Kursk is a city in the western part of Central Russia, at the confluence of Kur, Tuskar, and Seym rivers. It is the administrative center of Kursk Oblast. The population of the city was 412,442 in 2002 (according to the 2002 population census). This city was a key turning point of the Russian-German war during World War 2 and held the largest tank battle in history.
It is known that a Slavic fortified settlement existed there at least since 8th century AD, and other settlements since 4–5th century BC.
The first written record of Kursk is dated 1032. It was mentioned as one of Severian towns by Prince Igor in The Tale of Igor's Campaign: "As to my Kurskers, they are famous knights—swaddled under war-horns, nursed under helmets, fed from the point of the lance; to them the trails are familiar, to them the ravines are known, the bows they have are strung tight, the quivers, unclosed, the sabers, sharpened; themselves, like gray wolves, they lope in the field, seeking for themselves honor, and for their prince glory."
The seat of a minor principality, Kursk was raided by the Polovtsians in 12th and 13th centuries and destroyed by Batu Khan around 1237. The city was rebuilt no later than 1283. Kursk joined the centralized Russian state in 1508 becoming the southern border province of the state. It was a large centre of corn trade with Ukraine and hosted an important fair, which took place annually under the walls of the Our Lady of Kursk Monastery.
The Soviet government prized Kursk for rich deposits of iron ore and developed it into one of the major railroad hubs in the Russian Southwest. During World War II, the village of Prokhorovka near Kursk was the center of the Battle of Kursk, a major engagement between Soviet and German forces, which is widely believed by historians to be the largest tank battle in history and the last major German offensive mounted against USSR.
The oldest building in Kursk is the upper church of the Trinity Monastery, a good example of the transition style characteristic for Peter’s the Great early reign. The oldest lay building is the so-called Romodanovsky Chamber, although it was erected in all probability in the mid-18th century, when the Romodanovsky family had ceased to exist.
The city cathedral was built between 1752 and 1778 in the splendid Baroque style and was decorated so sumptuously that many art historians attributed it to Bartolomeo Rastrelli. Although Rastrelli's authorship is out of the question, the cathedral is indeed the most impressive monument of Elizabethan Baroque not to be commissioned by the imperial family or built in the imperial capital.
The monastery cathedral of the Sign (1816-26) is another imposing edifice, rigorously formulated in the purest Neoclassical style, with a cupola measuring 20 meters in diameter and rising 48 meters high. The interior was formerly as rich as colored marbles, gilding, and frescoes could make it. During the Soviet period, the cathedral was desecrated, four lateral domes and twin bell-towers over the entrance pulled down. There are plans to restore the church to its former glory.
The modern city is a home for several universities: Medical University, University of Technology, State University (former Pedagogical University) and Agricultural Academy, as well as the private Regional Open Social Institute (ROSI). There are also modern shrines and memorials commemorating the Battle of Kursk, both in the city and in the village of Prokhorovka.
The Command Station Bunker and Museum were built specifically in memorial of the courageous Russian T38 tank units that fought in the Battle of Kursk. A T-38 tank is on display. It is a 3 men tank that gave advantage over the Panzer 2 men tank. Over 6,000 armored vehicles fought in close range over open miles of territory. This battle stopped the advance, and was a turning point in WWII.
Kursk played a role in the Cold War as host to Khalino air base.
Kursk State University is a home to the Russian Chamber Orchestra, under the direction of conductor and trumpet soloist Sergei Proskourin. The orchestra performs regularly, tours internationally and has produced multiple CDs.