Travelling in Russia: Rybinsk
Russia is the country that is rich in many things, and among them are a large number of its towns, and no matter who says what, many of them have a unique atmosphere and are beautiful in their own way. One of such towns is Rybinsk, which is located in the Yaroslavl region. This town is called a small St. Petersburg because of the similarity of architectural designs, clear planning and the great importance of the rivers for the city.
It is not surprising, since many of the buildings are created by the architects who worked in St. Petersburg, such as Carlo di Giovanni Rossi. But do not think that this article is a typical story about the value of ancient buildings in a town, wonderful architecture and unique nature. It is not about that, or rather, not exactly about that. Rather, it is a story of how just one man was able to completely change the appearance of the historic part of the town, which, in truth, can't be found anywhere else in Russia.
Once in this city, you can feel like you're in a district town of pre-revolutionary Russia, and only the presence of cars reminds you of a modern era. The reason is the signboards, which are made in the old style. Store signs, ranging from pharmacies to chain stores such as "Magnit", are made to the same standards. It looks extremely unusual and it is difficult to convince yourself that they are the same modern organizations that exist in the rest of Russia. Undoubtedly, the fact, that the buildings, which were built in the past centuries have been restored, adds to the entourage. Of course, I'm primarily talking about the historic part of the city, but taking into account that the city's signage change policy began only in 2018, the results are already impressive.
Moreover, the ideological inspirer was Mitya Kuznetsov, a folk musician from Rybinsk. Without connections, he managed to convince the officials that the changes would lead to a significant transformation of the city, which eventually worked out. Moreover, the city administration allocated subsidies for the replacement of signs and painting the facades of buildings. Mitya himself was not only the founder of the project, but he was and still is engaged in the production of signage. For a long time, he studied photographs, books and other materials in order to achieve the best possible match with pre-revolutionary Russia. Therefore, in a sense, these signs can be called a glimpse of history. Moreover, as Mitya Kuznetsov pointed out, many designers expressed a desire to work on decorating the town for free. Workers also followed Mitya's desires and, for example, painted facades not with rollers, but with brushes. All that is an amazing example of how the citizens of a small town managed to unite to transform the place they live in.
From my personal experience of traveling in Russia, I can say that there are towns that catch you despite their problems. Rybinsk is one of them. And it's not only about the signboards and beautiful buildings. It is full of inexplicable coziness, as if the town welcomes all visitors with an open heart. According to my feeling it is also connected with the special identity of Rybinsk. The town for many centuries specialized in fishing ("Rybinsk" is from the word "ryba", which means "fish" in Russia) and until the 18th century had the name "Rybnaya Sloboda". As a sign of this, even the city's coat of arms depicts two sterlets. Undoubtedly, it is reflected in the rest of the assets of the city. For example, you can find a sculpture of a fishing boat, many souvenirs in the form of the inhabitants of local waters, museums dedicated to fish. All that forms the identity of the city, its personality, if one may say so. When you come to this city, you feel how and what it lived with a few centuries ago, and of course, it is particularly admirable that the town and its residents have been able to carry the history through the centuries.
Undoubtedly, to complete the picture, it is worth telling about the other sights of the city. First of all, it is a quay with a pier. It offers a view of the opposite bank of the Volga. But the embankment is especially beautiful in the evening, when the lights turn on. There is a bridge across the river, which is also illuminated in the evening. All this picture is completed by the building of the former bread exchange, which stands on the shore and is now a museum. The building looks like a palace or a fortress, which rises like a giant almost directly in front of the pier, meeting people who arrive to town by boat. This building, despite the fact that its size clearly differs from the rest of the architecture of the city, very organically fits into the overall picture, rather complementing it than spoiling. Also, there are sculptures of famous personalities on the embankment, both real-life and book characters. For example, the Soviet poet Lev Oshanin. Unfortunately, few people know that he is the author of the famous song in the USSR and Russia, which is known by the lines: "May there always be sunshine, may there always be blue skies, may there always be mommy, may there always be me". There is also a monument to Ostap Bender - the protagonist of such famous novels as "The Twelve Chairs" and "The Little Golden Calf" by Ilya Ilf and Yevgeny Petrov. It is not a coincidence, as a significant part of the filming of the movie based on the book "The Twelve Chairs" took place in this city.
There is also a monument to the burlak on the embankment. The burlak was a man who manually pulled barges and other vessels upstream from the 17th to the 20th century in the Russian Empire. Strange as it may seem, but the monument to the burlak in Rybinsk, despite the fact that this work played a huge role for the shipping industry, is the only one in the country. Learning about it, you realize that Rybinsk, like a caring museum keeper, carefully preserves the memory of people, undeservedly little known or gradually forgotten, but who made a huge contribution to the history of Russia.
Walking up from the quay, you get to the main square of the city, small but clean and cozy. The square is a completely pedestrian area, so the lack of cars, combined with ancient buildings and historic signs, takes you back a few centuries.
It is also worth mentioning that the town is the birthplace of the famous admiral of the 18th century - Fyodor Ushakov, who went down in history as an unconquerable general. Indeed, Ushakov won 43 naval battles and did not experience a single defeat. Moreover, in these battles Ushakov did not lose a single ship and none of his subordinates were taken prisoner. In some ways, it is symbolic that in this town, located at the confluence of three rivers and historically inseparable from them, such an admiral was born. Of course, it is impossible to imagine that Rybinsk would not have a museum dedicated to this Russian admiral. And such does exist. It presents naval accessories, personal belongings of Fyodor Ushakov, as well as a multimedia presentation of the admiral's sea battles.
There are many other interesting museums in the city of Rybinsk, so carefully preserving its history. For example, in the city there is a museum "Nobels and Nobel movement". The reason is that one of the largest Russian oil plants of the Nobel brothers was located in the city. The same ones with whom the creation of the world famous Nobel Prize is connected.
This city, carefully preserving its history and the history of the people who contributed to the development of the country as a whole, as if it wants to show this history to the rest of us. Certainly, when I use the word "city," I am talking about all those citizens who remember their history, who love their city immensely, and, of course, the country in which they live. This city is an example to all of us. An example of how the desire and persistence of a few people in the right direction can transform the city, in fact give it a second life. An example of how to remember the past and love the present.