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Russia - 3

 

The Golden Ring

 

To the northeast of Moscow lies the old heart of Russia and a circle of cities known as The Golden Ring.

These were the first towns of a truly Russian character.  Towns that the future "Russians" built without the help of the western Vikings who developed Pskov, Novgorod and Kiev as trading stations in order to facilitate trade with the Byzantine Empire.

 

Kievian Rus was the dominant power in the early Middle Ages due to its superb situation at the heart of the trade route between Baltic and Byzantium.  With its wealth came power and prestige.  With the success of the Crusades in the 1100's trade between north and south moved more to the west and Kiev declined.  Towns to the north began to vie for importance.  Novgorod, Suzdal-Vladimir, Yarlosavl and eventually Moscow competed for preeminence.  Other towns such as Rostov-Veliky, Kostrama and Sergiyev-Posad developed as trading and/or religious centers.

 

Then came the deluge.  The great Mongol Invasion of 1240.

Genghis Khan, having conquered China in under ten years, turned his attention to the west.  However he died and his grandson Batu Khan carried on the with the western invasions.  With the aid of his Tarter brethren, he sent his forces west in 2 prongs:  Mongols south thru Romania and the Tartars north thru Russia and Poland.  Sweeping aside every army sent to meet them, they were capable of marching on Rome and Paris - there were no western armies left to stop them.  But they did not.  Batu Khan died and his leading generals headed back to Mongolia to press their individual claims for the Khanate.  

The Tartars remained along the southern Volga and Don rivers and established the a kingdom that became known as the Golden Horde.  These Tartars, not really desirous of ruling the Russians instead demanded a yearly tribute.  The Russians paid this tribute for the next 200 years.  Led by the growing city of Moscow, the Russians finally pushed back the Horde in the late 1400's.

 

Vladimir

Proceeding in a counter clockwise direction, we first headed to Vladimir, 100 miles northeast of Moscow.

Founded in the early 1100's, but thought to be much older, this was the Capital of the non Kievian Rus until the Mongol invasion.  Situated on a high bluff, it is today a modern city with little left of its medieval past.

Assumption Cathedral

St. Dimitry - 1190's

 

 

 

Suzdal

By passed by the railroad builders, the town today may be the most picturesque village in all of Russia.

 

 

During the time of its peak power, the town had over 100 monasteries and churches.  Many remain today

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The big city on the Volga River with a population of over 600,000, it is 160 miles northeast of Moscow.  Founded in 1010, its location on the Volga enabled the town to be a power in the 11th and 12th centuries.  Today capitalism has idled many of the Soviet era factories but its location as a transportation hub gives it a chance for future growth.  Situated on the Trans-Siberian railway, it is one of the main crossing points over the wide Volga.

 

Tourism is slowly becoming a growth industry as the town has much to offer.  A large and impressive Kremlin, which still needs some work, and a number of churches.

In the 1500's as the town prospered, many rich merchants competed with each other in the form of constructing churches.  Bigger and better than the one's before it was the keynote.

Today the under renovation Church of the Epiphany with its incredible interior has pride of place. 

 

Iconostasis

Wall frescos

 

 

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