Nizhny Novgorod, Russia

Reference work entry


Nizhny Novgorod is in the west of the country on the confluence of the rivers Oka and Volga. It is Russia’s fourth largest city, a major transport and industrial centre and the main city of the Volga administrative district.


Founded in 1221 by Grand Prince Yury Vsevolodovich, by 1350 Nizhny Novgorod was capital of its eponymous principality. Attacked by Tartar forces, it was absorbed into the Moscow principality towards the end of the century and was an important centre of Russian cultural and intellectual life. It was used as a base for attacks on Kazan, the Tartar capital, during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and, following Muscovite successes in the Volga region, prospered as a trade centre on East-West trade routes.

The city was a focus of the wars with Poland in the ‘Time of Troubles’ at the start of the seventeenth century, with local forces taking much credit in the defeat of Sigismund III. The arrival of the annual Makaryev trade fair in 1817, which went on to become the largest in the country, signalled a new period of prosperity. The last fair was held in 1917, the year of the Russian revolution.

From the nineteenth century onwards Nizhny Novgorod’s principle industrial output was for the maritime and rail industries. The city produced vehicles, weapons and heavy manufactures in World Wars I and II, meeting Russia’s needs when other industrial areas came under attack. From 1932 it was renamed Gorki, after the nineteenth century writer Maksim Gorki, who had lived there.

In the post-war era the city remained a major industrial centre, with one of Russia’s largest car plants. Internationally, the city gained notoriety as the site of exile for the nuclear physicist and Nobel peace prize winner, Andrei Sakharov.

Modern City

Nizhny Novgorod is a major transport hub, and is well served by air, road, rail and river connections. The town lies on the Trans-Siberian railway with links to Moscow and St Petersburg. There is an international airport. Buses, overland trains and a subway run within the city.

Major industries include mechanical engineering and heavy manufacturing (including cars and sea and river vessels). There are also significant oil, chemicals and consumer goods sectors. The city has a university and several other institutes of higher education.

Places of Interest

The Kremlin dates from the sixteenth century, but is on the site of a much earlier wooden version. The Archangel Cathedral was built in the seventeenth century in recognition of the town’s role during the ‘Times of Trouble’. There is an art museum and a museum of history and architecture as well as several theatres.

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© Springer Nature Limited 2019

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