5 favorite destinations in Russia as per American professor William Brumfield

The renowned U.S. expert in Russian architecture shares his favorites places for traveling.

Architectural historian and photographer William Brumfield turns 80. Most of his lifetime, he has been traveling across Russia and documenting Russian architecture. Brumfield visited many small and big cities in Russia and took more than 150,000 photos of important architectural sites across the country.

1. Vologda

Exploring the Russian North begins in the ancient city of Vologda, its soul and unofficial "capital", as well as a peer of Moscow. Vologda used to be an important transport hub for trade with Europe.

“Since my first visit in the Summer of 1995, Vologda has played a very important role in my work throughout the Russian North,” says Brumfield. 

“Vologda is a vibrant cultural center with remarkable architectural monuments and a well preserved historic center. Its St. Sophia Cathedral is an excellent example of 16th-century church architecture based on Dormition Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin,” Brumfield explains.   

Besides, he recommends not to miss the excellent outdoor museum of wooden architecture in Semyonkovo.  

2. Smolensk

Smolensk is one of the most ancient settlements in Russia (first mentioned in 862!), with a very rich history.  

“My work in the Smolensk area in 2006 and 2014 forms a major part of my vast photographic archive,” the professor boasts.

Although much was destroyed by war, the great Dormition Cathedral and the historic central district with its enormous walls has been beautifully restored.

Meanwhile, the Smolensk Fortress is now surrounded by parks, meadows and groves that create an attractive natural zone within easy reach from the downtown. 

3. Kolomna

The historical town of Kolomna is famous as the home of pastila (a traditional Russian fruit confectionery). Also, this is one of Russia's most picturesque historic cities, with a well-preserved central district. In addition to its churches and bell towers, Kolomna has historic houses from the 19th century.

“Kolomna and the surrounding area were visited by several of Russia's greatest writers, such as Fyodor Dostoevsky and Anna Akhmatova. My own visits occurred almost every year from the 1990s to the 2010s,” Brumfield notes.    

4. Yekaterinburg

This is the major metropolis of the Urals with an impressive skyline of tall, modern buildings.

“My first visit to the area occurred in late Summer 1999. A return trip to Yekaterinburg in the Spring of 2017 revealed the striking results of a recent building boom,” the professor says.       

“Although a relatively young city, it is famous for its avant-garde architecture, from the period of rapid industrialization during the Soviet period.” 

5. Khabarovsk

Founded only in 1858, Khabarovsk is the major administrative center of the Russian Far East.

“During my work in the region, I have always been impressed by its location above the merger of the Ussuri and Amur Rivers. Although damaged during the Russian Civil War, the original city plan has been well preserved with its rich display of 20th-century architecture,” says William Brumfield. 

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