Smolensk is an administrative, industrial and cultural centre of Smolenskaya oblast. The city area is 166.35 sq. km. The population (on January 1, 2001) is 347.6 thousand people. Smolensk is situated on the banks of the higher Dnepr, which flows through the Smolensk height. The city has an advantageous geographical position as it controls the ways from Moscow to Byelorussia, the Baltic States, countries of the Central and Western Europe. The climate of Smolensk is moderately continental with rather warm summer and comparatively cold winter. The average annual temperature is 4,3 degrees centigrade. The coldest month is January (-9,4 degrees), the warmest is July (17,1). Fogs are very often here - 103 days a year.
Smolensk is one of the most ancient Russian cities. It was first mentioned in the Russian annals of IX century. Gnezdovskoye settlement is supposed to be a place of the first city (present Gnezdovo). The Gnezdovo barrows are the world's largest heathen cemetery. The city is known since the year of 863; in IX-X centuries it was a centre of the Slavic tribe Krivichi, a large trading and craft settlement. Over many centuries Smolensk was the guard of the western borders of the Russian lands. It was by right called the city - key and the shield of the Russian state.
The city economic potential is its industry. It comprises about 80 large and middle-scale enterprises that make 57,1 % of the industrial and production potential of Smolenskaya oblast. Jeweller's production is best developed here. Among largest enterprises is the Smolensk Production Association "Crystal", the unitary enterprise. Smolensk is known as a large centre of machine-building and instrument making, producing various gas analyzers, counters, household refrigerators and freezing rooms, industrial equipment for mechanical engineering, machines for municipal services, automobile engines, boilers, portable cash registers, lamps, medical equipment, presses, etc.
In 1985 Smolensk was titled the city-hero.
Numerous monuments reflect its more than thousand-year history. One of them is a fortress wall erected in XVI century (by the architect Fedor Saveliyevich Kon). Its length - 6,5 km, width - 4-6 meters, height with battlement - 12-16 meters. The oldest temple is the Church of Peter and Paul - an outstanding monument of the Russian architecture of XII century. There are two more churches and the Uspensky Cathedral (1677-1679), completed by the architect A.I.Shedel in 1712-1740.
In numerous monuments of Smolensk the events of the Patriotic War of 1812 are vividly reflected. There are a lot of monuments for outstanding people of Russia here in Smolensk.
The Smolensk land is the birth-place of many outstanding statesmen, scientists and cultural workers. Among them are the names of the first cosmonaut Y.A.Gagarin, the famous Russian traveler N.M.Przhevalsky, the admiral P.S.Nakhimov, the outstanding scientists V.V.Dokuchayev, B.N.Petrov, the aircraft designer S.A.Lavochkin.
In the Russian culture there is legacy of such Smolensk poets as M.V.Isakovsky, A.T.Tvardovsky, N.I.Rylenkov, writers B.L.Vasiliyev, A.R.Belyayev, composer M.I.Glinka, sculptor S.T.Konenkov, artist T.N.Yablonskaya. The city of Smolensk is rich in cultural traditions.
Smolensk is the significant cultural centre. There are eight children's musical schools for more than 2700 children, the children's Arts School and twenty libraries.
The educational system of Smolensk is represented by all types of institutions. Among them are 26 institutes, 5 various educational centres, 18 specialized secondary establishments, 11 vocational schools, 43 secondary schools, 60 kindergartens.
The city-hero Smolensk is included into the Union of the Russian cities. Smolensk is closely connected with twin cities Hagens (Germany) and Tulle (France). The treaty for social, economic and cultural cooperation is signed with cities of Zhitomir, Orel, Vitebsk, with Ostankinsky district of Moscow. Various forms of co-operation in the cultural sphere are established with cities of Byelorussia, Germany, Poland, Italy. Each year in Smolensk take place the International festival of jazz, pop and rock music called "The Smolensk project" and the festival of author's song.