Hotels, motels and where to sleep
Restaurant, taverns and where to eat
Cultural (and not so cultural) events
Interesting information and useful tips
Description of Smolensk
Smolensk is a city in western Russia, the
administrative, industrial and cultural center of the Smolensk
region. This is one of the oldest cities in Russia (the first
chronicle mention refers to the year 863). It bears the title of
“Hero City” (since May 6, 1985), and was awarded the Order of Lenin
and the Order of the Patriotic War, I Degree, and the Gold Star
In the history of Russia, it is known as the “shield
city” and the “key city”, which for many centuries served as a
reliable defense of Moscow, protecting it from the encroachments of
a number of European countries. In the Time of Troubles, thanks to
the courage and dedication of the residents of Smolensk, they
managed to detain a large army of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
Sigismund III. The resilience and patriotism of the Smolensk
citizens, who withstood the siege in the fortress for 20 months,
served as an example for the peasant revolts of the Second Militia
led by Kuzma Minin and Prince Dmitry Pozharsky against the invaders.
The city is located 378 km (along the highway - 410 km)
south-west of Moscow in the upper reaches of the Dnieper, being the
most distant administrative center of the region from Moscow,
directly bordering the capital region. It has an advantageous
geographical position on the routes from Moscow to Belarus, the
Baltic States, and the countries of Central and Western Europe. The
city extends from west to east for 25 km and from north to south for
15 km. Its territory is 166.35 km². Population - 330,025 people.
(2018). According to the census of 2010 - 54th place in Russia.
Destinations in Smolensk
Assumption Cathedral. A 300-years old cathedral in Baroque style.
Famous for its magnificent interiors, which combine features of
traditional Russian style and Baroque.
The Fortress Wall. The
stone kremlin was built in 1595-1602 and helped to defend the city
during several wars. Originally the kremlin included 38 towers; 17
of them can be seen today.
The old smithy. The small stone
building was built between 17-18th centuries; the exact date remains
unknown. The blachsmiths' museum is situated there.
catholic church. The brick church built in 1884-1896 is a good
example of Neo-Gothic architecture. The building used to function as
the archive for several decades and now no religious service is held
there. Currently it is impossible to get inside.
archeological site. The place is one of the largest survivals of the
Viking Age in Europe. It contains extensive remains of a
Slavic-Varangian settlement that flourished in the 10th century as a
major trade station on the trade route from the Varangians to the
St. Michael's Church (Svirskaya) and other Pre-Mongol
Monuments. Smolensk was one of the most important cities in medieval
Russia and has preserved many pre-mongol monuments, most impressive
of which is probably the St. Michael's Church (Svirskaya)
History of Smolensk
Smolensk is among the oldest Russian cities. The first recorded
mention of the city was 863 AD, two years after the founding of
Kievan Rus'. According to Russian Primary Chronicle, Smolensk
(probably located slightly downstream, at the archaeological site of
Gnezdovo) was located on the area settled by the West Slavic
Radimichs tribe in 882 when Oleg of Novgorod took it in passing from
Novgorod to Kiev. The town was first attested two decades earlier,
when the Varangian chieftains Askold and Dir, while on their way to
Kiev, decided against challenging Smolensk on account of its large
size and population.
The first foreign writer to mention the
city was the Byzantine Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus. In De
Administrando Imperio (c. 950) he described Smolensk as a key
station on the trade route from the Varangians to the Greeks. The
Rus' people sailed from the Baltics up the Western Dvina as far as
they could then they portaged their boats to the upper Dnieper. It
was in Smolensk that they supposedly mended any leaks and small
holes that might have appeared in their boats from being dragged on
the ground and they used tar to do that, hence the city name.
The Principality of Smolensk was founded in 1054. Due to its
central position in Kievan Rus', the city developed rapidly. By the
end of the 12th century, the princedom was one of the strongest in
Eastern Europe, so that Smolensk Dynasty frequently controlled the
Kievan throne. Numerous churches were built in the city at that
time, including the church of Sts. Peter and Paul (1146,
reconstructed to its presumed original appearance after World War
II) and the church of St. John the Baptist (1180, also partly
rebuilt). The most remarkable church in the city is called Svirskaya
(1197, still standing); it was admired by contemporaries as the most
beautiful structure east of Kiev.
Smolensk had its own veche
since the very beginning of its history. Its power increased after
the disintegration of Kievan Rus', and although it was not as strong
as the veche in Novgorod, the princes had to take its opinion into
consideration; several times in 12th and 13th centuries there was an
open conflict between them.
Between Russia, Lithuania, and
Although spared by the Mongol armies in 1240, Smolensk
paid tribute to the Golden Horde, gradually becoming a pawn in the
long struggle between Lithuania and the Grand Duchy of Moscow. The
last sovereign monarch of Smolensk was Yury of Smolensk; during his
reign the city was taken by Vytautas the Great of Lithuania on three
occasions: in 1395, 1404, and 1408. After the city's incorporation
into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, some of Smolensk's boyars (e.g.,
the Sapiehas) moved to Vilnius; descendants of the ruling princes
(e.g., the Tatishchevs, Kropotkins, Mussorgskys, Vyazemskys) fled to
With tens of thousands of people living there,
Smolensk was probably the largest city in 15th-century Lithuania.
Three Smolensk regiments took part in the Battle of Grunwald against
the Teutonic Knights. It was a severe blow to Lithuania when the
city was taken by Vasily III of Russia in 1514. To commemorate this
event, the Tsar founded the Novodevichy Convent in Moscow and
dedicated it to the icon of Our Lady of Smolensk.
In order to
repel future Polish–Lithuanian attacks, Boris Godunov made it his
priority to heavily fortify the city. The stone kremlin constructed
in 1597–1602 is the largest in Russia. It features thick walls and
numerous watchtowers. Heavy fortifications did not prevent the
fortress from being taken by the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in
1611 after a long twenty-month siege, during the Time of Troubles
and Dimitriads. Weakened Muscovy temporarily ceded Smolensk land to
the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in the Truce of Deulino and for
the next forty-three years it was the seat of Smolensk Voivodeship.
To recapture the city, the Tsardom of Russia launched the
so-called "Smolensk War" against the Commonwealth in 1632. After a
defeat at the hands of king Wladislaw IV, the city remained in
Polish–Lithuanian hands. In 1632, the Uniate bishop Lew Kreuza built
his apartments in Smolensk; they were later converted into the
Orthodox Church of Saint Barbara. The hostilities resumed in 1654
when the Commonwealth was being affected by the Khmelnytsky Uprising
and the Swedish deluge. After another siege, on September 23, 1654,
Smolensk was recaptured by Russia. In the 1667 Truce of Andrusovo,
the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth renounced its claims to Smolensk.
Smolensk has been a special place to Russians for many reasons,
not least for the fact that the local cathedral housed one of the
most venerated Orthodox icons, attributed to St. Luke. Building the
new Cathedral of the Assumption was a great project which took more
than a century to complete. Despite slowly sinking into economic
backwater, Smolensk was still valued by Tsars as a key fortress
defending the route to Moscow. It was made the seat of Smolensk
Governorate in 1708.
In August 1812, two of the largest
armies ever assembled clashed in Smolensk. During the hard-fought
battle, described by Leo Tolstoy in War and Peace, Napoleon entered
the city. Total losses were estimated at 30,000 men. Apart from
other military monuments, central Smolensk features the Eagles
monument, unveiled in 1912 to mark the centenary of Napoleon's
At the beginning of World War I, the 56th
Smolensk Infantry Division was first assigned to the First Army of
the Imperial Russian Army. They fought at the Battle of Tannenberg.
It was subsequently transferred to the 10th Army and fought at the
Second Battle of the Masurian Lakes. In March 1918, while the city
remained a part of Russia, Belarusian People's Republic, proclaimed
in Minsk under the German occupation, declared Smolensk a part of
it. In February–December 1918, Smolensk was home to the headquarters
of the Western Front, North-West Oblast Bolshevik Committee and
Western Oblast Executive Committee. On January 1, 1919, the
Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic was proclaimed in Smolensk,
but its government moved to Minsk as soon as the German forces had
been driven out of Minsk several days later.
After the Revolution, for inclusion in its composition as claimed
Smolensk Belarusian People's Republic and the Byelorussian SSR.
Since April 1918 Smolensk was the center of the Western Region,
which is based on January 1, 1919, Byelorussian SSR was formed.
January 7 BSSR government moved from Minsk and Smolensk already
January 16, 1919 decision of the Central Committee of the RCP
Smolensk region was transferred to the RSFSR. In 1920 was held the
new provincial census, according to which the Russian population
prevailed over Belarus, but the Belarusian party leadership until
1926 leaves no hope for the inclusion of Smolensk in the Belorussian
SSR. In 1940, 18 km (11 mi) from Smolensk, the Katyn Massacre
During World War II, Smolensk once again saw
wide-scale fighting during the first Battle of Smolensk when the
city was captured by the Germans on July 16, 1941. The first Soviet
counteroffensive against the German army was launched in August 1941
but failed. However, the limited Soviet victories outside the city
halted the German advance for a crucial two months, granting time to
Moscow's defenders to prepare in earnest. Camp 126 was situated
close to Smolensk and at this time Boris Menshagin was mayor of
Smolensk, with his deputy Boris Bazilevsky. Both of them would be
key witnesses in the Nuremberg Trials over the Katyn massacre. Over
93% of the city was destroyed during the fighting; the ancient icon
of Our Lady of Smolensk was lost. Nevertheless, it escaped total
destruction. In late 1943, Göring[dubious – discuss]had ordered
Gotthard Heinrici to destroy Smolensk in accordance with the Nazi
"scorched earth" policy. He refused and was punished for it. The
city was finally liberated on September 25, 1943, during the second
Battle of Smolensk. The rare title of Hero City was bestowed on
Smolensk after the war.
After the Germans captured the city
in 1941, they found the intact archives of Smolensk Oblast Committee
of the Communist Party, the so-called Smolensk Archive. The archive
was moved to Germany, and a significant part of it eventually ended
up in the United States, providing Western scholars and intelligence
specialists with unique information on the local workings of the
Soviet government during its first two decades. The archives were
returned to Russia by the United States in 2002.
On April 10, 2010, a Tu-154 military jet carrying Polish
president Lech Kaczyński, his wife, and many notable political and
military figures crashed in a wooded area near Smolensk while
approaching the local military airport. All ninety-six passengers
died immediately on impact. The purpose of the visit was to
commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre, in which
some 22,000 Polish POWs were murdered by the NKVD.
archaeologists of the Russian Academy of Sciences discovered and
unearthed in the ancient temples in Smolensk dated to middle to
second half of the 12th century, built on the left bank at the time
the city was the capital of Smolensk principality. From unique
object preserved walls in some places low, in others the height of
In September 2013, Smolensk widely celebrated the 1,150th
anniversary with funds spent on different construction and
renovation projects in the city. In celebration Central Bank of
Russia issued commemorative coins made of precious metals.
From Moscow several trains from Belorussky
Railway Terminal reach Smolensk in 5-6 hours. Some of them reach
into Europe as far as to Paris and Nice (in summer only). The same
trains can be used to reach Smolensk from Belarus. Daily expresses
connect Smolensk with Moscow and Bryansk; there are regular trains
to and from Saint Petersburg and Vilnius.
times a week there are buses connecting Smolensk with such European
cities as Paris, Madrid, Riga and some others. Most of these buses
originally start their journey in Moscow and make a stopover in
Smolensk. Other buses run to Mogilev, Kaluga, Velikiye Luki, Kursk
and Tver. Daily buses run to Mstislavl, Belgorod, Bryansk, Moscow,
Oryol, Saint Petersburg and Tula. A bus journey from Moscow to
Smolensk takes about 4.5-6 hours (depending on possible traffic jams
in Moscow), the price of a single ticket starts from 900 rubles
(approximately €12.5 or $14).
By car and by thumb
is situated on the M1/E30 and A141 highways. Е30 goes from Berlin to
Moscow through Warsaw, Brest and Minsk; while A141 connects Oryol to
Vilnius through Bryansk and Vitebsk. Both highways are good for
hitchhiking - bear in mind that E30 is about 6.5 km north from the
By bus, minibus, tram or trolleybus
single ticket for bus, tram or trolley use (different tickets for
each kind of transport) costs 18 RUB purchased from the service
person in the bus (cash only) and is valid for a single ride. No
special validation needed. It is highly recommended to buy the
ticket, because the controls are regular, especially during the
first days of each month. There is a number of discount tickets for
students and elderly people, in public buses (trams or trolleys)
only. The list of public transport routes is found here (in
Russian), their timetable is given here (note that not all buses are
included). There is an enormous fleet of minibuses on the same
routes. The price is the same as with a public bus (you get no paper
tickets in a minibus, though). Minibuses operate every 10-15
minutes, which makes them more convenient than a bus. During rush
hours, however, minibuses are often cramped.
are several cab companies offering their services. A regular cab may
cost about 130 RUB if you need to get from periphery of the city to
the center. You should always call a taxi by phone, even if you see
a taxi on the street nearby. Street taxis may charge a higher price
than taxis called by phone. Every company has their phone number
written on its vehicles; it's very convenient for tourists.
Currently Smolensk is not a bike-friendly city due to
the lack of cycling lanes. However, the central park area, the
streets nearby as well as a big green area to the south-west are
easy to use. In case you decide to go cycling, note that some
inhabitants are riding on sidewalks while others prefer the right
side of the road.
The historical part of the city
(within the Fortress) can be easily explored on foot. Note that the
area is sometimes hilly and several central streets are paved so
choose appropriate footwear.
Felix Hostel, Dzerzhinsky Street, 19, ☎ +7 (4812) 40-10-32
(email@example.com). There are rooms for 2, 4 or 5 people. Free
wifi in all rooms. Conveniently located. Dorm bed: from RUB 500.
Tourist Hostel, Kashen Street, 15-B, ☎ +7 (4812) 40-16-21
(firstname.lastname@example.org). There are rooms for 2, 5, 6 or 8 people. Located
close to the railway station. Dorm bed: from RUB 300.
Hills, Smolyaninov Street, 5, ☎ +7(4812) 20-95-74
(email@example.com). There are single and double rooms
as well as a suite. Rooms: from RUB 2800 to 3500.
Novo-Moskovskaya Street, 15, ☎ +7(4812) 630-300 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
There are single and double rooms as well as a suite. Rooms: from
RUB 1800 to 4000.
Usadba Hotel, Bakunin Street, 2-V, ☎ +7 (4812)
38-59-31 (email@example.com). There are single and double
rooms as well as a suite of rooms. Free wifi in all rooms. Rooms:
from RUB 2700 to 10000.
New Hotel, Gubenko Street, 26, ☎
+7(4812) 272-273 (firstname.lastname@example.org). There are twin and double
rooms as well as a suite of rooms. Free wifi and convenient
location. Rooms: from RUB 3400 to 4600.
Dzerzhinsky Street, 23, ☎ +7 (4812) 65-59-70
(email@example.com). There are single and double rooms as well
as a suite of rooms. Free wifi in all rooms. A cinema is situated in
the same building. Rooms: from RUB 2280 to 6500.
Lenin Street, 2/1, ☎ +7(4812) 32-69-91 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
There are single and double rooms as well as a suite of rooms.
Located in the very centre of the city. Rooms: from RUB 3200 to
Smolensk offers countless opportunities to sample both local
cuisine and international favorites. A diversity of foreign cuisines
is also available - sushi restaurants in particular are currently in
nternational Music Festival of Mikhail Glinka A series of
concerts in different genres. The participants come from Russia and
Europe. The event is held at the state concert hall. The festival
takes place every year in the last week of May and the first week of
Firework Festival The event is worth visiting due to
magnificent performances of several teams from Russia and Europe. It
is organised at the airfield to the south of Smolensk. The festival
takes place every year around September, 25.
The ark of Smolensk
Theatre festival is held every even year in mid-April.
Culture Festival The event is a 2-/3-day festival devoted to the
Slavs, held annually to the west of Smolensk in mid-August.
Smolensk is a relatively safe city;
however, crimes do occur. Use typical common sense. Avoid dark
alleys - like you would anywhere else. Check the advice from your
Foreign Office for entry requirements, health, safety, local laws
When visiting bars and restaurants make sure you
know the price before you order and keep track of your spending, so
no cheating is possible. Beware of scammers who strike up
conversations out of the blue and invite you to visit their favorite
club or bar; this is often a favorite way for the fraudsters to rob
the foreigners, and the police are unlikely to help if you get
Also note that in winter months, streets in Smolensk
might get quite slippery. Take a pair of grippy shoes or, even
better, boots (to prevent twisted ankles) and a waterproof raincoat.
Take care as ice patches are often hard to spot, even when they
appear to have been cleared or melted. Wearing non-grippy shoes
could result in injury.