Amid plains, lakes
and marshes of the vast country are scattered these old Russian towns. In the radiance of
their singular beauty they rise over steep ravines, on the banks of large and small
rivers. Known collectively as the Golden Ring of Russia, they actually form a circle which
extends from Moscow toward the north-east. The northern confines of the bounded region
coincide with the Volga, the southern border runs along its tributary, the Oka. Each of
these towns played an important part in the history of the Russian State, both in its
early period, when the Russian lands and principalities were being united under the sway
of Moscow, and later, when the inde-pendence of the country was at stake. The
archi-tectural monuments of these towns are the stone chronicles of the country's history.
There are complexes created within a short period of time and reminding us of a certain
historical landmark. Other complexes comprising architecture of different periods
illustrate the history of a whole epoch.
In the 14th century, emerging as the centre of the united country, Moscow takes the lead in the architectural designing and construction of stone buildings, in which it introduces numerous innovations. The story of the Golden Ring is opened by Zagorsk, formerly known as Sergiev Posad, a town lying north of Moscow. The discussion of its architectural heritage is a vast theme, beyond the scope of one album. Consequently we shall find ourselves dealing mainly with monuments which can give a vivid idea of the town as it developed at the early stages of Russian history and at its turning points. Most of these are grouped in the ensemble of the Trinity-Sergius Monastery.
In the eastern direction the town nearest to Moscow is Vladimir. One of the oldest in the Golden Ring, in the 12th century it was the poli-tical and cultural centre of the midland Russia. Later, when Moscow became the capital of the united Russian state, it was always recognized that it was second to Vladimir in order of suc-cession. The Vladimir influence was very strong in the early Moscow architecture.
The ancient Suzdal, which once was part of the Rostov-Suzdal Principality, at a later time was closely connected with Moscow.
In the towns of Pereslavl Zaiessky and Rostov Veliky (the Great), the relief of the surround-ing country, and especially the large lakes near which they stand, played the dominant role in their layout and the arrangement of architectural complexes.
The towns on the Volga-Uglich, Kostroma and Yaroslavl-have many characteristic traits of their own. The architecture of Yaroslavl, al-most wholly the product of the 17th century, cannot be said to deviate greatly from the general currents of its time. At the same time Yaroslavl, lying farther from Moscow than any of these towns, has a singular ensemble which cannot be mistaken for any other.
The youngest of the Golden Ring towns, Ivanovo is dissimilar to those mentioned above in that it developed in the epoch of industrial capitalism and, apart from some relics of older architecture, it is predominantly a city of more recent origins.
Historically the Golden Ring towns had many ties between themselves and with the Moscow sceptre. These connections in one form or another have been reflected in their composi-tion and architectural style.
Situated in the very heart of Russia, these old towns really adorn it like a golden ring or a string of pearls.