Review of the best according to the editorial board. On the selection criteria. This material is subjective and does not constitute advertising and does not serve as a purchase guide. Before buying, you need to consult with a specialist.
The history of Russia is much richer than it seems at first glance. 'Officially' it has its origins in 862 AD, so today it has long and successfully passed the 1100th anniversary. But even before this date, the Russian lands were inhabited by Slavic tribes, albeit not yet united into a state, but already preserving a large layer of culture.
Nevertheless, the date of foundation of Kievan Rus – the state-progenitor of Russia – is considered to be exactly 862 AD. But already at this time there were several large cities. For example, Novgorod, which became the capital of Kievan Rus.
So some Russian cities are older than Russia itself. This means that they can boast of a huge history and unique, distinctive culture, for the sake of touching which it is worth going on a trip around the country. And in this article we have collected 10 of the oldest cities in Russia.
- Rating of the oldest cities in Russia
- 10th place: Ryazan (founded in 1095)
- 9th place: Suzdal (founded in 1024)
- 8th place: Yaroslavl (founded in 1010)
- 7th place: Kazan (founded in 1005)
- 6th place: Vladimir (founded in 990)
- 5th place: Smolensk (founded in 863)
- 4th place: Murom (founded in 862)
- 3rd place: Veliky Novgorod (founded in 859)
- 2nd place: Staraya Ladoga (founded in 753)
- 1st place: Derbent (founded in the VIII century BC)
Rating of the oldest cities in Russia
|Nomination||a place||Town||Year of foundation|
|10 oldest cities in Russia||10||Ryazan||1095 YEAR|
|3||Velikiy Novgorod||859 YEAR|
|2||Staraya Ladoga||753 YEAR|
|1||Derbent||VIII CENTURY BC|
10th place: Ryazan (founded in 1095)
The capital of the Ryazan region, Ryazan, boasts an impressive history. Despite the fact that it was first mentioned in the annals only in 1301, the year 1095 is considered the official foundation date.
However, people settled on the territory of this city for a very, very long time. Archaeological excavations have discovered artifacts that are more than 80 thousand years old! In addition, historical research has shown that the most impressive and amazing prehistoric animals were found in Ryazan – mammoths, giant deer and woolly rhinos.
But officially the history of the city begins in the 6th century. It was then that the Slavic tribe of the Vyatichi reached the banks of the Oka and founded a huge number of settlements here. At first they were small, scattered and more like villages than cities. But closer to the VIII century, a large settlement was created, which – surprisingly – actively traded with foreign states. In excavations near Ryazan, foreign precious coins and ship seals were found.
Ryazan is interesting not only for its rich history, but also for its impressive culture. An interesting feature of the city is that in the 18th century it was a real center of Russian sugar making. Ryazan candies were famous throughout the country, and now you can admire them and taste sweets prepared according to an old recipe in the corresponding museum.
In addition, it is worth coming to Ryazan in order to hear 'yakanye' – a characteristic feature of vowel pronunciation. It is here that it manifests itself most clearly. Of course, modern Ryazan residents are gradually getting rid of this 'atavism', but once you leave the city, you can hear all the phonetic diversity of the Russian language.
9th place: Suzdal (founded in 1024)
Suzdal is one of the few old Russian cities that has been given the status of a reserve. It is included in the Golden Ring tourist route, and part of its architecture is protected by UNESCO. Suzdal is one of the most ancient cities, but the exact date of its foundation is unknown.
The first mention of Suzdal is found in one of the chronicles. In this city there was an uprising of the Magi in 1024. And exactly 1024 is considered the date of the founding of Suzdal. Although some Russian historians suggest that the city was founded in 982 by Prince Vladimir, when he went to conquer Polish lands.
Nevertheless, the XII century is considered a turning point in the life of the city. At the very beginning of the century, Prince Yuri Dolgoruky separated it into a separate principality – Rostov-Suzdal. In 1107, after the siege, Suzdal came under the control of the Volga Bulgars. In 1157, the city lost its status as a capital – but not for long. Within a few decades, he headed a separate Suzdal principality.
However, the further history of the city was not so good. After industrialization, Suzdal found itself far from the railway lines, and therefore turned out to be a remote province without large industrial centers. The Soviet government was also not particularly interested in the city – and therefore managed to preserve many white-stone churches.
But at the moment, despite the status of the reserve and inclusion in the Golden Ring of Russia, Suzdal remains a province. The population of the city, as of 2018, is less than 10 thousand people. There are still no industrial centers, and local residents are developing subsidiary farming.
Nevertheless, there is something to admire in Suzdal. The city will be especially interesting for lovers of Russian architecture – thanks to the Museum of Wooden Architecture, the Suzdal Kremlin and a huge number of white-stone churches and temples. The most famous 'delicacy' in this city is cucumbers. There is even a holiday in their honor! And if you want new gastronomic experiences, then you can taste cucumber jam – and eat it with traditional Russian cuisine.
8th place: Yaroslavl (founded in 1010)
The capital of the Yaroslavl region, the city of Yaroslavl, is part of the Golden Ring – one of the main cultural and tourist routes of the country. And this is not surprising. Yaroslavl was officially founded in 1010, so in 2010 the city celebrated its one thousandth anniversary.
But, as in the case of Ryazan, the first people settled on the territory of Yaroslavl a long time ago. This is due to the extremely favorable location of the city. It is located on the banks of the Volga, at its confluence with the Kotorosl River, in fertile lands. So here you can find traces of settlements founded in the 5th millennium BC.
But the city of Yaroslavl itself was founded in 1010. The founder of the settlement is Prince Yaroslav the Wise. It was in 1010 that the construction of the Yaroslavl Kremlin began. The city was successfully defended from the raids of both Slavic and foreign tribes – on two sides it was closed by rivers, and on the third there was a hill.
Nevertheless, in the first centuries of its existence, Yaroslavl was a very small town, part of the Rostov-Suzdal land. Only in the 17th century, after the end of the Time of Troubles, it began to actively develop – and in several decades it became the second largest Russian city.
During the 'new history' period, Yaroslavl became a center of culture and art. Many poets and artists lived here, who regularly dedicated their works to their beloved city. Nekrasov, Kuzmin, Oshanin and many, many other authors wrote about Yaroslavl. And in Soviet times, the city became the center of cinema – “Afonya”, “Kin-dza-dza!”
Those who want to visit Yaroslavl should definitely visit the Strelka Park – this is where the historical center of the city is located. You can just walk along the streets that keep a centuries-old memory. And, of course, one cannot help but try the smoked vendace, which is caught right here, in Lake Pleshcheyevo – just like it was thousands of years ago.
7th place: Kazan (founded in 1005)
The capital of the Republic of Tatarstan, the ancient city of Kazan, was founded back in 1005. It contains so many symbols of bygone eras that the international organization UNESCO included it in the World Heritage List.
The main attraction of Kazan is the white-stone Kremlin. His first settlement was built in the XII century! Kazan, in principle, at the beginning of its existence was an outpost on the northern border of the Volga Bulgaria, therefore it was immediately built fortified and reliable.
But already in the XIII century Kazan turned from a border town into a trade and political center. Of course, in those days she was part of the Golden Horde. But the successful development of Kazan was influenced not by being in a 'nomadic state', but by its geographical location – the city was located at the intersection of trade routes connecting East and West.
In the 16th century, after a huge number of wars – including with the Golden Horde – and the end of the Tatar-Mongol Yoke, Kazan became part of Russia. The city was destroyed, but Tsar Ivan the Terrible ordered to restore it. It was then that the construction of the white-stone Kremlin began, which is the symbol of Kazan to this day.
Such an ancient and rich history has made Kazan one of the largest Russian cultural centers. But the main feature of the city is its 'multiculturalism'. Thus, she combines Russian and Tatar cultural features.
It is worth coming to Kazan for the sake of touching the Tatar culture. Here you can see the Tatar village and the Old Tatar freedom. And, of course, the white-stone Kazan Kremlin. And, of course, try echpochmak and kystyby – savory, but very tasty pastries.
6th place: Vladimir (founded in 990)
The capital of the Vladimir region, part of the Golden Ring of Russia, the city-museum of Vladimir is one of the oldest Russian settlements. Extremely popular with tourists looking to get back to history. There are practically no modern buildings in the historical center of the city – many buildings, even those in which pharmacies and Pyaterochka are located, can boast of 300 years of age.
Vladimir is also a beautiful city. Here you can admire a huge number of white-stone buildings that embody Russian history. The Assumption and Dmitrievsky Cathedrals, the Golden Gate are the most famous buildings in the city.
The ancient city of Vladimir was founded in 990 by Prince Vladimir Svyatoslavovich. However, in the first century it was only a small settlement. In 1108, Prince Vladimir Monomakh began to build a fortress, which, however, never became a Kremlin. But from 1243 to 1389 the city was the capital of North-Eastern Russia.
After the Metropolitan of North-Eastern Russia settled in Vladimir in 1299, the city also became the capital of Russian Orthodoxy. Churches and temples began to be actively built in it, some of which have survived to the present day. Of course, the city's Orthodox heritage was lost in Soviet times, when religion was persecuted to the point of destruction of buildings.
You can go to Vladimir in order to admire the samples of Old Russian white-stone architecture. The most famous of them are the Dmitrievsky Cathedral, the Assumption Cathedral, the Golden Gate. All of them are on the UNESCO World Heritage List. There are no special delicacies in the Vladimir cuisine, but you can taste the pouched porridge. It is made from peas, implies a very long languor and is included in the list of intangible cultural heritage. The recipe for pushalka porridge has not changed since the 18th century.
5th place: Smolensk (founded in 863)
The hero city of Smolensk is one of the most ancient in Russia. However, the exact date of its foundation is unknown. The first mention of it dates back to 863 – and it is from this period that the city's chronology begins.
Smolensk has always been the 'shield of Russia'. It was he who defended Moscow from attacks from the west. It was here that the Second Popular Militia broke out under the leadership of Minin and Pozharsky, which resulted in the expulsion of the Polish-Lithuanian invaders from Moscow. It was here in the Time of Troubles that the troops of the Commonwealth were detained and the rest of the country was able to prepare for the invasion.
But Smolensk is known not only as the “shield of Russia.” This city is conveniently located at the intersection of trade routes. From here it is convenient to transport goods to Belarus, the Baltic States and Europe – and bring them from there. Therefore, Smolensk was also a large trading city.
Now Smolensk is one of the largest industrial centers in Russia. But he also preserved the historical heritage. Here you can admire the Smolensk Fortress, which is a classic Kremlin, many towers and white-stone churches. In addition, the Blonier Garden, founded in 1830, attracts tourists. And fans of gastronomic travel can recommend Smolensk borscht – it is prepared here with lemon and port. Also a classic dish for this city are butchers – buns with crispy icing sugar and fresh fruit.
4th place: Murom (founded in 862)
The ancient city of Murom, located in the Vladimir region, is known to every Russian – at least by ear. He was first mentioned in the largest historical document – the Tale of Bygone Years. In addition, it was here that the hero of Russian epics lived – the hero Ilya Muromets.
Murom was founded in 862. In fact, it was this date that marked the first mention of the city in the Tale of Bygone Years. Even before these times, the Finno-Ugric people of Murom lived on the territory of modern Murom. Therefore, it is impossible to establish the exact date of the foundation of the city.
In the Old Russian period, Murom passed from one 'state' to another. Initially, it was controlled by the Chernigov principality during the reign of Prince Rurik. Then he stood out as Murom-Ryazan. But in the end, he separated from him – in the Murom principality. And as a result, in 1293, the Mongols burned Murom to the ground.
However, he began to recover pretty soon. Already in 1351, he was again mentioned in the annals. And in 1392 it became part of the Moscow principality.
Under the control of Tsar Ivan the Terrible, Murom began to transform. Stone temples were built here, craft centers were opened. It was in Murom that the tsar gathered troops for a further campaign against Kazan. Therefore, there is nothing surprising in the fact that the city became the center of the arms craft, no. It was in Murom that Andrey Chekhov was born, who in 1586 cast the Tsar Cannon.
Murom has preserved samples of ancient Russian white stone architecture. It was in this style that the Holy Trinity Women's Monastery and the Spaso-Preobrazhensky Monastery were built. While admiring the city, you cannot miss the Epic Stone and the monument to Ilya Muromets, which are dedicated to the well-known hero. And of the unique products you should try, of course, Murom kalach. There is even a monument to him on one of the main streets!
3rd place: Veliky Novgorod (founded in 859)
Veliky Novgorod (aka Novgorod) is not just one of the oldest cities in the country. This is the place where Russian statehood was born. It was here that Rurik ruled, a summoned prince who united the disparate possessions into a country that became the progenitor of Russia.
Novgorod has been repeatedly mentioned in the most important events in Russian history. It was not destroyed during the Tatar-Mongol Yoke. It maintained its independence for a long time, being part of the Novgorod Republic. And it was he who was the capital in the Dokievian period, during the reign of Rurik, creating the so-called Novgorod Rus.
The official date of the foundation of Veliky Novgorod is 859. But in fact, the city arose much earlier. The fact is that 859 is the date of the death of one of the Novgorod elders, that is, the settlement had existed for several decades before this period.
Due to the fact that during the Tatar-Mongol Iga Novgorod was not destroyed, unique monuments of ancient Russian architecture of the pre-Mongol period have been preserved on the territory of the city. These are, for example, St. Sophia Cathedral, which was founded in 1045, and the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Virgin, built since 1117. Even frescoes of the 12th century have been preserved in them. Of course, Novgorod architecture is protected by UNESCO.
Tourists who want to visit Novgorod are waiting for architectural monuments of various times. There are sights here that have survived both from the ancient period and from the Middle Ages.
Veliky Novgorod will also be of interest to fans of gastronomic tourism. The city is located on the shores of Lake Ilmen, so the local cuisine contains many fish dishes with recipes that have not changed over the centuries. For example, Ilmen-style pike perch. In addition, in Veliky Novgorod, you should definitely try gingerbread – in this city, the tradition of making them has been going on since ancient times.
2nd place: Staraya Ladoga (founded in 753)
To be fair, Staraya Ladoga is not a city. Its population is only 1950 people as of 2017. Therefore, Staraya Ladoga is a village. But this does not prevent it from being one of the oldest and most ancient settlements in the country.
Officially, the history of Staraya Ladoga begins in the 750s. It was at this time that the Vikings settled on the Volkhov River. Then, literally a few years later, they were ousted by the Slavic tribes – and since then the Ladoga lands have become Russian.
Despite the 'decadent' modern status, earlier Staraya Ladoga – then it was simply called Ladoga – was a large shopping center. It was through her that goods were exported to Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany and the Baltic countries. And, accordingly, valuables were also brought from there.
Ladoga also became the first Russian money center. Immediately after its founding, it began production of 'peephole' – glass beads that acted as currency. They bought furs, which were then sold to Arab countries for silver.
After the unification of the principalities into Novgorod Rus', Ladoga became an important point on the way “from the Varangians to the Greeks.” But it did not last long. In 997 it was destroyed and temporarily disappeared from the chronicles – until 1116, when a new fortress was laid. By the way, it has survived to the present day. Subsequently, Ladoga was constantly attacked by Sweden and other European states.
In 1704 Ladoga lost its city status by order of Peter I. He founded Novaya Ladoga, and the settlement itself was renamed Staraya Ladoga. Many residents of Ladoga moved to the city built by Peter I. Since then, Staraya Ladoga has become only a small village on the Volkhov River.
Now in Staraya Ladoga there are a huge number of architectural and archaeological monuments, including the Old Ladoga fortress and the Assumption Cathedral, founded in the 1160s. However, the village is not a special tourist center. You can visit the village in one day and see all the sights at once.
1st place: Derbent (founded in the VIII century BC)
Derbent is the oldest city in modern Russia. The exact date of its foundation is unknown, but the first mentions of this Dagestan fortress date back to the 8th century BC. That is, in fact, now it is about 10 thousand years old!
Derbent was originally founded as a 'Caspian Fortress'. He guarded the western part of the mainland from the raids of a huge number of nomadic Asian tribes, including the Scythians, Khazars, Huns and many others. Derbent, being at a convenient crossing of the Caucasus, for a long time belonged to Rome and Parthia, but then passed to Byzantium and Iran. Then he became controlled by Albania. In the 7th century, the Arabs invaded the territory of Derbent.
In 1668, Derbent captured Stepan Razin from the Persians. And since then the city belongs to Russia.
And finally, Derbent finally became a Russian city in 1813. He became part of the Dagestan region in 1846. As part of Russia, Derbent has achieved economic growth associated with horticulture and horticulture. Madder was grown on the territory of the city – a plant that served as a raw material for an inexpensive but bright red dye – kappa. Over Derbent in 1865, 1,500 gardens were counted. They cultivated grapes (including for wine and vodka), peaches, apricots and other fruits. Also in the city, the Jewish diaspora flourished, which contained tobacco plantations.
At the end of the 19th century, Derbent once again experienced an economic boom. The railway from Makhachkala to Baku passed through it.
History lovers can admire the Naryn-Kala Citadel and other ancient architectural structures in Derbent, of which there are really a lot – and each of them keeps traces of thousands of battles. You can bring from there as a souvenir not only cognac (which immediately comes to mind thanks to centuries-old production), but also carpets, dried apricots, urbech and walnut grass. You can try lyavengi, shah-pilaf with meat, dried fruits and chestnuts, as well as chudu cakes.
Attention! This rating is subjective and does not constitute an advertisement and does not serve as a purchase guide. Before buying, you need to consult with a specialist.