Location: the eastern part of the Vologda Oblast

Area - comparative: the oblast's third biggest district in terms of total area

Border regions: the Kostroma Oblast in the south, the districts of Mezhdurech'ye, Sokol, Syamzha, Verkhovazh'ye, Tarnoga, Nyuksenitsa, Gryazovets, Babushkino within the Vologda Oblast

Distance from Vologda: 215 km by highway, 247 km by water transport, 195 km by air

Foundation: 1539 first mentioned

Inland waters: numerous rivers (all in all 120) and 6 lakes that are used for water supply, transport communication, fishing and tourism. The Sukhona is the longest water course known on the territory of the district of Tot'ma. It flows some 126 km (within the boundaries of the district).

Terrain: mostly wavy moraine plains pertaining to the north-western part of the Permian plateau.

Terrain: mostly wavy moraine plains pertaining to the north-western part of the Permian plateau.

Plant life: The district of Tot'ma is a vast wooded area with some 50-60 percent of its total land area covered by coniferous and deciduous forests. The plant life map looks quite mixed.

Fauna: mammals typical of the woodlands of the European part of Russia - bears, wolves, foxes, elks, wild boars, martens, lynxes and others; many species of fish - salmon, white-fish, bream, pike perch, perch, pike and others; species of birds - wood grouse, hazel grouse, loom, golden eagle, black grouse.

Climate: temperate continental with long winters, short warm summers. The winter days are short, lasting only six hours or so. Summer days last about 19 hours. The summer, although short, is one of the most prized assets. On the whole the weather is rather changeable due to frequent cyclones and various air masses that permeate into the district.


Tot'ma was first described by a chronicler in the 12th century, but the exact date of its foundation is unknown. The name of the city means "marshland". This small city sprawls picturesquely on the hilly bank of the Sukhona. Its fame are 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.

The histoty begins with the salt deposits which the locals found in the 13th century on the bank of the Kovda river (it is 2 km off today's city location). As history annals say, the underground salt waters were extracted for the first time in the country's history. A new economic and administrative centre of the volost (small rural district) - the surburb of Usoliye - sprouted up near the salt mines. Later, outside its walls the new surburb of Tot'ma appeared. It was known as a major centre for salt production. Being situated on the major trading route from the Moscow State to Western Europe via the White Sea, the city grew and thrived.

In 1565 Tot'ma became an oprichny city (special administrative élite under the tsar) and focused on salt, furs, flax, bread, wax and tar trade. Goods from southern countries (carpets, spices, wines and precious stones) were also sold in the streets of the city.

In the late 16th century Ivan IV naturalized the Siberian Tartar khanate and the trading route from Moscow to Siberia passed via Tot'ma. It contributed greatly to the city's prosperity.

As St.Petersburg developed and navy routes were laid through the Baltic Sea, the commercial role of Tot'ma gradually diminished. But by the middle of the 18th century trade links of the city extended. The merchants Timofei Myasnikov and Semyon Myasnikov, Alexei Kholodilov, Grigory Panov and Peter Panov were engaged in commerce throughout Siberia and Kamchatka. All in all there were 20 expeditions organized to the New World. In the space of 50 years the merchants brought back 1/5 of all the furs obtained in the New World. As a result of these expeditions some new islands were discovered.

In 1780 Tot'ma became a chief city of the Vologda province. In 1789 the coat of arms of the city was officially approved. It depicted a black fox on the green field, since hunting used to be the main occupation of the residents of the city. This is the only Russian coat of arms depicting an animal native to the USA.

In the 19th century salt deposits were found in the Urals and in the south of the country. Tot'ma salt- works were not able to compete with new salterns and by 1917 they had gone bankrupt.

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.

In 1791 there were 19 parish churches in Tot'ma, and 37 altars for 3325 inhabitants. The best churches of the town and most of the altars were devoted to St Nicholas the Miracle Worker who was considered to be a patron of navigators and explorers, and a patron of trade. Several altars were dedicated to St Paraskeva, the Great Martyr who was believed to protect the salt works and some - to one of the most worshipped Russian Orthodox icons - the Virgin of Kazan. The icon of the Virgin of Kazan was considered a defender of Russia's cities.

The churches of Tot'ma merit special attention. Their distinctive traits lie in the elegance of the external décor, novelty, elongated forms and majesty. The churches are brick structures embellished with intricate decorative pattern such as the one shown here. Their décor features an original element that does not occur in any other Russian church - cartouches. The cartouche is a structure or figure, often in the shape of an oval shield or oblong scroll, used as an architectural or graphic ornament or to bear a design or inscription. The names of Egyptian Royalty were contained in an elongated oval called a cartouche. In the 18th century the cartouche was used a great deal in decoration of various kinds of furniture and the interior in France and later in Italy. But in Tot'ma handmade cartouche ornamentation was used to decorate the exterior of churches and temples.

The cartouche is not typical of the Russian architectural style. The Russian artists and scholars took no notice of these rounded forms for a long time. That is why the architectural style of Tot'ma was not studied till 1962 when Doctor of Architecture P.Teltevsky came to an amasing conclusion - they present their own architectural school of the Russian Baroque. Not every provincial town can boast its own architectural school.

The effect of stateliness and power is produced by the Spaso-Sumorin Monastery founded in the mid-16th century. The Cathedral of the Ascension, the Church of the Transfiguration and abbot cells strike the visitors by the way they fit organically in the surrounding northern landscape. Today the monastery houses an exhibition of distaffs, swingles, handicrafts made of birch bark, pottery, tiles, utensils and furniture. Peter the Great visited Tot'ma on several occasions. There are many legends connected with his name and cherished by the residents.

Peter I's first visit to Tot'ma dates back to the summer of 1693. When the tsar accompanied by a retinue of a hundred men came to Tot'ma for the first time it took him four days to see the sights of it. He visited the Spaso - Sumorin Monastery, got interested in salt production and shipbuilding. Later the tsar exiled disgraced boyards to Tot'ma. Fyodor Lopukhin, father of Evdokiya (the emperor's first wife) was among them. In Tot'ma he held a post of the town's head.

Russian America... In 1791 Alexander Andreevich Baranov, a merchant from Kargopol was appointed to manage the Russian-American Company. He chose Ivan Kuskov, a Tot'ma - born navigator to be his right-hand man. Life at the colony under Kuskov revolved around the hunting of sea otter whose pelts were very valuable in the China trade. In 1812 he built a fortress in an area to the North of San Francisco, California (now the National Park of Fort Ross). Fort Ross served as a trading post and a source of agricultural products for Russian America in Alaska. Ivan Kuskov headed the colony till 1821. Alongside with the trade activity he was also engaged in research work.

Ivan A. Kuskov is remembered for discovery of the American lands and establishment of the Russian trade navy on the American territory. The city of Tot'ma has an embankment named after Ivan Kuskov. The house where the famous navigator spent the last years of his life was preserved in its original form up to now. It is one of the earliest timbered houses in Tot'ma (it dates back to the 18th century). As soon as the restoration works had been finished, the year 1990 saw the opening of the Kuskov Memorial Flat.

The American nation also cherishes Ivan Kuskov. A medal minted to mark the 200th anniversary of the USA commemorates Kuskov's discoveries.

In the late 18th century trade routes were laid through the Baltic Sea and the economy of Tot'ma fell into decay. In the 19th century Tot'ma became a small provincial city. The residents were engaged in navigation, fishing and blacksmith's works.

But among other district cities of the Vologda Province Tot'ma stood out for a developed network of educational institutions (there were 11 educational establishments for 5,000 residents). A popular school founded in 1788 made a good start for a network of schools in the town.

The year 1899 saw the opening of the local handicraft school which the inhabitants were proud of. Over a short period of time the school gained wide popularity in Russia and beyond the bounds of it. In 1905 at the World Exhibition held in Liége (Belgium) the wooden works made by its artisans were awarded the first prize.

In the second half of the 19th century the Zemstvo (elective district council in pre - revolutionary Russia) played a large role in the social life of Tot'ma. Being a self - government body the Zemstvo was in charge of the economic affairs, distribution of state duties, local taxation, public health care system and popular schooling. In the late 19th century schools, a hospital, a post-office, a telegraph, a library and a drug store were established in the town for the money provided by the elective council - Zemstvo.

In the late 19th century and in the early 20th century Tot'ma became a place of political exile. The publicist Nikolai Shelgunov, the ethnographer Grigory Potanin, the philosopher Peter Lavrov, the politician Vyacheslav Molotov and others were sent into exile to Tot'ma. In March 1903 Anatoly Lunacharsky, a statesman and publicist, was banished to the northern Russian town of Tot'ma. He wrote to his friends: "Tot'ma is a charming town rising on the bank of a large river above the woods, a town with intricate patterns and churches designed in rococo style. When I remember Tot'ma, I imagine a winter fairy tale, a nice scenery for "The Snow Maiden".

Beyond this, Tot'ma's history is also the story of many exceptional people. The great painter Feodosy Vakhrushov was born in Tot'ma. In 1895 he graduated from the St.Petersburg Academy of Arts where he worked in the studio of Iliya Repin. In his early years the artist took up genre painting, later he mastered lanscape painting. Most Vakhrushov's works of art can be seen in the local Museum of Local Lore. Among the renowned people of Tot'ma are also poets F.Savinov and N.Rubtsov, sculpturer D.Rakov, painters K.Andreev, G.Burkov and A.Pesterev, film director V.Chirkov, scientists Yu.Perov, V.Durnev, students of local lore A.Kuznetsov, S.Zaitsev and others.

The city of Tot'ma and Bodega Bay, a town located on the Pacific Coast just 68 miles North of San Francisco have been official twin cities for several years. The Letter of Intent on establishing partnership ties between the towns was signed in October 1998. Bodega Bay is situated close to legendary Fort Ross. Tot'ma is about of the same size as its California twin town.

Tot'ma is included into the list of the most valuable Russian cities. Here in the North, the continuity of the old cultural traditions has been kept up by close and continuous ties of successive generations.


Agriculture is a clear dominant in the district's economy. By virtue of natural conditions and economic factors, cattle-breeding and dairy-farming are clearly expressed specializations of the district.

Timber and wood-working industries, food industry, heat-and-power engineering also take a dominating position.

The enterprises producing a great selection of meat and milk products meet the district's demands for meat, milk, vegetables, bread and bakery products.

Attractions and tourism

Museum of Local Lore

The year 1915 saw the opening of the Museum of Local Lore that was located in the building of the former theological school. Now it boasts a good collection of folk crafts, other exhibits that are of great historical and ethnographic value. The first exhibits of the museum were given by the town's residents: a plan of Tot'ma dating from 1781, a wooden table embellished with an intricate pattern carved out, an ancient brass areometer used to define brine density, and two oil portraits depicting members of the Kuskov family. Now the museum funds number more than 67,000 exhibits. The local lore museum's collections are displayed in 4 halls - an art and a historical sections, a nature department, an exhibition hall and a storeroom.

Kuskov Memorial Flat

The year 1990 saw the opening of the Kuskov Memorial Flat. The museum tells the story of life of a Tot'ma-born navigator Ivan Kuskov. Tot'ma was once a powerhouse of merchant Russia. Adventurers from the town opened up trade routes to Siberia, Alaska, China and the west coast of the United States. Tot'ma's main rivals were other northern towns - Veliky Ustyug, for example, where two hundred years ago merchants who had made their money in Siberia and America built luxurious riverside residences. One Tot'ma native, Ivan Kuskov, founded Fort Ross in California in 1812, and after years in North America, retired to his birthplace along with a wife, who by some accounts was a Native American. At that time Tot'ma was a flourishing merchant centre, dealing in furs, wax, silks and salt. It is not by chance that the town's coat of arms has a black fox on it, an animal native to the Aleutian Islands off Alaska, not to northern Russia.

Unfortunately the world - famous navigator died 3 months after his arrival in the native town. Ivan Kuskov is buried on the territory of the Spaso-Sumorin monastery. Recently a granite bust of Ivan Kuskov has been erected in front of the house where the first commandant of Fort Ross spent his last years.

Museum of the Russian Church Antiques

The official opening of a small but attractive museum with local icons took place in 1995 and was timed to the 80th anniversary of the Tot'ma Local Lore Museum. The Church of the Dormition of the Mother of God has become home to the museum. The church was erected in 1808. Its bell tower literally overshadows the main structure. In good weather, it is possible to climb to the top of the tower and enjoy a superb panorama of Tot'ma, the Sukhona, and the surrounding countryside. The icons of Sts Nickolas and John the Baptist dating from the 15th century and the icons of Feodosy Sumorin (18th century) merit special attention. Artistic needlework, wooden sculpture and plastic figures are also displayed in the museum.

Museum of Russian Seafaring

The museum of Russian seafaring is housed in the next example in the series of Tot'ma masterpieces - Church of the Entry into Jerusalem that was raised in 1774-1794 with funds provided by the brothers Grigory and Peter Panov, navigators and merchants who were involved in the trade with "Russian America." Several expositions of the museum are of great interest: the display telling the story of origin and formation of the Russian navy, an exposition about Tot'ma - born merchants and their navigations in the Pacific Ocean in the second half of the 18th century, and one more display goes on to the residents of Tot'ma who took part in the Great Patriotic War and those contemporaries who served in the navy.

Open Storage of Funds

About a kilometre beyond the western fringe of Tot'ma the Spaso - Sumorin Monastery was founded in 1554 by Feodosy Sumorin, one of the monks of the Spaso - Prilutsky Monastery who was sent to supervise salt production in Tot'ma. Now the Savior Sumorin Monastery contains an excellent museum of folk crafts from the Tot'ma region, with hundreds of examples of traditional wooden implements for farming and household use: distaffs, swingles, pottery, tiles, crockery and articles of furniture. Most of the items kept in the museum are beautifully decorated. The collection was greatly enlarged in the 1970s and subsequently, partly as a result of an increased interest on the part of local museums.

Rubtsov Memorial Museum

The first exposition about the life and works of the renowned Russian poet Nikolai Rubtsov was opened in 1990 in the village of Nikolskoye located 90 km off Tot'ma. Every hall of the exposition tells the poet's life - story. The village of Nikolskoye became second home for Nikolai who was brought up in an orphanage. It is not by chance that a local orphanage housed the museum.

One of the expositions of the museum contains photographs of the local dynasties who remember the poet pretty well. Another hall shows documents and photographs of Nikolai Rubtsov, the lines from Rubtsov's poems glisten like silver all over walls.

Every year lots of tourists flock to the Memorial Museum because they cherish the history and culture of their country which N.Rubtsov belongs to.

Museum "Tsareva"

The year 1990 saw the opening of the museum called "Tsareva" in the village of Kalinino. It displays graphic works of art belonging to the brush of a Moscow - born painter Boris Terekhov who used to come to the village visiting his friends. The artist liked the place so much that he devoted many pictures to the Tot'ma district and later presented 96 canvases to the museum.

Administrative centre: Tot’ma
Administration: ul.Volodarskogo 4, 161300 Tot'ma, Vologda Oblast, Russia
Head of the district: Sergei Selyanin. Tel: (81739)21314. E-mail: totrik@yandex.ru
Head of the administration: Sergei Semyonov. Tel: (881739) 2-15-55.
Population: 23550
Square: 8,2 ths km2