Ustyug was founded in 1147 at a key river junction, making it an important transport and trade port in the days before railways. In the latter part of the 17th century, its importance was underlined with the ‘honour’ of being called ‘Veliky’ (great). Bypassed by the railway, it declined rapidly in the 19th century but, until the 1917 revolution, four monasteries and 27 churches still pricked its skies with spires. Most fell into disrepair during the Soviet period, or were used as warehouse. Restoration projects are ongoing.