Veliki Ustyug is an administrative center of the Veliki Ustyug municipality. It is located 450 km to the north-west off Vologda on the northern bank of the Sukhona River. The city population – 32 thousand people. The city was founded in 1147.
The first settlement – Gleden – was founded here in the XII century by Vsevolod, Grand Duke of Vladimir, on a high hill at the junction of two rivers – the Sukhona and the Yug – 4 km off the present city location. By the legend, because of the changing stream, the Sukhona River washed away the right bank of the river where Gleden was situated. That’s why even in the XII century the tradespeople moved to the left bank of the Sukhona River and founded a new settlement – Ustyug.
For some centuries Ustyug and Gleden developed simultaneously. In the first half of the XV century Gleden took part in the feudal wars between Moscow and Zvenigorod princes. In 1438 Gleden was completely ruined. After that time the city wasn’t restored. Part of the inhabitants moved to Veliki Ustyug, part – to the village Morozovitsa known since 1440. In the memory to the city the Trinity-Gleden monastery was founded in the XII century.
The first reliable information about Ustyug dated back to 1212 when Mikhailo-Arkhangelsky monastery was founded. At the end of the XIV century Ustyug became a part of Moscow princedom. At the 2nd half of the XV century Ustyug played a big role in gathering all northern lands under Moscow rule.
In the middle of the XVI century Ustyug stopped being an outlying fortification and lost its military importance. Due to its favorable geographical position and opening of the trade route along the Sukhona and Northern Dvina Rivers to the White Sea the city continued developing as a trade center. Ustyug became the main fur-skin market in the country. The growth of trade gave an impulse to the development of cottage crafts and art crafts. In the XVI century the trade importance of Ustyug increased so much that Ivan IV included it in the list of oprichnina cities (special administrative élite under the tsar). During these times it received the name Veliki (Great).
In XVI-XVIII centuries Ustyug rich merchants founded and decorated many churches, built stone houses. Many of them still remain.
Cathedral Court – the main temple ensemble of Veliki Ustyug – includes Assumption Cathedral with a belfry of 1652-1663, cathedral of St.Procopius of 1668, cathedral of John Ustyuzhskiy of XVII-XIX centuries, Bishop House of XVIII century, a number of churches and household structures.
Mikhailo-Arkhangelsky monastery is the second by importance architectural ensemble in the city; its main stone buildings were built in the 2nd half of the XVII century.
Ascension church of 1648 is the earliest remained monument of Ustyug stone architecture. It is one of the most impressive temples of Veliki Ustyug.
Dymkovskaya Sloboda is a church ensemble of the XVIII century located on the opposite, from the Cathedral Church, bank of the Sukhona River.
Veliki Ustyug is a homeland of the outstanding navigators and land explorers. Enterprising Ustyug people were first who explored Siberia from the Urals to the Pacific Ocean and gave the impulse to geographical discoveries by Russian explores in the Eastern Siberia and further.
In 1648 Semyon Dezhnyov, Ustyug inhabitant, was the first who proved an existence of a strait between Asia and America, described the Chukotka in detail, founded the Anadyr’ stockaded town. In 1649 Erophei Khabarov, one more Ustyug inhabitant, laid the shortest way from Yakutsk to Amur. In 1697 Vladimir Atlasov opened and described Kamchatka and the Kuril Islands promoting the intensive exploration of the banks and islands of the Pacific Ocean. In 1745 Mikhail Nevodchikov explored the Aleut Islands, in 1748 Afanasiy Bakhov opened the northern banks of America, and in 1764 merchant Vassily Shilov charted the Aleut Islands.
In the XVIII century, because of the replacement of the trade routes, Veliki Ustyug as many other cities lost its trade and transport importance. As a result the administrative status of the city also changed.
Since 1780 Veliki Ustyug became a part of Vologda province. In the XIX century it became a district city of the Vologda province.
In XVII century a famous Russian handicraft – silver niello – was founded in Veliki Ustyug (today «Severnaya chern» company still produces ornamental silver jewelry).
In the second half of the XIX – beginning of the XX century the Ustyug merchants opened a number of industrial companies, which products were of great demand – delicate linen from the best grades of the local flax, flax oil, drying oil, glued veneer, delicious beer and lemonade.
Veliki Ustyug is among Russian cities with valuable historical heritage. The historical appearance of the city forms a harmonic combination of ancient stone churches and urban manors. There are 150 monuments of cultural heritage.
The monuments of Veliki Ustyug attract tourists. The program «Veliki Ustyug – Ded Moroz Homeland» that is developed since 1998 promotes tourism.