The island town of Sziyazhsk is that same fairy-tale island of Buyan, that magical land which Pushkin wrote about in his story of Prince Gvidon. Everything on the island simply breathes history. People come here to enjoy the truly mythical atmosphere, learn more about history and admire the local architecture.
Sviyazhsk is located at a distance of 30 km from Kazan. The island’s area is 64.37 hectares. 242 people live there. On its territory there are 37 objects of cultural heritage, 19 of them of national importance, and 18 – of Tatarstan standing.
On a small island surrounded by a white-stone wall there are Orthodox domes pointing directly skywards. If you visit the Ioanno-Predtechensky (John the Precursor) Nunnery, it is almost as if you travel in time to the 16th century. The Trinity Cathedral is situated here, built in the winter of 1550 from the wood of Uglich forests. Warriors of Prince Serebryany-Obolensky constructed it from half-arshin larch logs in just 1 day.
In a short period of time the Nikolskaya (St. Nicholas) Church (1556) and the Uspensky (Dormition) Cathedral (1560) were erected on the island. And by the way, one of the participants of the construction was the very Postnik Yakovlev (Barma), the creator of St. Basil’s Cathedral on Red Square in Moscow and of the Kazan Kremlin. Today the island town of Sviyazhsk is a historic, architectural and natural landmark.
The group of buildings of the Svyato-Uspensky (Holy Dormition) Monastery is particularly popular with tourists, as well as one of the largest churches of Sviyazhsk, the Cathedral of the Mother of God “Joy of All Mourners”, the Sergiyevskaya (St. Sergius) Church with an ancient icon of Sergius of Radonezh, the refurbished Trinity Church and the only remaining suburban Equal-to-the-Apostles St. Konstantin and Yelena Church.
It is also possible to see how the Virgin’s Head cannon stands on guard of Sviyazhsk’s History Museum. You can even book a room at the real merchant Kamenev’s house in this wonderful island town. Just a few steps away from the guesthouse lies a historical reconstruction complex called Lenivy Torzhok (Lazy Market). At the stable yard you can both saddle up a proud steed and participate in an exciting interactive ethnic show called Remeslennaya Sloboda” (The Trade Suburb). Every tourist can try on a role of a medieval craftsman and create a souvenir with their own hands. Another possibility is to stand in the shoes of a real boyar (Russian nobility), just like in a fairy-tale. This involves going on a ride in a carriage around the whole island and trying some traditional Russian cuisine in the tavern afterwards.
This is not the only pleasure on the island for gourmet food lovers either. Above all else there are events like Sviyazhsk Maslenitsa (Pancake Week) or the Sviyazhsk Ukha (Fish Soup) festival. People with a fondness for romantic things are not forgotten either. Every year the time here turns backwards and knights with their fair ladies arrive in Sviyazhsk from all over the country to participate in a real medieval joust.
Silhouettes of the six remaining churches can be seen from ships passing by down the Volga. There are no transportation facilities, no industry and no modern buildings on the island. The street names have not been changed since the days of old: Uspenskaya, Troitskaya, Nikolskaya, as well as Rozhdestvenskaya square. Over the last years the island town of Sviyazhsk turned into an open-air museum. Even the local citizens move into new houses, specifically built according to the construction projects from the period of merchants’ heyday. Every church and merchant house in Sviyazhsk has its own patron from important persons of Tatarstan.
On May 24th, 1551 Sviyazhsk was founded by Ivan the Terrible himself, and it was supposed to be a strong fortress second to none in the world history. It was from here that he conquered Kazan.
The Sviyazhsk fortress was constructed on the Kruglaya mountain at the place where the Sviyaga river falls into the Volga. Its size surpassed that of the Pskov, Nizhniy Novgorod and even Moscow Kremlins. The wooden town with houses, churches and town walls, made of wood chopped down in the faraway Uglich forests, was delivered from the Upper Volga and erected in just 4 weeks. 75 thousand people were involved in its construction.
Motorships: from the Kazan River Port. Travel time: about two hours.
Cars: drive along the М7 highway in the direction of Moscow, reach the Isakovo village and turn to Sviyazhsk at the road sign. Travel time: less than one hour.