Although this city of 350,000 seems unassuming today, half a millennium ago it was the cultural and religious capital of northeastern Rus'. Several of the monuments dating to this time of prosperity and prestige remain, and a visit to this city, and nearby Suzdal, is vital to understanding the roots of contemporary Russian culture.

Vladimir was founded in 1108 on the banks of the Klyazma by Vladimir Monomakh, grandson of Yaroslav the Wise and father of Yuri Dolgoruky. As Yuri increased his power en route to taking the throne in Kiev, he made Suzdal his de facto capital in 1152. Upon Yuri's death five years later, his son, Andrei Bogolyubsky, moved the capital of Suzdalia to Vladimir and began a massive building campaign.

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