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Founded by Yury Dolgoruky in 1152, Kostroma suffered at the hands of nomadic raiders in 1238. The northern outpost was rebuilt, and served as a refuge for various grand princes throughout the 14th century.

During the Time of Troubles (1605-13), Kostroma was a centre of Russian resistance against the Poles and Cossacks. Young boyar Mikhail Romanov was in exile at the local Monastery of St Ipaty when he was elected tsar.