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Museums of the Golden Ring of Russia: Must Visit Guide

In 1967, journalist Yury Bychkov published a series of essays on ancient Russian cities entitled The Golden Ring, starting off the famous Russian tourist route. Its zero kilometer is situated in Yaroslavl; its stopovers are Rostov, Pereslavl-Zalessky, Uglich, Sergiyev Posad, Vladimir, Suzdal, Ivanovo and Kostroma. Before the rise of Moscow, history was made in this part of the country: it bore witness to the struggle for princedom, the construction of monasteries and the development of artisan and merchant centers. Remnants of the olden days are preserved in magnificent architectural memorials and museums dedicated to various aspects of life in the Golden Ring cities.

Spoon Museum
4 Oktyabrskaya St., Vladimir
+7 4922 370908
Founder of Vladimir, Grand Prince Vladimir of Kiev, played an important role in promoting the spoon: after the Christianization of Rus’, he issued a decree in which he prohibited people from picking food with their fingers, and then ordered his retinue to forge silver spoons, thus making the spoon a signature item of cutlery.
Vladimir hosts the largest private collection of spoons in Russia, with more than 20 thousand items. This became the basis for the museum dedicated to the history of this item, from Ancient Egypt to modernity, as well as related customs of interest. The exposition consists of souvenir spoons from a variety of countries, carved Welsh love spoons, spoons from the supplier of the House of Romanov, sought-after coronation spoons of the House of Windsor (surviving despite the fact that at his time of rule, Oliver Cromwell ordered all insignia of British kings to be remelted) and other unique specimen.
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State Museum Preserve Rostov Kremlin
Rostov, Kremlin
+7 4853 661717
In the 17th century, associate of the reforming patriarch Nikon and metropolitan of Rostov and Yaroslavl Iona Sysoevich conceived for himself a residence with a garden and pond as a reminder of heavenly Jerusalem; however, this was recreated in the traditional style of ancient Russian defense architecture, albeit with certain simplifications.
The Kremlin’s architectural ensemble has been preserved; nowadays its premises are occupied by museum exhibitions which tell the story of the founding of the old Russian city and ways of life in the 19th century province, along with icon painting traditions, Rostov enamels and the phenomenon of the Russian avant-garde. Especially valuable are the surviving bells, cast in the times of Iona and mounted in the bell turret of the Cathedral of the Assumption. The famous Rostov bell-ringing is available for the city (in real time) and the world (as a recording). Reconstruction also involved the “Rostov Eden”, the same metropolitan garden which became the only example of scientific renovation of a medieval garden in Russia.
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Yaroslavl Art Museum
23 Volzhskaya Embankment, Yaroslavl
+7 4852 303504
Yaroslavl Art Museum occupies the former En Route Imperial Palace of Alexander I (main building) and the Governor’s house, with a garden which also hosts exhibitions, Metropolitan’s Chambers of the 17th century and a private mansion dating back to the first third of the 19th century. The museum’s outlets are situated in the town of Tutaev and the village of Rybnitsy, Yaroslavl Region.
True gems of the museum collection, which is home to more than 80,000 items, are the pre-Mongolian Christ Pantocrator icon and the masterpieces by representatives of the Yaroslavl icon-painting school. The Museum is also proud of its authentic collection of provincial portraits, paintings by Aivazovsky, Brullov, Shishkin and Levitan, the major Russian collection of late Korovin, and works by masters of the Russian avant-garde.
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Tanning Museum
4 Ostrovskogo St., Uglich
+7 910 8199278
The tanning craft has existed in Uglich since the 16th century. By the 19th century, the provincial city had ten factories and ubiquitous workshops of tanners, leather dressers and bootmakers.
To revive the memory of the famous tradition, modern craftsmen founded the Tanning Museum in an old mansion situated in the city center. The exposition consists of historic items, works of modern tanners, and operational models of ancient leather dressing machines. The Museum Workshop and School of Tanning demonstrate ancient and modern technologies for leather treatment. They also regularly hold educational quests and creative meetings.
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Museum of Industry and Art
6/40 Baturina St., Ivanovo
+7 4932 327405
By the 17th century, Ivanovo had become an important center of textile trade. Tradesmen have always played a major role in the city’s life; among them, factory owner and patron Dmitry Gennadievich Burylin had a special part to play. To acquaint the Russian province with the treasures of global culture, he collected books, porcelain, paintings, weapons, numismatics and art-and-craft items over the course of his life. His collection even included the private belongings of Bukharan Amir Alim Khan.
His conceptualization was fully embodied in 1914, when the museum opened its doors to the public in a neoclassical building designed by the trendy Moscow architect Pavel Trubnikov. Today the Museum of Industry and Art is the flagship site of D. G. Burylin Ivanovo State History and Regional Studies Museum, which has six more outlets.
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Cheese Museum
19 Chaikovskogo St., Kostroma
+7 4942 641444
It is difficult to believe nowadays, but cheese came to Russia just a little over 150 years ago. Kostroma cheese makers did not pioneer this effort; however, they were capable of organizing exemplary manufacturing. Their delicious and full-flavored product quickly became famous around the country and abroad.
Their success story is told in the local Cheese Museum. Visitors are invited to join its tours and entertainment programs, which are always accompanied by tasting sessions. The museum even has a cheese sommelier!
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Pereslavl-Zalessky Museum Reserve
4 Muzeiny Pereulok, Pereslavl-Zalessky
+7 800 2018636
In the 14th century, the Orthodox Goritsky monastery was erected on the bank of the picturesque Plescheev Lake. The wife of the legendary old Rus’ Prince Dmitry Donskoy visited it for pilgrimage. In 1744 the monastery was closed and started to gradually deteriorate. It was resurrected in 1919 when it opened its doors as the Pereslavl-Zalessky History, Architecture and Art Museum Reserve, which was handed valuable items from Pereslavl manors of the nobility and monasteries nationalized after the revolution, along with the collection of paintings of Russian Itinerants formerly owned by local merchant Ivan Sveshnikov.
The museum’s collections expanded, with its exhibits including unique wooden sculpture, ancient Rus’ icons, treasures from the monasterial sacrariums, and objects from peasant and noble households. The Museum is in charge of the 12th century Cathedral of the Transfiguration of the Saviour, the most ancient architectural monument of Central Russia which miraculously survived the Tatar invasion. “Peter the Great’s Jolly Boat” manor retains the Fortuna boat from the Tsar’s “poteshny fleet” which lay the foundation for the Russian Navy.
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N. D. Bartram Toy Museum
123 Prospekt Krasnoy Armii, Sergiyev Posad
+7 496 5404101
In 1918, artist and collector Nikolay Dmitrievich Bartram founded the Toy Museum. The Museum’s extensive exposition, participation in all-soviet exhibitions and cooperation with children’s puppet theatres made it one of the most popular museums in Moscow of the 1920s. In 1931, the Museum collection was moved to Sergiyev Posad and located opposite the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, in the walls of a very cozy house built in the style of historicism. The Museum retains toys from different periods of the USSR and pre-revolutionary Russia, including personal belongings of Tsar family heirs.
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Museum of Wooden Architecture
Pushkarskaya St., Suzdal
+7 4923 120937, +7 910 1708153
Exhibits for this remarkable open-air museum were collected in the 1960s and 70s across the entire Vladimir Region. These 18 wooden architecture items had been made by local craftsmen in the 18th–19th century using only an axe, without nails or other tools.
Together they recreate the typical layout of a small village: two temples and a chapel on a hill, which runs onto a village street of time-darkened wooden houses and utility buildings (sheds, barns and mills) which look very solid and even stately on the outside. On the inside is a reconstruction of a peasant household, permeated with peace and quiet. This feeling of calmness reaches its peak in the temples: stepped Churches of Transfiguration and Resurrection have laconic interiors, their main treasure being the multi-row iconostases. Visitors can contemplate the faces of saints on wonderful icons shining with gold and bright colors.
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