The little village of Vyatskoye, in the woods near the city of Yaroslavl, 250km North of Moscow, looks, at first glance, like any other rural villages in Russia…a bunch of scattered wooden houses here, an old church there…a small stream flowing slowly in its midst…
But this impression is quite misleading.
Because Vyatskoye is at the center of one of the most interesting projects that are taking place in the up-and-coming Russian tourism scene.
What is the Historical and Cultural Complex Vyatskoye?
About a decade ago, a couple of Russian entrepreneurs from Yaroslavl, the Zharovs, bought a house in Vyatskoe with the intention of restoring it and making it their second home.
What they possibly didn’t know at the time is that this purchase would kick off of a long-running initiative that would turn the tiny hamlet of Vyatskoye into the “Historical and Cultural Complex Vyatskoye”, a sort of live theme park that showcases Russian rural life of the last 200 years.
It is a theme park that is actually alive, because people continue to reside in Vyatskoe, yet, at the same time, the Zharov family has been investing in the restoration of the village, turning several of its old houses into museums that explain several aspects of Russian rural life through the centuries.
This has also been accompanied by the opening of several hotels, restaurants and shops to cater to the nearly 80,000 annual visitors, a figure that is expected to keep growing.
Vyatskoe is also a officially of the Most Beautiful Villages of Russia.
There is a constant, ongoing restoration work in Vyatskoe. Like so many other parts of Russia, Vyatskoe has its fair share of derelict buildings, but some of these are being brought back to the approximate state in which they were when this was a rather prosperous village at the turn of the 20th Century.
Some panels on the street give you an idea of how the place looked like at that time.
As it is the norm in Russian villages, Vyatskoe does not have a compact historical center such as those found in many Western European towns, but instead it is more of loose cluster of two-storey wooden buildings, that spans a rather large area (a feature of Russian rural architecture that we have commented here before).
Handily, at one of the museums there is a scale model of the village with all its houses.
What to do and what to see in Vyatskoe
Vyatskoe is basically a place where you can spend the whole day strolling from one museum to the next, although the village also makes for a nice walk outdoors, as it is a pretty rural setting (do not forget to buy cucumbers or cucumber seeds, as this is the typical produce of Vyatskoe!)
The museums themselves are not huge, as each usually takes a renovated village home and almost all of them are around Sovyetskaya Ulitsa, which is the main street.
Visitors to Vytaskoye can currently visit the following museums (this may have changed since the time of our visit)
Museum of Russian Entrepreneurship
This museum was started with the idea of showing everyone how the people of Vyatskoye were quite an entrepreneurial bunch. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, locals often traveled to Moscow and Saint Petersburg to earn a living and then came back to the village to enjoy the fruits of their labour.
The scope of the museum has now been expanded, so that now it is not only about Russian entrepreneurship but covers also local history with a much longer perspective that goes as far back as medieval times.
Cinematograph and “Dietsky Mir” Museum
Dedicated to children and historical toys
Musical Museum “The Sound of Time”
This museum hosts one of Europe’s best collections of music recording and reproduction equipment, including some very rare pieces from the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Museum-Printshop “Pages of the history of the printing business”
Well, I guess this one is self-explanatory
Museum of Kitchen Equipment
Another with a rather self-explanatory title. In fact, you can find here several rooms of a village house as they may have looked like before the Revolution.
Museum of Russian Amusements
Dedicated to the recovery of old Russian outdoor traditional forms of entertainment
Museum of the Russian “Banya”
Although it is not as well known as the Finnish one, Russia has its own version of the sauna, called “banya”, this museum is dedicated to it.
House of the merchant peasant or House of the Peasant Gorokhov
Museum of the Return of the Saints
This museum keeps keeps and tells the story of a 18th C. Gospel book that had been lost during the Russian Revolution and then recovered
Museum of the House of Angels
Tells the story of a local villager that in 1829 volunteered to repair single-handedly the angel at the top of the Peter and Paul spire in Saint Petersburg, which is 122m high. Given the technology of the time, this was a rather daunting enterprise.
Interactive museum of the traders Urlov brothers
Recreation of one of the two hotels that existed in the village at the turn of the 20th century.
Polytechnical museum of mechanisms and machines
It is located in the first floor of the same building as Urlov Brothers museum, it shows machines that were used by the peasants of Vyatskoe in their in everyday lives.
Where to stay in Vyatskoe
Ulitsa Sovetskaya, 8, с. Вятское, Yaroslavskaya oblast'
This hotel is also part of the renovated ensemble of the village. Large rooms, each with its own decor and personality and a somehow retro style, although this is in line with the overall theme of the place and is part of the charm I guess, since the hotel is actually quite modern. The service is good.