Balakhna is one of the oldest towns of the Nizhny Novgorod region. It was founded in 1474 and to which Russia has granted historical town status.
The Balakhna area is the birthplace of Russian patriot Kuzma Minin, who along with Dmitry Pozharsky, gathered the Volunteer Army in the 17th century. This movement freed Moscow from invaders and contributed to the Romanovs being elected to reign. There is a monument and a museum in the town to commemorate the fellow countryman’s bravery. In the 17th century Balakhna was a large salt-production center in Russia, some salt mines still remain on the banks of the Volga River. A marvelous legend tells us that the settlement was first born here after being discovered by two Plesyanychy brothers. The town soon there after turned into a salt-production site.
From the middle 17th century Balakhna became a large shipbuilding center. The town’s coat of arms reflects this: included on it are two compass timbers on a silver field that symbolizes its outstanding achievements in shipbuilding.
The Balakhna district has unique architectural monuments: the steepled stone Church of St. Nicolas, the second oldest in the Nizhny Novgorod region. It was constructed in 1552 to commemorate the conquest of Kazan. Other outstanding monuments include the Nativity Cathedral with a brilliantly preserved altar icon from the 17th century; the Savior’s Church was built in 1668 with ceramic tiles made by Balakhna craftsmen. At the turn of the 18th century Balakhna became one of the centers of ceramic tile production in Russia. Balakhna tiles were also used to decorate Saint Basil’s Cathedral on Red Square.
Most 17th century buildings in Nizhny Novgorod were erected with stones from Balakhna.
In Yuryino village survives a monument of wooden architecture – the Church of Our Lady of Kazan, located on what once was the Pozharsky family estate.
The history of the town and district is represented in the Balakhna Local History Museum that is located in the Plotnikov Mansion on the Volga embankment and in the Hudyakov Mansion. Unique collections of Old Russian paintings, 19th century wooden sculpture and lacework are kept in the museum. Balakhna is famous for its bobbin lace. There is a special “Balakhna style” of lacework, which is created with a unique pair-bobbin technique.
On the first Sunday in September, Balakhna celebrates Town day. On this holiday, the local people reenact the actions of Kuzma Minin. A large theatrical performance is held on the main town square that also involves guests of the town. One can see the studios where artists, carvers, lace-makers, pot makers, willow weaving and whistle makers show their art.