Better with age: As Yaroslavl gets older, businesses thrive

The city of Yaroslavl is a thousand years old, but its residents are certainly keeping up with the 21st Century. Smaller towns in the region are also forging ahead, reviving dying crafts with modern techniques.

Whether it’s fast motors, funny felt or historic real estate, the people of the Yaroslavl Region are not short on space for their robust ambitions.

Take the landscape – almost 37,000 square kilometers – covered in snow in the winter months. Back in the 1970s, “Russkaya Mekhanika” set up a factory in Rybinsk, churning out man's new best-friend in the area – the Russian-made snowmobile.

“In Russia there are no trails for the snowmobiles and we have a huge snow territory, you can ride anywhere,” says Aleksey Starkov, Commercial Director, Russkya Mekhanika.

Now the company is the number one snowmobile manufacturer in the country with 700 employees.

Every machine is fully tested before it leaves the factory, bound for customers who include even the local police.

Over 400,000 of snowmobiles have been manufactured since the company began in 1971.

It is hoped that they will come in handy in running the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014.

Moving at a slightly slower pace is the sleepy village of Vyatskoe.

Investor Oleg Zharov left a career in science to create a tourist destination in an almost forgotten place he read about just a few years ago.

He has sunk a million dollars into an antiques museum, restaurant, hotel, and revived neighborhoods to attract travelers seeking the Russian provincial experience.

“The whole thing began as a hobby, gradually evolving into a way of life, and then into a business project,” says Oleg Zharov, "Vyatskoe" Tourist Center owner. “We can describe it as a social experiment of sorts, aimed at reviving our cultural and historical heritage.I’ve been handling this project for the last four years and the local population has changed its attitude radically. They now have confidence in me. This market has a lot of economic potential.”

And the people living there are keeping the potential alive by promoting traditional Russian lifestyle choices – from baptizing their babies to the way they keep warm.

“I learned how to make stoves and fireplaces from my granddad,” Valery Dubrovin, a fireplace mason. “People are rediscovering country lifestyles and they want a Russian stove in their house faced with ceramic tiles and brick. Generally, new villages are that way. It’s widespread. I give a 30-year warranty! Our grandchildren will live long enough to enjoy it.”

Back in Rybinsk, children are on the minds of a creative couple working in the dyed wool business. Pavel Gavrilov, a children's book illustrator, thought of another canvas for the characters he created on paper – and started adapting them into felt.

Now the "Funny Felt" company owned by Pavel Gavrilov and Liya Visnapu is something between art and factory mass-production. It employs single mothers so they can work at home and raise their families.

”There are many people with artistic minds here. What is important is to find ways to let them be manifested. Often, it is difficult to find how to do that,” Pavel Gavrilov says.

”People are very entrepreneurial here. This region is well to do when compared with other regions,” Liya Visnapu says. “For many people, the idea of socially-important entrepreneurship is all new – they don’t understand what it means. But I believe it's the future of this region.”