Oryol or Orel is a city and the administrative center of Oryol Oblast, Russia, located on the Oka River, approximately 360 kilometers (220 mi) south-southwest of Moscow.
While there are no historical records, archaeological evidence shows that a fortress settlement existed between the Oka and Orlik Rivers as early as the 12th century, when the land was a part of the Principality of Chernigov. The name of the fortress is unknown; it may not have been called Oryol at the time. In the 13th century, the fortress became a part of the Zvenigorod district of the Karachev Principality. In the early 15th century, the territory was conquered by the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The city was soon abandoned by its population, after being sacked either by Lithuanians or the Golden Horde. The territory became a part of the Tsardom of Russia in the 16th century.
Ivan the Terrible decreed that a new fortress be built on the spot in 1566, for the purpose of defending the southern borders of the country. The fortress was built very speedily, work starting in the summer of 1566 and ending in the spring of 1567. The location chosen was less than ideal strategically, as the fortress was located on a seasonally flooded low ground easily targeted from the neighboring high ground. False Dmitry I and his army passed through Oryol in 1605; Ivan Bolotnikov in 1606; False Dmitry II camped in Oryol for the winter of 1607–1608. Polish intervention sacked it in 1611 and 1615; the population fled after the second sacking and moved to Mtsensk. Orlovsky Uyezd nonetheless continued to exist on paper.
Oryol was rebuilt in 1636. The question of moving the fortress to the more advantageous high ground was in the air up until the 1670s, but the move was never made. The fortress was deemed unnecessary and taken apart in the early 18th century.
In the mid-18th century Oryol became one of the major centers of grain production, with the Oka River being the major trade route until the 1860s when it was replaced by a railroad.
Oryol was granted town status in 1702. In 1708, Oryol was included as a part of Kiev Governorate; in 1719, Oryol Province was created within Kiev Governorate. The Province was transferred to the newly created Belgorod Governorate in 1727. On March 11, 1778 Oryol Vice-Royalty was created from parts of Voronezh and Belgorod Governorates. In 1779, the city was almost entirely rebuilt based on a new plan; and the Oryol River was renamed Orlik (lit: "little eagle").
After the October Revolution of 1917, the city was in Bolshevik hands, except for a brief period between October 13 and October 20, 1919, when it was controlled by Anton Denikin's White Army.
Oryol was once again moved between different oblasts in the 1920s and 1930s (at first as Oryol Governorate until 1928, then Central Black Earth Region between 1928 and 1934, finally in Kursk Oblast), finally becoming the administrative center of its own Oryol Oblast on September 27, 1937.
The Oryol Prison was a notable place of incarceration for political prisoners and war prisoners of the Second World War. Christian Rakovsky, Maria Spiridonova, Olga Kameneva and 160 other prominent political prisoners were shot on September 11, 1941 on Joseph Stalin's orders in the Medvedev forest outside Oryol.
During World War II, Oryol was occupied by the Wehrmacht on October 3, 1941, and liberated on August 5, 1943, after the Battle of Kursk. The city was almost completely destroyed.
- In Russian language, the name of this city means “eagle”. There is a legend about the origin of the name. According to it, it happened during the foundation of the fortress, in 1566. When builders began to chop down an oak standing on the river bank, at the confluence of the rivers Oka and Orlik, an eagle flew off from the top of the tree. “And here is the owner”, - said one of the men, and Ivan the Terrible ordered to name the town in honor this bird.
- The climate in Oryol is of moderate continental type. Winters are usually moderate cold, with occasional thaws and frosts. Summers are not settled, with periods of extreme hot and cool weather. The average temperature in January is minus 6.7 degrees Celsius, in July - plus 20.5 degrees Celsius.
- City Day in Oryol is celebrated on August 5. On this day in 1943, in Moscow, an artillery salute was given to honor the troops that liberated Orel and Belgorod. This was the first salute during the World War II in the USSR, that’s why both Orel and Belgorod received the nickname “the city of the first salute.”
- The Oryol tram, opened in 1898, along with the Nizhny Novgorod and Kursk trams belongs to the oldest tram systems in Russia, one year older than the Moscow tram, and nine years older than the St. Petersburg tram.
- “Oryol”, a nuclear submarine in the Northern Fleet of Russia, is named after the city of Oryol. On the conning tower of the submarine, you can see the coat of arms of the city.
- The main products manufactured in the city: food, machinery and electrical equipment, non-metallic mineral products, metallurgical production and production of finished metal products.
- The city has a large number of parks and gardens. The main park in Oryol is the Park of Culture and Recreation - a monument of nature and landscape art located within the streets: Proletarskaya Gora, Gorky Street, Kommuna Street and the Oka River.