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Myshkin, a tiny town of a mouse

The ancient town of Myshkin in Yaroslavl region is remarkable as a unique museum of provincial life and a peaceful quiet place where one can have a rest from the fuss and roar of advanced civilization.

With the population of six and a half thousand people, Myshkin is the smallest town in Yaroslavl region and one of the tiniest towns of Russia. Myshkin is located on the left bank of the Volga River, between Rybinsk and Uglich. It is 126 km away from Yaroslavl and 280 km from Moscow.

There are no plants or factories in this green town, the main industrial enterprise of which is a gas distributing station located in the vicinity.

In spite of being so small the town is a cultural and tourist centre, boasting the unique Mouse Museum, open air Museum of Wooden Architecture, Russian Vodka Museum, and other places of interest.

History of Myshkin

One of the main peculiarities of Myshkin is surely its name, meaning of a mouse. A legend says that the name comes from bygone times when a prince lied to have some sleep on the bank of Volga and was awoken by a mouse running over his face. First the prince got angry, but then he saw that the mouse had saved him from a snake approaching him. So, the prince summoned his retinue and ordered to build a chapel in the name of St. Boris and Gleb there. The town that later spread around the chapel came to be called Myshkin (mouses).

As for the facts, archeological findings prove that a town existed in this area as far back as the 11th -13th centuries. Unfortunately, the town did not live long: it was damaged during the war of Nizhni Novgorods princes against Suzdals princes in the middle 12th century, and in 1238 it was totally destroyed by the Tatars. Later Myshkin was rebuilt as a settlement.

In 1777 Myshkin regained its status of a town in the course of the administrative reform of Catherine the Great. In 1778 it got its amusing emblem featuring the Yaroslavls bear in its upper part and a mouse beneath. The building town centred around Nikolsky Cathedral and Assumption Cathedral, the latter founded in the first half of the 19th century due to donations of Myshkins merchants.

The 19th century became the golden age of Myshkin, then a prominent wholesale trading centre. Its rich merchants were known in many cities of Russia, whereas Pyotr Smirnov gained world fame as the creator of the outstanding brand of vodka, namely Smirnoff. The nobleman Fyodor Opochinin founded in Myshkin a splendid library, which, according to the contemporaries, could be an honour to any principal town.

After the revolution the majority of the librarys books were destroyed, while the rest were moved to Rybinsk and Yaroslavl; all the churches were closed and partly damaged. In 1927 Myshkin again lost its town status and was turned into the settlement Myshkino. In the 1940s during the building of Rybinsk water reservoir that demanded flooding of vast lands one third of Myshkin was demolished. It was the construction of the compressing station Severgazprom in 1969 that saved the town from utter abandonment.

For many years local lore scholars of Myshkin were striving for rehabilitation of historic justice and preserving the original town. In 1966 the local teacher Vladimir Alexandrovich Grechukhin with his pupils founded the folk ethnographic museum which gave an impetus to the cultural revival of the town.

The year 1991 saw the recovery of Myshkins status as a town. Soon the famous Opochinins Library was restored to life and the Mouse Museum was opened in the old house of the Litvinovs merchants. Later the town acquired two more peculiar museums, such as Smirnoff Museum of Vodka and Valenki Museum.

New houses in the town nowadays are being built according to classical traditions of wooden architecture. Lots of tourists come to Myshkin to rejoice in its peaceful and amicable atmosphere and see its sights.

Points of Interest

Actually the whole of the tiny town forms a peculiar living folk museum, its major attractions being:

1) The Assumption Cathedral built in the early 19th century and remaining the central architectural monument of the town;

2) Open air Museum of Wooden Architecture including 16 traditional folk building constructions, such as houses, barns, forges, and bath-houses;

3) The only Mouse Museum in the world - it features an amusing collection of mice made in various art techniques and brought together from many different countries;

4) The Museum of Local Lore, History and Economy;

5) The Museum of Russian Vodka, dedicated to the Smirnovs, formerly dwellers of Myshkin, does not only display vodka-related exhibits but also treats its visitors to various sorts of vodka and hot pancakes baked right in the museum house.

6) The Opochinins Library which is over 125 years old;

7) The Museum of Valenki.

The town has also an art gallery, a house of arts and crafts, a permanent exhibition of childrens art, a music school, an Orthodox Sunday school, three theatre companies, and a number of cultural programmes for tourists.

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  (Yaroslavl Region)

Cities of the region

    Pereslavl Zalessky


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