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Western European Russia

This ancient, Arcadian region showcases Mother Russia at her most fertile: Tolstoy, Turgenev, Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov and nothing less than the modern country itself were all born here. It’s a lofty legacy and nowhere does Western European Russia (Западно – Европейская Россия) let you forget it. The imposing kremlins, soaring cathedrals and cultural treasures of cities such as Veliky Novgorod, Pskov and Smolensk bear stunning testament to golden eras. Budding writers flock to the area’s wealth of literary estates – Staraya Russa, Spasskoe-Lutovinovo, Yasnaya Polyana and Pushkin’s ancestral home, Mikhailovskoe – with high hopes there’s something in the water; and character-filled smaller towns such as Yelets and Oryol are photogenic throwbacks to prerevolutionary Russia. Even the tiny, far-flung village of Stary Izborsk – a stone’s throw from the Estonian border – claims a distinguished heritage: it’s home to the oldest stone fortress in Russia.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Western European Russia.