Sergiyev Posad

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Sergiyev Posad
Population: 111,179
Acting mayor: Vladimir Sleptsov
Main industries: Tourism, food production, machine building, instrument making, chemicals.
Interesting fact: Sergiyev Posad residents celebrate their City Day annually on Pentecost. The date varies depending on the Russian Orthodox calendar.
Sister cities: Sarov, Russia; Novy Afon, Abkhazia, Georgia; Gniezno, Poland; Sremski Karlovci, Serbia; Fulda, Germany; Vagharshapat, Armenia; Bari, Italy.
Helpful contacts: Sergei Pakhomov, head of the Sergiyev Posad municipal district (+7 496-551-51-00; sergiev-reg.ru); local TV-channel Radonezhye (+7 496-547-15-91; www.radoneje.tv).

SERGIYEV POSAD — The ancient town of Sergiyev Posad just outside Moscow is one of the pearls of the Golden Ring of historic towns surrounding the capital.

Located about 70 kilometers from Moscow, the town is dominated by the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Trinity-Sergius Lavra, founded by St. Sergius of Radonezh, one of the most venerated Russian saints.

Known as Zagorsk during the Soviet era, this town on the River Konchura was founded and grew up around the monastery, which has made Sergiyev Posad a place of pilgrimage for Orthodox Christians from all over the world, as well as for tourists entranced by the spectacular architecture.

The monastery's magnificent domed churches have seen generations of Russian rulers baptized there, while Peter the Great sought sanctuary from a bloody revolt inside the monastery's walls. The tsar Boris Godunov is buried within its confines, and it was here that Russia's most revered icon painter, Andrei Rublyov, created his renowned Trinity icon.

The Moscow princes became patrons of the monastery after St. Sergius, a 14th-century spiritual leader canonized in 1422, gave his blessing to Prince Dmitry of Moscow before the crucial Battle of Kulikovo in 1380, the first major Russian victory against the Mongol Tartars.

Sergiyev Posad is also famed for its rich tradition in the carving of wooden toys and crafts, including Russian nesting dolls, or matryoshkas.

Major Businesses

Zavod Zvezda (1 Tsentralnaya ulitsa; +7 496-549-12-21; www.zvezdasp.ru) is a producer of radio and electronic components.
Farmfirma Sotex (11 Poselok Belikovo, Sergiyev Posad district; +7 495-231-15-12; www.sotex.com) is one of Russia's top ten pharmaceutical companies.
Sergiyevo-Posadsky Myasokombinat (55 Derevnya Naugolnoe, Sergiyev Posad district; +7 495-995-19-03; spmk.ru) is a ham, sausages and smoked meat maker.
Ice Cream 2000 (212A Prospekt Krasnoj Armii; +7 495-786-34-57; icecream2000.ru) is an ice-cream producer.

Nowadays, the town's streets are populated by a mix of pilgrims, monks and tourists. Despite the spiritual atmosphere of this small town, Sergiyev Posad is one of the bigger stations on the Moscow region rail network and is an industrial center that employs both locals and Moscow residents, creating steady incomes here.

Along with a traditional wood carving factory, the town is home to industrial enterprises built in Soviet times, as well as some modern companies. Electronic devices producer Zavod Zvezda was the maker of the first Soviet "computers" — transistor computing machines.

Sergiyev Posad is also unofficially known as the cultural capital of the Moscow region. It inspired writers such as Mikhail Prishvin, who wrote to Maxim Gorky: "Finish your novel and come here, to this most wonderful town for a writer."

The idyllic Russian scenery of rolling hills and birch trees also attracted many illustrious painters, including Yury Vasnetsov, Isaac Levitan, Valentin Serov and Mikhail Vrubel.

What to See if You Have Two Hours

Arriving by train, visitors will see a monument near the railway station dedicated to Savva Mamontov, the eminent 19th-century Russian entrepreneur and philanthropist who initiated the construction of this railroad.

Naturally, no trip to Sergiyev Posad is complete without visiting the heart and origin of the town: the Lavra (133 Prospekt Krasnoi Armii; +7 496-540-53-34; stsl.ru). Pilgrims and tourists from all over the world flock to the architectural ensemble of this UNESCO-rated open-air museum.

For MT
Vasily Goncharov,
former mayor, currently deputy head of the Sergiyev Posad municipal district
Q: What challenges does the town face as a result of being home to a UNESCO World Heritage site?
A: The Trinity-Sergius Lavra is a real architectural treasure, the site of numerous historic landmarks. Of course, the authorities of Sergiyev Posad do their best to preserve the authenticity of streets and buildings in the vicinity of the monastery. Now we are restoring all the structures on the territory of the Lavra as well. By July, when thousands of pilgrims will join the 700th-year jubilee events, the architectural ensemble will look perfect.
We are also actively repairing roads, sidewalks and building facades. This year's reconstruction program started in March. We are about to complete the town general plan with a focus on the Lavra in collaboration with an architectural bureau and the Moscow region government. When adopted, the plan will ban any construction within the area of the monastery.
Unfortunately, a busy highway passes through Sergiyev Posad close to churches. A bypass project aimed at relieving congestion in the historic center will be completed in approximately three years. It will also improve the ecological situation and help to preserve monuments.

Q: How can Sergiyev Posad attract more foreign tourists?
A: We have a new website that besides publishing official town administration announcements will simultaneously serve as an interactive multi-language guide for tourists. We will install street navigation systems and information boards with Russian and English texts. During the St. Sergius jubilee events, volunteers speaking different languages will assist our guests.

Q: Which other areas of the town economy have significant development potential?
A: Two industrial giants in Sergiyev Posad — optical and electromechanical plants — are now being seriously revamped by state corporations. The remodeling will create new employment opportunities and help to reinstate the town's previous status as a scientific and technical center of the Moscow region. Residential building construction, including both multi-family and individual residences, is also being increased, and the town will expand to the north and west.

— Svetlana Zernes

The Trinity-Sergius Lavra includes several churches dating back various centuries, a seminary and a monastery, as well as the relics of St. Sergius. Inside, an atmosphere of peace and spirituality reigns.

Outside the main gate, street vendors hawk souvenirs, come rain or snow. On sale are dishes and mugs decorated with images of the monastery, carved boxes made of birch bark and traditional Russian shawls.

What to Do if You Have Two Days

The Konny Dvor (Stable Yard) museum complex (2 Ulitsa Pervoi Udarnoi Armii; +7 496-540-53-56; musobl.divo.ru) is home to some outstanding arts and crafts exhibits. One of the permanent exhibitions is devoted to the matryoshka.

The farmers' life museum, Zhili-Byli (22 Valovaya Ulitsa; +7 496-542-99-96), created by local artist Viktor Bagrov, is an unofficial museum situated in the artist's home and comprised of a collection of farmers' belongings, ranging from clothes to furniture. Unlike most official museums in Russia, visitors are free to touch any exhibit and can request a personal tour with tea included.

In the summertime, visitors may be lucky enough to catch the two-day festival of balloons, "Nebo Svyatogo Sergiya" (St. Sergius Sky). During this spectacular show, the sky is filled with a flotilla of fanciful balloons, from matryoshkas to bells. The aerostats are produced by local company Interavia-Service (Posyolok Repikhovo, Sergiyev Posad district; +7 499-707-75-52; interavia.ru).

What to Do With the Family

The Toy Museum (123 Prospekt Krasnoi Armii; +7 496-540-41-01; museumot.ru) is proof that toys are not only for entertainment, but also a form of art, and appeals to both children and adults. The history of Russian and foreign toys can be traced in this mansion situated in a stunning location on the Volokusha mountain, in front of the Lavra. Toys that belonged to the Russian tsars are among the items on show, as are Christmas tree ornaments. The museum store sells traditional handmade wooden toys such as bears and pecking hens.

Park Chudes, or Park of Miracles, (185A Prospekt Krasnoi Armii) is located in the center of the town. Children can play on its merry-go-rounds, swings and other equipment, while adults will enjoy the boats on the pond.

Tennis Center (2B Ulitsa Druzhby; +7 496-549-22-93; sport-sp.ru) offers tennis courts for hourly rent, as well as a gym, massage salon and restaurant.

In winter, Sergiyev Posad has plenty of skating rinks, both indoor and outdoor. The largest is near Dom Kultury (185 Prospekt Krasnoi Armii; +7 496-542-72-61; dk-gagarina.ru). Dom Kultury also hosts music and dance concerts, often with free admission.

Nightlife

Teatralny Kovcheg, or Theater Ark, (9 Ulitsa Кarla Libknekhta; +7 496-542-97-90; teatr-kovcheg.ru) is the only theater in Sergiyev Posad. Performances are staged at weekends, tickets are inexpensive and the repertoire is wide.

The Schastlivaya Semya (Happy Family) shopping center (32А Voznesenskaya Ulitsa; +7 496-552-18-18), houses the Luxor movie theater (luxorfilm.ru) on its third floor.

Popular night spots include Nichego Lichnogo, or Nothing Personal (134/2 Prospekt Krasnoi Armii; +7 496-541-32-10; lichnogo.net). Every Saturday, this restaurant is transformed into a disco club with good food.

Jubilee Plans

For MT
Anna Fadeyeva,
Leading designer of Bogorodskaya Fabrika, a wooden crafts producer
Q: How is the production of wooden arts and crafts structured today?
A: Sixty carvers and artists work at our wooden carving factory. Every year, in addition to a standard assortment, we create new items, observing the traditional style while introducing modern techniques. These objects are often included in the collections of various museums and they also appear in different exhibitions. We organize regular contests for carvers and artists, and the winners receive medals and prizes. The factory buys many of those prize-winning works to include them in its permanent museum exposition.
Our artists guarantee the viability and sustainability of this industry because they understand the rich heritage of folk handicraft, and they also bring new vision.
Local craftsmen had to overcome many difficulties, especially during World War II, when the factory operated in two shifts and some talented craftsmen had to leave their jobs and go to war. Today, of course, production has become less complicated, but there is also more responsibility as we have the challenge of surviving in market conditions.

Q: What makes Sergiyev Posad crafts unique?
A: Local toys and other crafted objects have been an important part of Russian culture for a long time. Generations of artists shared their skills with each other and honed them. Our creative work combines the traditional style with modern trends, but preserves its folk roots.

Q: Is there demand for such items among foreigners?
A: Yes, local craftwork attracts the attention of both foreign and domestic customers. We are in constant contact with companies from Japan, Canada, Ecuador, China and other countries. And foreign tourists enjoy playing with our toys, especially those that miraculously come to life at the push of a button or lever.

— Svetlana Zernes

This year, the Orthodox Church celebrates the 700th anniversary of the birth of St. Sergius, the Trinity-Sergius Lavra's founder. The town is preparing a diverse program to celebrate the jubilee from July through October, including an exposition at the Konny Dvor dedicated to the life of St. Sergius, an open-air festival of Christian and patriotic music, an exhibit of crafts and farmers' food and a bell-ringing festival.

Where to Eat

Russky Dvorik, or Russian Yard, (134/2 Prospekt Krasnoi Armii; +7 496-540-51-14; russky-dvorik-restaurant.ru) is a restaurant with an authentic interior and quality Russian cuisine whose visitors include Moscow officials and famous actors. Indulge yourself with the original "Russkaya Pokhlyobka" soup, which is served inside a lightly fried rye loaf. As an appetizer order "Lapotochki:" potato stuffed with mushrooms and sour cream and baked in the oven. The average bill for one is 1,500 rubles ($43) without alcohol.

Sinatra (2 Prospekt Krasnoi Armii; +7 496-551-38-38; sinatra-club.ru) chiefly serves European and Japanese dishes, with a large serving of karaoke on the side. Try the chocolate cake for dessert. The restaurant hosts concerts by popular singers where guests have the opportunity to sing duets with them. On weekends, tables must be reserved with a downpayment of 5,000 rubles ($140).

Pirogovaya OgoGo (143 Prospekt Krasnoj Armii; +7 916-990-82-82; pirogovaya-ogogo.ru) serves traditional diet-destroying Russian pirogi, or pies, and offers a delivery service.

When visiting the monastery, do not miss its trapeznaya, or refectory, a small cafe offering swift, low-calorie dishes and souvenir chocolate.

Where to Stay

One of the top-level hotels in Sergiyev Posad is Tsarskaya Derevnya, or Tsar's Village, (14/2 Ulitsa Mitkina; +7 495-995-19-96; imperial-village.ru). With décor inspired by traditional Russian elements, rooms start at $60. The presidential suite costs $300, and a private guest house costs $600 per night. The hotel has its own banya.

Staraya Gostinitsa Lavry, or Old Lavra Hotel, (133 Prospekt Krasnoi Armii; +7 496-549-90-00; lavrahotel.ru) is a 19th-century building in the grounds of the monastery. Rooms cost $80 to $150 per night and have great views of Bely Prud (White Pond) on one side or the monastery courtyard on the other side. Both the railway and bus stations are located a 10-minute walk from the hotel, and the front desk managers will book travel tickets for guests.

Hotel Tsentralnaya (2A Ovrazhny Pereulok; +7 496-541-30-54; spcentral.ru) offers good service for reasonable price. Rooms range from $80 to $100 per night, including breakfast, and free Wi-Fi is provided in all the rooms.

How to Get There

There are many commuter trains between Moscow's Yaroslavsky Station and Sergiyev Posad every day. The trip takes about 1 ½ hours. The more comfortable express train takes an hour and runs two or three times a day. A one-way fare is 165 rubles ($4.50) for the regular train and 210 rubles ($6) for the express train.

Alternatively, the 388 bus goes to Sergiyev Posad bus station from VDNKh metro station. The journey time depends on traffic, but on average is about 1 ½ hours.

By car, take the Yaroslavskoye Shosse, which merges with Prospekt Krasnoi Armii, Sergiyev Posad's main street, approximately 50 kilometers from the Moscow Ring Road.

Many Moscow travel agencies offer year-round Golden Ring bus tours ranging from three to seven days that include stops in Sergiyev Posad.

Contact the author at bizreporter@imedia.ru