Chkalovsk’s origins are traced to Vasilyova Sloboda, an ancient settlement from the beginning of the 15th century. It was called after its founder, Prince Vasily Yuryevich, Yuri Dolgorukiy’s son. Presently, only two streets remain from Vasilyova Sloboda. These streets have wooden houses and a few merchants’ mansions dating from the 19th-20th century. In 1937 Vasilyovo was renamed Chkalovsk after the great Russian pilot Valery Chkalov. In 1955 the settlement received town status.
The most sensational page in the town’s history is related to the name of the great Russian aircraft test pilot Valery Pavlovich Chkalov. He was born and raised and lived a long time here.
In 1937 Chkalov was part of the crew that was the first in the world to perform a non-stop flight from Moscow, the Soviet Union, to Vancouver, Canada, via the North Pole. The legendary Tupolev ANT-25 plane, which made the flight, is exhibited in a hangar that makes up part of Chkalov memorial museum. Chkalov has a very special position in Russian aviation history. He created and executed a number of stunts: the upward spin, slow roll, pullout with height gain and others.
The memorial museum was created in 1940 in the house where Chkalov was born and had lived in. In the same year, the Soviet government erected a Culture Center honoring Valery Chkalov next to the pilot’s house. This Center is shaped like an aircraft.
In 2011, after renovations, the Culture Center was re-opened. It now offers the following exhibitions:
- The folk museum “Vasilyova Sloboda” tells about the history of the town and local shipbuilding;
- “Speed Museum” is dedicated to the engineering advances that create vehicles, which are able to cover miles on the ground, in the water, and in the air.
Presently, the museum has cutting-edge video and computer equipment that enables all visitors to discover Vasilyova Sloboda’s history. With the use of interactive games one can follow the development of the shipbuilding industry from barge haulers to hydrofoil crafts and ground assault vehicles. In the Chkalovsk district on the Trotsa River was an experimental base located there where “winged vehicles” – first aircrafts created by engineer Rostislav Alexeev - were tested. In the “Speed Museum” one can watch the unique 3D movie “Speed”.
On the second floor of the Culture Center there is a gallery dedicated to Alexander Kamanin’s paintings and an exhibition hall. In ten years the Chkalovsk area has given birth to over ten artists.
Chkalovsk is also famous for its embroidery in the “Nizhny Novgorod guipure” style. “Guipure” factory has a wonderful museum where workshops are conducted. In the Chkalovsk Crafts Center folk crafts such as coopery, willow weaving and fabric weaving are revived.
In the ancient village of Purekh a monument to Prince D.M. Pozharsky is erected. Pozharsky built a monastery here in the name of St. Macarius of the Yellow Water Lake. The Transfiguration Cathedral that was part of the monastery survives to this day. In Purekh there also is a Local History Museum about D.Pozharsky. Two kilometers away from the village there are also sacred water springs.
In August, fans of extreme sports can witness traditional Chkalovsk motorcycle racing, in June – yacht racing and in also in August – an air show.