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Murom Still Lives in a Fairy Tale

Published: November 28, 2012 (Issue # 1737)



  • The Monastery of the Transfiguration is an example of the austere 16th-century style. It lacks decorations and features monumental columns.
    Photo: OLGA SUKHOVA / FOR SPT

  • The Hagiography of Pyotr and Fevronia, a 17th-century icon that depicts Murom’s kremlin, its churches and the Oka River.
    Photo: COURTESY OF THE MUROM HISTORY AND ART MUSEUM

  • A horse-shaped Muroma pendant. 
    Photo: COURTESY OF THE MUROM HISTORY AND ART MUSEUM

  • MUROM
    Photo:

Locals complain that outsiders are often surprised to find out that Murom actually exists, having heard of the small town in the Vladimir region only from fairy tales.

Murom is featured in a wide range of literature, usually as a gateway into a fantasy world of epic battles, dragons, heroic quests, slain martyrs, gods, princes and saints or a time machine that brings you back to the age of Vikings, pagan tribes and fierce nomads.

Murom — along with Ladoga, Beloozero, Izborsk, Rostov, Polotsk, Smolensk, Novgorod and Kiev — is one of the first cities of Ancient Rus. The Primary Chronicle first mentions all of them in 862-863.

At the time, Finnic tribes held undisputed sway over vast territories all the way from modern Finland to the Volga basin, and one of them — muroma — lived where the modern city is now. Finnish linguist Arja Ahlqvist translates the tribe’s name from the now dead Muromian language as “people living on a hill near water.”

The city’s subsequent history revolves around several myths. The most famous one is about Ilya Muromets, the local analogue of Hercules and the central hero of “Bylinas” — the cycle of epic poetry sometimes called Russia’s “Iliad.”

When the glory of ancient battles faded away, in the 16th to 19th centuries Murom became a quiet merchant town. The vibrant commercial culture survived through the Soviet period until this day; the number of retail outlets per capita is far higher than in Moscow.

Despite being relatively far from Moscow, Murom is in some ways a commuter town, with many residents regularly traveling to work in the capital.

Murom is linked with Moscow through the Gorky (formerly known as Kazan) railroad, the main artery connecting European Russia with Siberia. Russian Railways has been a major employer and shaped the development of the Kazanka neighborhood near Murom’s railway station, and it even used to own stores and other facilities there in the Soviet era.

Engineering giants were built in Murom during that period but they fell on hard times in the 1990s due to a lack of market demand. Since then, the city’s economy has refocused on retail and other service industries, and currently about 50 percent of its residents are employed in consumer goods industries. But the defense plants have also recovered some of their clout as the economy expanded and defense purchases soared in the 2000s.

Given the city’s ancient history, one would assume that the tourism industry would be booming. But currently, few visitors come to Murom (compared with cities like Suzdal and Vladimir) due to a lack of infrastructure and its former “closed city” status.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Oct. 24


SPIBA’s ongoing “Breakfast with the Director” series continues today, featuring Tomas Hajek, Managing Director of the Northwest Division at Danone Russia. Hajek will be discussing collaborations between businesses from different cultures. The meeting is at 9 a.m. at the Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel and all who wish to attend must confirm their participation by Oct. 23.


Get your gong on at “Sounds of the Universe,” a concert at the city planetarium this evening incorporating six different gongs to create relaxing songs that will transport you upwards into the stratosphere. Tickets are 700 rubles ($17).



Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop culture, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the club’s website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit “Neophobia” at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBA’s Marketing and Communications Committee’s round table discussion on “Government Relations Practices in Russia” this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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