The life of many outstanding Russians is closely connected with Vologda: the first Doctor of Medicine Matvey Mudrov; poets and writers Konstantin Batyushkov, Vladimir Gilyarosky, Nikolai Rubtsov, Sergey Orlov, Varlam Shalamov, Vasily Belov; the benefactor Khristophor Ledentsov; the greatest philosopher and writer Ignaty Bryanchaninov, defenders of the Motherland Alexander Pankratov, Stepan Lovenetsky, Evgeny Preobrazhensky; sportsmen Alexander Borodyuk, Nikolai Gulyaev; aircraft designers Alexander Mozhaysky and Sergey Ilyushin; film actors Lidia Sukharevskaya, Rimma Markova and many others.
The first record of the city dates back to 1147. According to the Life of St. Gerasimus it was exactly in that year that the monk Gerasimus came to Vologda from Kiev and founded the Trinity monastery. It appeared not in a deserted place because there was already a small settlement, apparently with an orthodox church, on the territory of the future town.
The place for the town was chosen well as it was protected from enemy’s invasions with forests and swamps. The Vologda River provided the townsmen with fish and was the main “road” for trade relations with other towns, first of all, with Belozersk and Novgorod the Great.
Some researchers assert that the name of the city is of the Finno-Ugric origin. It is translated as a river with white (clear, pure) water. White suits our city. It symbolizes purity, simplicity and respectability. Many poets have glorified this “snow-white” Vologda in their works.
The town grew quickly thanks to its favourable geographical location. It occupied a key position on the approaches to the immensely rich North. Princes of Novgorod, Tver, Rostov and Suzdal tried to subordinate these lands. Establishment of trade relations with foreign countries stimulated prosperity of Vologda. In the middle of the 17th century it was among five largest cities of the Moscow state by the number of inhabitants. That’s why the legend that the Tsar Ivan the Terrible wanted to move the capital of the Russia to Vologda, had economical and political grounds.
Ivan the Terrible appreciated Vologda not so much as a market town, rather for its military significance. Vologda with the Kremlin – a mighty fortification of its time (never completed in stone) - protected the ways to Moscow from the North.
The first Russian tsar played a great role in the development of the city. It was he who ordered to build a majestic St. Sophia Cathedral on the high bank of the Vologda River – the main attraction of the city for more that 450 years and a centre of orthodoxy. Under Ivan the Terrible direction of several streets and squares existing nowadays was formed and an artificial canal Zolotukha was dug.
The inhabitants of Vologda will surely erect a monument to this tsar sooner or later. Ivan the Terrible has deserved it.
During the Time of troubles in early 17th century the residents of the city made a special contribution to the restoration of the Russian statehood. Our ancestors took part in the liberation struggle of Minin and Pozharsky. Vologda managed to unite large northern cities – Veliky Ustiug, Totma and Solvychegodsk - for a joint fight with invaders. In 1612 the city was attacked for the first and last time in its history. The Polish and Lithuanian interventionists captured and plundered Vologda. Local people were put to the torture and violence. The fact that they killed not only the city defenders, but also 59 monks of the Spaso-Prilutsky monastery showed their cruelty.
At the turn of the 17th – 18th centuries Peter I paid particular attention to the Russian North. Under Peter the Great Vologda became one of the main state military bases of the country. Military and technical equipment for ships under construction was stored there. Vessels to deliver food supplies to Arkhangelsk were built in the city. The campaign to Nyuhcha, Povenets and Oreshek which ended with the victory of the Russian army over the Swedes started from the walls of the Vologda Kremlin.
The emperor visited Vologda five times! For the last time he stayed in the house of the Dutch merchant Goutmann. The first museum was opened in the House of Peter I already before the revolution. Now this building which has come down to us houses an exhibition about the first Russian emperor. The inhabitants of Vologda were among the first builders of a new capital – St. Petersburg.
After the foundation of the city on the Neva and opening of the sea way to Europe through the Baltic Sea economic and trade development of Vologda slowed down slightly, no stone buildings were constructed during several decades.
Administrative importance of Vologda grew under Catherine II. In 1772 Vologda became a centre of the Vologda region ruled by governor-general and in 1796 – a capital of the vast Vologda province. Catherine II approved the general town planning scheme. Chaotic medieval building was replaced with a network of right-angled quarters. Vologda developed in accordance with this plan almost till the 1920-s.
Under Catherine II a stone Gostiny Dvor (trading rows in today’s Mira Street), Stone Brigde and first public buildings were constructed. Many of them have come down to us.
Quite a lot of stone churches were erected at the turn of the 18th – 19th centuries. The coat of arms of Vologda wasapproved at the same time: a hand in golden clothes with a golden orb and a silver sword with a golden sword-hilt. The hand appears out of the silver cloud against the red background. Red signifies courage, hardiness and valour; golden - might and prosperity. This coat-of-arms was prohibited after the revolution. The Executive Committee of the city confirmed a new blazon on May 31, 1967 with an elk in the centre of it. Since April 1991 Vologda has its historical coat-of-arms.
The inhabitants of the city didn’t remain indifferent to the fate of the country during Napoleon’s invasion. The name of the participant in the Patriotic War of 1812 – poet Konstantin Batyushkov – is well-known. In 1987 grateful descendants erected a monument to the outstanding fellow-townsman on the Sobornaya hill. During the Patriotic War of 1812 the values of the Moscow Kremlin, Moscow monasteries and churches were preserved in the Spaso-Prilutsky monastery. Nowadays this cloister is situated within the precincts of the city.
In 1824 the emperor Alexander I visited the centre of the Vologda province. Remains of the fortifications constructed under Ivan the Terrible were demolished and Dvoryansky and Pyatnitsky boulevards (along today’s Oktyabrskaya and Leningradskaya streets) were laid out on their place especially for his visit. Alexander the Blessed appreciated the reception and hospitality of the Vologda’s inhabitants. His nephew – Emperor Alexander II Liberator – was also pleased with his visit in 1858.
In the middle of the 19th century Vologda acquired the first traits of a civilized city. Several bridges were constructed: Red Bridge and Soborny Bridge across the Vologda River; Rybnoryadsky, Vinterovsky, Myasnoryadsky bridges across the Zolotukha River. Goods from all parts of Russia and different foreign countries were brought to the fair which took place in Vologda in January. First plants were founded in the city. Streets were paved, for example, 4 squares and 11 streets were cobbled in 1844. A theatre, medical facilities, gymnasia and schools were opened in Vologda. Cultural and social life was in full swing.
The economy of the city revived with appearance of first steamboats on the Vologda River in 1865 and construction of the railway line between Yaroslavl and Vologda. In 1898 it was connected with Arkhangelsk and in 1905 – with St. Petersburg and Vyatka. Thus, the city being located on the banks of the navigable river came to be at the crossroads of important transport routes. Like before it played a significant role in the domestic trade of the Russian Empire. Fairs were gradually replaced with permanent work of specialized shops and firms.
In the late 19th – early 20th centuries Vologda became quickly an industrial centre of the North-West of Russia. Brickworks, tanneries, sugar-refineries, dairies, sausage and shoe factories were opened there, as well as large state enterprises - a state wine warehouse (a distillery), main railway repair shops (nowadays Railway Carriage Repair Works), a locomotive depot. But the working class as such wasn’t formed in Vologda before the revolution. The population was growing thanks to the peasants moving to the city. Former villagers kept their rural way of life for a long time having vegetable gardens and domestic animals. Few of them passed to the lower middle class and set up trade. The population of Vologda was 27872 persons according to the first All-Russian census of 1897.
At the turn of the century electric power station, water supply system and telephone office were built in the city. By the beginning of the First World War hotels and cinematographs were at the disposal of the inhabitants, several newspapers were published, public and charitable organizations as well as political parties functioned in Vologda.
Traditional handicrafts, first of all lace-making, were developing. There were up to 40000 lace-makers in the outskirts of the city in 1912. Vologda lace was sold not only in Russia, but also abroad.
At the beginning of the 1870-s butter industry began to develop actively in the Vologda district. In 1876 Nikolai Vereshchagin, brother of the famous painter of battle scenes, invented a new kind of butter with nice nutty flavour of pasteurized cream. He called it “Paris butter”. Since the end of the 1930-s this butter bears the name of the region where it is produced - “Vologda butter”.
Numerous butter-making artels and cooperatives provided not only the Russian Empire, but also foreign countries with butter. Vologda Dairy Institute (nowadays Vologda Dairy Academy), the first dairy institution of higher education in Russia, was founded near Vologda in 1911 thanks to Nikolai Vereshchagin’s efforts, but already after his death. Pedagogical Institute, prototype of Vologda State Teachers’ Training University, was opened in Vologda in 1912.
In the prerevolutionary period Vologda, called “Northern Athens” for the high level of intellectual life, became a place for meetings and discussions of literary men, politicians and scientists exiled to Vologda: N.Berdyaev, A.Remizov, A.Bogdanov-Malinovsky, B.Savinkov, P.Shchyogolev, V.Vorovsky, A.Lunacharsky, M.Ulyanova, I.Stalin, A.Arosev, V.Molotov, O.Varentsova and others.
During the revolution and the Civil War the population of the city reached 60000 people because of refugees, military men and migration of peasants. Vologda went through both revolutions of 1917 rather quietly. There was dual power for almost half a year – the City Duma and the Council worked simultaneously. In 1918 diplomatic missions of the leading Entente countries moved to Vologda. Soviet power was established only in June-July of 1918 when M.Kedrov, commissar of the Soviet revision, arrived in the city. First political repressions were connected with this man.
In the post-revolutionary years Vologda began to change its appearance. Cooperative housing construction began. Garden cities for water transport and repair shops workers were constructed.
In September 1937 Vologda became a centre of the vast region in the North of the USSR. A flax factory was built in the city, the locomotive depot was reconstructed, the rail interchange was enlarged, a diesel power station was put into service, new artels of industrial cooperative society were opened. Industry required new labour force. By the beginning of the Great Patriotic War about 100000 people lived in Vologda.
Martial law was established in the Vologda Oblast from the first days of the war. Thousands of inhabitants went to the front as volunteers. Whole formations and units were formed in the city.
No aircraft bomb was dropped in Vologda during the whole war. Though German pilots made repeated attempts to break through security lines, they couldn’t reach the city thanks to the Cherepovets and Vologda divisional area of the air defence forces. Mostly young girls born in the Vologda region served in it. A monument in the form of an 85-millimeters anti-aircraft gun was erected in Vologda in 1984 to pay tribute to the soldiers of the divisional area for the accomplished feat. A monument to the tank T-34 was unveiled in 1975 in Mira Street in honour of the armoured brigade formed in Vologda.
The industrial enterprises of Vologda started to make military production: arms, uniform and equipment. The role of transport, especially rail transport, was very essential during the war. The Northern railway was the only link of Leningrad under siege with the East: people were evacuated from the besieged city; ally’s lend-lease aid came from Arkhangelsk. The enemy tried to land troops to carry out diversions on the Northern railway not at once. Groups of saboteurs were constantly detained in the outskirts of Vologda.
The inhabitants of the city gathered 2,7 million rubles, 1 kilo of gold and 36.7 kilo of silver for defence needs by September 1941. They constructed an air squadron “For Heroic Leningrad” and donated more than 35 tonne of blood.
Vologda became an important hospital centre being situated in the rear. There were 10 hospitals there. Evacuation centres at Vologda I and Vologda II railways stations provided survivors of Leningrad siege with food and medical aid. Only in winter and spring of 1942 Vologda received 554000 people from the besieged city. Many of them died of illnesses and emaciation in Vologda. In 1988 a memorial was unveiled at the burial place of the Leningrad’s residents at the Poshekhonskoye cemetery.
8379 people from our region did not come back home from the battlefield of the Great Patriotic War. The Eternal Flame in memory of the fallen was lit in Revolution Square of Vologda in May 1975.
During the war 18 inhabitants of Vologda were awarded the title “Hero of the Soviet Union” and more than 20000 rear toilers received the medal “For valorous work in the Great Patriotic War”.
In the post-war years Vologda became the largest centre of machine building. The State Ball-bearing plant, the Vologda Optical and Mechanical Plant, the “Electrotechmash” Plant were constructed there. Rapid growth of industry resulted in the population inflow. There were 200000 inhabitants in the city in 1973, and already 249000 people in 1979. A lot of dwelling houses were built. Several former villages (Byvalovo, Govorovo, Zernovo, Vatlanovo, Sharapovo and other) were included into the city line.
By decree of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet on July 22, 1982 Vologda was awarded the order of the October Revolution for the workers’ progress made in the economic and cultural development and for a significant contribution to the victory over the fascist aggressors in the Great Patriotic War. This award was attached to the city banner in July 1983 by G.Aliev, member of the central committee of the CPSU and future president of Azerbaijan.
The 1990-s were rather difficult for Vologda as well as for the whole country. Acquired economic and business connections underwent considerable changes and some of them were even lost. In spite of all this, Vologda managed to preserve its economic and scientific potential.
The engineering industry, the leading branch in the city, has made up leeway and got a powerful incentive to its growth. Trade institutions are actively developing, new banks and enterprises are opened. Firms increase production output every year, open up new outlets not only in Russia, but also in the CIS and in the world. Salary level rises.
Not a single music, sports or art school has been closed in Vologda over the last years, unlike in other regional centres. Even in the most difficult years we managed to avoid social tension growth and mass protest actions. Salary of employees of a government-financed organization is a social item of the city budget.
The Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Vologda in April 2001 became a historical event. He inspected production capacity of the ball-bearing plant, where he held a conference, dedicated to the elaboration of a new RF Labour Code.
In the opinion of experts our city has a great future thanks to its favourable geographical location. Vologda’s role in the economic ties of the Russian regions becomes more and more significant.
The area of the city is 11,6 thousand hectares. According to the census of 2010, 309,9 thousand people live there.
There are 224 monuments of architecture, history and culture in the city, 128 among them are protected by the state.
Vologda is among 116 Russian cities with especially valuable historical heritage.