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Description of Vyazma
Vyazma is a city in Russia, the administrative
center of the Vyazemsky district, located in the east of the
Smolensk region. Population - 52 506 people. (2018). The city is
located on the Vyazma River, 175 km from Smolensk and 210 km from
Moscow, on the Vyazma hill, in an area where the river drastically
changes its direction of flow from the south to the north-west. It
is the junction railway station Vyazma on the lines Moscow - Brest
and Torzhok - Bryansk. The city is located on the Old Smolensk Road,
which has long connected Moscow with European regions.
April 27, 2009, by the decree of the President of Russia Dmitry
Medvedev, the city of Vyazma was awarded the honorary title of the
Russian Federation “City of Military Glory”.
The birthday of
the city is traditionally celebrated on the Orthodox holiday of the
History of Vyazma
Vyazma was first mentioned in a chronicle under the year of 1230,
although it is believed to be much older than that. The town was
named after the river, whose name was from Russian word "вязь"
(vyaz'), meaning "bog" or "swamp". At the time, the town belonged to
a lateral branch of the Rurikid House of Smolensk, and carried on a
lively trade with Narva on the Gulf of Finland. In 1403, the local
princes were expelled by Lithuanians to Moscow, where they took the
name of Princes Vyazemsky. The most notable among them were Pyotr
Vyazemsky, an intimate friend of the poet Alexander Pushkin and a
poet himself, and Sophie Viazemski, a French writer, for a time
married to Jean-Luc Godard.
In 1494, Vyazma was captured by
the Grand Duchy of Moscow and turned into a fortress, of which but a
single tower remains. Two important abbeys were embellished with
stone churches, including a rare three-tented church dedicated to
Our Lady of Smolensk (Hodegetria) and consecrated in 1638 after
Polish occupation between 1611 and 1634. A barbican church of the
same abbey dates back to 1656, and the town's cathedral was
completed by 1676. Other churches are designed mostly in baroque
During the French invasion (and their European allies)
of Russia in 1812, there was a battle between the retreating French
army (up to 37,000 troops) and the Russian army (25,000 men) near
Vyazma on October 22, 1812. The vanguard of the Russian army under
the command of Lieutenant General Mikhail Miloradovich and a Cossack
unit of General Matvey Platov attacked the rearguard corps of
Marshal Louis-Nicolas Davout east of Vyazma and cut off his retreat.
Owing to the intervention of Eugène de Beauharnais and Józef
Poniatowski, Davout managed to break through the Russian army's
However, the French army's attempts to hold the
heights near Vyazma and the town itself were unsuccessful. By the
evening of October 22, Russians seized Vyazma, which had been set on
fire by the French. The French lost 6,000 men during the battle;
2,500 soldiers were taken prisoners. The Russians lost around 2,000
In 1941, during World War II, Vyazma was the scene of a
battle of encirclement. Red Army units were trapped in the town
after it was surrounded by the German Third and Fourth Panzer
armies. Vyazma was occupied by German forces between 7 October 1941
and 12 March 1943. In October 1941, 11 Jews were shot in the town
and two were hanged. In December 1941, 117 Jews were killed in a
mass execution perpetrated by the Einsatzgruppe B.
was heavily damaged in the fighting, then rebuilt after the war.
U.S. journalist Quentin Reynolds, of Collier's Weekly, visited
Vyazma shortly after the German withdrawal in 1943 and gave an
account of the destruction in his book The Curtain Rises (1944), in
which he stated that the town's population was reduced from 60,000
to 716, with only three buildings remaining. The Nazis also
established two concentration camps in the town, Dulag 184 and Dulag
230. About 80,000 people died there and were buried in mass graves.
The victims included Jews, political officers, and POWs.