Veliky Ustyug is situated deep in the Vologda Region close to the confluence of the River Sukhona and River Yug. In fact its name is derived from its location near the mouth (‘ust’ in Russian) of the River Yug, whereas ‘Veliky’ means ‘great’, indicating the city’s historical significance. Its strategic position on important waterways leading to the Russian North meant it was an important trade city for Vladimir-Suzdal, which had to frequently defend it from ambitious Novgorod. In the 14th century Moscow finally gained control in the city but over the following centuries its status declined due to the river trade routes becoming less important.
Much of Veliky Ustyug’s historical centre has survived due to its remote location. Signs of the city’s glorious past remain in the form of beautiful churches and monasteries which have stand to this day, leading to the city being declared a Historical City of Russia. However a major draw bringing in tourists today, especially around the New Year holidays, is the Russian equivalent of Father Christmas: Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost). In 1998 it was officially decided that Ded Moroz has his residence in Veliky Ustyug and the appropriate tourist infrastructure was set up for such an important person.