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Vladimir was founded by Vladimir Monomakh of Kiev in 1108 as a fort in Rostov-Suzdal principality. It was a mighty fortress protected with steep banks of the Klyasma River from the south, the Lybed River from the north and deep ravines from the east and west. The fortress was named after its founder Vladimir.

The fort was inherited by Yuri Dolgoruky, one of Monomakhs younger sons. Busy with the struggle for the Kievan throne, he did not pay much attention to his Northern estates. Yet, when the prince realized the uselessness of his rivaling for the South and justly estimated the advantages of the Northern lands with their abundant natural resources, he started construction of new fortresses in Suzdal territories. He then founded Moscow, Pereslavl Zalessky, Kideksha, Dmitrov, Uriev-Polskiy, and Zvenigorod.

In Vladimir Yuri Dolgoruky built a new prince court with a church in the name of his holy patron St. George (1157).

The rapid expansion of the city determined its turning into the capital of the princedom. Under Yurys son Andrey Bogolyubsky it became capital of the principality in 1157/1158, and capital of all Kievan Rus after Kiev was sacked in 1169. Grand building activities spread about in the new capital. The defense ring was expanded; new ramparts with wooden walls encircled the city. The line of Andrey Bogolyubsky was followed by his brother Vsevolod III (1176-1212); the two brothers consolidated themselves as the strongest Russian princes and brought builders and artists from as far away as Western Europe to give the Kiev-like splendor to Vladimir.

Devastated by the Tatars in 1238 and 1293, the city recovered each time, but its realm disintegrated into small princedoms with Moscow increasingly dominant. Vladimir could not regain its former grandeur anymore. In the 14th century power finally shifted to Moscow. Even so, the rulers remained nominally Grand Princes of Vladimir until 15th century. The coronation of grand-princes continued to be held in the city's Uspenski Cathedral until the reign of Ivan III in 1440. Both Alexander Nevski and Dmitri Donskoi were crowned here. The early Russian chronicles were written at the Uspenski as well.

Gradually the former capital became just one of the cities of the Moscow State, and a place of reminiscences and sacred relics. The city was growing very slow. In the 14th -17th cc it underwent a train of forays and fires.

Though the 17th century saw the resumption of stone building in Vladmir it could not be compared with the Golden Age of its previous urban development. During the 18th century the city changed its status three times, becoming the centre of the province in 1719, the centre of vicegerency in 1778, and the capital of Vladimir Gubernia (or government, one of the territorial subdivisions of Russia, 1708-1929) in 1796.

As time went by Vladimir turned into a beautiful and comfortable provincial city, at the same time keeping its ancient splendor and charms of the historical landscape.

Book Russia Tour: Last Journey Of The Tsars (Moscow, Suzdal, Vladimir, Nizhny Novgorod, Kazan, Yekaterinburg)




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