A short guide to the city of Gagarin in English

The City Center. Monument to the First Astronaut Yury Gagarin.
The City Center. Monument to the First Astronaut Yury Gagarin.

The city of Gagarin (the former Gzhatsk) lies 180 km west of Moscow, on the head Gzhat River, in the north-east of Smolensk Region. In its history the city was got into orbit of the important historical events three times - in Tsar Peter the First era, at the time of the 1812 Napoleon's campaign and in the season of World War II. But truly international fame came to Gzhatsk after the man's first mission in space. The first cosmonaut, citizen Yury Alekseevitch Gagarin was a bright, brisk plain lad. Gagarin Family moved to Gzhatsk from Klushino Village after the war and settled down in the transported wooden house, at street which nowadays named after the pioneer of the universe. Now here Gagarin memorial museum is open. On April, 23,1968, after the cosmonaut's tragical death, the city was renamed to Gagarin. On August, 30, 1974, the monument to Yury AJekseevitch Gagarin was unveiled at Central Square.


Our Lady's Icon Church and Tikhvin Icon of Our Lady Church

The city of Gzhatsk sprang at the beginning of the 18th Century. Its history is closely connected to St-Petersburg. Studying waterways for conveyances of grain and assorted merchandise to St.-Petersburg Peter the First paid attention to the Gzhat River being tributary of the Vazuza River flowing into the Volga. These rivers and complex of water channels opened important arteries of commerce to Baltic. A short time later, levees with stockhouses were built on the Gzhat. The official opening of Gzhatsk Quay took place on November, 11,1719. This date also is considered day of the city's foundation. The first boats loaded with grain ran for St.-Petersburgin 1721.


Blagoveshchensky Cathedral (1897-1900) on the Gzhat River.

Together with boatbuilding, blacksmithing was advanced here. Iron to numerous city smithies was delivered from Tula and Kaluga factories. Also Gzhatsk was famous for its tanning, linen and rope manufactories.

Since February, 1776 the city was included in Smolensk Province. On November, 16, 1779 Empress Catherine IPs government ratified the development plan of Gzhatsk. Ordered construction came in the stead of chaotic buildings - widening and straightening of streets, division of the city into two parts: the center - for location of firms, state administrative structures and noblemen and merchants' houses; the outskirts with wooden buildings for poor social classes.


Kazanskaya Church (1734-1737).

In 1780, Gzhatsk received its emblem according to the decree signed by the Empress Catherine the Great. Trie emblem is a barge loaded with grain against the silver ground.

After transformation of Gzhatsk into a chief town of the district its cloth factories and brick-making plants quickly started to develop, every Friday the tenders were held.

Annually, at the beginning of July, the multi-day Kazanskaya trade-fair was arranged, Moscow, Smolensk, Rzhev, Dorogobuzh, Kaluga, Vladimir merchants sold there.


Chapel to memory of soldiers.

During the 1812 Napoleon's campaign the damage done to Gzhatsk was extensive. Right after coming of the French, the development of fierce partisan warfare in the district did not give to aggressors the least chance of win. Vasilisa Kozhina, Ermolay Chet-vertakov, Ignat Nikitin, Stepan Ere-menko, Feodor Potapov's and others brigades operated. In flight Napoleon ordered to reduce the city to ashes, only 87 buildings survived the fire. Restoration was slow, population increasing but slightly. The stone construction absolutely stopped.


In this building М. Kutuzov stopped on August, 29, 1812 - Mayor S. Tserevitinov'sformer house, nowadays - Children and youth Activities Centre.

Gzhatsk levees existed a hundred and fifty years. Their importance fell sharply after opening the Nikolaevs-kaya Railway in 1851. Towards the end of the 19th Century a quay requirement disappeared completely. Yet the railway construction gave a new stimulus for the city evolution. The flax became the main object of wholesale trade of Gzhatsk. It successfully gathered both for export and for Russian textile mills.

Also some of the mechanical arts were prevalent among peasants. There were carpenters, masons, stove-setters, potters, sawyers, wool-makers, curriers and colliers. Peasants hired out as boatbuilders and wood-cutters, left for different job to Moscow and St.-Petersburg.


The Gagarins Memorial Home in Klushino Village.

Many homecrafts were advanced. With the help of low-end technology the citizens-handicraftsmen made tne consumer goods mostly necessary in farms. The work went on for the local market mainly. The woodworking was high on the list of homecrafts. 25 handicraftsmen were engaged in wooden-utensil making. The others made wheels, joineries, trunks and ratchets to clear the flax-seed Moreover the district was famous for its sheepskin manufacture and currying.


Gagarin Street. The Gagarin School-days Memorial Home.

At the close of the 19th Century Gzhatsk had six educational institutions, including a female gymnasium, man's specialized school and some parochial schools attached to local churches. The city had a library and reading-room, small theater and club for entertainments.


Y. Gagarin Memorial Museum. The Cosmonaut's Home

By the beginning of the 20th Century Gzhatsk was small city. It numbered about 9,000 citizens. In 1910, it had 872 residential buildings, 68 of whom was bricking up. Therewas no electricity, city streets were illuminated with kerosene lamps. Two mechanical factories were working; they made ploughs, scales and so on... As well Gzhatsk disposed of one brewery, a few tanneries and two brick-making plants too.


Y. Gagarin's «Volga».

Unfortunately, the Gzhatsk District did not avoid World War I. Many families lost husbands and sons or received invalids instead. Authorities imposed heightened deliveries of bread, meat, horses and fodder on the city peasants.

Series of the important actions were carried out after an establishment of the Soviet power. The district exchequer was nationalized; the bourgeoisie were imposed taxes. A creation of the Soviet law-court, revolutionary tribunal and investigatory powers occurred. For suppression of profiteering and normalization of provisioning of citizens the local Soviets registered stocks of raw materials, cloths, foodstuffs. The district administration and Municipal duma were gone. All concentration of power was in the hands of the soldier's, working and peasant deputies' Soviets. The trade union organization came into service. The unemployed were registered by the local labour exchange.


Memorial Home of Y.Gagagrin's Parents (1961).

In the early twenties the city electric power station put intoopera-tion as well as new cultural and public-service institutions and theater were opened.

On June 22nd, 1941 the Great Patriotic War broke out. It brought much disaster and destruction to the people of Gzhatsk, as it did to all of Russia. For almost two years - from October 1941 to March 1943, the city was under the Nazis occupation. All this time the city beared the brunt of the fascist regime. Two prisoner-of-war camps were situated in Gzhatsk, more than twelve thousand citizens were taken into custody and sent to Germany for hard labour. In the course of extended battles the city suffered vastly. Just as Stalingrad, Smolensk, and Minsk lay in ruins, Gzhatsk too found a similar fate with having less than five percent of its buildings intact. But as in the days of old, any mortal enemy could not break the Russian people's spirit and volition. For ten years after victory was achieved, Gzhatsk healed its wounds inflicted by the Nazis.


Bust of the First Astronaut Yury Gagarin.


Monument to Yury Gagarin's mother Anna Gagarina.

By 1951,12 industrial enterprises were restored including a flax-scutching mill and cheese-making plant In the streets of Gzhatsk tens dwelling and public brick buildings were constructed.
Towards the end of the 19th Century many old temples were reconstructed, among them the Kazanskaya, Skorbyashenskaya (1753), Tikhvinskaya (1841), Voznesenskaya (1791) Churches, the Blagoveshenky Cathedral (1900) and ecclesiastical benefice.


Building of musical school and theatre.

Small, but precious - this would describe Gagarin completely. Being a small provincial town it managed to preserve something that some of its bigger sisters couldn't even dream. One of first places of the citizen's cultural life the Gagarin Memorial Museum is taking. This association is one of the largest museums in Smolensk Region. Its expositions tell us about a history of the Gzhatsk land, Yury Gagarin's life and work, about a history of preparation and realization of the first space travel as well as acquaint us with works of painters, sculptors, graphic artists, dedicated to Gzhatsk, space, economy of the area Also we can see personal belongings of the first cosmonaut.


Monument to Baku Commissar F Solntsev in the City Park.

In the last three years the city became an attractive investment area. The total investment laid-down in its development exceeded EUR300 million. Annually thousands tourists are visiting Gagarin City. Citizens hospitably welcome the guests. The rich historical museum, art gallery, architectural monuments of the 18th and 19th centuries, ecologically pure zones for boating, tourism, hunting, fishing - here only few values of Gagarin land!


Railway Station in Gagarin City.