Smolensk is the capital and administrative center of Smolensk oblast of Russia. May 6, 1985, the city received the status of “Hero city”. Smolensk is standing on the banks of the Dnieper River, about 420 km west of Moscow.
It is an important railway and highway junction. Also there is an airport in the city.
Smolensk population is about 330,000 (2012), land area - 166 sq. km.
The phone code is +7 4812; postal codes - 214000-214xxx.
There are several versions of Smolensk name origin. The first one is that it comes from old Slavic name for black soil. Black soil could color the waters near ancient settlement called Smolnya.
Another version is about Russian word “smola” meaning tar. There were a lot of pine trees in Smolensk area, so the settlement was an important center of resin processing and trade.
Smolensk is one of the oldest Russian cities. First mentioning of it was in 863, only two years after ancient Russian state was founded. Smolensk was the capital of Slavic tribe Krivichi.
That time the town played an important role because it was standing on the Road from Varangians to Greeks (Russians were sailing from Baltics by the Western Dvina River and pulling boats by the ground to the upper Dnieper River).
In 1054, Smolensk Principality was founded. Smolensk developed quickly because it was located in the central part of Russian lands. Smolensk Principality became one of the strongest in Eastern Europe in the beginning of the 13th century.
A lot of various churches were built that time in the town. Later, Smolensk lands and town became the key in struggling between Lithuania and Moscow states.
In 1597, Russian Tsar Boris Godunov decided to built heavy fortifications to defend the town from Lithuania attacks. Huge red stone kremlin (the largest in Russia) was finished in 1602.
But, in 1611, after siege lasting about 20 months, Smolensk was captured by Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Later, in 1654, Russia returned the town after another siege.
Napoleon armies had battle with Russian armies near Smolensk in August 1812. Famous Russian writer Leo Tolstoy described that moment in his book “War and Peace”. Napoleon won the battle and captured the city. The total casualties from both sides were about 30,000 men dead.
Again Smolensk was the center of war when Germany forces attacked the USSR in 1941 (Battle of Smolensk). The city was totally destroyed (about 90%). After capturing Smolensk, Germans found archives of Smolensk Region Communist Party Committee. That archive gave Western people unique info about first two decades of Soviet power.
Smolensk Novodevichy convent
Smolensk places of interest
Among the main places of interest of Smolensk are a lot of monasteries, church complexes, statues to: Smolensk defenders of 1812; Kutuzov; Alexander Tvardovsky and Vasily Tyorkin; Burnt flower - monument to the children of fascist concentration camps; Smolensk fortress wall.
The museums of Smolensk:
- Smolensk historical museum;
- Museum “Smolensk area during Great Patriotic War”;
- Art gallery;
- Sergey Timofeyevich Konenkov sculpture museum;
- Museum “Town forge of the 17th century”;
- Museum “Smolensk flax”;
- Museum “In the world of fairy-tales”;
- Smolensk museum of Russian vodka.
Among the main industrial plants of the city are: Smolensk aviation plant; “Crystal” (diamond-facet plant); Smolensk hosiery plant.