History of the Voronezh Oblast.

Voronezh was first mentioned in the chronicles of 1177. The official version, however, states that the city was founded in 1585 by Tsar Fyodor Ioannovich as a fort protecting the Russian state from the raids of nomadic tribes.

A little over a century later, Voronezh played a significant role in the formation of a new Petrine Russia. In December 1695 the Boyar Duma approved Peter the Great's Decree "On building a regular Russian fleet in Voronezh." Seven years before St. Petersburg was founded, the first Russian naval ships were floated out and set sail to the Black Sea under the leadership of Peter I, the great reformer of Russia.

The Assumption Church where the first Russian legendary galleys 'Principium' and 'Apostle Peter' were baptized, still remains on the bank of the Voronezh Reservoir. Under Peter the Great Voronezh became the de facto business capital of Russia, and acquired national, economic, military and commercial significance. The city was further developed as an industrial and cultural center of the region in the XVIII century, especially during the reign of Catherine the Great, and later - in the XIX century. New industrial facilities were constructed, large trade fairs were held. The city saw development of education and culture. Theaters, libraries, publishing houses and new educational institutions were created, newspapers and magazines were published.

Names of famous Russian poets and writers, Alexey Koltsov and Ivan Nikitin, Ivan Bunin and Andrey Platonov are associated with Voronezh. Samuel Marshak, an outstanding Russian poet, was born in Voronezh. Vasiliy Zhukovsky, Leo Tolstoy, Anton Chekhov and Gleb Uspensky visited Voronezh. In the twentieth century, Voronezh grew into a powerful industrial, scientific and cultural center, and became the informal capital of the Central Black Soil Zone. World War II interrupted its further development. From June 1942 until the end of January 1943 it was the focal point of the battle with the Nazis on the Upper Don. The city withstood Hitler's elite military units for 212 hardest days and nights.

In terms of the duration of stay in the forefront of fighting Voronezh was second only to Leningrad, and the length of combat operations in urban areas was even ahead of Stalingrad. The number of civilian casualties reported in Voronezh was higher only in seized Leningrad with the largest loss of life ever known in a modern city.

A memorial in Peschaniy Log and 39 mass graves and military burials in Voronezh remind us of those we lost to war. When retreating from the Voronezh Oblast, the enemies tried to permanently wipe out the beautiful city they were unable to conquer. Fascist invaders destroyed factory buildings, blew up the best public buildings including the University, the railway station and the Pioneer Palace. Mitrofanyevskiy monastery and its bell tower were also destroyed. The beautiful building of the Philharmonic Hall was badly damaged, and the Tulinov's period house colonnade was destroyed. 18,000 houses accounting for 92 percent of the city's housing stock were burned down.

After liberation Voronezh was a mere ruin with shapeless piles of rocks and iron bars, and wastelands covered with stone fragments and broken glass. Only in some places burned house skeletons which miraculously survived in the bombing, were staring with their eye sockets of windows. Thus it was not by accident that Voronezh was included in the list of top 15 most destroyed cities, and German newspapers were quick to declare the city beyond repair. Indeed, the restoration process which required a few decades was accomplished in just five years due to selfless labor of Voronezh natives. The city rose from the ashes, and is now home to around a million people.

Today Voronezh is on the brink of a development breakthrough, just like it was in the time of Peter the Great's reforms.

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