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ROSTOV VELIKII

John Sloan

The Principality of Rostov-Suzdal-Vladimir was one of the strongest political divisions of Kievan Rus. It controlled all the major rivers in northeast Rus including the Moskva, Oka, Kliaz'ma, and Volga. The population grew hay, flax and hops, raised livestock, hunted and trapped for fur, fished, and engaged in crafts and commerce. But control of the center of the great route between the Baltic (Europe) and Caspian (Central Asia and Near East), gave the local merchants great wealth and power.
Rostov Velikii (the Great) (population 40,000), located on Lake Nero, is one of the most ancient towns in Russia first mentioned in the Primary Chronicle for 862. Troops from Rostov reportedly participated in Oleg's attack on Constantinople in 907. Christianity came to Rostov in 989 with a mass immersion in the lake. In 1054 Yaroslav the Wise divided the Rus lands among his sons. Vsevolod received the Pereiaslavl, Rostov, Suzdal, and Volga River region. He sent his son, Vladimir Monomakh to Rostov in 1068. When Vsevolod died in 1093, Vladimir Monomakh became the sole ruler of northeastern Rus. He fortified the region, but returned to rule from Kiev. When Monomakh died in 1125, his son, Yurii Dolgorukii, separated Rostov-Suzdal-Vladimir from Kiev and made Suzdal the capital. As a sop to Rostov, he gave it the title, Rostov Velikii. However Yurii continued to seek the central throne at Kiev, then held by his brother the Grand-Prince Mstislav. The Rurikid (Norman) dynasty was in constant warfare among its members for control of the many towns and in simultaneous struggle with the boyar aristocracy which resisted their efforts at central control. Yurii fortified many of his strongholds throughout the Rostov-Suzdal area. His son, Andrei Bogoliubskii, found the entrenched boyars of Rostov and Suzdal too antagonistic, so he shifted his capital to Vladimir. Andrei was assassinated in 1174 and his brother, Vsevolod "Big Nest", won the ensuing struggle.
In the 12th century Rostov grew to equal Kiev and Novgorod in size and importance and in 1207 it gained independence from Vladimir-Suzdal during the struggle between Vsevolod's sons, Yurii and Konstantin. The principality included also such towns as Yaroslavl, Uglich, Mologa, Beloozero, and Ustiug. The first prince, Konstantin Vsevolodovich, became Grand Prince of Vladimir in 1216 after defeating his brothers Yurii and Yaroslav in pitched battle on the Lipitsa river.. He followed the standard princely practice by dividing the Vladimir principality among his brothers and the Rostov principality among his sons, thus reducing Rostov and making the other towns also independent. The family geneologies of the house of Rustov are shown at success 13 and success 19.
Rostov was demolished by the Mongols in 1238 but rebuilt. In 1262 the people joined those in other Russian towns in rebellion against the Mongols. During the 13th century Uglich and Beloozero were rejoined to Rostov. The principality was again split in half in 1328. Ivan I of Moscow purchased Uglich from Rostov. Dmitrii Donskoi took the Rostov princes into the service of Moscow. One half of the Rostov principality was taken by Moscow in the early 15th century and then Ivan III purchased the remaining half to the territories for Moscow in 1474 after which the town remained of minor political importance.
Polish armies reached Rostov during the intervention (Time of Troubles) in 1605-1618.
Rostov's kremlin with its 11 towers remains in the center of town with the earthen walls, built in 1631-33, around the central area. The kremlin walls are 2 meters thick and 10 to 12 meters high. But the entire complex is phoney as a fortification. It was built strictly for show by the local bishop. Metropolitan Iona Sysoevich. The real city fortification is the extensive multi-bastioned earthen rampart built in the 1630's on order of the new Tsar Mikhail Romanov by Dutch engineers in the latest Vauban style. This is certainly one of the earliest examples of the new "trace Italien" style fortification in Russia.
The churches date from the period 1667-1691. There are two kremlin gate churches, The Church of the Resurrection (1670) with five silver domes and the Church of St. John the Divine (1683) with 5 green domes. The Church of the Smolensk Mother of God (1693) and Church of the Redeemer are also within the kremlin area, along with various secular buildings and palaces. The Uspenski Cathedral, established in 1214 is outside the kremlin. It was redesigned in the 15th-16th centuries, with a belfry from 1620-82. It houses the icon of the Virgin of Vladimir painted in the 11th century. Nearby is the Church of St. Gregory (1670) which has a stone iconostasis. The Savior in the Market Place Church (1690) and the Church of the Ascension (1566) are also close-by. The Abraham Monastery by Lake Nero is the oldest monastery in Russia (11th century). It contains the Nikolskaya Gate Church (1655-91), the Vvedenskaya Church (1650), and the Epiphany Cathedral (1553). The Spaso-Yakovlevski Monastery, founded in 1389 by St. Jacob of Rostov, is also on the lake bank, to the west. The remaining buildings date from the 17th to 19th centuries. The Church of the Transfiguration on the Sands (1603), the Rozhdestvenski convent, St. Nicholas Church, St. John's Church, St Nicholas in the Field Church, and the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Virgin all stand within the old town. Many other churches are in the neighboring region.

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A view of one of the earth bastions outside the kremlin

 
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A section of the bastion trace fortifications around Rostov.

 
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The famous belfry outside the kremlin wall

 
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The Cathedral of the Assumption (Uspensky) is outside the bishop's kremlin and was built a 100 years or so before the kremlin.

 
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Interior of church, frescos

 
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A passageway inside the kremlin

 
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Bishop's kremlin with the Church of the Smolensk Mother of God on the right and the Church of St John the Divine over the west gate is on the left.

 
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The Church of the Smolensk Mother of God

 
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The Spas-na-Seniakh Church has the single golden dome. It was the private chapel of thee Metropolital's residence. Here is one of the side walls of the rectangular kremlin with its pseudo-fortification appearance.

 
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View of the kremlin that was built some 50 years later inside the earthen ramparts on which we are standing here. The Dormition (Assumption) Cathedral is on the left and The Church of the Resurection over the gate is on the right.

 
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One of the side walls and corner towers of the kremlin with domes of three churches above (Assumption Cathedral, Smolensk Mother of God, and Resurection from left to right.

 
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The Church of St John the Devine above one of the main entrance gates to the Rostov kremlin.

 
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Cathedral of the Assumption outside the kremlin and Church of the Resurection over the north gate to the right. The belfry is hidden behind the cathedral in this view from the town market place

 
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Corner of kremlin built in 17th century by Metropolital Ion Sisoyevich. Over the west gate is the green domed Church of St John the Divine. The single dome on the left is the Church of Savior over the galleries.

 
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Above merchant's stalls, The Cathedral of the Dormition (Assumption) outside the kremlin and the Church of the Resurection partially behind it.

 
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Section of the merchant's stalls outside the kremlin and behind it the Church of Our Savior on the Market.

 
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Upper part of Uspenski (Assumption) cathedral and bell tower seen over the kremlin north wall.

 
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Church of St John the Divine over the west gate of the Rostov Kremlin

 
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Another view of the Church of the Resurection above the north kremlin gate, near the Cathedral of the Assumption.

 
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