About 450km northeast of Moscow, Vologda is a pleasant provincial city with a high concentration of churches and monasteries, many lovely parks and wide avenues, and a low-rise city centre with a good number of 18th- and 19th-century wooden houses. The tranquillity in summer is disturbed only by Vologda's large, but fortunately slow and clumsy, mosquitoes.
Having taken Moscow's side against all comers seemingly from its inception, Vologda was rewarded by Ivan the Terrible, who deemed the quaint city perhaps worthy of his living there (Vologdians are steadfast in their belief that the city was a contender for Russian capital), and a perfect site for a grand cathedral.
Up to the 17th century Vologda was an important centre of industry, commerce and arts - Vologda lace is still a coveted luxury item - but with the development of Arkhangelsk and then St Petersburg, Vologda was pushed into the background. At the start of the 20th century, many political undesirables (like Josef Stalin and religious philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev) were exiled here. And, for a few months in 1918, Vologda became the diplomatic capital of Russia.
Last updated: Feb 17, 2009