Escaped Destruction of the Deadly Mongol Horde
Smolensk is considered one of the oldest cities in Russia dating to around 863, the brick walled Kremlin once protected the western border of Russia. In the picture above only a small part can be seen of a wall that stretched 6.5 kilometers (4 miles). Today only 3 kilometers are still preserved. Standing and looking out over the city from this vantage point only gives a small panorama of a city that boosts a population of about 325,000 people. This is the same city that it escaped destruction during the deadly Mongol invasion only to be swept into the battle between the power of medieval Lithuania and the then-grand duchy of Moscow. From Napoleon’s bloody visit in 1812 to the German occupation in 1941, Smolensk has been controlled by some of the most powerful and terrifying military campaigns in history.
Smolensk is a City of Commerce not War
This city of seven hills is divided by the Dnieper River that runs east to west. It would be to this same river the Rus dragged their boats from the Dvina River and the local residents would repair any damage they could incur by filling the cracks and holes with resin from the surrounding tree, in Russian this resin is called “smola” from which Smolensk derived it’s name. Smolensk truly traces it’s origins back to commerce, not war. Legend has it that the city is situated on a trade route used by the Vikings and Greeks. Early in it’s history it was a city of great wealth and even ruled over Keiv princes. What is seen reflecting off the river’s waters is the Uspensky Cathedral, as beautiful as it is from the outside the inside is truly magnificent, unfortunately they don’t allow pictures inside.
Important City to the Greeks, Bulgarians, and Germans
In the 12th century there were up to 40 stone churches in Smolensk, at the time even more than in Novgorod. Smolensk was built very rapidly because it was governed independently and it was a wealthy city. Its wealth was made possible by city’s location on the meeting point of three river trade routes: to the Greeks, to the Bulgarians, and to the Germans. To this day the churches of Peter and Paul Church, St. John the Evangelist, and Archangel Michael (also known as Svirskaya) are still standing. The scribes of the day wrote that the beauty of the Svirskiy Church was unmatched in all the northern principalities, and pilgrims have been coming to see it from all of ancient Rus! Visiting here we got to see a city which has been a place of worship to God for almost 900 years!