City of Military Glory: Sights of Rzhev
Rzhev is an ancient city in the Tver region. Located 200 km from the headwaters of the Volga, it is the first city along the beautiful river. Known for the bloody and protracted battles that lasted more than a year in the area of the Rzhevsky bulge during the Great Patriotic War. In 2007, by decree of the President of the Russian Federation V.V. Putin Rzhev was awarded the title of «City of Military Glory.» In 2016, 60 thousand people lived in the city.
The Story of Rzhev
The first mention of the city dates back to the 12th century, although there is reason to believe that it arose a century earlier. Due to its favorable geographical location for trade, of strategic importance, the Rzhev lands were a «tidbit» for many Russian princes and repeatedly passed from hand to hand. In the Middle Ages, the city belonged to Smolensk, Galitsky, Toropetsky, Moscow, Lithuanian, Serpukhov, Tver princedoms. Finally, in 1521, Rzhev finally departed for Moscow.
For a long time, Rzhev was of great importance as a fortress on the western outskirts of the Russian lands. In the period of the Troubles, Polish, impostors and Swedes passed through the city.
With the expansion of the lands of Muscovy, Rzhev gradually loses its strategic importance, but acquires economic importance. The city is located at the crossroads of trade routes, and the main trade in Rzhev is izvozny. The city is being built up, getting richer, hundreds of caravans pass through it. By the beginning of the 18th century, Rzhev was one of the largest trade and industrial centers of Russia.
Interesting fact: Rzhev is divided into two parts by the Volga, and since the times of the church split, two religious centers have been formed on different banks of the river. Old Believers merchants disposed on the right, followers of Nikon’s reforms on the left.
The most tragic pages of the history of Rzhev are connected with the years of the Great Patriotic War. During the 17 months of occupation, the city was almost completely destroyed, and of the 20,000 inhabitants, about 300 people survived. The total loss of the Red Army on the Rzhevsky arc is amazing — about 2 million people. Most of the monuments and steles of the city were erected in honor of the heroes who fell in these bloody battles.
Interesting fact: in 2016, Rzhev celebrated its 800th anniversary.
Sights of Rzhev
The city was badly damaged during the Great Patriotic War. Only about 10% of the buildings survived, and after the war the city was built almost anew. Meanwhile, there is something to see in Rzhev, and, although the main sights of the city are connected with military themes, there are other significant monuments in it.
An interesting fact: Prince Vladimir Andreevich Serpukhovskaya, associate of Dmitry Donskoy, and his wife Agrippina are considered to be the patrons of the city.
Temples of Rzhev
Once there were many Orthodox and Old Believer churches in Rzhev. Some of them were restored and reopened for worship:
- The Cathedral Church of the Icon of the Mother of God of Okovets was built on the site of a 16th century wooden church. The stone white temple is made in the style of classicism, with porticoes like those of ancient temples. During the war, the church suffered a little, by the year 2000 it was completely restored. In 2005, the Palekh icon-painting workshop painted the facade of the temple. In 1993, the cathedral was transferred to the ROC;
- The Ascension Church was built in 1856 in the Russian-Byzantine style. In the current church there are shrines: icons of Prince Vladimir, the martyr Agrippina, the righteous Pelageya Rzhevskaya. Every year from the temple goes a pilgrimage to Jerusalem;
- The Holy Protection Church is a brick Old Believer church. It was built at the beginning of the 20th century. In early March 1943, the occupants leaving the city mined the church and locked in it the last surviving citizens. March 3, Soviet intelligence officers released prisoners. Since then, this day is considered the day of liberation of Rzhev. Interesting fact: this is the only temple in the city that has never been closed. In addition, the iconostasis of 1908 was fully preserved in the church;
- the bell tower of the Church of the Trinity — the stone long-bell tower, built in 1910 to the church that has not yet been preserved;
- Church of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia. Beautiful brick modern temple in the Russian style. Laid in 1995, services began in 2004;
- The Church of Varvara is a modern timbered church built in 2004. Reminds old Russian wooden temples;
- Alexander Nevsky’s chapel is set up in a memorial cemetery, not far from the place where one of the bloodiest battles in world history took place.
Monuments of military glory of Rzhev
Traces about the war that had died down are present in Rzhev everywhere: marks on buildings and obelisks, in the redrawn appearance of the city. It was also captured in numerous monuments.
The main sights of Rzhev are the echo of the past war:
- a memorial complex consisting of military cemeteries of Soviet and German soldiers, the chapel of Alexander Nevsky;
- Alley of Heroes of the Soviet Union, participants of the Battle of Rzhev. It starts from the obelisk at the grave of the military commissar V.V. Gratsinsky and should be up to the monument with anti-tank gun ZIS-2 and a viewing platform with a wonderful view of the city and the Volga. If you go further along the pedestrian bridge with the eternal locks of the newlyweds, you can get to the Eternal Flame and the obelisk to the heroes of World War II;
- obelisk to the liberators of Rzhev on the mound of Glory. The height of the structure is 25 meters, it was established in 1963. The grave of the unknown soldier and the Eternal Flame are located near the obelisk;
- pedestal with a T-34 tank on Peace Square. Erected in 1973 in honor of the Soviet tankmen who liberated Rzhev;
- Monument «Locomotive», installed in 1973 in memory of the railway workers who gave their lives during the war;
- The stele “City of Military Glory” was erected in 2010 in memory of assigning this title to the city.
Among the restored or newly built buildings there are a number of very interesting and remarkable:
- The building of the Rzhev-II railway station is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city, built in 1952;
- intercity bus station, made in the early 1990s in the style of constructivism;
- 18th century prison stone castle;
- merchant mansions and public buildings of the late XIX — early XX century on Bolshaya Spasskaya Street;
- a monument to the revolutionary delegates of the II All-Russian Congress of Soviets in one of the most beautiful squares of the city — Revolution Square. The national name of the monument is “Three Heads”;
- hut-museum «Kalininsky front. August 1943. A small museum in the house where Stalin stayed during a trip to Rzhev in the summer of 1943. An interesting fact: a visit to Rzhev by Stalin is his only trip to the battlefield for the whole war;
- a large fountain in Revolution Square;
- monument V.V. Gratsinsky — a strict obelisk of black marble, erected at the grave of the first Commissar of Rzhev, who died in 1918;
- bust of Major General A.N. Seslavin, hero of the Patriotic War of 1812;
- a memorial complex to fallen soldiers-internationalists and participants in other local conflicts;
- bust of the legendary test pilot A.A. Pokryshkinu.
One of the most important museums of the city is the Rzhevsk Museum of Local Lore. In 2016, he turned 100 years old. The museum exhibits tell about the history of the city, the daily life of the citizens of Rzhevitsky in past centuries, the military past of the Rzhevsky region. The original museum collection was founded by the archaeological and ethnographic collection of the Moscow scholar M.S. Vorobyov and local collectors.
By the 60th anniversary of the Victory, an impressive exposition “The Battle of Rzhev 1942-1943” was deployed in the museum, touchingly and confidentially telling about the dramatic fate of the city, which turned out to be on the front line. For a long time, the official historiography did not recognize the Battle of Rzhev, the scale of the losses. Meanwhile, the battles near Rzhev became a symbol of a bloody massacre. The heroism of warriors is perpetuated in literature. It is enough to recall the piercing poems by A. Tvardovsky “I am killed under Rzhev”.
The exposition of aviation and rocket technology can be found at the Museum of the History of the Rzhevsky Air Defense Corps, and at the branch of the Central Museum of the October Railway — the history of the formation and development of the Russian and Rzhevsky railways.
Violent battles near Rzhev forever left their imprint on the history of the city, but did not break his spirit. Rzhevites honor the memory of fallen soldiers, partisans, underground fighters, but they do not live only in the past and do everything to turn Rzhev into a beautiful and flourishing city.