History of Vologda

12th and 13th Centuries


Depiction of St Gerasim of Vologda

Vologda is traditionally considered to have been founded in 1147. Such date is based on the Tale of the Miracles of St Gerasim of Vologda.  According to the tale, the monk Gerasim founded the Troitsky Monastery on the River Vologda. However this source, which itself dates from the mid-15th century, has been questioned and some experts believe the city was founded later in the 13th century. The first contemporary mention of Vologda came in 1264 when it was included on a list of territories of the Novgorod Republic. In 1273 the city was sacked by the forces of Prince Svyatoslav Yaroslavich of Tver during his campaign against the Novgorod Republic.

14th Century

Incorporation in Moscow

The city's location on the River Vologda, which provided a water link from Moscow and Novgorod to the White Sea, made it important for trade and it was therefore fought over by various Rus territories. In 1368 Grand Prince Dmitry Donskoy of Moscow managed to partly wrestle control of the city from the Novgorod Republic and as a result two governors were sent to the city: one from Novgorod and one from Moscow. In 1397 Grand Prince Vasily I of Moscow finished his father's work and fully incorporated Vologda into Moscow's realm.

St Dmitry of Priliki and the Spaso-Prilutsky Monastery

In 1371 the monk Dmitry, a disciple of St Sergius of Radonezh, arrived in Vologda after leaving his monastery in Pereslavl-Zalessky. Dmitry came to Vologda with the support of Dmitry Donskoy to found a new monastery in a more remote location. The monastery he founded became known as Spaso-Prilutsky Monastery which became one of the most significant monasteries of the Russian North. Dmitry died at his monastery in 1406 and was canonised by the Russian Orthodox Church as St Demetrius (Dmitry) of Priluki in the 15th century.

15th Century

Moscow Civil War

During the Moscow Civil War, Vologda became a scene of conflict between the claimants to the Moscow throne. In 1435 Prince Vasily Kosoy fled to Vologda to raise an army after losing Moscow to his cousin Vasily II. In 1446, after Vasily Kosoy's brother Dmitry Shemyaka had in turn captured Moscow from Vasily II and he gave Vasily II Vologda as an appendage after Vasily II swore allegiance. Boyars later began arriving in Volodga to declare a shift in their allegiance from Shemyaka to Vasily II. Vasily II eventually went to the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery in nearby Kirillov where he was realised from his oath of allegiance to Shemyaka. In 1447 Vasily II won back the capital and the Volodga appendage was dissolved. In revenge Shemyaka sacked Vologda in 1450.

Vologda Principality

Upon the death of Vasily II in 1462, Vologda and its surroundings were given as an appendage principality to Vasily II's youngest son Andrey Vasilievich the Younger. The principality was subsequently dissolved in 1481 upon the death of Andrey the Younger as it passed back to Andrey's brother, Grand Prince Ivan III, who had previously used the city as a base for campaigns against Novgorod's Dvina lands and Kazan. Under Ivan III the city also served as a place of exile for the young sons of Prince Andrey Vasilievich the Older of Uglich who had fallen from grace.

16th Century

Vologda Kremlin

In 1545 Tsar Ivan the Terrible visited Vologda for the first time while on pilgrimage to monasteries in the Russian North. When the Oprichnina was founded by the tsar in 1565 Vologda became part of it and Ivan once more visited the city while on pilgrimage. He visited once more in 1566 when he ordered the building of a kremlin in the city. Construction work started in 1567 under the personal supervision of the tsar, however in 1571 Ivan ordered that all construction work be halted. By this time only one section of the stone walls had been erected and it was decided to build the remaining walls out of wood. The kremlin's St Sofia's Cathedral was left unfinished until 1587 during the reign of Ivan's son Feodor I. A walled residence for the archbishop was also built within the kremlin.

17th Century

Time of Troubles

In 1608 the citizens of Vologda swore allegiance to the Second False Dmitri and imprisoned their commander and appointed in his place a supporter of Dmitry. However at the end of the year the situation had completely reversed as the city declared for Tsar Vasily Shuisky and the old commander was released and supporters of the Second False Dmitry were arrested. After Vasily Shuisky was overthrown, the city supported the claim of Prince Władysław of Poland, but later citizens of Vologda were active participants of the First and Second Volunteer Armies which drove out the Polish interventionists. In revenge for this a group of Polish marauders sacked the city in September 1612 killing many citizens, destroying the kremlin walls, damaging St Sophia’s Cathedral and burning down many churches. The city and the Spaso-Prilutsky Monastery were then sacked once more in December 1612.


After the Time of Troubles the city quickly recovered and even developed thanks to its location on the river trade route to Russia’s only sea port of Arkhangelsk. The city was divided into four main parts: the city on the territory of the kremlin, the Verkhny (Upper) Posad to the north-west of the kremlin, the Nizhny (Lower) Posad to the south-east of the kremlin and Zarechye (“beyond the river”) on the northern side of the River Vologda. The second half of the 17th century also saw the construction of several new stone churches in the city, some of which survive to this day, and the construction of the Archbishop’s Residence next to St Sophia’s Cathedral.

18th Century

Peter the Great

Vologda’s connection with Peter the Great goes back to 1692 when the tsar-reformer first visited the city on route to Arkhangelsk. In total the tsar stayed in the city six time (1692, 1693, 1694, 1702 and 1724) and passed through several more times. He ordered the construction of ships in the city and even considered using this nearby Lake Kubenskoe as a training ground for the Russian Navy before decided it was not suitable. In 1708 the city became part of the Arkhangelsk Governorate. The foundation of St Petersburg had a negative effect on Vologda as the new capital with access to the Baltic became the major port to the west at the expense of Arkhangelsk's White Sea route.

Bishop Iosif II the Golden

In 1761 the monk Iosif became bishop of Vologda and Belozersk and held this position until his death in 1774. He is remembered as Archbishop Iosif II the Golden (Zolotoy) and was one of the most active bishops Vologda had. He oversaw the complete reconstruction of the Archbishop’s Residence including the construction of the Resurrection Cathedral. In 1780 the city became the centre of the Vologda Viceroyalty which became the Vologda Governorate in 1796.

19th Century

When Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812, many priceless treasures were evacuated from the path of Napoleon to Vologda for safekeeping. In 1820 the remains of the kremlin walls were  completely removed although the territory is still referred to as the Vologda Kremlin. In 1872 railway lines were completed with connected the city with Moscow.

20th Century


Since the mid 19th century Vologda had become a place of exile for political undesirables. The flow was especially high during the premiership of Pyotr Stolypin. Some notable exiles to Volodga include Vyacheslav Molotov from 1909 to 1911, Iosef Stalin from 1911 to 1912 and Maria Ulyanova (Lenin’s sister) from 1912 to 1915.


For several months in 1918 Vologda became the diplomatic capital of Russia as embassies left Petrograd for Vologda as the capital was threatened by the German Army during the First World War. In 1929 Vologda became part of the newly established Northern Territory and then the Northern Region in 1936, with both regions being centred in Arkhangelsk. Finally it became the centre of the Vologda Region in 1937.

Second World War

During the Second World War the city's industries were turned over for military needs and the city was even threatened in autumn 1941 as Finnish troops reached the borders of the Vologda Region. Air defences and shelters were quickly put up to defend the city from air raids. With its status as a regional railway hub, the city also played a significant role in supplying the army and evacuating equipment. In addition a military hospital was set up in the city.