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Gorodets is a small pleasant looking town, 50km northwest of Nizhny Novgorod. "Gorodets" means literary "very small town", and by the Russian standards this name is justified even now, after more than 830 years of Gorodets' history. Gorodets was founded in 1152 by the Grand Prince Yury Dolgoruky. Just 5 years earlier (in 1147) Yury Dolgoruky founded Moscow. The people of Gorodets like to think that had the history taken a slightly different route, Gorodets rather than Moscow could be the national capital.

It was a frontier outpost in the XIIth century for the Suzdal principality against the Bulgars. Later, in 1216, Gorodets served as a refuge for prince Yury Vsevolodovich after he had lost out to his brother Constantine, and was forced to give up to him the mantle of great prince and make do till Constantine's death, with the Gorodets "udel" (district). When prince Yury finally became Great Prince, Gorodets served as an assembly point for warriors gathered to campaign against Great Bulgar. On 14 November 1263, in Gorodets, Great Prince Alexander Nevsky died on the return trip from the Horde, having as the chronicle recounts worked hard for Novgorod and the entire Rus' land.

The town is famous for various branches of the Russian folk art developed during the ages of Gorodets' history. Especially famous are the Gorodets decorative paintings on wood (see illustration on the left). Also well known (as well as good tasting) are the Gorodets pryaniks (ginger bread).

Gorodets is the oldest town of Nizhniy Novgorod region, located close to the Volga River. The town was founded by Yuri Dolgorukiy in the second half of 12th century as a fortress in order to protect eastern borders of Rostov-Suzdal princedom. Two dates are mentioned in the chronicles: first is 1152 only five years late than Moscow was founded and the second is 1172, which the first date, officially mentioned in the chronicles.

Vasiliy, the son of Yuri Dolgorukiy, was the first prince of Gorodets district. The town was of great strategic and economic significance. At that time Gorodets was the farthest Russian town at territories near the Volga River, through which Russian warriors from Rostov, Suzdal and Vladimir went to fight with the Bulgars, whose raids brought so much grief to Russian population.

In 1238 Gorodets, like many other Russian towns, was destroyed by the Tatars, who killed almost all citizens. After the Tatars were gone, survivors returned to the town and reconstructed it within 2-3 years. Famous Fedorovsky monastery, where Alexander Nevsky died in 1263, was also rebuilt.

In 1364 Gorodets became the capital of it own district princedom and the third largest city of Nizhniy Novgorod Great Princedom. In 1408 the city was again ransacked and destroyed by the Tatars and then failed to resurrect. Later the chronicles either didnt mention Gorodets, or called it empty Gorodets

In the 15th century it was a small patrimonial estate, and only in 17th century Gorodets appeared on maps as a large trade settlement. Former city slowly started to rebuild, however, new citizens preferred living along the banks of the Volga instead of dwelling inside the ruins of the old fortress. In 1602 Boris Godunov presented Gorodets to his daughter Xenia, and the settlements economic growth boosted. In 18th century the town became one of the centres of Old Belief, where dissenters from all over the Russian North started to arrive. Old Believers were keepers of ancient traditions and customs. They started collecting and rewriting ancient books, which were decorated with colourful miniatures.

Following century was notable for development of shipbuilding, when Peter the Great visited the town and was fascinated by the skills of local carpenters. In the 19th century Gorodets was still a village, however, locals considered it to be a town. Its population exceeded 3 000 people, who lived in 750 houses. Actually, Gorodets really looked as a town its streets were paved and illuminated with lamps, central part boasted beautiful houses, which belonged to local merchants.

Gorodets was famous for shipbuilding and anchor production. Local carpenters build any desired types of ships, producing up to 600 vessels per year. Trade was also very important for Gorodets inhabitants bread, fish, wooden utensils, linen yarn and metal items were for sale. The dawn of 20th century saw 17 industrial enterprises.

Gorodets is especially famous for its ancient craft wood painting, which decorated parts of houses, as well as wooden toys. Local ginger breads were so tasty, that famous German traveler Adam Oleariy mentioned them in his travel notes.




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