History of Yaroslavl

Historic Timeline

For a historic timeline of important events in the history of Yaroslavl, click here.

The Origins of Yaroslavl

Preceded by Viking sites such as Timerevo from the 8th or 9th centuries, the city is said to have been founded in 1010. Legend has it that Yaroslav Mudry (the wise), the Prince of Rostov and the son of Vladimir, the Baptizer of Russia, was on a boat trip along the river Volga when he saw inhabitants of the local Finno-Ugric village of Medvezhiy Ugol attack merchant ships in an attempt to plunder them. The Prince hurried to the rescue of the merchants, but when he stepped ashore the angry villagers unleashed their sacred animal, a huge bear, on him. Yaroslav stood alone against the beast and killed it with a bear-spear. The Prince ordered the establishment of a fortress “in his own name” as well as a church to the Holy Prophet Elijah on the shore of the Volga river. Thus in 1010 on Strelka, the spot where the Volga and the Kotorosl rivers meet, the city of Yaroslavl was founded, with a coat of arms depicting the defeated bear.

Yaroslavl lies at the intersection of several major highways, railways, and waterways. Because of its favourable location, the town became an important trade centre in the beginning of the 13th century. At the times of Tartar invasion (13th-14th centuries) Yaroslavl was burned and demolished, but in the 15th century it was mostly restored and rebuilt and became an important commercial centre again, and for a period of time it was the second richest and powerful city in Russia, after Moscow.

Temporary Capital of Russia

The end of the 16th century is known as the Time of Troubles in Russia. When the last member of the Rurik dynasty died, representatives of boyar families started fighting for the Russian throne. Moscow was captured by impostors and Polish invaders. Home guards and militia were formed in the Volga Region aimed at liberating Moscow from the invaders and restoring the rightful legal authorities. A 25,000 strong Volunteer Army arrived in Yaroslavl from Nizhny Novgorod in 1612. The army was headed by Kuzma Minin and Prince Dimitry Pozharsky. For a short time during this period, Yaroslavl became the capital of the state of Rus. The Provisional Government of Rus – “The Council of the Russian Land” – had its seat in Yaroslavl and it was here that the national treasury was set up, coins were minted and orders were issued. On July 28, 1612, the Army set off for Moscow from Yaroslavl. The invaders were finally ousted from Russia, and the 16-year-old Mikhail Romanov, son of the former Metropolitan of Rostov Filaret, was elected as the new Russian Tsar. A Dynasty that continued right through to Tsar Nicholas II - the last Russian Tsar - at the time of the Russian Revolution of 1917.

UNESCO World Heritage Site

In 2005 the UNESCO World Heritage Committee decided to add the historic centre of Yaroslavl (occupying 110 hectares) into its list of World heritage Sites. The heart of the ancient city was recognized to be a sample of continuity from more than 500-years of development of the city building, architecture and monumental art of urban landscapes. In the historic centre there are over 140 monuments of architecture of federal importance including the Spaso-Preobrazhensky cathedral and the temples of Elijah the Prophet and the Epiphany. The contemporary Yaroslavl historic centre gained a clear radial-semicircular arrangement after Empress Catherine the Great approved the project of re-planning in the second half of the 18th century. The centre has been actively developed and improved over several centuries, nevertheless, it preserves harmony between the 17th century churches and new office buildings in the European style.

Other famous people and events connected with the City Yaroslavl, and Yaroslavl Region are listed here.