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NIzhni-Novgorod crest

NIZHNI NOVGOROD

John Sloan
Micha Jelisavcic

For photos of the city see Nizhtbl. The Russian chronicles say that Nizhni Novgorod was founded by the Grand Prince Yuri in 1221. The convenient location of the town on the confluence of two great rivers (the Volga and the Oka) influenced the purpose of the new town; protection against invasions and development of trade. From the very beginning the town was surrounded by a moat, and a wooden Kremlin was erected. In 1350 Nizhni Novgorod became the capital of the Nizhni Novgorod principality. The prince's palace, stone cathedrals, and monasteries were built in the Kremlin. The new capital began to develop trade and crafts, and began to construct a new system of fortifications and to mint its own coins. In the fourteenth century, both the great Russian philosopher Paul Visokiy and the talented painter Prokhor (predecessor of Andrei Rublev) lived there. The monk Lavrenti wrote a chronicle of Russian history in the fourteenth century.
Between its founding and the fourteenth century Nizhni Novgorod was burned and ruined seven times by the tribes and armies of the Tatars. But after each invasion the people restored and renewed the city. At the end of the fourteenth century Moscow pursued a policy of uniting all Russian lands. And in 1393 Nizhni Novgorod lost its independence and was incorporated into the Moscow principality. In the beginning of the fourteenth century the construction of the stone Kremlin was finished. After the merger of Nizhni Novgorod, the city lost its military importance and began to develop trade and shipping. Its location at the intersection of the most significant East-West trade routes worked to its advantage.
The people of Nizhni Novgorod played a significant role in the fate and history of Russia when they headed the patriotic movement in "The Times of Troubles" (1603-1613). Kuzma Minin and Dmitri Pozharski, citizens of Nizhni Novgorod, and their people's army drove the Polish invaders out of Moscow and saved Russia. In memory of that event the Archangel Cathedral and granite obelisk were built in the Kremlin. The people of Nizhni Novgorod took active part in the reforms of Peter the Great. Their experience in the manufacturing of sails was instrumental in the founding of the Russian navy. The ships built for the Azov and Persian wars, and the soldiers of regiments formed in Nizhni Novgorod distinguished themselves in battle.
In the second half of the seventeenth century the reconstruction of Nizhni Novgorod began. The Ilynskaya and Strogonovskaya churches have survived and retain their beauty even today. Nizhni Novgorod also developed its cultural life. In 1798 prince Shechovskoy founded the first Theatre in Nizhni Novgorod. Also, the genius inventor Kulibin lived and died in this city. In 1817 the celebrated trade fair in Makaryev was transferred to Nizhni Novgorod, and at that time Nizhni Novgorod became a city of international importance. The merchants from Russia and many European and Asian countries gathered in our city in order to trade and to engage in profitable enterprises. The fair influenced the reconstruction of the city, in which a large complex of fair buildings appeared. A new reconstruction plan, beginning in 1837, lead to the building of the governor's palace, a new cathedral and a Kremlin garden. The old moats were filled up and a promenade was constructed. In 1847 a water supply system was established.
The industrial period began in the city in the second half of the nineteenth century. At that time Nizhni Novgorod became one of the biggest industrial centers of Russia. The Sormovo plant, founded in 1849, played a leading role in shipbuilding and machine manufacture. More than 10,000 people worked there producing riverboats and railroad cars. Kurbatov (founded in 1857) and Yakovlev were other big plants related to the production of ships. (About half of the total number of Russian ships were made in Nizhni Novgorod, and the first motorized ships in the world were produced here.) In 1862 Nizhni Novgorod was connected with Moscow by railroad, and in 1898 the Sormovo plant produced its first locomotive. In 1897 Bugrov and Bashirov, the city's richest merchants, organized a weaving plant which became one of the largest in Russia. Rozhdestvenskaja Street (now Mayakovskij Street) became the center of Nizhni Novgorod. Hotels and restaurants, trading houses, the biggest, richest banks, and the offices of the shipbuilding companies were all located there. In the beginning of the twentieth century the main fair house, the Nizhni Novgorod branch of the State Bank (1913), and the Peoples House and Duma (1904) were built in the city. For the opening of the All-Russian Industrial Exhibition in 1896 the first funicular railway was built in Russia. After the revolution in Russia in 1917 the Communist leaders tried to wipe out the old culture. Many churches and historical buildings were destroyed, and many progressive and educated people of the city were imprisoned or killed.
Nizhni Novgorod remained the industrial center in the USSR. In 1937 the largest auto factory in Russia was founded there. But it was only in 1989, after the decline of Communist regime, that the fair was revived. Now the city is restoring its historical and cultural places. An interesting part of the cultural life and historical heritage are the museums of Nizhni Novgorod. The Nizhni Novgorod Art Museum was founded in 1896. Its first paintings were donated by local collectors and amateurs, among them our great writer Maxim Gorki. From his own collection he presented the paintings of Rerikh, Kustodiev, and Nesterov. The Russian Academy of Art made a great contribution to our museum. After the revolution in 1917 and the nationalization of private collections, the Art Museum became one of the best in Russia. It now has more than 10,000 exhibits. Old Russian art is represented by unique paintings and icons of the fourteenth through nineteenth centuries. The museum is divided into several exhibition halls: Old Russian, Modern Russian, and East European. All styles and trends are represented. The works of celebrated Russian painters like Repin, Vasnesov, Shishkin, Serov, and Rerikh, known throughout the world, are on display here. The Historical and Architectural Museum was founded in 1867. Many foreign visitors, after seeing the museum, begin to understand how rich the traditions of the Russian people are as they become acquainted with the old way of life. The museum has a rich collection of ethnic costumes, crafts, glassware, and china. Central to the cultural life of Nizhni Novgorod are its theaters. Six theaters are located in the city: Drama Theater, Opera and Ballet Theater, Comedy Theater, Nizhni Novgorod State Philharmonic, Puppet Theater, and the Theater for Young Spectators. The Drama Theater of Nizhni Novgorod is the oldest in the city. It was founded in 1798 by Prince Shekhovskoy. For almost 200 years, well-known actors have performed here theater. Now both classics and modern works are performed here. After reconstruction of the former People's House in 1935 the Opera and Ballet Theater was opened. It is one of the favorite theaters among the people of Nizhni Novgorod. The Puppet Theater is loved by young spectators. Nizhni Novgorod is also a university center. The State University, University of Foreign Languages, Medical University and The University of Naval Architecture are located here.

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View from Kremlin into town across valley adjacent to it

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View across valley showing old and new buildings

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Closeup view of kremlin wall showing older construction at bottom and newer reconstruction above.

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After a rainstorm on main street near kremlin

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Downtown Nizhni-Novgorod

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Building constructed for visit by Tsar Nicholas II

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Another view of building

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Door in entrance to building, it is now a bank

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Same building

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St George monument in kremlin

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Strogonov Church

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Strogonov Church

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