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Penza was founded as a fortress in 1663 by the tsar Alexey Mikhailovich in order to protect southeastern boundaries of the Russian state. Two years later the wooden fortress hosted as much as 3300 inhabitants. Many years Penza was a good protection from nomads and Nogai hordes, who attacked the fortress in 1668, 1680 and 1717, but never took it. As a blessing, the tsar gave Penza the Our Lady's Icon of Kazan, which was considered to be miracle-working and, according to the legend, saved the town from destruction in 1717. The Our Lady's Icon of Kazan is still the main shrine of Penza.

In 1670 Stepan Razins troops marched into the town. In the 17th century new fortifications towards Saransk, Insar, Lomov and Syrzran were built. Early in 17th century Russias borders moved away from Penza, and the town lost its strategic importance, becoming the inner settlement. Later in the same century, Penza region became the centre of landowners estates. At that time Penza was a large economically significant town, which exported bread cereals and produced wines. Economic growth caused changes in administrative status in 1780 Penza became the centre of the region and the following year brought the town its own coat-of-arms.

In 1801 Penza became the centre of Penza district. Amount of noblemen and administrative staff grew enormously, and the town responded with opening of several educational institutions and active social life. Population reached 13000. First theatre of Penza, which entertained local population, existed between 1792 and 1797. Early in 19th century there were three theatres in the town and a symphony orchestra, known to be the best in Russian province. Penza was the place where Russian circus was born in 1873. In 1891 first regional local history museum opened, and in 1837 first public library welcomed readers. Due to the large amount of various cultural and educational institutions, Penza was known as New Athens. Russian tsars visited Penza several times, and the town owed them a reconstruction. The town was known as a cradle of Russian noblemen, who lived there, and merchants, who were world-known businessmen. Famous Russian writers and poets including Alexander Radishchev and Mikhail Lermontov became frequent visitors in Penza.

The end of 19th century brought railway to the town, thus boosting economy and cultural development. New industrial enterprises kept appearing, and latest technologies daguerreotypie, telegraph, bicycle, telephone and etc were not long in coming. First cinema opened in 1915. In 1897 the city sheltered 59981 inhabitants, and in 1917 - 105000. During first years after the Great October Revolution severe fight against the new government took place: here and there numerous peasant revolts broke out, nevertheless the Soviet System was established in the Region in 1918. After that Penza found itself in the epicenter of the civil war. During the Great Patriotic War Penza acquired more production facilities a confectionery plant, a knitting factory and others. At the same time more educational, medical and cultural facilities appeared. The city supplied mortar armory to the army.

Modern Penza is a large city with highly developed infrastructure and rich cultural traditions. Its history is full of famous names writers, directors, composers, medics, scientists, singers, painters and etc.




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  (Penza Region)

Cities of the region

    Nizhny Lomov
    Srednyaya Elyuzan

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