|Coat of Arms|
Archaeology indicates that the site of Kursk was settled in the fifth or fourth century B.C. The settlement was fortified and included Slavs at least as early as the eighth century A.D.
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 the twelfth and thirteenth 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 its southern border province. It was an important center of the corn trade with the Ukraine and hosted an important fair, which took place annually under the walls of the monastery of Our Lady of Kursk.
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 have been the largest tank battle in history and was the last major German offensive mounted against the USSR.
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 cathedral has two stories, with the lower church consecrated to St. Sergius of Radonezh and the upper one — to the Theotokos of Kazan. The upper church is noted for an intricate icon screen which took 16 years to complete. The three-storey cathedral belltower derives peculiar interest from the fact that Seraphim of Sarov, whose father took part in construction works, survived an accidental fall from its top floor at the age of 7. The Resurrection Church is also shown where St. Seraphim was baptised.
The monastery cathedral of the Sign (1816-26) is another imposing edifice, rigorously formulated in the purest Neoclassical style, with a cupola measuring 20 metres in diameter and rising 48 metres high. The interior was formerly as rich as coloured marbles, gilding, and frescoes could make it. During the Soviet period, the cathedral was desecrated, four lateral domes and twin belltowers 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, Kursk 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 Prokhorovka.
The Command Station Bunker & Museum was built specifically in memorial of the courageous Russian T-34 tank units that fought in the Battle of Kursk, where a T-34 tank is on display. Over 6,000 armored vehicles fought in close range over the open territory near Kursk in 1943. This battle stopped the German advance into the Kursk Salient, and was a turning point in WWII on the Eastern Front.
Nearby is Tsentralno-Chernozemny Zapovednik, a large section of steppe soil that has never been plowed. It is used for a variety of research purposes.
Kursk State University is 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.