Founded in 1593, flood-prone Starocherkassk was the Don Cossack capital until the early 18th century. Once a fortified town of 20,000, it’s now a farming village with a main street restored to near-19th-century appearance.
Allegedly, Peter the Great met a drunken Cossack here sitting on a barrel, wearing only a rifle. This image of a soldier who’d sooner lose his clothes than his gun so impressed the tsar that he commissioned the scene as the Don Cossack army seal.
There are several tourist attractions here, but the real appeal is the town’s mellow, old-Russia feel. The village hosts boisterous Cossack fairs, with much singing, dancing, horse riding and merrymaking, on the last Sunday of the month from May to September. There are also annual Maslenitsa celebrations here, with pancakes and traditional games galore, when village residents both prepare for both the Great Lent fast and greet the coming spring.