Nizhny Novgorod colloquially shortened as Nizhny, is the fourth largest city in Russia, ranking after Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Novosibirsk. Population: 1,311,252 (2002 Census). It is the economic and cultural center of the vast Volga-Vyatka economic region, and also the administrative center of Nizhny Novgorod Oblast and Volga Federal District.
From 1932 to 1990 the city was known as "Gorky" after the writer Maxim Gorky who was born there.
The city was founded by Grand Duke Yuri II of Russia in 1221 at the confluence of two most important rivers of his principality, the Volga and the Oka. Its name literally means Newtown the Lower, to distinguish it from the older Novgorod. A major stronghold for border protection, Nizhny Novgorod fortress took advantage of a natural moat formed by the two rivers.
Along with Moscow and Tver, Nizhny Novgorod was among several newly-founded towns that escaped Mongol devastation on account of their insignificance and grew up into great centers of Russian political life during the period of Tatar yoke. Its importance further increased, when the seat of the powerful Suzdal Principality was moved here from Gorodets in 1350. Grand Duke Dmitry Konstantinovich (1323-1383) sought to make his capital a rival worthy of Moscow: he built a stone citadel and several churches and was a patron of historians. The earliest extant manuscript of the Russian Primary Chronicle, the Laurentian Codex, was written for him by the local monk Laurentius in 1377.
After the city's incorporation into Muscovy (1392), the local princes took the name Shuisky and settled in Moscow, where they were prominent at the court and briefly ascended the throne in the person of Vasili IV. After being burnt by the powerful Crimean Tatar chief Edigu in 1408, Nizhny Novgorod was restored and regarded by the Muscovites primarily as a great stronghold in their wars against the Tatars of Kazan. The enormous red-brick Kremlin, one of the strongest and earliest preserved citadels in Russia, was built in 1508–1511 under supervision of Peter the Italian. The fortress was strong enough to withstand Tatar sieges in 1520 and 1536.
In 1612, the so-called national militia, gathered by a local merchant Kuzma Minin and commanded by the Count Dmitry Pozharsky expelled the Polish troops from Moscow, thus putting an end to the Time of Troubles and establishing the rule of the Romanov dynasty. In the course of the following century, the city prospered commercially and was chosen by the Stroganovs (the wealthiest merchant family of Russia) as a base for their operations. A particular style of architecture and icon painting, known as the Stroganov style, developed there at the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries.
In 1817, the Makaryev Fair, one of the liveliest in the world, was transferred to Nizhny Novgorod, which thereupon started to attract millions of visitors annually. By the mid-19th century, the city on the Volga was firmly established as the trade capital of the Russian Empire. The world's first radio receiver of engineer Alexander Popov and the world's first hyperboloid tower and lattice shells-coverings of engineer Vladimir Shukhov were demonstrated at the All-Russia industrial and art exhibition in Nizhny Novgorod in 1896. Other industries gradually developed, and by the dawn of the 20th century it was a first-rank industrial hub as well. Henry Ford helped build a large truck and tractor plant (GAZ) in the late 1920s, sending along engineers and mechanics, including future labor leader Walter Reuther.
Famous writer Maxim Gorky was born in Nizhny Novgorod in 1868 as Alexei Maximovich Peshkov. In his novels he realistically described the dismal life of the city proletariat. Even during his lifetime, the city was renamed Gorky following his return to the Soviet Union in 1932 on invitation of Joseph Stalin. The city bore Gorky's name until 1991; his childhood home is preserved as a museum, known as the Kashirin House, after Alexei's grandfather who owned the place.
During much of the Soviet era, the city was closed to foreigners to safeguard the security of Soviet military research and production facilities, even though it was a popular stopping point for Soviet tourists traveling up and down the Volga in tourist boats. Unusually for a Soviet city of that size, even the street maps were not available for sale until the mid-1970s.
The physicist and the Nobel laureate Andrei Sakharov was exiled there during 1980-1986 to limit his contacts with foreigners.
An end to the "closed" status of the city has accompanied the reinstatement of the city's original name in 1990. Asociación de amigos de Gorki, a UNESCO recognized organization from Spain, was the first Western tourist group in the city after cancellation of this closed status.
Gorkovskaya Railroad, which operates some 5,700 km of rail lines throughout the Middle Volga region (of which some 1,200 in Nizhny Novgorod Oblast), is headquartered in Nizhny Novgorod. Overnight trains provide access to Nizhny Novgorod from Moscow. Since December 2002, a fast train transports passengers between Nizhny Novgorod and Moscow in less than five hours. One can continue from Nizhny Novgorod eastward along the Trans-Siberian Railway, with direct trains to major cities in the Urals and Siberia, as well as to Beijing.
There are more than six hundred unique historic, architectural, and cultural monuments in the city; that gave grounds to UNESCO to include Nizhny Novgorod in the list of 100 cities of the world which are of great historical and cultural value. There are about two hundred culture and art institutions of oblast and municipal subordination in Nizhny Novgorod. Among these institutions there are eight theatres, five concert halls, ninety-seven libraries (with branches), seventeen movie theaters (including five movie theaters for children), twenty-five institutions of children optional education, eight museums (sixteen including branches), and seven parks. Other notable landmarks are the two great medieval abbeys. The Pechersky Ascension Monastery features the austere five-domed cathedral (1632) and two rare churches surmounted by tent roofs, dating from the 1640s. The Annunciation monastery, likewise surrounded by strong walls, has another five-domed cathedral (1649) and the Assumption church (1678). The only private house preserved from that epoch formerly belonged to the merchant Pushnikov.
There can be little doubt that the most original and delightful churches in the city were built by the Stroganovs in the nascent Baroque style. Of these, the Virgin's Nativity Church (1719) graces one of the central streets, whereas the Church of Our Lady of Smolensk (1694-97) survives in the former village of Gordeevka (now, part of the city's Kanavinsky District), where the Stroganov palace once stood. The city has many industrial suburbs, such as Kstovo, Dzerzhinsk, and Bor. The town of Semyonov, to the north of Nizhny Novgorod, is known as a craft center for Khokhloma wood painting. Another suburb, Balakhna, is noted for its medieval architecture.
The art gallery in Nizhny Novgorod is a large and is among the most important ones in the world.
Nizhny Novgorod has a great and extraordinary art gallery with more than 12,000 exhibits, an enormous collection of works by Russian artists such as Viktor Vasnetsov, Karl Briullov, Ivan Shishkin, Ivan Kramskoi, Ilya Yefimovich Repin, Isaak Iljitsch Lewitan, Vasily Surikov, Ivan Aivazovsky, there are also greater collections of works by Boris Kustodiev and Nicholas Roerich, not only Russian art is part of the exhibition it include also a vast accumulation of Western European art like works by David Teniers the Younger, Bernardo Bellotto, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Pieter de Grebber, Giuseppe Maria Crespi, Giovanni Battista Piranesi, and lot more.
Finally what makes this gallery extremely important is the amazing collection Russian avant-garde with works by Kazimir Malevich, Wassily Kandinsky, Natalia Goncharova, Mikhail Larionov and so on. There is also collection of East Asian art.