Ryazan is a city in the Central Federal District of Russia, the administrative center of Ryazan Oblast. It is located on the Oka River 196 km south-east of Moscow with population of 521,560 (2002).
It is argued that the Ryazan Kremlin was founded in 1095 by Slavic settlers, as a step of their drive into the territory previously populated by Finnish peoples. Initially it was built of wood, gradually replaced by masonry. The oldest preserved part of the Kremlin dates back to the 15th century.
However, the city is first mentioned as Pereslavl-Ryazansky only in 1301. At the time it was part of the Ryazan Principality, independent from 1129. The first ruler of Ryazan was supposedly Yaroslav Sviatoslavich, Prince of Chernigov (the city of Kievan Rus'), later Prince of Murom-Ryazan.
This area, situated as it is at the junction of forest and steppe zones, suffered from numerous invasions from the south: khazars, pechenegs, polovtsians. The early capital of the principality, Ryazan was the first Russian city to meet the Mongols of Batu Khan. On December 21, 1237 it was devastated and failed to recover to its previous position. This site is now known as Staraya Ryazan (Old Ryazan) and is situated some 50 km from the actual Ryazan (then Pereslavl-Ryazansky).
In the 1380 Kulikov Battle, the key event in Russian history, Grand Prince Oleg of Ryazan and his men fought as allies of Mamai, a strongman of the Tartar Golden Horde, against the Russian armies under the command of the Grand Prince of Vladimir, Dmitri Ivanovich of Moscow.
Late in the 13th century the Princes of Ryazan moved their capital to Pereslavl, which is known as Ryazan from the 16th century (officially renamed in 1778). The principality was finally incorporated into that of Moscow in 1521.
Today, Ryazan is a fast-changing city, especially in the areas around the Novosyolov and Moskovskoye Shosse streets. Large shopping malls started to appear recently, and a new indoor skating rink was built on the Novosyolov. The city is home to the Airborne Forces academy.