Winter Panorama across Sukhona River, with Cathedral Ensemble, Velikii Ustiug, Russia


This northeast view across the frozen Sukhona River at Velikii Ustiug (Vologda Oblast) was taken in 1998 by Dr. William Brumfield, American photographer and historian of Russian architecture, as part of the "Meeting of Frontiers" project at the Library of Congress. Located where the Sukhona and Iug rivers merge to form the Northern Dvina River, the town derives its name from "mouth of the Iug," with the epithet velikii (great) added at the end of the 16th century, in recognition of the city's importance. This network of three rivers formed a strategic transportation route to the north and east that brought Russian settlers to the region as early as the middle of the 12th century. The mercantile city of Novgorod laid claim to the area until the late 15th century, when Muscovy assumed control. Ustiug played a critical role in northern Russia not only through trade, but also through the missionary activity of prelates such as Saint Stefan of Perm (circa 1340-96). The importance of the Orthodox Church is visible in the imposing bell tower and the Cathedral of the Dormition of the Virgin, as well as in the six surrounding churches that form an ensemble known as Cathedral Court and the adjacent Archbishop's Court, on the high left bank of the Sukhona. The churches are flanked by mansions and institutions built by the town's merchants.

Last updated: January 11, 2016