smolensk - смоленск

Smolensk is one of the oldest Russian cities. According to the chronicles it already existed in 863. By the 12th century Smolensk was one of the strongest principalities in Eastern Europe. Due to permanent rivalry between Poles, Russians and Lithuanians the city was sieged, burnt, looted, changed hands and flags many times in Middle Ages. In 1812 there was a big battle between the Russian and Napoleon armies outside Smolensk. In the course of WWII, the city was almost completely destroyed.

The 17th century five-domed Assumption Cathedral dominates the city's skyline.

A few more churches and pieces of the city wall can be seen around. The Saint George Church.

The Trinity Monastery.

The city walls were built between 1596 and 1602. Originally they had 38 towers. Only 17 towers survived the test and stress of time and heavy battles.

The statue of Feodor Kon the architect of the city walls and towers.

The 1812 battle with the invading Napoleon army is commemorated by a monument erected in 1912.

Next to it is a bust of field marshal Mikhail Kutuzov the commander-in-chief of the Russian army in 1812-13.

The WWII memorial with the eternal flame is also located at the city wall.

Capsules with soil taken from battle fields of Leningrad and Stalingrad.

The central square with ever present Lenin.

The founder of Russian classical music Mikhail Glinka was born and grew up near Smolensk. His statue stands in the Glinka Garden right across the concert hall where he used to perform his musical works.

Some streetscapes of late afternoon Smolensk.

Polish presidential plane crash

Smolensk hit the news headlines on April 10, 2010 when the Polish presidential plane crashed on the approach to Smolensk Severny airport killing Polish President Lech Kaczynski and dozens of other senior Polish figures. The pilots disregarded the warning of thick fog and advice given by the air traffic controller to go to the back up airfield probably being pushed by some high-ranking passengers to land in Severny. The crash site is within the city limits. Drive north by Kutuzov street. Park the car somewhere near the fire station at Kutuzov Street 15 and walk the last 400 meters until you see a small humble memorial.

SMOLENSK oblast - СМОЛЕНСКая область

katyn - катынь

Katyn is a village about 20 km west of Smolensk. Located in the forest next to the village right along the Vitebsk highway is a memorial for Polish officers shot by the Stalin regime in 1940 as well as Soviet prisoners of war and Smolensk civilians shot by Germans in 1941-43. The Polish officers were taken prisoner in 1939 after the Soviet Union occupied eastern areas of Poland. In April 2010 the above mentioned ill-fated Polish delegation was heading for Katyn to mark the 70th anniversary of the tragic events. According to the declassified documents 21,857 Polish officers were executed. 4,415 of them in Katyn. Also about 8,000 Soviet citizens were killed here.

The church stands next to the entrance to the memorial.

The monument to Soviet civilians and prisoners of war executed in Katyn.

gagarin - гагарин

The first man in space Yuri Gagarin was born in Smolensk oblast. In the village of Klushino about 250 km east of Smolensk. If interested, you can take a detour on the way from or to Moscow. First you arrive at the town of Gagarin former Gzhatsk which was renamed Gagarin after the first successful manned space flight. Klushino is about 20 km north of Gagarin.

The house where the Gagarins lived. Yuri was born in 1934 and the family moved to Gzhatsk in 1945.

October 12, 1941 Klushino was occupied by the Germans. The Gagarins were evicted. Yuri's father built a dugout behind the house where the family lived till April 1943.

The Gagarins' house in former Gzhatsk nowadays Gagarin.

The statue of Yuri's mother sitting on a bench.

Yuri Gagarin's car is also on display. GAZ-21 Volga.

khmelita - хмелита

The village of Khmelita about 200 km east of Smolensk. If interested , here you can visit a nicely restored 18th century mansion. Visitors are encouraged to take a stroll across the garden in the shade of 250-year old oak trees.