City Guide: Rostov, Russia

Fast Facts

Rostov, sometimes spelled Rostofa, is one of the oldest towns in Russia. An important and attractive tourist center, Rostov belongs to the so called Golden Ring, which is the name used to refer to a number of small towns that surround Moscow, many of which, like Rostov, have a particular significance to the Russian Orthodox Church.

Rostov has a population of approximately 35,000 people and is situated on the shores of Lake Nero in the Yaroslavl state or oblast.

The official name of the town is Rostov, but it is better known in Russian as Rostov Veliky, meaning Rostov the Great, because there are two towns, Rostov and Rostov-on-Don, baring the same name in Russia.

An Eye for History

Before there was Rostov, in its place, there stood the town of Tsarskoye Corodishche, which may have also been the capital for a tribe of people known as the Merya. Other historians contend that Tsarskoye Gorodishche may have been an important Viking settlement instead, but the evidence is not conclusive.

The town is first mentioned, and referred to as Rostov, in the official records in around 862. By this time, the town was already an important settlement for various tribes. Whether the town was founded by the Merya tribe or Vikings has yet to be determined.

Although it stood independent for several centuries after its first appearance in the records, the town of Rostov became a part of Muscovy in 1474. Rostov remained an influential center for the Russian Orthodox church from 988 but during the 13th century, began a series of pillaging efforts that left the town divested. Poles attacked the city in 1608 and thereafter the town remained a subdued and quiet place.

Out and About

Although a small town, Rostov has many places of interest for tourists, most of which are located inside or near the Rostov Kremlin. Most tourists visit Rostov as part of a tour to a more major city, usually Moscow because of the proximity to Rostov. Tours are generally available from Moscow to Rostov and other towns within the Golden Ring. More information about the particular tourist destinations within Rostov is available from most travel agent services and touring companies operating in the area.

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