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Suzdal Travel Guide

Suzdal History

The first written mention of Suzdal dates back to the year of 1024, which is considered to be the first official information about the settlement. At that time Suzdal is already among most important Russian cities.

As many other border cities of North-East Russia, ancient Suzdal is a fortress, built to protect Russian territories from attacks of violent nomads. In the end of the 11th century several Russian princes try to master the city, and in the fierce battle the city is burnt. Its prince Vladimir Monomakh does his best to restore Suzdal and builds there a new stone cathedral.

In 1157 Suzdal, as the capital of such a strong and powerful principality was becoming more and more important. When Andrey Bogolyubsky became the prince, he moved the capital of his principality from Suzdal to Vladimir, but Suzdal still was an important town, and there were many monasteries, fortifications, and churches being built at that time.

In 1238, during the Tartar Yoke, Suzdal was partially demolished and ransacked by Tartars. Because of the vulnerable location, close to the settlements of the enemy, Suzdal was loosing its strong position and Moscow was gaining importance.

In this time the city becomes the centre of Russia’s ecclesiastical and spiritual life. As Moscow gets stronger, Suzdal loses its independence, and in 1392 Moscow prince sends a governor to rule the city. Last attempt to gain the political power is made in 1445, when the Tatars take Moscow prince as a prisoner. Five years later political situation in Moscow stabilizes, and Suzdal resigns. During reign of Ivan the Terrible Suzdal becomes the exile place for tsar’s enemies.

Suzdal History

The 17th century is a hard time for the city. In 1608 Suzdal is invaded and plundered by Polish troops. And in 1611 Lithuanians come and make the situation even worse. However, Suzdal holds out, and with great effort the citizens start reconstruction. Life becomes steadier, but in 1634 Crimean Tatars again attack the city, bringing great damage to it. In 1643 another trouble comes, great fire nearly destroys Suzdal.

City dwellers almost finish one of numerous reconstructions, when plague pandemics kills over a thousand people – nearly half of city population. In the 18-19th centuries Suzdal became an important religious center of Russia, still keeping its positions as the center of crafts and trade.

In 19th century many Russian cities show rapid economic growth, however, Suzdal falls under opposite tendency. Citizens start moving to other settlements. The war of 1812 shakes the quiet Suzdal; however, its dwellers survive all miseries and build a 65-meter high bell tower, memorizing the victory, in 1819. Suzdal citizens live mainly on fruits and vegetables. Suzdal cherries are famous all around Russia, and cherry juice travels to Moscow in large barrels to become cherry liquor.

The end of 19th century shows only 8 thousand citizens in Suzdal; however, these few enthusiasts keep watching and caring about city’s cathedrals and monuments of ancient Russian art. Suzdal has many necessary establishments, occupying stone buildings – commercial establishments, pawn shop and customs. Main Street is full of merchant houses, differing in architecture.

After the civil war ends, the city slowly rebuilds and develops. Museum of Suzdal opens in 1923, it succeeds in collecting over 3.5 thousand items from closed monasteries, thus saving them. The city grows and obtains professional educational institutions. Suzdal makes its contribution to defending Russia from fascist invaders.

However, the city slowly returns its monuments and starts attracting tourists. In the middle of 20th century a new road is built between Suzdal and other large cities, which makes visiting the city more convenient. Most interesting and ancient exhibition items and monuments are finally restored. Tourist flow grows rapidly, and most of them arrive from abroad. Today tourist programme and excursions in Suzdal allow visitors to get a full view of ancient Russian city.

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