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Travel portal
Nizhny Novgorod region
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Semyonov

Semyonov is the centre of the Old Believers, the capital of the Golden Khokhloma, and the birthplace of the poet Boris Kornilov. Founded in the 17th century not far from the Kerzhenets River, and steeped in legend, this is a town of small wooden houses with intricate carvings, a true open-air museum!

A FEW FACTS

An ancient Old Believer village
An ancient Old Believer village
The first mention of Semyonov dates back to 1644, when the village of Semyonovskoe played the role of a trade and cultural centre, and the traditions and customs of the Old Believers' were preserved here. Semenov was granted the status of a county town of the Nizhny Novgorod province in 1779.
The Spoon carving capital of Russia
The Spoon carving capital of Russia
The oldest craft of the Semyonovsky district is considered to be spoon carving: in the 19th century the city was known as the "spoon carving capital of Russia". Chiselled spoons were brought to Semyonov from the surrounding villages, which were sent to the Nizhny Novgorod Fair, after finishing and colouring. By the way, the expression "to beat the buckets" came from Semenov, the "buckets" being the blanks for wooden spoons.
Khokhloma Painting
Khokhloma Painting
The artistic craft of Khokhloma Painting was developed here, its origin is attributed to the 17th century, when Old Believers fleeing the persecution of the official church hid away in the remote forests of the Volga region. The craft of making dishes with unusual colours then came to be called "Khokhloma" after the name of the trading village of Khokhloma, where the products of local craftsmen were brought for sale.
The Semyonov matryoshka doll
The Semyonov matryoshka doll
What’s more, in 1922 the Semyonov Painting Workshop began to produce a matryoshka doll with its distinctive trademark yellow-red background, and a bright bouquet of flowers on the apron.
Semyonov’s largest ever matryoshka doll
Semyonov’s largest ever matryoshka doll
The largest matryoshka doll ever made in Semyonov was produced in 1970 to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Vladimir Lenin. It was made up of a total of 72 figures.
The birthplace of the poet Boris Kornilov
The birthplace of the poet Boris Kornilov
The Semyonovsky district is the birthplace of the Soviet poet Boris Kornilov, known for works including Song about the Oncoming ("The morning greets us with coolness / The river greets us with the wind"). In 1937, the poet was arrested on false charges, and in 1938 he was shot.
The surviving Old Believers
The surviving Old Believers
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Semenov was the most important centre for the Old Believers, and the only place in Russia where leather rosaries (ladders) were made for them. The Old Believer culture is still very much alive in Semenov and the surrounding region.
The forestry industry
The forestry industry
On the town’s coat of arms, in addition to the traditional deer representing the wider Nizhny Novgorod region, you can also see elements of traditional Khokhloma painting, as well as a pyramid of logs, which reflects the importance of forests and woodworking for the residents of the district.

WHAT TO DO IN THE CITY

01
Discover to your surprise that Semyonov is a little Paris!
Semyonov is a city of five squares and a "little Paris", all because the plan for its settlement was approved by Catherine II at the end of the 18th century, and the classical principles of French urban planning are reflected in its radial layout. It is almost impossible to see this except from a bird's-eye view, but just keep it in mind, and walk along Lenin Street in the centre as if you are somewhere on Vendome Square. Be wary of the pigeons, there are a lot of them here!
02
Explore the history of the Old Believers in the Museum of Art and History
You can begin your walk around the town from the museum located in the former mansion of the Old Believer Pyotr Sharygin, where the 19th century merchant-style interior has been preserved. Here you can not only appreciate the everyday objects of the citizens of past centuries, and get acquainted with the life and work of probably Semyonov’s most famous poet, Boris Kornilov, but also learn a lot about the history of the Old Believers of the Semyonovsky district. If you have read Melnikov-Pechersky, then you will find it all the more interesting.
03
Appreciate the architecture of the city
Semyonov is a treasure trove of architectural attractions. One of the most beautiful houses in the city is the mansion of the merchant Nosov. Nosov was the "spoon king" and made a fortune out of the carved utensils. Incidentally, in the 19th century Semyonov was the spoon capital of Russia. Right opposite, and built with the money of the same Nosov, is the St. Nicholas Old Believers Church, which you will recognise by its bright orange hue. Other interesting houses include the estates of Ivan Khanykin and Grigory Vitushkin, whose main decoration is a massive brick arched gate designed in the eclectic style. The Russian Post Office is located there now, so if you are passing by, be sure to pop inside and send home a postcard from Semyonov.
04
Immerse yourself in the real Russian way of life in the House of Semyon the Spoonsmith
Built according to all the hallowed traditions of wooden architecture, the museum is located in a rough-hewn peasant hut, so this is a real journey through time! But just who is Semyon the Spoonsmith? According to legend, this master made birch spoons in the local forests for the troops of Ivan the Terrible, and equipped with them the Russian army never tasted defeat, because they could wolf down cabbage soup and porridge with their wooden spoons faster than their enemies could with with their heated tin ones. The museum is not only dedicated to spoons, despite the fact that there are more than 700 of them here, visitors can also see with their own eyes how our ancestors lived, as well as participate in various activities: watch a folk music concert, or take part in workshops on making lucky-charm dolls, woven belts, and painting spoons.
05
Buy a matryoshka doll!
You will simply not be able to leave Semyonov without a matryoshka doll! In the local museum of matryoshka dolls and traditional toys, you can learn about the roots of this craft, see a huge collection of antique specimens produced not only by the local factory, but throughout the Soviet Union. As it turns out, there is no limit to the variety of dolls on display! Pride of place in the collection belongs to a unique record-breaking giant 72-piece matryoshka doll created in 1970. Be sure to check out the local store where you can buy nesting dolls at reasonable prices, and if you want something special and handmade, then sign your own toy at the master class.
06
Learn all about Khokhloma Painting at the Zolotaya Khokhloma Museum and Tourist Centre
Khokhloma is everywhere in Semyonov, but the maximum concentration is here, and this is the largest modern museum of folk art wooden products in Russia, no less! It is here that one of the country’s largest collections of objects from the second half of the 19th century to the first half of the 20th century is on show, with a variety of ornaments and unique colouring technology. For example, you can see the very rare green Khokhloma decorated with lilies of the valley, created especially for the singer Lyudmila Zykina, and in Royal Room you will find a unique set of 240 objects taking centre stage, each product of which is crowned with the coat of arms of Russia, and decorated with elements of hand sculptural carving.
07
Learn more about Khokhloma Painting at the Khokhloma Painting Workshop
You have already realised that Semyonov is the capital of Khokhloma Painting, that this is the town’s trademark, with a festival dedicated to this craft held here, and it seems that every local resident has something with a Khokhloma pattern at home. At the Khokhloma Painting Workshop, you can book an excursion, see the entire production line with your own eyes, observe the filigree work of craftsmen, and participate in a master class.

WHERE TO GO AND WHAT TO SEE

Lake Verkhne
Semenov, Zavodskaya Street

A city beach for swimming and fishing on the Sanokhta River, featuring a walking area with a pontoon bridge, a beautiful rotunda, and many ducks.

Monument to Boris Kornilov
Semyonov, Boris Kornilov Square

A monument dedicated to the poet Boris Kornilov, a native of Semenov.

Kornilov Square
Semyonov, Boris Kornilov Square

The town square, where the monument to the poet Boris Kornilov is located, here you can sit on swings with awnings or benches in the form of spoons.

The Khokhloma Painting Workshop
Semyonov, 18B Chkalova St.

Here you can take a walk through the workshops and see the stages of production of the traditional Semyonov craft, as well as paint a souvenir for yourself.

Working hours
Visit by appointment +7 (83162) 5-57-57, +7-920-064-12-21
https://www.goldenhohloma.com/
The Museum of Matryoshka Dolls and Traditional Toys
Semyonov, 1A Chernyshevsky St.

A museum where you can see a vast collection of the world-famous painted wooden doll.

Working hours
Tuesday-Friday 09:30-17:30, Saturday-Sunday 09:30-14:00
+7 (83162) 5-61-44
https://www.srosp.com/
The House of Semyon the Spoonsmith folk museum
Semyonov, 18/1 Chkalov St.

A museum dedicated to the life and traditions of the peasantry, located in a real peasant’s hut, with a huge collection of painted spoons.

Working hours
Monday-Friday 09:00-17:00, Saturday 09:00-13:00, Sunday 10:00-16:00
+7 (83162) 5-61-41
http://semenov-museum.ru/
Monument to the three Communists
Semyonov, October Revolution Square

A five metre high monument located on one of Semyonov’s central squares.

The Culture and Art Centre
Semyonov, 3 Lenin Square

A house of culture, opened in 1937, on whose facade you can see a large clock in the form of a firebird decorated with Khokhloma artworks.

Semenov’s central square
Semyonov, Lenin Square

On the central square in Semyonov there is a pond with a beautiful fountain where you can relax on benches or swings beneath huge maple trees.

The Semenovsky Museum of Art and History
Semyonov, 5 Vaneeva St.

The mansion of Peter Sharygin with a 19th century merchant-style interior and display exhibitions dedicated to the Old Believers and the poet Boris Kornilov.

Working hours
Monday-Friday 09:00-17:00, Saturday 09:00-14:00, Sunday 10:00-16:00
+7 (83162) 5-27-61
http://www.semenov-museum.ru
Vaneeva Street
Semyonov, Vaneeva street

One of the town’s central streets, where you can see the ancient wooden houses of wealthy burghers and merchants, decorated with openwork carvings.

The Kerzhenets River
Pokrovskoye Village

A tributary on the left bank of the Volga, on the banks of which there once stood settlements of the Old Believers, and is now a place especially popular among kayakers and fishermen.

The Osinkovsky Holy Well
Osinki Village

A consecrated spring set in the forest, where the ancient Orthodox monastery of the Sofontiev Tolk once stood, alongside the graves of the monks who were burned at the stake here in 1720.

How to get there

Village Girl: the Semyonovsky urban district (Nizhny Novgorod region)

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