Dmitrov is just 65 kilometers north of Moscow on the suburban train. The train emerges from the city into open fields surrounded by green forests. Small streams meander between Klin-Dmitrov hills that rise up along both sides of the road. The fields stretch out as far as the horizon. The epic enormity of the landscape reminds one of the town's ancient history.
Dmitrov is one of the oldest cities in Russia. It was formed on the banks of the Yakhroma river by Prince Yuri Dolgorukii in 1154, just seven years after Moscow was founded. The town was named in honor of the son of Yuri Dolgoruki, whose second name was Dmitri. Dmitrov finally entered the Moscow county in the 16th century, after a lengthy internal struggle among its princes. The town's development during the 14th through 17th century was helped to a large extent by its geographical position on the crossing of the roads from the center of the country to the north, with rivers leading to Lake Ladoga. At the end of the 17th century, however, the main trade route from Moscow to the north moved and started going through Yaroslavl, Vologda, Totma and Velikii Ustyug.
As Dmitrov was set aside from that, it lost its former importance, but in the middle of the 18th century, it again found itself in the middle of a trade route between Moscow and the new capital, St. Petersburg.
In 1781, Dmitrov acquired the status of a regional center and a new development plan was slated.
The fate of Dmitrov in the 20th century was tragic. In the 1930s, there was an infamous prison camp here, described by Solzhenitsyn in Gulag Archipelago' Dmitlag. The prisoners there built a new Moscow-Volga canal, splitting the very heart of the ancient town its historical part.
Hundreds of thousands of anonymous canal builders remained lying at the bottom in mass graves. In the fall of 1941, the city walls were witness to fierce fighting against German troops heading for Moscow. It was here that the Russian troops' victory began. The last quarter of the 20th century also left its mark on the city. Coming out of the station, you will find yourself in the middle typically industrial buildings. High-rise residential blocks surround the town from every direction. An unfortunate tourist may not even notice the basic sights.
But the ancient heart of the town, albeit hidden by the high-rises, has remained intact. Stary Dmitrov is just ten minutes walk from the station.
The 12th century earthen ramparts are visible from afar. Their preservation is in itself unique in Russia the town is set in an area full of ditches rather than high up like most Russian towns. The ramparts are around 13 meters high. The wooden walls and towers have not been preserved. We know, however, that there were eight such towers, and two entrances led into the Kremlin one from northeast, i.e. from the Yarkhroma river side, and from the opposite side, leading to the Boris and Gleb monastery which has been preserved.
When passing the ramparts, you enter the Kremlin. Its most remarkable edifice is the Assumption Cathedral built in 1523. An unknown architect made it so elegant and proportional that it sticks out from the row of similar buildings of that time. In its style of architecture, the cathedral is close to the Moscow Kremlin's Arkhangelsk Cathedral, but is richer in Russian national features, although it is decorated more modestly. The surrounding galleries and the belfry were built later. Inside, there is a unique icon set featuring exquisite carvings of the late 17th century. The icons are works of Russian famous icon painters Andrei Rublyov and Dionisi. In addition to being a functional church, where regular services are held, the cathedral accommodates the Dmitrov History and Regional Studies Museum founded by Russia's distinguished philosopher and anarchist Pyotr Kropotkin. The house where Kropotkin lived has been preserved. It is located not far from the Kremlin and has a memorial plaque on the wall. Russia's famous historian Mikhail Tikhomirov worked in the museum in the early 1920s. The museum boasts an excellent collection of archeological finds, a small gallery of 18th to 20th century paintings and the richest collection of chinaware production of the Dmitrov Chinaware Factory which was established in the 18th century. But the museum's most valuable asset is the collection of ancient icons. The icons belong to the church but museum's visitors are admitted to view them.