The development of tourism in the Russian province. Renaissance

The development of tourism in the Russian province. Renaissance

For two years now, the small provincial town of Shuya has been turning into the capital of Orthodox Christmas holiday for several days. EcoTourism Expert visited the Ivanovo Region and found out what needs to be done to attract tourists to the Russian province.

The all-knowing Internet reports that in 2021, more than 200 thousand people from Ivanovo and neighbouring regions visited the Christmas festivals in Shuya. By the way, this number of tourists is almost four times the number of people living in the town!

In 2023, the crowds on the streets and cars that filled all the roadsides in the downtown showed that there were definitely many people who wanted to enjoy the atmosphere of the main Orthodox holiday. They came despite a very severe frost - on the Christmas’ eve, for example, the temperature dropped below 27 degrees Celsius!

Where to stay overnight

The first thing that makes you wonder is ‘Where are all these tourists accommodated’? In fact, there is only one good hotel in the town and the rest of the rooms are provided by a few guest houses only. We managed to check in at the hotel, and we had to book the hotel rooms at the end of October and pay half the cost of living in advance.

The hotel managers give a simple answer: most of those who come to the town during the Christmas holiday are from the neighbouring regions and the city of Ivanovo, so they do not stay in Shuya for more than one day. However, even in this short period, they can touch the real magic. Especially, if they are here in the evening!

Walking to the light installation


During the day, tourist who are fond of sightseeing are offered to go hiking. It is very pleasant that all the main attractions are located within a 10-15-minute slow walk. And for those who did not feel like walking in the very cold weather, the town authorities provided tourist buses running between the main tourist locations.

Brave tourists who were not afraid of severe frosts were rewarded with a warm welcome at real fires! This tradition has been practiced during the Christmas holidays in Shuya for more than a year - in the places where there are a lot of walkers, numerous forged hearths are set up where birch logs burning under the supervision of volunteers and the tourists can get warm here.

However, even though the travellers don’t feel like leaving the fire, they should pay attention to the sights! I would like to single out one of them, which appears on the Christmas holiday.

This is a light installation at the Cathedral of Our Saviour that used to be located on the central square of the town. The temple was blown up in 1940 and this sad event was a ‘rehearsal’ before the demolition of the Moscow Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. The Bolsheviks blew up the Shuya church to study how and where the blast wave would go so that not to ruin the neighbouring buildings. By the way, they needed three days to blow up the Cathedral of Our Saviour.

And today the cathedral has been restored as a mock-up model reduced three times, it is decorated with thousands of bright garlands. To be honest, many ‘real’ functioning chapels are smaller than this installation!

A bit of history


It is worth noting that Shuya is a town with a very rich history despite some touch of provinciality (in the good sense of the word). The official date of setting up the town is 1539, it is almost half a thousand years old. However, the records made by the first historian of Russia and the Ural area Vasily Tatishchev who lived at the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries, it follows that the town of Shuya existed back in 1394.

During these centuries, Shuya had the honour to be visited by several reigning persons, including Ivan the Terrible who joined the town to his personal domain, and Peter the Great’s daughter Elizabeth who even lived in Shuya as she liked the local hunting grounds. And Peter the Great specially visited the town to come up to kiss the miraculous icon of the Virgin of Smolensk and Shuya. Before the icon was lost in the Soviet years, it was in the Host Resurrection Church, and now the religious building is famous because the highest - 106 metres high - free-standing bell tower in Russia and Europe is next to it. By the way, any person can get up on the top of it, a ticket costs only 100 roubles.

The tourists can walk to the temple from the installation along the main pedestrian street of Shuya named after the revolutionary Malachy Belov. Previously, it was Torgovaya (Trade) Street and is a place where they can feel the real beauty of a real Russian province. Small stone houses decorated with numerous garlands for the holiday create their own special flavour, and every person wants to enter the store to buy souvenirs or drop into a bar to taste one of the famous Shuya liqueurs.


I would say a few words about souvenirs. Several souvenirs can be brought from Shuya. First, it is a bar of soap! By the way, a soap bar is depicted on the coat of arms of the town and not a yellow brick, as many people think. Shuya soap has been famous throughout Russia since the 17th century; people from all over the country came to the Borisoglebsk Fair to buy soap. And it is unique in that the Shuya soap makers were the first to add various oils to the soap solution. Today, everybody can buy a bar of hemp, linen soap, a soap bar with the aromas of pine needles, bananas, orange and even exotic ylang-ylang, and a handmade souvenir soap bar can cost from 100 to 200 roubles. By the way, every person can make soap and inexpensive workshop sessions are arranged at the Soap Museum to teach making soap.

The second brand of the town is Shuya cotton chintz. By the way, Shuya cotton chintz could be purchased at the IKEA store selling pillowcases, sheets and blanket covers when IKEA worked in Russia. Today, despite this negative moment, the production has not stopped and the products made of Shuya cotton chintz can be bought under their own brands.

And finally, alcoholic beverages. One of the most famous enterprises in the town, the 120-year-old Shuiskaya Vodka Factory is located near the railway station, and liqueurs and nastoykas (a kind of liqueur) have been produced since 1936.

Christmas holiday


But let’s get back to the sights that you can visit in Shuya only and, perhaps, take the memories in your heart or in photographs.

A Christmas express - a real main steam locomotive decorated with garlands - arrives every day at the town’s red-brick railway station, a restored building with the numbers ‘1896’on it. The arrival of the train at this moment is reminiscent of a very famous scene from the silent short film of the same name by the Lumiere brothers - the entire platform was filled with people who were meeting the hissing steam locomotive, and after it stopped, they arranged photo shoots. This year, a real orchestra played live music from ‘The Nutcracker’ in the railway station hall and, I must say, quite successfully competed with the steam locomotive for the tourists’ attention.


And yet, the main centre of attraction for the visitors of the town and its local residents during these holidays is the Park of the Christmas Miracle.

From January 6 to 9, the entire park became a single light installation. Dark alleys were illuminated with cozy blue lights, ‘embers’ from hidden spotlights danced along the branches of trees, and quiet and calm music came from the speakers. It was worth going through this truly fabulous forest because in the depths of the park, there was not only a decorated Christmas tree but with the help of a light show, a Christmas light installation came every minute, giving everyone a hope. 

EcoTourism Expert invites readers to make a note in their plans for the next year. And next Christmas can be even more magical for you.