Yaroslavl (Russian: Ярославль; IPA: [jɪrɐˈslavlʲ]) is a city and the administrative center of Yaroslavl Oblast, Russia, located 250 kilometers (160 mi) northeast of Moscow. The historic part of the city, a World Heritage Site, is located at the confluence of the Volga and the Kotorosl Rivers. It is one of the Golden Ring cities, a group of historic cities northeast of Moscow that has played an important role in Russian history. Population: 591,486 (2010 Census); 613,088 (2002 Census); 632,991 (1989 Census).
Preceded by Viking sites such as Timerevo from the 8th or 9th centuries, the city of Yaroslavl is said to have been founded in 1010 as an outpost of the Principality of Rostov Veliky, and was first mentioned in 1071. Capital of an independent Principality of Yaroslavl from 1218, it was incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Moscow in 1463. In the 17th century, it was Russia’s second largest city, and for a time (during the Polish occupation of Moscow in 1612), the country’s de facto capital. Today, Yaroslavl is an important industrial center (petrochemical plant, tire manufacturing plant, diesel engines plant and many others] and lies at the intersection of several major highways, railways, and waterways.
The oldest settlement in the city is to be found on the left bank of the Volga River in front of the Strelka (a small cape at the confluence of the Volga and Kotorosl) and belongs to the 5th–3rd millennium BCE. In the 9th century the so-called Russian Khanate formed, near Yaroslavl, a large Scandinavian-Slavic settlement, known nowadays for a range of burial mounds, in Timerevo. When excavations were carried out a large number of artifacts including Scandinavian weapons with runic inscriptions, chess pieces and the largest collection of Arabian coins (treasure) in northern Europe, (the earliest were struck in the first Idrisid) were found. In Timerevo the fourth set of Scandinavian brooches ever found in Russia was discovered. Apparently, this «proto-Yaroslavl» was a major center for the Volga trade route. Soon after the founding of Yaroslavl, the settlement went into decline, probably in connection with the termination of the operation of the Volga trade route. Upstream of the Volga River, just outside the boundaries of the modern city, archaeologists have studied a large necropolis with a predominance of ordinary graves of the Finno-Ugric-type.
If taken by its date of first foundation, Yaroslavl is the oldest of all the currently existing towns on the Volga. Yaroslavl was founded by a prince of Kievan Rus Yaroslav the Wise during the period of his ruling the Principality of Rostov (988—1010) when he stepped ashore for the first time near the area now known as ‘Strelka’, a favorite contemporary park. On this spot which was well protected from attack by the high, steep banks of the Volga, Kotorosl and Medveditsa Rivers, Yaroslavl and his men began to set about building the first Yaroslavl Kremlin. The first recorded event of Yaroslavl occurred as a result of famine, it was recorded as the Rostov Uprising of 1071. The name of the city is traditionally linked to that of its founder: Yaroslav.
Yaroslav the Wise stands over the body of the bear which he, according to legend, killed before founding the city
By the 12th century, the Petropavlovsky and Spasso-Preobrazhensky monasteries of Yaroslavl had already come into existence, however at that time they were located well beyond the city limits. During the first two centuries of its existence Yaroslavl remained a minor fortified city of the Rostov-Suzdal lands.
From the beginning of the thirteenth century, Yaroslavl found itself under the lordship of Konstantin and became one of his primary residences. As, just before his death in 1218, Konstantin broke up his land between his various sons, his second son Vsevolod came into possession of the Yaroslavl land, which he from thence onwards ruled as the Principality of Yaroslavl. This principality, of which Yaroslavl became the capital included a number of territories ro the north and existed up until its eventual absorption into the Principality of Moscow in 1463.
During the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, Yaroslavl was a city largely built from wood, as a result of which it often found itself plagued by disastrous fires, which in some cases almost destroyed the entire city, a good example of which would be that which took place just before the transfer of power in the city to Vsevolod on 1221. Another constant source of danger for the city and for the many Russian princes of the time came from the East and the many foreign invaders, (usually from the Mongol Horde. A particularly successful attack took place in 1257, when troops from the Golden Horde under Möngke Khan overran the Principality of Yaroslavl and murdered both the larger population of the area and the prince’s close family. On the site of that unfortunate event, on the right bank of the Kotorosl, there is now a memorial church and cross.
In 1293 and 1322 there were further disastrous attacks on Yaroslavl launched by the Golden Horde, and in 1278 and 1364 the Plague struck. On many an occasion Yaroslavl had to be completely rebuilt, both in terms of residential buildings which no longer exist, to those larger more permanent structures which remain to this day, such as the Spasso-Preobrazhensky Monastery and 1314 Monastery of Maria of Tolga, which is located on the left bank of the Volga. In 1463 the Principality of Yaroslavl was finally absorbed into the Grand-duchy of Moscow, with the area it once covered becoming an oblast within the new structure of the Muscovite state. From this point onwards the history of the city and its lands became completely inseparable from that of Moscow and eventually Russia.
Even in the 16th century Yaroslavl continued to suffer from large scale fires and the damage they did to the city’s developing economy and infrastructure. As a result the age old tradition of building in wood was abandoned and a new city built of stone began to appear; unfortunately this meant that very little of the Yaroslavl of the Middle Ages remained unchanged. The most prominent example of this is the Spaso-Preobrazhensky monastery which was destroyed in 1501 and rebuilt in just under a few years. Resultantly the monastery’s cathedral was built up in 1506-1516, a building which remains, to this day, the oldest unchanged building in the city. By the middle of the sixteenth century a number of other building works had been completed in the monastery, also, other than this, for the first time in its history, Yaroslavl gained a stone-built wall with a number of large watch towers which were intended to be used to spot attackers from miles away. During the reign of Ivan the Terrible, when all the Russian principalities gave up their traditional rights and submitted to the Tsardom of Russia, the two large monasteries of Yaroslavl profited very much from rich gifts from the court of the Tsar, largely because Ivan IV made a number of pilgrimages to Yaroslavl over the course of his life.
New building works were also made affordable by a large upswing in Yaroslavl’s economic fortunes which the city experienced in the middle part of the 16th century. The main reason for this largely unexpected improvement in Yaroslavl’s fortunes came largely from the city’s position on the Volga which allowed trade to be brought from and to Moscow via the river, linking the new Russian capital with the port of Archangelsk darstellte. Resultantly Yaroslavl became an important place for the conduct of international trade and a number of shipping berths and warehouses grew up around the city for the use of merchants, especially those from England and Germany.
Plan of the Spasso-Preobrazhensky monastery, Beginning of 17th century
The economic prosperity of Yaroslavl during the late 16th century was put to an end by the unsteady years of troubles which lasted from around 1598 until 1613. Like most Russian cities of the time, Yaroslavl was devastated by famine and became a potential target city for Polish-Lithuanian troops acting in their capacity as ‘interventionists’ in the troubled Russian state. The Polish-Lithuanian-supported pretender to the Russian throne captured Karachev, Bryansk, and other towns, was reinforced by the Poles, and in the spring of 1608 advanced upon Moscow, routing the army of Tsar Vasily Shuisky at Bolkhov. Promises of the wholesale confiscation of the estates of the boyars drew many common people to his side. The village of Tushino, twelve versts from the capital, was converted into an armed camp where Dmitry gathered his army. Resultantly this pretender won the appreciation of the powers in Yaroslavl and thus their loyalty. However, despite having promised to pay a higher rate of taxes and dues to the Polish occupiers, Yaroslavl was on numerous occasions plundered by the forces of the pretender Dmitry. This led to a number of popular uprisings. Thus in early 1609 a Russian peasant army was formed to free as many of the Volga’s cities as possible, including, among others, Vologda and Yaroslavl.
Minin and Pozharsky, whilst on their way to relieve Moscow, made Yaroslavl their base and thus de facto capital of Russia for two months in 1612
In May 1609, another Polish army under the command of Aleksander Józef Lisowski tried to bring the strategically important city of Yaroslavl under the power of the invaders. However, the majority of the city’s citizens had withdrawn into the tradition center of the city and found refuge behind the protective earthen wall, thus denying the Poles entry without a fight. Yet even when Litowski successfully (through deceit) managed to get behind this wall, he found that the citizens of Yaroslavl had retreated into their ancient wooden Kremlin and the two stone-built monasteries. The ensuing siege of Yaroslavl lasted until 22 May, but despite constant attempts to take the city, the Poles had to return to Moscow having not fulfilled their duty to bring Yaroslavl under direct control of their command.
Despite their failure at Yaroslavl, Polish forces remained in control of Moscow, and despite an attempt in 1610 by the Russian peasants’ army to unseat the Poles from the Moscow Kremlin, little was accomplished and their seemed no end in sight for the occupation of the Russian tsardom. One year later however Kuzma Minin and Prince Dmitry Pozharsky founded yet another peasants’ army in Nizhny Novgorod, that on the way to Moscow, found itself stationed in Yaroslavl for many months. In this time from April to June 1612 Yaroslavl became the de facto capital of the Russian state, since in this place the most important matters of state were settled until the eventual liberation of Moscow came. After its time in Yaroslavl the peasants’ army moved on towards Moscow, and with thanks to the rest and help they had received voluntarily from the people of Yaroslavl, the army was able to liberate Moscow and finally put an end to the Polish-Lithuanian ‘intervention’ in the affairs of the Russian state.
Yaroslavl’s Volkov Square as it would have appeared before the reconstruction of the Volkov Theater in the early 1900s
With the general economic revival of the Russian state’s economy after the end of the Troubles, Yaroslavl continued to be an important trading post and retained its place on the route of numerous traditional trading routes from the West to East and vice versa. By way of the Volga trade was carried out with the lands of the Orient, and it was not unheard of to see ships from India and China bringing goods to Europe by way of Yaroslavl. The northern trade route through the city ran to the port of Arkhangelsk in Russia’s far north, whilst other Eastern trade lines ran East over the Urals to Siberia. The town benefited very much from its geographical location over the years and the wealth which business produced for the town helped ensure its prosperous future. In fact, in the 17th century a number of early industrial concerns were set up in the city, including a number of leather-working shops, in which around 700 people eventually came to work. Other trades for which Yaroslavl became a center over the years were in the production of textiles, cosmetics (fragrances) and silver work.
As a result of the prosperity enjoyed by the city, Yaroslavl saw a huge expansion in the size of its population over the course of the 17th century, and by the end of this century, the town had a population of around 15,000 people, making it the second largest city of the Russian Tsardom after Moscow. This period was also particularly important for the urban development of the city, because during the 17th century a multitude of stone-walled churches were built in the city; today these churches still form a major part of the old town’s city center. Work on most of these churches was begun with funds gifted to the city by rich local merchants, and thus they had a large say in what form the buildings would eventually take.
The living quarters and work place for employees of Yaroslavl’s first major industrial enterprise, the city’s textiles plant
In 1658, Yaroslavl endured a disastrous fire which destroyed most of the city’s few remaining wooden buildings, including the ancient Kremlin. From this point onwards the city began to develop in the same way as it has done up to this very day, as a city built almost exclusively out of brick and mortar.
At the beginning of the 18th century Yaroslavl finally began to transform itself from a trading post into a major industrial town; this largely came about because with the foundation by Peter the Great of Saint Petersburg in 1703, the importance of Arkhangelsk as a port on the Northern Ocean was drastically decreased, and the amount of trade being channeled through the city for export fell accordingly. Luckily, the wealth which Yaroslavl had amassed over its many years as an important trading post allowed it to invest great amounts of money into the development of the city’s new industrial base, and thus make the city very attractive to new investors. In 1772 the textiles factory of Ivan Tames opened on the right bank of the Kotorosl. This plant was not only Yaroslavl’s first major industrial enterprise, but also one of Russia’s largest textiles producers. Amazingly this famous establishment still exists today under the name ‘Textile factory ‘Krasny Perekop’ (russ. Красный Перекоп). In addition to the rise in textile manufacturing, Yaroslavl’s traditional position as a center for skilled leatherwork remained unchanged.
In the 1770s, as a result of the city’s economic development and ever rising population, the city became a major provincial center, thus in the course of the Russian Empire’s administrative reforms under Catherine the Great Yaroslavl, in 1777, became the center of its own governorate, and in 1778 received its own grant of arms. In 1796, the city finally became the seat of one of the Empire’s new governorates. As an administrative center of the highest order, Yaroslavl, in 1778, received its own plan for urban development specially drawn out by Ivan Starov. This led to another wave of building works in the city, the results of which are still visible in the city today. With the Ilyanskaya Square and Church of Elijah the Prophet at its center, the new plan called for the development of a network of long boulevards and streets which would be bordered by large classical style buildings and numerous city parks. A prominent example of this later development is the former House of Charity (built in 1786), which is now one of the buildings of the city’s ‘Demidov’ State University.
For Yaroslavl the 19th meant a period of intensive building work, infrastructural development and industrialization. In 1803 the ‘School of Higher Sciences’ was opened, this was the city’s first educational institute and is recognized as the forerunner to the city’s current state university. In 1812 the first permanent bridge (built near the Transfiguration Monastery) over the Kotorosl was finished, and by 1820 the city’s Volga embankment was stabilized and turned into a large shaded promenade. Also, other major classicist building works were started, among which was the Governor’s House (1821–1823) (today location of the city’s gallery). In 1860 Yaroslavl was finally connected, through Moscow, via telegraph to the other major cities of Russia, and this was then soon followed, in 1870, by the building of Yaroslavl’s first railway station and inauguration of Yaroslavl-Moscow railway. In 1873 the city gained a municipal waterworks and by 1900 an electrified tramway. Just before the end of the 19th century in 1897, Yaroslavl had a recorded population of around 71,600 people.
Nicholas II in Yaroslavl for the 300th anniversary of the House of Romanov.
Right up until the beginning of the First World War Yaroslavl remained a large industrial town with a well-developed municipal infrastructure. However, the effects of the 1917 October Revolution were wide-reaching, and after the Russian Civil War of 1917-1920 the city’s economy suffered rather drastically; this led to a significant contraction on the city’s population. The Yaroslavl Rebellion, which lasted from 6 to 21 July 1918 had particularly grave consequences. In this event a group of conservative activists tried to remove the newly-installed Bolshevik municipal authorities through an armed intervention. The rebels managed to secure a number of large parts of the city, however this led only to an assault by the Red Army which saw the city surrounded, cut off from supplies and bombarded day and night with artillery and air forces. The rebellion was eventually put down, and ended with official figures putting the number of deaths among the city’s residents at about 600, in addition to which around 2,000 of the city’s buildings were either destroyed or badly damaged.
The economy of Yaroslavl took part in the early Soviet Union’s program of accelerated industrialization. Milestones for this period include the opening of the city’s first municipal power plant in 1926, the beginning of Synthetic rubber mass production in factory SK-1, the reestablishment of domestic production facilities for the production of automobile and aircraft tires in the 1928-founded Yaroslavl Tyre Factory, and the opening of the rubber-asbestos combined works in 1933. In addition to all this the Yaroslavl Automobile Works (founded 1916) continued to produce vehicles, including a number for the municipal transport administration of Moscow, well into the 1930s.
During the years of World War II, Yaroslavl managed to escape the prospect of a German occupation of the city, since the Wehrmacht did not manage to break through the Soviet defense lines surrounding Moscow. However, due to its location as a large transportation hub, and since the 1913-built railway bridge over the Volga in Yaroslavl was the only point at which to cross the river, the city became a major target for air raids during 1942-1943. During the one of the heaviest of all these raids on 11 June 1943 over 120of the city’s inhabitants were killed, whilst another 150 or so were badly injured. In addition to this around 200 buildings (including one of the tire factory’s main workshops) were completely destroyed. Most of the city’s industry, including the automobile, tyre and textile plants, were converted, during the war, to produce armament and equipment for the Soviet Red Army. Overall about 200,000 people from the Yaroslavl area died on the fronts during World War II. This sacrifice is today memorialized through a monument and eternal flame which was opened near the mouth of the Kotorosl River in 1968.
Red Square with its Lenin monument in Soviet-era Yaroslavl. Major building and infrastructure projects, as well as party slogans, such as that in this photo — ‘Communism grows ever stronger upon the earth’, were very characteristic of the urban development communism brought to the city
During the Blockade of Leningrad a great number of children, who were brought over the frozen Lake Ladoga (the so-called Road of life) were evacuated to a safer new life in Yaroslavl. Yaroslavl was at the time also home to a camp for military prisoners of war ‘Camp No. 276’ for German soldiers imprisoned for taking part in hostilities against the Soviet Union.
In the second half of the century the industrialization and development of the city took the foremost position in Yaroslavl’s history. In 1961, an oil refinery was opened and from the 1960s a large number of residential districts began to spring up all over the city, including, for the first time in the city’s history, on the left bank of the Volga, where development had traditionally not taken place. This left-bank development was further encouraged by the construction, in 1965, of a new Volga crossing for automobiles. In 1968 the city’s population finally rose, for the first time, to over half a million inhabitants; it has been growing, almost constantly, ever since.
A Russian postage stamp celebrating the millennium of Yaroslavl
In July 2005 Yaroslavl’s historic city center was inscribed onto the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The support for this was in line with the list’s second (a unique example of the combining of cultural and architectural styles between Western Europe and the Russian Empire) and fourth (a unique example of urban development influenced by the Municipal Planning Reform in Russia of Empress Catherine the Great 1763-1830). In the same year the preparations for the celebration of the millennium of Yaroslavl’s foundation began; this was finally celebrated on the second weekend in September 2010. Under the conditions of the preparations for the city’s 1000th year anniversary the municipal authorities invested a great deal of money into the development of the city’s road and rail infrastructure, much of the funds for which were granted by the federal government in Moscow. Included in these preparations was the opening of a new bridge (in 2006) over the Volga; this is now known as the Jubilee Bridge. Also in August 2008 the newly built Yaroslavl Zoo was opened; this was then expanded further in 2010.
In 2009, Yaroslavl became a meeting place for global policy debates within the International Conference ‘The Modern State and Global Security’. AKA Yaroslavl Global Policy Forum. The conference in Yaroslavl gathered the most authoritative representatives of political science, business community as well as the representatives of the governments of a number of different states. Dmitry Medvedev, President of the Russian Federation, José Luis Zapatero, Prime Minister of Spain, Francois Fillon, Prime Minister of France were all participants at the Conference.
In 2010, Russian officials gathered together international authorities in Yaroslavl to discuss the challenges facing the modern state at the Global Policy Forum for ‘The Modern State: Standards of Democracy and Criteria of Efficiency’. In 2011 Yaroslavl will bring together participants from all over the world to discuss the 2011 agenda: ‘The modern state in the age of social diversity’.
On September 7, 2011, most of the members of the city’s KHL (ice hockey) team, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, perished in an air crash on takeoff from Yaroslavl’s Tunoshna Airport.