Historical Cities

Historical cities and settlements of Russia are settlements of historical and archaeological importance.

Historical cities in Russia are separated according to the value of their historical legacy and include historical cities of worldwide importance, the unique legacy of which is recognized by the world community and requires exceptional efforts to conserve, historical cities of local importance, the legacy of which requires development of special reconstruction projects and the legacy of which makes them stand out of the rest of the list.

The historical and cultural heritage of the Vologda Region represents unique spiritual and architectural values created in the past that form the all-Russian cultural heritage.

On the territory of the Vologda Region there are 746 objects of cultural heritage included in the unified state register of objects of cultural heritage. 216 monuments, archaeological monuments among them, have the status of objects of cultural heritage of federal significance. 530 monuments have the status of objects of cultural heritage of local significance.

On July 29, 2010 the official list of a historical city or settlement was confirmed by the Order of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, the Ministry of Regional Development of the Russian Federation No 418/339. According to it, the list of historical settlements of federal significance includes three historical settlements of the Vologda Region - Veliky Ustyug, Belozersk and Totma.

A list of historical cities of the Vologda Oblast is confirmed by the Resolution of the Vologda Oblast Administration No 409 dated July 18, 1994. The list of historical cities of the Vologda Oblast includes such cities and settlements as Cherepovets, Vologda, Kirillov, Nikolsk, Gryazovets, Ustyuzhna, Vytegra, Kadnikov, Verkhovazh’ye and Ferapontovo.


Vologda is one of the few northern cities whose history goes back to the pre-Mongol period. The approximate date of its foundation was 1147 when, according to the Life of the local holy man, St. Gerasimus, Vologda's first monastery - the Troitsky - was founded.

By the middle of the 16th century, Vologda became the trading and administrative centre in northern Russia. The city was famous for its river vessels, leather, wool cloth, domestic utensils of wood, and the better kinds of soap. It manufactured great quantities of iron ware. All this made Vologda an outstanding trading and industrial centre, and helped to further its role in state affairs. It served as a primary distribution point for rapidly increasing trade with England, and subsequently Holland.

The city of Vologda has about 200 architectural and historical monuments of federal and regional significance. In the panorama of its historical centre the dominant feature is presented by the city's oldest building - the St. Sophia Cathedral (16th century).

With the exception of the Sophia Cathedral, Vologda throughout the 16th and early 17th centuries remained a collection of log structures. Alongside with 15 other historical cities of Russia (out of 115), Vologda boasts a number of monuments of wooden architecture.

Veliky Ustyug

Veliky Ustyug was founded in 1147 and was originally meant to be a military outpost for strengthening Russia's might and the security of its northern borders.

It seems in some ways miraculously untouched by time. In some areas one gets a sense of what the city might have looked like in the 18th century. In fact it is an open-air museum.

Spirit of the times can be heard in the city name up to now. The white stone cathedrals, belfries and mansions located on the Sukhona River are reflected in it. They seem to be sprung up from a fairy-tale. This magnificent view opens up for visitors to the city. On the left bank of the river is the Church of the Ascension (1648), which is the oldest structure in the city to survive in its original form, Cathedral of St. Procopius (1668), Church of the Epiphany (1689), the Monastery of Transfiguration of our Lord with hipped-roof belfry (1696), Church of the Transfiguration and Purification (1739), and a stately structure of the main city temple - the Assumption Cathedral with a double belfry (18th century). The Church of St. Demetrius of Salonae (1708) and the Church of St. Sergius of Radonezh (1739-1747) stand on the other side of the river at the site of the earliest settlement of Ustyug. Further down the river is the Trinity Gleden Monastery. One gets an impression that it hovers above the earth. The iconostasis of the Monastery is considered to be a world masterpiece.

Such outstanding explorers and navigators as Semyon Dezhnyov, Erophei Khabarov, Mikhail Buldakov and Vasily Shilov glorified Veliky Ustyug. The residents of the city are remembered for Siberia exploration and exploration of the islands in the Pacific Ocean. They were the first ones to discover new lands in Russian America and to circumnavigate the world.

Since 1998 the project Veliky Ustyug - Hometown of Ded Moroz has been implemented in the district. The residence of Ded Moroz is situated 15 km off the town of Veliky Ustyug in a pine forest. It consists not only of the stately home of Ded Moroz, but also of comfortable timbered cottages, a restaurant, a recreation centre with a sauna, a swimming pool, a billiard room and a zoo.

Every year thousands of tourists flock to Veliky Ustyug that numbers 150 objects of cultural heritage of federal and regional significance.

The city of Veliky Ustyug has preserved intact its uniqueness and has been awarded the status of a reserve city.


Belozersk, one of the ancient Russian cities, was first mentioned in a chronicle of 862. The chroniclers called it Beloozero (White Lake) at that time.

The city's convenient location and proximity to the Sheksna River and White Lake made Belozersk an important trading centre with Western Europe.

In the 15-16th centuries the city enjoyed great prosperity. As it was situated on the Onega trade way much of freight passed through the city to the north of the country. The staple food products of the city (mostly fish) were carried to Moscow for the tsar.

At the beginning of the 19th century the Mariinskaya water system that started functioning in 1810 contributed greatly to the city's development. It connected the Baltic Sea and the Volga. In 1828 the construction of Duke Alexander Württembergsky canal (67 km) was finished. It connected the Mariinskaya water system and the Northern Dvina. In 1846 the Belozersk by-pass canal (67 km) was put into action. This network of navigable canals attracted investments of the Russian Government into this transportation route. All this stimulated local economic development. The cathedrals, churches and mansions of the city which survived in its original form witness the thriving city.

Now Belozersk is an administrative centre with 52 historical and cultural monuments included into the state preservation program, seven of them are objects of federal significance.


Tot'ma was first described by a chronicler in the 12th century, but the exact date of its foundation is unknown. Tot'ma was one of Russia's salt making capitals.

The name of the city means "marshland". This small city sprawls picturesquely on the hilly bank of the Sukhona. Its fame is baroque churches of the 18th century, productions of the local artistic school. They are characterized by vertically elongated forms and facade reinforcement in the form of ceramic "rocailles" showing beautiful parti-coloured patterns.

Tot'ma has barely changed since vessels with seafarers and pioneers headed from its quay to undertake expeditions to distant shores of Siberia, Far East, Alaska, and the Aleutian Islands. They were going on merchant trips but came back with newly developed maps and description of aborigines.

Houses of baroque and classical period constitute a notable part in the city's architectural legacy. The city abounds with buildings of civic and ecclesiastic use which were designed in the 17th and 18th centuries. Dwelling houses of baroque and classical period design alternate with buildings of religious purpose: the Spaso-Sumorin Monastery complex (end of the 18th century - 1880), the Church of the Assumption (1775, 1800-1808), the Church of the Entry into Jerusalem (1774-1794), the Church of the Nativity of Christ (1745-1748, 1786-1793), the Cathedral of the Epiphany (1863-1872) and the Church of the Trinity (1768-1722, 1780-1788). The Church of the Trinity and the Church of the Nativity of Christ remain active. Their architectural unity remains intact, since the successive architects were faithful to the original plans.

Tot’ma boasts 8 monuments of national importance and 29 objects of cultural heritage of local importance.

In terms of museums per capita, the town of Tot'ma is probably one of the leading locations in Russia: there’s a marine navigation museum, a house museum for Ivan Kuskov, a museum of church history, and a house museum of the poet Nikolai Rubtsov (who studied here).


Ustyuzhna was first described by a chronicler in 1253. The history begins with the development of metallurgical industry on the territory of Rus. The remains of the ancient town and the amount of ironmongery found in the estuary of the Kat River testify to this fact.

In the 15th-16th centuries Ustyuzhna Zheleznopolskaya became a major metallurgical centre in Rus.

In the late 17th century stone construction began, and by 1870 Ustyuzhna had 13 stone churches that changed the town's appearance. Two stately churches - the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Virgin and the Kazan Church - are quite remarkable in its architecture and attract the visitor's attention. They remain active now.

Ustyuzhna has 19 architectural monuments of national importance and 26 objects of local importance.


The city appeared as a settlement attached to the Kirillo-Belozersky monastery, founded in 1397 and called after the name of monk Kirill Belozersky.

Less than two centuries after Kirill's death a small wooden cloister was turned into a marvellous masonry town. Now the Kirillo-Belozersky monastery astounds everybody by the enormous size of its fortified walls and towers. The architectural monuments laid out and built in the traditions of early Russian architecture are mainly productions of the 15th-17th centuries. Among the structures that merit special attention are the Cathedral of the Assumption (1497), the Church of the Archangel Gabriel with an attached bell-tower and the refectory.

The majestic architectural ensemble of the Kirillo-Belozersky monastery is one of the largest in Russia. It has kept architectural monuments of XV-XIX centuries, massive walls and towers preserved to our days.

The Kirillo-Belozersky Museum-Preserve of History, Architecture and Decorative Arts was established in 1924 and comprises monuments of stone architecture - the Kirillo-Belozersky monastery (1397), Ferapontov monastery (1398), Goritsky Nunnery (1544) and a wooden Prophet Elijah Church (1775). It is a wonderful architectural monument containing a multitude of art works. It has long been acknowledged as one of Russia's major cultural centres.


The foundation of Cherepovets is traditionally ascribed to the monks Feodosy and Afanasy. In 1362, they founded the Cherepovets Resurrection Monastery, in the vicinity of which a small village of Fedosyevo appeared. Historians consider the former village of Fedosyevo to be the heart of modern Cherepovets. It has developed throughout the centuries into the important regional centre of trade, manufacture and transportation. Cherepovets was granted a city status in 1777 by Catherine the Great.

The opening of a major northern rail line from St. Petersburg through Cherepovets and Vologda to Vyatka in 1905 provided further impetus for the development of the city and its industry.

Today Cherepovets is one of the main industrial centres of Russia, the basis of its economic potential is metallurgy and chemistry. At the same time, the city has not lost its historical value.

The city boasts a memorial museum of Vasili Vereshchagin, the great battle-painter and the Galskoy estate of Gorka that is now a museum of history and ethnography.


Gryazovets (at that time known as the settlement of Gryazovitsky) was first mentioned in a charter of tsar Ivan IV in 1538. As time passed, the settlement developed into a trade village.

The town became an administrative and trade centre of the district. Its residents were mostly engaged in farming and handicrafts. The merchants were occupied with trade.

Trade development contributed to the prosperity of the village. The village grew and on January 25, 1780 under the Senate decree it got the status of a town.

The town accommodates some interesting monuments of early architecture and places of interest.


Nikolsk is located on the southern bank of the Yug River 442 km off Vologda.

As history annals say, the settlement of Nikolskoye was mentioned in the documents of the 15th century. It was used as a dock and a staging post to carry freight from the south of the country to Arkhangelsk.

On August 16, 1780 the settlement was given the status of a town by the decree of Empress Catherine II.

The monuments of architecture preserved in its original appearance are - Cathedral Church Of Candlemas, the Kazan Church (which remains active now), the Cathedral of Purification (located in the very heart of the town), the building of the former seminary, the house of V.Spirin, a horticulturist.

Three architectural monuments of the town are inscribed into the list of historical cities of local importance.


Vytegra is a small town situated on the hilly bank of the Vytegra River, 15 km off the place where the river flows into the Onega. The town of Vytegra was founded under the decree of 1773.

The Mariinskaya water system that was put into action in 1810 gave boost to economic and cultural development of Vytegra at the beginning of the 19th century.

In the panorama of its historical centre the dominant feature is presented by the town's oldest building - the Cathedral of the Resurrection (1796-1800). Built in the period of baroque it was characterized by vertically elongated forms. Unfortunately, the posterity could not admire it in all its beauty because the sculptural group got lost and was never returned.

By the beginning of the 19th century the town had 5 stone mansions that belonged to the merchants. The first dwelling houses made of stone were characterized by an austere and laconic décor.


Kadnikov is one of the ancient cities of the region. It is located about 12 km North-East of Rabanga on a hill nearby the Sodoma River.

The settlement of Kadnikov got the status of a town in 1780. A bit later a busy trading route to Arkhangelsk was laid through it. It contributed greatly to the town's development.

It is one of the Russian towns preserved intact its historical centre, architecture and its original northern lifestyle. The heart of the town is represented mostly by the stone buildings.

Now the town boasts 17 architectural monuments of local importance.


Settlement of Verkhovazh’ye is situated in the north-east of the Vologda Region, 226 km off Vologda City. The settlement is located on the right bank of the Vaga River.

It was first mentioned in the 17th century, and in 1678 it became a posad, a semi-urban settlement. Thanks to its location on one of the main waterways connecting central Russia and the White Sea, by the 17th century Verkhovazh'ye was a major trading settlement.

In the 18th century, Verkhovazh'ye was one of the main trading towns in the Russian North. It boasted a distillery, an iron works, and a paper production plant.


Among other historical cities and towns of Russia, the settlement of Ferapontovo stands out for its Ferapontov Monastery founded in 1398.

Lots of people travel to Ferapontovo to worship the relics of Saint Martinian and the memory of Saint Ferapont as well as to admire the old architecture and wall painting of the Nativity Cathedral. All the interior walls are covered with invaluable frescoes by the great medieval painter Dionisy and date back to 1502.

The cathedral's wall painting that numbers almost 300 compositions and characters covers almost all the surface of the walls, vaults, pillars (except for the eastern pillars behind the iconostasis and the altar wall), window and door soffits and the central part of the western wall above the door and the bottom part of the southern wall above the tomb of St. Martinian outside.

At the present moment, the Ferapontov Monastery houses the Museum of Dionisy's Frescoes that has the status of a historical and architectural museum-reserve.

The Ferapontov Monastery is considered to be one of the purest examples of Russian medieval art, a reason given by UNESCO for its inscription on the World Heritage List in 2000.