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The town of Alexandrov, situated in a scenic locality not far from Moscow,
is noted for its remarkably unique history.
Its first mention dates back to 1513. That year Grand Duke Vastly III of Moscow
established a country residence for himself in the village of Novaya, or Alexandrovskaya
Sloboda. A 16th century manuscript informs us about «building of the Church
of the Intercession of the Virgin in the New village of Alexandrovskoye; and
the Grand Duke entered the palace.» By the order of Vasily III the finest Russian
and Italian architects built a splendid palatial ensemble in Alexandrovskaya
Sloboda, which was not inferior in beauty, size or grandeur to any of the most
luxurious West European royal out-of-town residences.
The gloomiest, the most tragic and yet the most brilliant chapter in the of
Alexandrovskaya Sloboda is associated with the name of the first Russian czar
Ivan IV, known as the Terrible. During his reign this royal country residence
was elevated to the status of the national capital. Having moved to Alexandrovskaya
Sloboda in 1564 as a result of a sharp conflict with his retinue, the Russian
czar had been staing in it for nearly 20 years. It was from here that he ruled
the country and mounted sanguinary campaigns against the cities of Tver and
Novgorod the Great it was here that he received ambassadors from Denmark, Sweden,
England and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania; it was here that he carried out executions
and prayed to God for forgiveness of his sins; and it was here that he staged
bride shows when he was looking for a wife. The ancient land of Alexandrovskaya
Sloboda keeps quite a few mysteries and secrets of the Russian state. Little
is known from history about the tragedy that happened here in November 1581
when the czar in a fit of rage killed his favourite elder son and heir with
a blow of his staff. The work of the local print shop and the royal manuscript
shop and the completion of the Illuminated Codex of Chronicles are linked with
what is perhaps the most mysterious legend — the legend of an exceedingly rich
book depository, famous Ivan the Terrible's library.
In the early IT* century Alexandrovskaya Sloboda twice became the site of
battles against foreign invaders. In those terrible years the abandoned palaces
and churches were in part damaged by fire and partly destroyed. The citadel
suffered the greatest destruction. After the liberation of the country from
foreign invaders the of the Romanovs took care of the old royal estate. The
«royal palatial building», now intended to be used as a stopping place during
the czar's trips to monasteries, began to be restored. Later on, in 1651, a
group of nuns came to settle here next to the ruins of the one-time magnificent
royal residence. Subsequently they founded the Orthodox Convent of the Dormition.
It was here that Czarevna Marfa, the sister of Peter the Great whom he had suspected
of treason, was held in confinement. In later years his daughter, the future
Empress Elizabeth Petrovna, lived under surveillance in Alexandrovskaya Sloboda.
In the late 18th century, when the Vladimir Gubernia (Province) was established,
Alexandrovskaya Sloboda was renamed Alexandrov and given the status of a district
town. In 1791, the town was granted a coat — of — arms of its own. It showed
a vice and two anvils. In the royal ukase to this effect it was specifically
noted that Alexandrovskaya Sloboda had long been famous for its blacksmiths.
The old town of Alexandrov is one of the cultural and tourist centers making
up what is known as the Russia's Golden Ring. There are quite a few monuments
of history and archit ecture dating from the past that have survived in the
town. The Alexandrov Kremlin (Citadel) is particularly noted among them for
its beauty, grandeur and charm. The architectural ensemble of the ancient Alexandrovskaya
Sloboda is a rare medieval palatial complex where the layout and unique structures
used as a part of the royal residence of Grand Duke Vassily III of Moscow and
Czar Ivan IV the Terrible of All Russia have been preserved. Silhouettes of
its monuments such as the Trinity Cathedral, the Church of the Intercession,
the Church of the Dormition, and the Bell-Tower Church of the Crucifixion are
absolutely inimitable. The Alexandrovskaya Sloboda Museum- Reserve and an Orthodox
convent are located on the Kremlin grounds. The museum collections that can
be seen here are an integral part of the treasures of the Russian national culture.
Rare Russian icons painted by provincial and metropolitan masters will rivet
your attention; manuscript and early printed books will amaze you with their
splendid decoration; jewelry, precious golden and silver laces and pearl embroidery
will win your admiration with their graceful shapes and elegant proportions,
as well as the exquisite artistic taste displayed by their makers.
A visit to Alexandrovskaya Sloboda is truly an unforgettable experience. Here
one has an opportunity to see a lot, feel a lot and come to understand a lot
of things. Inside the whitestone citadel wall time seems to have obliterated
the boundaries between centuries. And the stone structures themselves, as well
as paintings and the sound of bell-ringing bring back to life quite a few vivid
episodes from the history of great Russia.