The Oldest Russian Cities

Which Russian city has the longest history? Where did Russia emerge? Where were no names and numbers of streets but were names of church bells? If you want to find this out, then this article is exactly for you.


A city called Derbent is located 125 km from the capital of the republic Dagestan Makhachkala. The first mention of this city dates back to the 6th century (568 y.). However, some historians tend to assume that pioneer settlements lived there about 5 thousand years ago.

Derbent was in the place of an old Persian castle named the Gate of Alexander of Caspian Gates. Derbent became a part of the Russian Empire in 1813 after the ratification of the Gulistan Treaty.

As a tourist, you can visit the marvelous Naryn-Kala citadel, fortifications of Derbent, and Juma mosque of Derbent (the oldest in Russia) and feel the spirit of the ancient city.

Source: Wikipedia

Staraya Ladoga (Old Ladoga)

Nowadays, Old Ladoga is a small and peaceful countryside but in 862 it was the capital of Kievan Rus. The first prince of Kievan Rus Rurik lived and ruled in Ladoga.

Old Ladoga is an open-air museum where you can visit the Ladoga fortress of the 11th century which perfectly combines ancient artifacts and interaction, St. George’s Church with frescoes of the 13th century, and several wooden churches. Moreover, you can see the grave of Oleg the Wise who ruled after Rurik’s death, and even the kurgans of old Slavic tribes which lived there.

Source: Wikipedia

Veliky Novgorod

Veliky Novgorod was founded in 859 and very fast became the market center. Veliky Novgorod even was the capital of Kievan Rus until 882 when Prince Oleg the Wise decided to move the capital to Kyiv. This dramatic change couldn’t stop the development of the city and in the middle of the 9th century, Novgorod transformed into a huge commercial and cultural center.

Veliky Novgorod is also an open-air museum. Here you can see the cathedral of St, Sophia, the Novgorod Kremlin, the bronze monument of the Millennium of Russia, the Yaroslav’s Court, the Museum of wooden architecture Vitoslawlizy, and a lot of other museums.

Source: Wikipedia

Rostov Veliky (Rostov the Great)

Rostov Veliky was founded in the same year as the Old Ladoga – in 862. The adjective «Veliky (eng. Great)» the city got thanks to one of the three legends. Some historians believe that it happened during the government of Yuri Dolgorukiy. Another version of getting the name «Veliky» traces back to the construction of the Rostov Kremlin in the 12th century. The last legend is that the Russian emperor Peter the Great loved the city very much so he called his beloved city «Veliky (eng. Great)».

What surprises the most about Rostov is the fact that until the revolution in 1917, there were no names and numbers of streets. People had to create their own descriptions to explain where they lived, met, etc. More surprising is the fact that each of the 15 bells of Rostov Kremlin’s zvonnitsa (a large rectangular structure containing multiple arches or beams that support bells) has its own name. As a tourist, you can visit three cloisters (the Monastery of St. Jacob the Saviour, The Trinity Monastery of St. Sergius, and the Trinity Cathedral), the Museum of finift (decorated Russian enamel). Rostov is also well known as the place of birth of Alyosha Popovich, who was the youngest of the three Bogatyrs. 

Source: Wikipedia


A small town of just 32 thousand people in the Yaroslav oblast located on the Volga River is not so well known as the other Russian cities. Uglich was founded in 937 by a relative of Princess Olga but just in the 15th century, the town reached its heyday and prosperity. To estimate how meaningful the town was, we need to read historical documents where we find the information that the town had its own mint facility, publishing house, and stone houses. All events and stories were chronicled and handicrafts and trades developed. Uglich also played a huge role in Russian history. Here the Rurik dynasty ended and here the mother of the first Russian zar of Romanovs was born. But the most important attraction of Uglich is the manors of merchants. Fortunately, the town wasn’t ruined in the Second World War which is why you can see the untouched history there.

Source: Wikipedia
Today you get acquainted with the top oldest Russian cities. Each city has its unique charm and character which can be found nowhere else. Which city do you like the most or which city would you like to visit? Maybe you know more old Russian cities? Let us know in the comments!

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