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Smolensk, the administrative, industrial and cultural centre of the Smolensk Region, bears the honorable title of Hero City and the Order of the Great Patriotic War.

The city is situated 378 km westward of Moscow and has a profitable geographic location on the ways from Moscow to Byelorussia, the Baltic countries and Central and Western Europe.

Smolensk is one of the earliest medieval cities of Russia. The city stands on the banks of the upper Dnieper River that within the citys boundaries crosses the Smolensk Upland, which is part of the Smolensk-Moscow Upland.

In the city and its suburbs Dnieper receives several large tributaries, in the valleys of which the citys streets stretch. The citys high ridges between ravines and rivers, as well as its hills and capes form the so-called mountains, with the level difference reaching 90 meters. It is considered that Smolensk stands on seven hills.

The old city centre takes the steep left bank. The undulating relief, numerous rivers, brooks, ravines, and rich vegetation create the picturesque scenery of Smolensk.


There are several versions concerning the origin of the citys name. The most convincing are theories that it was derived from the name of the river Smolnya (in the Old Slavic smol means black earth), or the ethnonym Smolyani.

First mentioned in 863 as the capital of the Slavic Krivichi tribes and a major trade center, Smolensks position on the upper Dnieper River gave it early control over trade routes between Moscow and the West and between the Baltic and Black seas from the Varangians to the Greeks. It became part of Kyevan Rus, but after being sacked by the Tatars in about 1237, Smolensk passed to Lithuania. Moscow captured it in 1340, Lithuania in 1408, Moscow again in 1524, Poland in 1611 after a 20-month siege, and Russia in 1654.

There was a big battle between the Russians and Napoleons army outside Smolensk in 1812.

As Smolensk Region is a border zone of the Russian Federation, during the Second World War there was heavy fighting in 1941 when Nazi troops invaded the country. Over two years Smolensk was occupied by German troops. It was practically razed to the ground. After the occupation was over only 7 per cent of buildings were not destroyed. Despite severe bombardments quite a number of original or restored buildings remained, notably churches and long sections of the city walls with five towers reminiscent of the Moscow Kremlin.

In 1985 Smolensk got the title of the Hero City.


Smolensk is an interesting, beautiful and very diverse city. A walking tour around the city will be the best choice to see the major places of interest in Smolensk.

The ancient city spread over picturesque green hills will be willing to share its history and beauty with you.

Two major sights of Smolensk that must be seen are the Smolensk Dormition Cathedral and the citys fortified wall. These constructions are unique not only due to their architectural peculiarities and heroic history, but also due to the role they played and go on playing in the destiny of Smolensk and its dwellers.

The Dormition Cathedral stands on a high hill and can be seen from any point in the city. The magnificent building with sparkling gold domes towers above the travelers climbing up the steps leading to the church. The unique iconostasis, thousands of candles and choir singing the cathedral is solemn and beautiful always, but especially during the service.

The Smolensk Fortress is another symbol of the city. The fortress wall encircles the old city in the centre of Smolensk. The towers and the wall can be seen not far from the main square, or else one can take a long walk along the hills and by Dnieper to feast ones eyes on them.

No less worthy of your attention are churches of the 11-12th cc, the History Museum and the Museum of the Great Patriotic War, as well as the museums located just in the fortified wall (Gromovaya Tower and Museum of Russian Vodka), the Alley of Glory, monuments to heroes of the war against Napoleon of 1812, the Museum Russian Antiquity (Russkaya Starina) with a rich collection of arts, and the Drama Theatre. Each of these places will tell a lot about the history and culture of the city and introduce you to old traditions and life of contemporary Smolensk citizens. It will also be interesting to visit the Smithy Museum, the Holy Spirit Church in Flenovo, which was painted by Nikolai Roerich. The most adventurous tourists will undertake a tour to the Hitlers Bunker located in Krasny Bor (Red Wood).

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