After many press events that I attended in the past there was not a single press-tour. That changed in October this year when I went to survey several towns and villages in Ivanovo Region. I visited the city of Ivanovo in May 2011 for a conference, but most of the oblast’ remained undiscovered.
Our journey was kindly planned and paid for by the Department of Sport and Tourism of Ivanovo Region. A three-day press-tour started with a flying visit to the village of Pestovo from whence we went to the nearby town of Palekh, famous for its black lacquered boxes painted with a variety of scenes and subjects worthy of a proper art movement.
At Palekh we visited several local museums and a 17th c. church. The same evening we moved to Shuya where we were to spend the next day.
Shuya occupies a special place in Russian history and culture. It was the heritage seat of the Shuysky family who played an important part in Russia’s political life of 16-17th cc. One of them, Vassily Shuysky, even led the Russian state for a short period in the early 17th c., during the so-called Mutiny Time when Russia was practically invaded by Poland.
In 19th c. Shuya came to economic prominence as a centre of soap-making, harmonicas and accordions, and cloth manufacturing. But it was the poet Konstantin Balmont and the statesman Mikhail Frunze who now justly constitute the fame of Shuya. Both the poet and the statesman have museums in the town.
We also visited several cathedrals and churches, as well as a soap museum. The fate of such crafts as soap-making currently rests entirely in the hands on enthusiasts. As for churches, they all have rather different and peculiar stories. The Resurrection cathedral in the city centre was the starting point of attacks on churches under the Soviet rule, 7 people who were killed for protecting the cathedral later became the New Russian saints. The church was shut down during the USSR period. Meanwhile, Transfiguration church in Melnichnoe village remained open throughout the same period with a brief pause only during the Great Patriotic War when the church willfully offered its premises to sustain the civilian war effort.
From Shuya we migrated (by bus) to Semigorye village hotel on the bank of the Volga River. Eighteen years later after a visit to Yaroslavl this was my first encounter with the greatest Russian river. It was calm in the early morning drizzle. We went to Kineshma, the last stop of our journey where again we visited the Holy Trinity and Dormition Cathedral, Alexander Ostrovsky Drama Theatre, the Valenki (the famous Russian felt boots) Museum, and the local art gallery that, however, boasts some fine examples of European and Russian art.
As I was writing this, I realized that I forgot a great deal of things and stops. The vodka museum in Shuya where, contrary to its name, you can buy very tasty balsams and spirits. The icon workshop, the linen store, the arts and crafts Orange Cat store, and so much more.
I gave a short interview to the local paper in Shuya where I said exactly what I felt at the moment. There is so much potential in all those places in Russia, and to visit them would be a fantastic experience. Suddenly certain Russian peculiarities become apparent but also more understandable. And it would be a great honour to me to help people discover this vast, beautiful, mysterious country.