Pereslavl-Zalessky was founded in 1157 by Yuri Dolgoruky for two very important reasons. The first was political: he sought to draw parallels between the power base he was building in northeast Rus' and the center of power in Kiev, to the southeast. So he named this town Pereyaslavl (meaning "to achieve glory"; the "ya" was later dropped) after a town outside of Kiev, and he named the river alongside the town Trubezh, just as in the Kievan Pereyaslavl. The "Zalessky" appellation, added in the 15th century, means "beyond the forests" and was used to distinguish the town from many other Pereyaslavls (not least the one near Kiev).
The second reason was economic. The location of the town on the southern shore of Lake Pleshcheyevo was ideal for defending the western approaches to vital trade routes along the Nerl River to the Klyazma, Oka, and Volga rivers. The topography only accentuates this role. From the hills, the impressive Danilovsky and Goritsky monasteries peer down on the low wooden and stone buildings of town.
As the birthplace of Alexander Nevsky (1220-63), Pereslavl-Zalessky has yet another claim to fame. Nevsky entered the pantheon of Russia's great heroes when, as Prince of Novgorod, he beat back invading Swedes in 1240 at the Battle of the Neva (thus his last name). For his victory, the Mongol Khan awarded Nevsky the title of Grand Prince of Vladimir. There's a small church in town honoring Nevsky.
Note that the town can be reached by bus or car, but not by train.
Pereslavl-Zalessky at a Glance
Elsewhere in Moscow Environs
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