Russia is full of cultural and natural points of interest, but these places deserve your attention in the first place. Some of them are very popular, while others are not very well known even among Russians. Here are the places from the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Russia.
Moscow Kremlin and Red Square. Inextricably linked to all the most important historical and political events in Russia since the 13th century, the Kremlin (built between the 14th and 17th centuries by outstanding Russian and foreign architects) was the residence of the Great Prince and also a religious centre. At the foot of its ramparts, on Red Square, St Basil's Basilica is one of the most beautiful Russian Orthodox monuments.
Historic centre of Saint Petersburg. The 'Venice of the North', with its numerous canals and more than 400 bridges, is the result of a vast urban project begun in 1703 under Peter the Great. Later known as Leningrad (in the former USSR), the city is closely associated with the October Revolution. Its architectural heritage reconciles the very different Baroque and pure neoclassical styles, as can be seen in the Admiralty, the Winter Palace, the Marble Palace and the Hermitage.
Golden Mountains of Altai. The Altai mountains in southern Siberia form the major mountain range in the western Siberia biogeographic region and provide the source of its greatest rivers – the Ob and the Irtysh. Three separate areas are inscribed: Altaisky Zapovednik and a buffer zone around Lake Teletskoye; Katunsky Zapovednik and a buffer zone around Mount Belukha; and the Ukok Quiet Zone on the Ukok plateau. The total area covers 1,611,457 ha. The region represents the most complete sequence of altitudinal vegetation zones in central Siberia, from steppe, forest-steppe, mixed forest, subalpine vegetation to alpine vegetation. The site is also an important habitat for endangered animal species such as the snow leopard.
Ensemble of the Ferapontov Monastery. The Ferapontov Monastery, in the Vologda region in northern Russia, is an exceptionally well-preserved and complete example of a Russian Orthodox monastic complex of the 15th-17th centuries, a period of great significance in the development of the unified Russian state and its culture. The architecture of the monastery is outstanding in its inventiveness and purity. The interior is graced by the magnificent wall paintings of Dionisy, the greatest Russian artist of the end of the 15th century.
Architectural Ensemble of the Trinity Sergius Lavra in Sergiev Posad. This is a fine example of a working Orthodox monastery, with military features that are typical of the 15th to the 18th century, the period during which it developed. The main church of the Lavra, the Cathedral of the Assumption (echoing the Kremlin Cathedral of the same name), contains the tomb of Boris Godunov. Among the treasures of the Lavra is the famous icon, The Trinity, by Andrei Rublev.
Volcanoes of Kamchatka. This is one of the most outstanding volcanic regions in the world, with a high density of active volcanoes, a variety of types, and a wide range of related features. The six sites included in the serial designation group together the majority of volcanic features of the Kamchatka peninsula. The interplay of active volcanoes and glaciers forms a dynamic landscape of great beauty. The sites contain great species diversity, including the world's largest known variety of salmonoid fish and exceptional concentrations of sea otter, brown bear and Stellar's sea eagle.
Uvs Nuur Basin. The Uvs Nuur Basin (1,068,853 ha), is the northernmost of the enclosed basins of Central Asia. It takes its name from Uvs Nuur Lake, a large, shallow and very saline lake, important for migrating birds, waterfowl and seabirds. The site is made up of twelve protected areas representing the major biomes of eastern Eurasia. The steppe ecosystem supports a rich diversity of birds and the desert is home to a number of rare gerbil, jerboas and the marbled polecat. The mountains are an important refuge for the globally endangered snow leopard, mountain sheep (argali) and the Asiatic ibex.
Photo: NASA / Wikimedia Commons
Citadel, Ancient City and Fortress Buildings of Derbent. The Citadel, Ancient City and Fortress Buildings of Derbent were part of the northern lines of the Sasanian Persian Empire, which extended east and west of the Caspian Sea. The fortification was built in stone. It consisted of two parallel walls that formed a barrier from the seashore up to the mountain. The town of Derbent was built between these two walls, and has retained part of its medieval fabric. The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century.
Photo: allieâ„¢ / Flickr.com
Virgin Komi Forests. The Virgin Komi Forests cover 3.28 million ha of tundra and mountain tundra in the Urals, as well as one of the most extensive areas of virgin boreal forest remaining in Europe. This vast area of conifers, aspens, birches, peat bogs, rivers and natural lakes has been monitored and studied for over 50 years. It provides valuable evidence of the natural processes affecting biodiversity in the taiga.
Photo: Demeulenaer & Van Ginderdeuren / Wikimedia Commons
Historic and Architectural Complex of the Kazan Kremlin. Built on an ancient site, the Kazan Kremlin dates from the Muslim period of the Golden Horde and the Kazan Khanate. It was conquered by Ivan the Terrible in 1552 and became the Christian See of the Volga Land. The only surviving Tatar fortress in Russia and an important place of pilgrimage, the Kazan Kremlin consists of an outstanding group of historic buildings dating from the 16th to 19th centuries, integrating remains of earlier structures of the 10th to 16th centuries. Photo: Thinkstock
Western Caucasus. The Western Caucasus, extending over 275,000 ha of the extreme western end of the Caucasus mountains and located 50 km north-east of the Black Sea, is one of the few large mountain areas of Europe that has not experienced significant human impact. Its subalpine and alpine pastures have only been grazed by wild animals, and its extensive tracts of undisturbed mountain forests, extending from the lowlands to the subalpine zone, are unique in Europe. The site has a great diversity of ecosystems, with important endemic plants and wildlife, and is the place of origin and reintroduction of the mountain subspecies of the European bison.
Historic Monuments of Novgorod and Surroundings. Situated on the ancient trade route between Central Asia and northern Europe, Novgorod was Russia's first capital in the 9th century. Surrounded by churches and monasteries, it was a centre for Orthodox spirituality as well as Russian architecture. Its medieval monuments and the 14th-century frescoes of Theophanes the Greek (Andrei Rublev's teacher) illustrate the development of its remarkable architecture and cultural creativity.
White Monuments of Vladimir and Suzdal. These two artistic centres in central Russia hold an important place in the country's architectural history. There are a number of magnificent 12th- and 13th-century public and religious buildings, above all the masterpieces of the Collegiate Church of St Demetrios and the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin. Photo: Thinkstock
Ensemble of the Novodevichy Convent. The Novodevichy Convent, in south-western Moscow, built in the 16th and 17th centuries in the so-called Moscow Baroque style, was part of a chain of monastic ensembles that were integrated into the defence system of the city. The convent was directly associated with the political, cultural and religious history of Russia, and closely linked to the Moscow Kremlin. It was used by women of the Tsar’s family and the aristocracy. Members of the Tsar’s family and entourage were also buried in its cemetery. The convent provides an example of the highest accomplishments of Russian architecture with rich interiors and an important collection of paintings and artefacts.
Kizhi Pogost. The pogost of Kizhi (i.e. the Kizhi enclosure) is located on one of the many islands in Lake Onega, in Karelia. Two 18th-century wooden churches, and an octagonal clock tower, also in wood and built in 1862, can be seen there. These unusual constructions, in which carpenters created a bold visionary architecture, perpetuate an ancient model of parish space and are in harmony with the surrounding landscape.
Lake Baikal. Situated in south-east Siberia, the 3.15-million-ha Lake Baikal is the oldest (25 million years) and deepest (1,700 m) lake in the world. It contains 20% of the world's total unfrozen freshwater reserve. Known as the 'Galapagos of Russia', its age and isolation have produced one of the world's richest and most unusual freshwater faunas, which is of exceptional value to evolutionary science.
Cultural and Historic Ensemble of the Solovetsky Islands. The Solovetsky archipelago comprises six islands in the western part of the White Sea, covering 300 km2 . They have been inhabited since the 5th century B.C. and important traces of a human presence from as far back as the 5th millennium B.C. can be found there. The archipelago has been the site of fervent monastic activity since the 15th century, and there are several churches dating from the 16th to the 19th century.
Putorana Plateau. This site coincides with the area of the Putoransky State Nature Reserve, and is located in the central part of the Putorana Plateau in northern Central Siberia. It is situated about 100 km north of the Arctic Circle. The part of the plateau inscribed on the World Heritage List harbours a complete set of subarctic and arctic ecosystems in an isolated mountain range, including pristine taiga, forest tundra, tundra and arctic desert systems, as well as untouched cold-water lake and river systems. A major reindeer migration route crosses the property, which represents an exceptional, large-scale and increasingly rare natural phenomenon.
Lena Pillars Nature Park. Lena Pillars Nature Park is marked by spectacular rock pillars that reach a height of approximately 100 m along the banks of the Lena River in the central part of the Sakha Republic (Yakutia). They were produced by the region’s extreme continental climate with an annual temperature range of almost 100 degrees Celsius (from –60 °C in winter to +40 °C in summer). The pillars form rocky buttresses isolated from each other by deep and steep gullies developed by frost shattering directed along intervening joints. Penetration of water from the surface has facilitated cryogenic processes (freeze-thaw action), which have widened gullies between pillars leading to their isolation. Fluvial processes are also critical to the pillars. The site also contains a wealth of Cambrian fossil remains of numerous species, some of them unique.
Photo: Fiodor Kulikov
Historical Centre of the City of Yaroslavl. Situated at the confluence of the Volga and Kotorosl Rivers some 250 km north-east of Moscow, the historic city of Yaroslavl developed into a major commercial centre from the 11th century. It is renowned for its numerous 17th-century churches and is an outstanding example of the urban planning reform Empress Catherine the Great ordered for the whole of Russia in 1763. While keeping some of its significant historic structures, the town was renovated in the neoclassical style on a radial urban master plan. It has also kept elements from the 16th century in the Spassky Monastery, one of the oldest in the Upper Volga region, built on the site of a pagan temple in the late 12th century but reconstructed over time.
Photo: acidka / Flickr.com
Curonian Spit. Human habitation of this elongated sand dune peninsula, 98 km long and 0.4-4 km wide, dates back to prehistoric times. Throughout this period it has been threatened by the natural forces of wind and waves. Its survival to the present day has been made possible only as a result of ceaseless human efforts to combat the erosion of the Spit, dramatically illustrated by continuing stabilisation and reforestation projects.
Church of the Ascension, Kolomenskoye. The Church of the Ascension was built in 1532 on the imperial estate of Kolomenskoye, near Moscow, to celebrate the birth of the prince who was to become Tsar Ivan IV ('the Terrible'). One of the earliest examples of a traditional wooden tent-roofed church on a stone and brick substructure, it had a great influence on the development of Russian ecclesiastical architecture.
Central Sikhote-Alin. The Sikhote-Alin mountain range contains one the richest and most unusual temperate forests of the world. In this mixed zone between taiga and subtropics, southern species such as the tiger and Himalayan bear cohabit with northern species such as the brown bear and lynx. The site stretches from the peaks of Sikhote-Alin to the Sea of Japan and is important for the survival of many endangered species such as the Amur tiger.
Photo: paukrus / Flickr.com
Natural System of Wrangel Island Reserve. Located well above the Arctic Circle, the site includes the mountainous Wrangel Island (7,608 km2), Herald Island (11 km2) and surrounding waters. Wrangel was not glaciated during the Quaternary Ice Age, resulting in exceptionally high levels of biodiversity for this region. The island boasts the world’s largest population of Pacific walrus and the highest density of ancestral polar bear dens. It is a major feeding ground for the grey whale migrating from Mexico and the northernmost nesting ground for 100 migratory bird species, many endangered. Currently, 417 species and subspecies of vascular plants have been identified on the island, double that of any other Arctic tundra territory of comparable size and more than any other Arctic island. Some species are derivative of widespread continental forms, others are the result of recent hybridization, and 23 are endemic.
Photo: Gruzdev A. / wrangisland.zapoved.ru
Struve Geodetic Arc. The Struve Arc is a chain of survey triangulations stretching from Hammerfest in Norway to the Black Sea, through 10 countries and over 2,820 km. These are points of a survey, carried out between 1816 and 1855 by the astronomer Friedrich Georg Wilhelm Struve, which represented the first accurate measuring of a long segment of a meridian. This helped to establish the exact size and shape of the planet and marked an important step in the development of earth sciences and topographic mapping. It is an extraordinary example of scientific collaboration among scientists from different countries, and of collaboration between monarchs for a scientific cause. The original arc consisted of 258 main triangles with 265 main station points. The listed site includes 34 of the original station points, with different markings, i.e. a drilled hole in rock, iron cross, cairns, or built obelisks.
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