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Micha Jelesavic
John Sloan

Suzdal is located on the river Kamenka 35 km north of Vladimir. It was first mentioned in the chronicles due to an uprising there in 1024, but was only a small settlement until the mid-11th century. The name shows its Fino-Ugric origin. Prince Vladimir came to Suzdal from Kiev in 990 to establish a missionary bishopric. Grand Prince Yaroslav the Wise came with tyroops from Kiev. He put his son, Vsevolod, in charge of Suzdal but Vsevolod didn't go there. Instead, he sent his son, Vladimir Monomakh to collect the tribute. When Vsevolod died, Vladimir Monomakh was in charge and he fortified the town with the ramparts that are still seen. From 1096 Suzdal was called a town. By then it had a fortified kremlin with earthen walls. The Cathedral of the Assumption was the first stone building in this part of Russia, but the original has not survived. In 1108 Vladimir Monomakh began a new fortress at Vladimir. His son, Prince Yurii Dolgoruki, made Suzdal his capital in 1125. But he built a new palace and fortress at Kideksha, 5 km from Suzdal, where the church of St Boris and Gleb still stands. After he died, Andrei Bogoliubski moved the capital to Vladimir to escape the rebellious boyars. This increased the rivalry between the two towns. In 1194, Andrei's brother, Vsevolod III, Bolshoye Gnezdo, who succeeded him rebuilt and refortified the kremlin with new towers. He built the new Cathedral of the Assumption. In 1222-1225 Georgi II, the son of Vsevolod, rebuilt the cathedral again and named it to the Nativity of the Virgin.

Suzdal was destroyed along with the other main Russian towns in 1238 by the Mongol invaders. By 1328 the rebuilt city was strong enough to lead in the struggle against the rising power of Moscow. The Suzdal princes united with Nizhni-Novgorod in a new principality. Finally Grand-Prince Vasilii annexed it to Moscow. The city remained a religious center. During this period there were many monasteries founded. Among them were the Deposition of the Robe, the Holy Trinity, St Alexander, the Intercession of the Virgin (1364) and St Basil. The Monastery of Our Savior of 1352 became the Savior and St Euthimius after its holy abbot. There are still more than 50 churches and secular buildings from the 12th to 17th centuries. These date from before 1238 and after 1500, with nothing in between. At the end of the 16th century a major restoration enhanced the kremlin, town walls, monasteries and other buildings. Grand Princes Vasilii III and Ivan IV built huge stone walls and fortress towers around the monasteries, but the present walls date from the 1600's. And they repaired the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Virgin in the kremlin. These were in turn damaged by the invading Poles in the 1600's and by fires. But in 1573 Suzdal had only 400 families. Still there were 7 wooden churches in the kremlin, 14 more within the town and 27 more in the monasteries. From the Polish attack 1608-11 only 78 families survived, and 251 homes were destroyed. The town suffered from a Crimean Tatar attack in 1634 and a huge fire in 1644. In 1654-55 plague cut the population from 2400 to 1200. The town was heavily damaged by fire in 1719. After that several wooden churches were rebuilt in stone. The civic building, market arcade, dates from 1811-16.

Near Suzdal in Kideksha village is the church of Sts. Boris and Gleb, built by Yurii Dolgoruki in 1152. It was the first limestone building in the northeast region. But the original church has been altered by now. It is in the form of a single cube with three apses and single dome. But the dome now dates from the 17th century. In the 12th century it had a very large helmet shaped dome. Yuri attacked and sacked Kiev in 1149 but was forced to retire back to Suzdal at which time he built his fortress and this church. The fortress controled traffic on the Nerl between Suzdal andVladimir. The river connected to the Klyazma and Oka, then to the Volga, so was a strategic route. Now by the original church there are also the Church of St Stephen with a low roof dating from 1780 and the double arched Holy Gates with small dome and a tent shaped bell tower.
The Vasilievski (St Basil) Monastery, founded in early 13th century, is also near the Kideksha Road. Its cathedral and other stone buildings and white walls date from the 17th and 18th centuries. The Znamenskaya Church, built in 1749, is also near the road from Vladimir into Suzdal.

The Suzdal kremlin, with its partially preserved 11th century earthen walls that originally were topped by wooden palisades and towers, is adjacent to the Kamenka River. It originally stood 10 meters high with a circuit of 1,400 meters. The river protected three sides and on the eastern side a 8.5 meter deep - 35 meter wide moat defended the fortress. Parts of the earthen city wall are also preserved to the east of the kremlin.

The Rozhdestvenski (Nativity of the Virgin) Cathedral, built from 1222-1225, is inside the kremlin. There is also an excellent and extensive historical museum. The cathedral is built on the site of an earlier church erected by Vladimir Monomakh. The nearby belfry was built in 1635. The bishop's palace dates from the same period. There are other churches in the kremlin and many more just outside. On a hill within the town stands the Rizopolozhesnki (Deposition of the Robe) convent built in 1207. Its original wooden walls were replaced by stone in the 17th century. Possibly its most famous structure is the beautiful Sacred Gate. The 60 meter high belfry in the wall was built in 1813-19 to commemorate the victory over Napoleon. It is the tallest structure in town.

The Alexandrovski Monastery is located on the left bank near the river. It was founded in 1240 by Alexander Nevski. A part of its white walls remain. Inside is the Voznesenskaya Church and belfry built in 1695.

The Spaso-Efimievski (Our Savior and St Euthymius) Monastery, founded in 1352 by Boris Konstantinovich (Grand Prince of Suzdal and Nizhnigorod), is directly on the high bank of the Kamenka. It also contains museums. It was also a fortress with high walls over 1 km long with 12 powerful towers. The Russians defended this fortress from Tatar attack in 1445 until they were overwhelmed. It was in this battle that Grand Prince Vaslii I was captured. He later became friends with his Tatar captors, was blinded by rival Russian claimants to the throne in Moscow, and used extensive Tatar assistance to overcome his enemies. Like most early fortifications in Russia the original walls were earthen with a palisade. The present brick walls dating from the 17th century (1664) are 6 meters thick and 8.5 meters high on the northern, eastern, and southern sides, but 7.5 meters high on the western side, above the river. The powerful entrance tower of 23 meters height on the southern side protects the Holy Gates. Near it is theBlagoveschenskaya (Annunciation) Gate Church, dating from the 17th century. Inside is the Spaso-Preobrasheniya Cathedral (Transfiguration), constructed in 1594 on the site of an earlier church. That was the Church of Our Savior begun as the first stone building in the city in 1507 over the grave of Yevfimy and completed in 1511. It became the southern chapel of the new cathedral. Beside the cathedral is the Refectory Church of the Assumption with a tent roof of the oldest type dating from 1525.. Next to it is a fine bell tower from the 16-17th centuries. The oldest part is the 9-sided column. The Suzdal Prince Dmitrii Pozharski, the hero of the relief of Moscow in 1612, was buried by this cathedral. There was a prison in this monastery that originally housed prisoners of Catherine II. During World War II it was used to hold Field Marshal von Paulus after his surrender at Stalingrad.

On the opposite bank of the Kamenka is the Pokrovski (Intercession) convent, originally built in 1364 to commemorate the escape of Andrei from death on the Volga. But all the original buildings are gone. It was rebuilt by Vasilii III in the16th century. Apart from two 17th century towers in the north wall, its present fortified walls and nine towers date from the 18th century. This convent was the place for exile of many famous Russian noble ladies, among them the wives of Vasilii III, (Solomonia Saburova), Ivan IV (Anna Vasilchikova), and Peter the Great's first wife, Evdokia Lopukhina. Tsar Vasili Shuiski's second wife, Maria, along with their daughter Anastasia was sent there when Vasili was killed. Many boyar class women also spent their lives there. Inside the walls are the Pokrovski Cathedral with its 4 pillars, 3 apses, 3 domes above the Kokoshniks, built in 1518, the belfry from 1515, and the refectory, the Blagoveschenskaya (Annunciation) Gate Church, and the Zachatievskaya Church, all built by Vasilii III in 1518. The Church of the Conception of the Virgin dates from 1551 and was built by Ivan IV in memory of his daughter, Anna. Outside the convent, next door, is the Church of St Peter and Paul built in 1694 with its 5 domes.

Other prominent churches in and around Suzdal include: St Stephen's (1870), Sretenskaya (Purification of the Virgin) Church (17th cent), Kosmo-Damianovskaya (1725), Uspenskaya (17th cent), Nikolskaya (1720-39), Voskresenskaya (1732), Kazanskaya (1739), Vkhodoierusalimskaya (1686), Pyatnitskaya (1772), Predtechenskaya (1720), Krestovaya (1765), Skorbyashenskaya (1750), Tsarevokonstantinovskaya (1707), Lazarevskaya (1667), Smolenskaya (1707), Tikhvinskaya (17th cent), Petropavlovskaya (1694), Nikolskaya (1712), Bogoyavlenskaya (1755), Ilinskaya (1788), Borisoglebskaya (17th cent), Spasskaya (17th cent),Preobrashenskaya (1756), and Voskresenskaya (1766).
For many more views of Susdal please go to the complete listing of photos.

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