Oryol (370 kilometers south of Moscow) is city of 350,000. Its's main claim to fame is that its is the birth of the writer Ivan Turgenev. There is a big statue and a museum devoted to him as well as the usual collection of sights: some parks, a cheesy Soviet-era amusement park, a writers museum and a World War II museum.

Spasskoe Lutovinovo (65 kilometers north of Oryol) is Turgenev's family estate. Located on land given to his ancestors by Ivan the Terrible, it contains the house that Turgenev grew up in and returned in his adult life even though he lived primarily in Moscow, St. Petersburg, France and Germany. The house was restored in the 1970s. There are some personal items and books that belong to Turgenev and an icon given to his family by Ivan the Terrible. The furniture is mostly from Turgenev's time. Other building on estate include the family church and banya.

Znamenskaya Warriors Outpost (in Znamenka, six kilometers southwest of Oryol) offers visitors to explore the history of Holy Russia and the emergence of heroic combat; learn herculean battle, combat dances, guslyarnoy songs with the ensemble "Blagovest", build ancient rooks, manufacture of weapons and armor, and learn seamanship in rook campaigns and how to survive in the woods. You can also go horseback riding and play paintball and laser tag.

Kursk: Site of the Largest Tank Battle Ever

Kursk (100 kilometers south of Oryol) is the site of bloody battle in which the Germans suffered huge losses and lost any hope of conquering the Soviet Union. Much of the city was destroyed and most of the building you see today have been built since the war. Kursk is home to about 400,000 people. Among the sights are the Sergievo-Kazansky cathedral, the Kutsk Battle Museum, a depressing circus and some old tree-lined streets.

The battle at Kursk covered a large area. The main memorial for the battle is on Kursk-Belgord Highway about the 115 kilometers south of Kursk and 40 kilometers south of Oboyan. Visitors at the site can see World War II-era tanks, planes and antitank guns as a sculpted wall and War Glory Hall.

There are more than two dozen memorials and museum related to the Battle of Kursk. Among them are Bolshoi Dub Museum of Partisan Glory.Kursk Salient Memorial Complex, Memorable Symbol to Kursk National Militia Groups, Which Died During the Great Patriotic War, Memorial Complex Command Post of the Central Front, Memorial Complex Sacred to the Memory of the Fallen in World War II, Monument to Tankmans- Heroes of the Battle of Kursk, The Historical and Memorial Museum The Command Post of the Voronezh Front, The Historical and Military Museum«Young Defenders of the Motherland, Monument Heroes-Gunners, Monument to Heroes-Paratroopers, Worship Cross Soldiers Who Fell on the Northern Fase Kursk Bulge, Monument Health Care Workers Who Died in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945, and Monument to Soviet Liberator Soldier

Battle of Kursk

On July 5, 1943, the Germans begin their last major counter-offensive after Stalingrad on the eastern front at Kursk. Codenamed Operation Citadel, the Nazo tank offensive was stopped cold the Soviets. The Germans suffered "horrendous casualties" and Hitler lost any hope of conquering the Soviet Union.

The Battle of Kursk was the largest tank battle in history. It involved 6,000 tanks, 4,000 aircraft and more than 2 million troops along a front nearly 500 miles long. During the Battle of the Kursk Bulge between July 5 and August 5, 1943, German tanks attempted a pincer movement on Kursk. The attack was slowed by mine fields and ended with the Germans in a full scale retreat.

After Kursk, historian Stephen Ambrose wrote: "Hitler's only hope was to negotiate a new division of eastern Europe between the Nazi and Soviet empires, akin to what existed from August 1939 to June 1941. This meant persuading Stalin that the Wehrmacht was still be a serious threat and that the Allies could not be depended on. To do that, Hitler had to hurl Allied forces back into the sea when they made their inevitable offensive." [Source: Stephen E. Ambrose, U.S. News and World Report, May 23, 1994]

Ponyri Museum of the Battle of Kursk

The Ponyri Historical and Memorial Museum of the Battle of Kursk opened in 1970. It tells about the first days of the war throughout the region, its occupation, the partisan movement and its liberation on February 13, 1943. and is divided in five sections: “The Occupation”, “The Liberation”, “The Strategic Pause”, “The Preparation of Defence” and “The Battle of Kursk”.

A big part of the exhibition is devoted to the Ponyri Defensive Operation dating of July 5-11, 1943. The diorama “The Battle of the Ponyri Station” covers a significant part of the territory and reflects the actual events of that days. The Tourist Information center of Kursk oblast /

The open-air exposition complex “The Forefront of the Defense Line. July 1943" is very popular. This small section displays the reconstructed line of the defense: trenches, pillboxes with mortars and artillery-type weapons, barbed wire and anti-tank field obstacles. There are authentic items of soldiers” life presented in a blindage (a trench shelter): kerosene lamp, telephone, kettle and wartime newspapers. The open-air exposition complex was opened on July 5, 2010.

Prokhorovskoe Field State Military History Museum Reserve

Prokhorovskoe Field State Militar History Museum Reserve was created to perpetuate the memory of those killed in the defense of the Fatherland in the Battle of the Kursk and is dedicated to the largest tank battle of the Great Patriotic War.

A total of 1200 tanks and self-propelled guns participated in the Battle of Prokhorovka on July 12, 1943. On the 50th anniversary of the Great Victory, a 59-meter Belfry with a bell weighing 3.5 tons was erected on the Third Battlefield of Russia. Next to it is an exhibition of armored vehicles from the times of World War II.

Behind the building of the Third Battlefield of Russia museum is a fragment of Soviet and German defensive fortifications, consisting of trenches, communication routes, gun platforms and tank shelters. There's a dugout embedded in the trench system.

In Prokhorovka itself, there's the Prokhorovsky Field Cultural and Historical Center, the library of N.I. Ryzhkov, The Third Battlefield of Russia museum of military glory, a sculptural composition called Tank Battle Near Prokhorovka: Ram, Museum of Armored Vehicles, the Tank Troopers sculptural composition, a tankcade with an exhibition site of armored vehicles and artillery.

Prokhorovka Field” Museum-Preserve

Prokhorovka Field Museum-Reserv (50 kilometers from Belgorod) covers a large area. “Zvonnitsa” (The Bell Chamber) is a 59-meter white column with a gilded dome, an alarm bell, and a statue of the Blessed Virgin. The bell chamber was constructed in the exact location where the Battle of Prokhorovka took place in July of 1943. A short distance away you will find an exhibition featuring tank equipment. You can touch everything there, climb on the tanks, and take pictures.

At the “Blindazh” (covered trench) you can enjoy war songs and try the 100-gram daily ration of vodka and “soldier's mush” from an authentic aluminum dish. The cafe offers a variety of delicious foods at an affordable price. The average bill comes to about RUB 200.

Museum of Military Glory of Russia's Third Battlefield is a tank-training ground is a tank-training ground that hosts spectacular reenactments of tank battles three times a year: May 9, July 12, and the second Sunday of September (Tank-Crewman Day).

Getting There: It can be reached by a car or a suburban train. Trains come to and from Belgorod several times a day (the round-trip ticket costs you RUB 216). We recommend setting aside a full day to visit the museum-preserve. Accommodation: “The Third Battlefield of Russia” center in Prokhorovka also offers convenient hotel accommodation. The price of a standard twin room is RUB 2,000 per night and includes breakfast.

Diorama Museum of the Battle of Kursk and the Belgorod Offensive

Belgorod State Diorama Museum of History and Arts “The Battle of Kursk. Belgorod Direction” (in Belgorod) is the principal military museum of Belgorod The heart of the museum and its main exhibit item is the largest Russian diorama — The Arch of Fire — a giant artistic canvas that depicts the crucial point in the Belgorod-Kharkov direction of the Kursk Salient, namely the tank battle near the village of Prokhorovka on 12 July 1943.

The area of the diorama's picture canvas is 1005 square meters (67 meters long, 15 meters high). To paint it, artists needed two whole years. It was the work of painters of battle pieces ( under the supervision of the people's artists of RSFSR, N.Ya. But) of the country's only studio of military artists dedicated to meters. Grekov advised by veterans who had participated in the battle.

Many characters of the painting are historically accurate and demonstrate likeness to true participants. When looking at the diorama from the observation point, viewers are sort of placed in the center of the battle and directly participate in it. The two halls of the museum that comprise the permanent exposition “On the Scorched Land” display weapons, awards, personal items, documents, photographs of participants of the Battle of Kursk (5 July — 23 August 1943). All in all, the museum's holdings comprise over 14,000 unique items devoted to the region's military history.

The movie theater shows a documentary with elements of a feature film devoted to the evens of the Battle of Kursk, “On the Scorched Land” (author — N. Ryapolov). The museum exposition continues to an open platform where military equipment of the victorious army is displayed. The diorama is possessed of a special power — it leaves no one indifferent.


Voronezh (500 kilometers south of Moscow) is where John Tobin, a student at Middlebury and Fullbright scholar, was arrested and jailed for possession of marijuana and charged with espionage, setting off an international incident. Voronezh is also where Peter the Great ordered construction of warships for the Azov siege. The ship “Goto Predestinatsiya” is moored on the Admiralty Embankment, a reminder that of Voronezh is the birthplace of the Russian Navy. This is a copy of the first battleship built in the shipyards of Voronezh under the guidance of Peter the Great. The museum onboard is well worth a visit.

Located on the Voronezh river, about 10 miles from the Don, Voronezh is an industrial city with about 1 million people. A major railway hub and road junction, where travelers sometimes get stuck, it was a closed city in the Soviet era, and today it lies at the heart of the Red Belt, a region in southern Russian regarded as a stronghold of Communist sympathizers. Voronezh contains a number of military factories, numerous statues of Lenin and graffiti that reads "Respect Russia or Leave It" and "NATO = Sharks of Imperialism."

Voronezh endured 200 days of fighting in World War II and was 90 percent destroyed. It contains a World War II museum, a fine arts museum, some churches and museum devoted to local artists. Voronezh lies in an area of black soil farmland. Lots of potatoes are grown on farms here. There are several theaters in Voronezh: the Youth Theater, A. V. Koltsov Drama Theater, the “Shut” Puppet Theater, the Opera and Ballet Theater and, of course, the well-known Chamber Theater, Voronezh is a literary city. It is the birthplace of Alexei Koltsov, Ivan Nikitin, Samuel Marshak, Ivan Bunin, and Andrey Platonov. Osip Mandelstam was exiled here. The streets of the city are adorned with monuments to all these writers.

Getting There: By Air: You can get to Voronezh Peter the Great Airport from Moscow and St. Petersburg airports. The flight takes about is 1-2 hours. Tickets from Moscow cost from RUB 3,400, from St. Petersburg — from RUB 6,000. Airport website:

By Train: : From Moscow, the best way to reach Voronezh is by high-speed double-decker train. It departs twice daily from Moscow Kazansky railway station, at 8:14 and at 16:52, the journey takes approximately six hours and tickets cost from RUB 832. It arrives at the Voronezh-1 railway station, which is within walking distance of the city center. The train timetables offer many other alternatives, such as open sleeper cars to Voronezh from RUB 781 a berth and a ticket in a 4-berth sleeper car from RUB 1,898. From St. Petersburg, an open sleeper car ticket costs from RUB 1,313, while a ticket in a 4-berth sleeper car costs from RUB 3,500, and the journey itself takes approximately a day.

By Bus: There is a regular bus service from Moscow to Voronezh. The average ticket price is RUB 1,000, and buses depart almost every hour. By Car: Motorists often drive through Voronezh on their way to the Black Sea. The journey from Moscow to Voronezh stretches about 530 kilometers along the M4 highway and takes about 5.5 hours.

Cave Churches and-Monastery of Divnogorye and Kostomarovo

Divnogorye Nature Reserve (65 kilometers south of Voronezh) is known for its chalk landscapes, floodplain meadows unique to Europe, and the feather grass steppes. Unique landscape formations called divas — preserved pillars of chalk — rise vertically above the steep right banks of the Tikhaya Sosna and Don rivers. Holy Assumption Divnogorsk Monastery features artificial caves and churches carved out of chalk. Another attraction is the Mayatsk Archaeology Park, dating to the 9th-10th centuries, where pottery workshops have been preserved.

The cave temples are the biggest attraction for tourists and pilgrims in the area. There are six major caves and cave complexes, including: Bolshie Divy, the Sicilian Icon of the Mother of God, St. John the Baptist (17th century), Divnogorsk-3 (19th century) and The Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (17th century) Several archaeological sites from the 9th-10th centuries are found in the Mayatskiy archaeological complex; Bronze Era archaeological sites — (burial mounds or kurgans, and settlements) — and Upper Paleolithic encampments have also been found..

Kostomarovo Cave Churches and Monastery ( in the village of Kostomarovo, 130 kilometers south of Voronezh) are located in an area called Jerusalem of Voronezh because the landscape, according to legend, reminded Andrew the Apostle, who visited this place 2000 years ago, of Golgotha, the place in Jerusalem,where Jesus Christ was crucified.. The most ancient monastery in Russia was founded here, according to one source in the 12th century. Another says it dates back to before the adoption of Christianity in Rus.

Carved in the mountains, the Cathedral of the Holy Savior is the main attraction of the monastery. Inside, the domes are supported by huge chalk pillars. When Andrew the Apostle saw it, the story goes, he ordered a cross put on top of one of the chalk mountains and founded a cave monastery. The Cave Monastery of Our Savior is the largest cave among the caves of Kostomarovo. Its entrance is situated at the base of two divas, between which the bell tower of the Monastery of Our Savior is now situated. The cave holds a entire underground complex with cells, churches, and burial grounds. Among the other cave churches are the Church of Seraphim of Sarov, one of the “youngest” monastery shrines and the Cave of Repentance, well known in Russia, as well as hermit caves where monks lived in seclusion. Kostomarovo also has a Holy Mount Golgotha with a cross, Mount Tabor, Jordan, and a Garden of Gethsemane.

Getting There: The journey by car takes about two hours or you can take the Voronezh — Rossosh bus to the village of Kamenka from the Southwest District bus station (11 Prospect Patriotov) and travel the remainder of the way to Kostomarovo by taxi or a car share. Tickets cost from RUB 373. Accommodation: : The monastery guest house has beds and rooms for as little as RUB 500 a night per person.

Kostenki National Archaeological Reserve Museum

Kostenki National Archaeological Reserve Museum (50 kilometers south of Voronezh) is a late Paleolithic age site with a total area of nine hectares, which are divided into 25 protective areas. The museum's collection holds about 41,000 items from different ages and cultures, including stone and bone tools, and art gathered at the most significant Kostenki sites.

The largest treasure of the reserve museum is the upper layer of Kostenki Encampment No. 11, preserved on the very spot where it was discovered. It consists of a dwelling made of mammoth bones, dating back approximately 20,000 years agao. The museumis situated in a specially designed building and includes authentic items and copies.

The Kostenki National Archaeological Reserve is part of Kostyonki-Borshchyovo archaeological complex, an extended Upper Paleolithic site, covering 30 square kilometers in the area of Kostyonki and Borshchyovo on the western middle bank of the Don River in Khokholsky District, Voronezh Oblast, whic is divided into sites Kostenki-1–21 and Borshchevo-1–5, which are in turn divided into 10 stratigraphical layers. The area is known for its high concentration of cultural remains of anatomically modern humans from the beginning of the Upper Paleolithic era, before 40,000 years ago.

Lebedinsky Mine: the World’s Largest Man-Made Hole

Lebedinsky Ore Mining and Processing Plant (650 kilometers south of Moscow, in Gubkin-11, Belgorod Region) is one of world’s largest mines. The viewing platform offers views of what is probably the biggest man-made hole in the world. Iron ore has been extracted from this quarry since the 1950s. Due to its tremendous size (five kilometers in length, three kilometers wide and 600 meters deep), the quarry is registered in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Standing at the edge of the quarry, the giant ore-carrying BelAZ trucks look like miniature toys. the site is only open to tour groups. Tours are offered through the Kursk Magnet Anomaly History Museum of the Tourism Development center. The 4-hour excursion includes a walking tour around Gubkin’s historic town center, a visit to the KMA History Museum, and the first shaft of the Gubkin mine. The price includes lunch and a memento.

In 1924, geologists discovered ore deposits with an iron content of over 50 percent at a depth of 116 meters, and in the 1950s large-scale mining began on the site of what is today the Lebedinsky Mining and Processing Plant. It is the first place in the Soviet Union where iron ore was extracted using surface mining. Due to its huge size and the amount of ferruginous quartzites (balance-sheet reserves of 8.1 billion tons and a forecast of 20.2 billion tons), the Lebedinsky Mining and Processing Plant is listed twice in the Guinness Book of Records. Accommodation: The Lebed Hotel in the center of Gubkin or the hotel at the “Gornyak” sports complex.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Federal Agency for Tourism of the Russian Federation (official Russia tourism website ), Russian government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Yomiuri Shimbun and various books and other publications.

Updated in September 2020

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