Stairway to the island

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You have to climb a few dozen stairs to get to Sviyazhsk – and find yourself in a fabulous place overlooking the churches, the water, and the villages around.

According to the chronicles, the history of Sviyazhsk began when Ivan the Terrible, disappointed by yet another failure to capture Kazan, decided to build an operations base on Round Hill in the mouth of the Sviyaga as a foothold in the region. The fortress was first built in Uglich, then broken down and rafted down the Volga. It took 28 days to install it. By the time the tidings of this reached the Khan of Kazan, the siege of Kazan was already on, which would end with the conquest of the city in 1552.

The Soviet government organized a labour colony for political prisoners in Sviyazhsk in the 1930s. POWs were also held there during the Great Patriotic War. Sviyazhsk was not originally an island, but became one when the Kuibyshev Reservoir was built in the 1950s. It was officially recognized as a historical cultural landmark around the same time, but its resuscitation was never really attempted until the 2000s. An eight kilometre-long dam was built between Sviyazhsk and the left bank of the Sviyaga in 2007, making Sviyazhsk a peninsula again. Restoration is still in progress on the churches and secular buildings in Sviyazhsk, and new museums keep appearing.