White Monuments of Vladimir and Suzdal (1992)

Владимиро-Суздальское княжество
(Vladimir-Suzdal Principality)

Владимирско-Суздальская Русь
(Vladimir-Suzdal Grand Duchy)

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These two artistic centres in central Russia hold an important place in the country's architectural history. There are a number of magnificent 12th- and 13th-century public and religious buildings, above all the masterpieces of the Collegiate Church of St Demetrios and the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin. 

Russia 1992. Definitive stamp. Golden Gate of Vladimir, 10k.
Russia 1993. Definitive stamp. Golden Gate of Vladimir, 150 Rubles.
Russia 1958. Golden Gate of Vladimir.

Vladimir is the capital of Vladimir Oblast, western Russia, on the Klyaz’ma River. Among the many notable structures here are Uspensky (Assumption) Cathedral (1158-61); the Golden Gate (1164), a former city gate; and several old monasteries. 

The city is the site of a museum of history and religious antiquities, an art gallery, and a teachers college. Founded in 1108, Vladimir was the capital of Vladimir-Suzdal (the leading Russian state after the dissolution of Kievan Rus) from 1157 to 1238, when the city was destroyed by the Tatars. Moscow, emerging as a powerful state, acquired Vladimir in 1364. 

Vladimir-Suzdal Principality, Vladimir-Suzdal Grand Duchy or Vladimir-Suzdal Rus, was a major principality which succeeded Kievan Rus as the most powerful East Slavic state in the late 12th century and lasted until the late 14th Traditionally perceived as a cradle of the Great Russian Language and nationality, Vladimir-Suzdal gradually evolved into the Grand Princedom of Muscowy (the latter giving name to the city of Moscow). 

The principality occupied a vast territory in the North-East of Kievan Rus, approximately bordered by the rivers Volga, Oka, and Northern Dvina. In the 11th century the local capital was Rostov the Great, and the chief towns included Suzdal, Yaroslavl, and Belozersk. 
  • Russia 1992. Definitive stamp. The Kremlin of Rostov.

Russia 1992. Definitive Stamp. Kremlin of Rostov.

Vladimir Monomakh, on securing his rights to the principality in 1093, moved the capital from Rostov to Suzdal. in 1104 he founded the town of Vladimir on the Klyazma River, 31 km south of Suzdal. His son Yuri Dolgoriky [George I The Long-Armed] moved the princely seat to Vladimir in 1157. The boyars of Rostov and Suzdal, however, were reluctant to concede supremacy, and a brief civil war followed. 

Russia 2003. Vladimir Monomakh (1053-1125). Russia 1995. Yuri Dolgoriky (1090-1157).

In the mid-12th century, when Southern lands of Rus were systematically raided by Turkic nomads, their population started to migrate northward. In the formerly wooded areas, known as Zalesye, many new settlements were established. The foundations of Pereslavl, Kostroma, Dmitrov, Moscow, Yuriev-Polsky, Uglich, and Tver, were assigned (either by chronicle or popular legend) to George I, whose sobriquet alludes to his dexterity in manipulating politics of far-away Kiev. 

Russia 1977. Fragment of St. Dmitry Cathedral and arms of Vladimir. Russia 1977. Leo-Tiger carving at the St. Dmitry Cathedral, Vladimir. Russia 1977. Bridge over the river Klyazma, Vladimir.

Russia 1978. Intrcession-on-the-Nerl Church (Bogolubovo Church).

Russia 1992. Definitive stamp. Bogolubovo Church.

The nearby village of Bogoliubovo, now a suburb to Vladimir, is a particular point of interest, containing probably the greatest creation of Vladimir architects -- The Intercession-on-the-Nerl church (1164). 
  • Russia 1992. Definitive stamp. Bugolubovo Church. 

This gem must have seemed a supernatural wonder to anyone in the 12th century, standing as it did over the perilous waters of the flooded river. To this day the sight of the single-domed cathedral, stretching towards the sky and reflected in the waters of the Nerl, evokes admiration in anyone who sees it for the first time. 

  • Russia 1978. Intercession-on-the-Nerl Church (Bogolubovo Church). It is amazing how two stamps, depicting the same scenery, can appear differently!  

In 1238 the Mongol hordes under Batu Khan invaded Vladimir in what is known today as the Mongol Invasion of Russia, and burnt the city to the ground. 

Neither Vladimir, nor any of the older cities managed to recover after the Mongol invasion. The princedom rapidly disintegrated into eleven tiny principalities: Moscow, Tver, Pereslavl, Rostov, Yaroslavl, Uglich, Belozersk, Kostroma, Nizhny Novgorod, Yuriev-Polsky and Starodub-on-the-Klyazma. All of them nominally acknowledged sovereignty of the Grand Prince of Vladimir, who was to be appointed by the Great Khan himself. Even the popular Alexander Nevsky of Pereslavl had to go to the Khan's capital in Karakorum in order to be installed as the Grand Prince in Vladimir.

Russia 1995. Alexander Nevsky (1220-1263), Grand Duke of Vladimir.

By the end of the century, only three cities -- Moscow, Tver, and Nizhny Novgorod -- still contended for the grand princely title. Their rulers, once installed as grand princes of Vladimir, didn't even bother to leave their capital city and to settle permanently in Vladimir. When the metropolitan of all Rus moved his chair from Vladimir to Moscow in 1321, it became pretty evident that the principality of Muscovy effectively succeeded Vladimir as the chief centre of power in North-Eastern Rus.

The Pearl of the Golden Ring, Suzdal, lies 198 km (128 miles) from Moscow. It is one of the oldest towns in the country, first mentioned in the chronicles in 1024. In the 12th century, under Yuri Dolgoruky, the town was the capital of the Rostov-Suzdal Principality. Later, when the capital moved to Vladimir, it remained important. 

Russia 1977. Golden Gate of Nativity Cathedral, Suzdal.

Russia 1977. Carving (fragment of Golden Gate of Nativity Cathedral), Suzdal.

Russia 1977. Dmitry Pozharsky Monument in Suzdal.

In the 19th century, when a railroad was built between Moscow and Nizhni Novgorod, it passed Suzdal by. The town avoided becoming an industrial center and kept its original image intact. There are over 100 architectural monuments of the 13th to 19th centuries, crowded into a small area of only 9 sq.km (3.5 sq.miles). Suzdal is a unique museum town, and in 1983, it received the Golden Apple Prize, which is awarded by an international jury for the preservation of ocal colour and for the excellence of its tourist facilities. 

Russia 1977. Detail from the icon "Archangel Michael" by Andrei Rubelev.

Russia 1992. Icon by Andrei Rubelev. "Our Saviour".

Along with the eminent Russian architects of the time, also the renowned Russian icon painter, Andrei Rubeliev, lived and worked in this area. 
  • Russian Art 1977. Detail from “Archangel Michael” (icon, Andrei Rublev), 15th century 
  • Russia 1992. Icon by Rubelev: "Our Saviour", now housed in the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg. 
It is impossible to cover all of Suzdal's highlights, but when you are there, look out for 

- the Nativity of the Virgin Church (1222-25) with its matchless Golden Gate, 

- the unforgettable ensembles of the Saviour Monastery of St. Euthymius (founded in 1532) with the grave of Dmitry Pozharsky and the belfry whose bells ring hourly, 

- the Deposition Monastery (founded in 1204), 

- and the Intercession Convent, built 1364, to which the Russian emperors Vassily III, Ivan IV "The Terrible", and Peter the Great exiled their wives. 

  • Suzdal. Photograph of the skyline of the city, provided by the Intercession Convent. 

Russia, Suzdal. Photograph of the skyline of the city, provided by the Intercession Convent.

To take it all in, to breathe the atmosphere of days long gone, climb the steep bank of the Kamenka river in front of the Convent of the Intercession. You'll never forget the panorama of Suzdal. Naturally, your impressions will last longer fortified with a glass or two of Medovukha, an alcoholic beverage made with honey only in Suzdal. 

Sources and links:

Other World Heritage Sites in Russia (on this web site). Inactive links are not described on stamps. Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, Russia-section, for further information on such sites. 

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Revised 21 jul 2006  
Copyright © 1999 Heindorffhus 
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