Cultural criteria: ii, iv
Year of inclusion in the List of World Heritage: 2005
Yaroslavl was founded in the early XI century, and in 2010 it will celebrate its thousandth anniversary. In 1218 it became a center of the feudal principality that soon united wide areas in the north of Russia and became a great principality with many small independent ones. In 1463 during unification of the Russian lands Yaroslavl formed part of the centralized Moscow state, having become one of its biggest centers.
A special significant period of Yaroslavl’s development fell on the second half of the XVI-XVII centuries, when it found itself at an intersection of paramount trade routes of the country: a waterway – by the Volga river that passed into Russia’s ownership along its whole length (connections with south countries), and an overland route– between Moscow and the White Sea shore (in those times it was the only reliable Russia’s connection with Western Europe). In the XVII century in Yaroslavl rich merchants and artificers build a lot of parish churches, competing with each other in beauty of their architectural aspect and decoration.
Having somewhat lost its unique trade role in the early XVIII century, after the Baltic ports capture by Russia, Yaroslavl nevertheless remained one of the leading political, economic, cultural and religious centers of Russia. In the middle of the XVIII century the Metropolitan’s Residence was transferred here from Rostov the Great. In 1777 Yaroslavl became a center of a region ruled by governor-general (since 1796 – that of a province), and remained such till the 1920s.
From the 1770s within the grandiose All-Russian architectural reform by Catherine the Great, a project of regular redevelopment is implemented in the city, as a result of which the historic center of the modern Yaroslavl acquired a clear radial-semiannular plan. In the XIX and early in the XX century the historic center was intensively developed and beautified. Unique on national scale cultural institutions such as Demidov Lycée and the first permanent Volkov Theater emerged and functioned in Yaroslavl.
From the end of the XIX century in Yaroslavl industry began to actively develop. In the post-revolutionary period this process went dramatically faster, and in the city the biggest enterprises in the mechanical engineering, chemical, petrochemical and other industries were located. The city peopled very fast and the population surpassed 600 thousand inhabitants (in 2000 – 616.7 thousand people). Housing construction intensively developed, new districts on the previous outskirts of the city were laid out and built on.
Yaroslavl as all other historical cities of Russia, did not avoid in the XX century losses of its architectural heritage during persecutions of the religion and cardinal socialist reconstruction. Some of these losses are very important, as for instance, the criminally demolished Cathedral of the Assumption on the spit of the Volga and the Kotorosl rivers. Anyhow in comparison with majority of other cities, in Yaroslavl there is an ample quantity of historical monuments. The historic center’s layout and major part of its old residential and public buildings have remained intact.
Monuments of architecture on the territory of Yaroslavl’s historic center are represented by all artistic styles, existed in Russia during the last five centuries. In a relatively small area (the World Heritage site embraces an area of 110 ha) there are 140 monuments of architecture, inscribed in lists of State protection, and approximately the same quantity of additionally ascertained ones waiting for taking under protection.
A high position in the cultural immovable heritage of the city’s historic center is held by architectural ensembles of separate streets, squares, embankments. Of which the main are: The Volga embankment (the Metropolitan's palaces of the end of the XVII century), the Volga or Arsenal Tower of the same time, an ensemble of the Governor's House of the 1820s and 1860s. (several churches, domestic buildings in classical style etc.), the Soviet square (ensemble formed during redevelopment of the city centre at the end of the XVIII century, including as a center of composition the older Church of St. Ilya the Prophet, rich in appearance and possessing a unique cycle of interior paintings, as well as flanking the area of the offices’ frame of the end of the XVIII century etc.), the Volkov square (at an intersection of the main radial street of the center and the semicircle of previous ramparts – now boulevards overlooking the Volga and Kotorosl rivers embankments, in it – the remained of urban fortifications stone Vlasievskaya Tower of the end of the XVII century and the building of the city’s Volkov theatre in neoclassical style, 1911), Ushinsky Street (the former Streletskaya – with quite a number of typical old houses, such as the inn “Passage”, Vakhromeev's mansion, the Shipulin's and Sorokin's house etc.).
Furthermore, very important architectural objects of the center of Yaroslavl are: the Monastery of Our Savior and Transfiguration (founded already in the XII century and now having structures of the XVI-XIX centuries – walls and towers, cathedral, belfry, refectory, dean’s palaces etc), the Church of the Annunciation (the end of the XVII century, close to a monastery), the Gostiny Dvor (the beginning of the XIX century – classicism), the House of Religious department (the beginning of the XX century). A remarkable place of the city foundation on the spit of two rivers, where a cathedral was situated is recognized one of the federal Cultural Heritage sites. In 1993 the archaeological cultural stratum of the center of the city is declared a monument of history and culture.
Yaroslavl’s cultural heritage is preserved and used in accordance with the Russian legislation. In 1990 a project was approved of protection zones of the city’s historical and cultural monuments, developed by Yaroslavl specialists on basis of comprehensive historical-architectural researches. The project defines Yaroslavl’s protected territory, covering the historical part of the city with former kremlin and trading quarter. Yaroslavl’s historic center, as the World Heritage site, is almost completely covered by this protection zone.
During the 1990s the Concept of reconstruction of the central part of the city of Yaroslavl and Project of detailed reconstruction (regeneration) of the protection zone of the city of Yaroslavl were implemented, and at mayor's office the Historical Buildings Reconstruction Department was created.