fishing village»). The name is explained by the fact that the settlement supplied the Muscovite court with choice sturgeons and sterlets.
In the 17th century, when the sloboda was capitalizing on the trade of the Muscovy Company with Western Europe, it was rich enough to build several stone churches, of which only one survives to the present. More old architecture may be found in the neighborhood, including the very last of Muscovite three-tented churches (in the Alexandrov Hermitage) and the Ushakov family shrine (on the Epiphany Island).
In the 18th century, the sloboda continued to thrive on the Volga trade. Catherine the Great granted Rybnaya Sloboda municipal rights and renamed it Rybinsk. It was a place where the cargo was reloaded from large Volga vessels to smaller boats capable of navigating in the shallow Mariinsk Canal system, which connects the Russian hinterland with the Baltic Sea. With the population of 7,000, the town daily accommodated up to 170,000 sailors and up to 2,000 river vessels. Consequently, the local river port became known as the «capital of barge-haulers».
The town’s most conspicuous landmark, the Neoclassical Savior-Transfiguration Cathedral, was constructed on the Volga riverside from 1838 until 1851. It was built to a design that the Dean of the Imperial Academy of Arts, Avraam Melnikov, had prepared for Saint Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg. After Melnikov lost the contest for the best project of St. Isaac’s Cathedral to Auguste de Montferrand, he sold his grandiose design to the municipal authorities of Rybinsk.
As a trade capital of the Upper Volga, Rybinsk formerly attracted scores of foreigners, who built a Lutheran church and an imposing Roman Catholic cathedral, said to be the tallest on the Volga. There is also the Nobel Family Museum, documenting the operations of that illustrious Swedish family in the Russian Empire. Twentieth-century American film moguls Nicholas Schenck and Joseph Schenck were born in the town, and there is a grand 18th-century mansion of the Mikhalkov family, whose living members include Sergey Mikhalkov, Nikita Mikhalkov, and Andron Konchalovsky.
In the Soviet years, Rybinsk continued its impressive renaming record, for it changed its name four times: to Shcherbakov (after Aleksandr Shcherbakov) in 1946, back to Rybinsk in 1957, to Andropov (after Yuri Andropov) in 1984, and back to Rybinsk in 1989.