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Suzdal

Suzdal is a Russian town on the Kamenka River, with a population slightly under 10,000 people. It's a medieval Russian city which has retained its appearance and atmosphere to this day. It's a city of cathedrals, with an open-air museum of ancient wooden architecture – most of the buildings in Suzdal are protected by World Cultural Heritage listings. Suzdal is one of the most important stops along the Golden Ring Of Russia tourist route.

Fascinating facts

  • Local authorities put a ban on constructing multi-storey building – to preserve the appearance and skyline of the historic town. Most buildings in Suzdal don't exceed two storeys in height. Even when new buildings are put up here, they are stylised to fit in with the historic appearance of the town.
  • In mid-July, Suzdal holds a cucumber festival.
  • Suzdal is famous for its mead – a low-alcohol drink made from honey. In fact the only industrial production that goes on in Suzdal is the mead factory.
  • The picturesque architecture in the town has been the backdrop for over 60 different films – most of which have a historical theme, such as Andrei Tarkovsky's famous film 'Andrey Rublyov'. Other movies filmed here include Ivan Piriev's 'The Brothers Karamazov', and Pavel's film 'The Tsar'.
  • Suzdal was never connected to the main railway network. Visitors coming by train must go to Vladimir, and from there take a bus or taxi.
  • Suzdal is a compact town, with an overall area of just 15 square kilometres. Against this, the town has 53 churches. In ancient Russia, a church would have two buildings – one for use in winter, the other used in summer.
  • Suzdal plays host to Russia's largest festival of animated films.

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City History

The earliest mentions of Suzdal date back to the 11th century. The town's borders have remained unchanged since the 18th century.

For many centuries, Suzdal was an important political and commercial centre in Ancient Russia. It was one of the medieval city-states which might have become the national capital – but in the 15th century this role was seized by Moscow, and Suzdal gradually fell into rural decline. Cut-off from major trade routes, the city did not play any role in politics or commerce for over two centuries.

Suzdal's role was to become a spiritual centre, where many monasteries and religious foundations were established.

From the 18th century onwards, Suzdal did not develop greatly, and was perceived as an old-fashioned, rural town. Yet in the mid-20th century a new kind of industry appeared – tourism, which brought a new life to the town in a Soviet-led initiative to build up visitor numbers. Since then, Suzdal has attracted very many tourists, and is one of the most interesting and widely-appreciated towns on the Golden Ring Of Russia tourist route.

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