Yuri Dolgoruky - The Founder of Moscow

If you're a little into history of Moscow then you've probably heard about Yuri Dolgoruky who is considered the founder of the Russian capital.

Yuri Dolgoruky statue on Tverskaya square. By Moscow Russia Insider's Guide.

Yury Dolgoruky statue on Tverskaya square.

Well, to be honest there were settlements in place of Moscow even before Yuri Dolgoruky was born. However, those were small and insignificant villages scattered across Moskva River, belonging to some boyar from Suzdal.

Yuri, on the other hand, was his boss - the Prince of Suzdal. During one of his "work trips", he ordered to execute the boyar over some mistake and took his lands. Later on, he founded a city of Moscow in that area.

During the times of Yuri Dolgoruky Moscow is first mentioned in historic documents in 1147 as the place of meeting between Yuri and his ally, some other prince. As you see, since the very beginning the history of Moscow was intertwined with the name of Dolgoruky.

By the way, Yuri founded many other large Russian cities, but Moscow became the most powerful one and eventually the capital of the country. However, back then it wasn't even beginning to gather political weight - Moscow was just too small and insignificant. During his life, Dolgoruky was mostly interested in Kiev that was the center of political and economic activity.

In fact, the only thing that Yuri did for Moscow was ordering to build a fortification in 1156. However, he wasn't even overseeing that, as he probably appointed his son Andrey Bogolubsky to do the job.

However, the history is not always reasonable, and Dolgoruky is still considered the founder of our city. Of course, he's got his own monument that sits on Tverskaya Square. Right in front of the statue there's Moscow townhall which is historic building by itself. Built in 1782, it's decorated with beautiful pillars. It was a residency of Moscow rulers even during the times of Tsars, so if you're going to see the monument to Yuri Dolgoruky, be sure to look out for that building as well.

Moscow townhall building in front of the statue of Yuri Dolgoruky. By Moscow Russia Insider's Guide.

Moscow townhall.

The history of monument is also interesting. It was erected during the Soviet times - in 1954 and caused an ambiguous reaction. Plus, it's surrounded by loads of urban legends.

Initially, it was decided to set up a statue in 1947, during Moscow's 800th anniversary. Stalin himself supervised the project, and in 1946, a competition among sculptors was announced. The legendary Vera Mukhina, author of Worker and Kolkhoz Woman monument also participated, but her sketch wasn't accepted.

Yuri Dolgoruky statue. By Moscow Russia Insider's Guide.

Now you can see what was accepted.

However, in 1947, only the foundation was laid out. Afterwards, years passed but nothing was done, probably because the resources were spent on other construction projects including the famous Seven Sisters.


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One of the legends says that Stalin was outraged with the fact that Yuri was sitting on a mare. He thought that Dolgoruky would look much more masculine riding a stallion. Naturally, the sketch was redrawn instantly. However, that was not the end of it. The same legend says that during the times of Khrushchev, he passed by the monument one day and didn't like the distinguished genitals of the horse. The next day, everything was reworked. :)

In general, Yuri Dolgoruky looks like Russian bogatyr (epic hero). He sits on a horse in helmet and armor, pointing to a place where the future Kremlin must be built. The shield in his other hand depicts St. George the Victorious - the ancient heraldic symbol of Moscow. What's interesting is the fact that nobody really knows how Yuri looked like, so when the monument was opened many people were disappointed with the detailed image of the legendary man.

St. George the Victorious relief on Moscow townhall. By Moscow Russia Insider's Guide.

Golden St. George the Victorious on the Moscow townhall.

By the way, the place where the monument sits also has history. Before the revolution, there was a monument to General Skobelev, the hero of Russian-Turkish War. After the revolution, it was demolished and replaced with Statue of Liberty obelisk. Before the war, it was demolished as well. Dolgoruky's monument also caused a lot of controversy, many people couldn't accept the statue of some prince standing on Sovetskaya Square (later renamed to Tverskaya). And naturally, Yuri Dolgoruky was neither a communist nor a Soviet hero.

In 1962, Nikita Khrushchev nearly moved the monument to some other place, but soon was "moved out" of the power himself, and the statue remained in its place.

The famous Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov was clearly sympathetic to his namesake, and the statue became an important part of all city's holidays. That was especially true for Moscow City Day that became popular after Perestroika. In addition, Tverskaya Square is often used for all kinds of political meetings.

Square with fountain behind the statue of Yuri Dolgoruky. By Moscow Russia Insider's Guide.

There is also a nice fountain behind the statue.

If the legends are true then there is no guarantee the monument won't be removed someday soon, so come take a look while you still have the opportunity! :)




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