Oryol Oblast is one of Russia's smallest regions, about the same size as the Republic of Macedonia. The ancient cities in Oryol Oblast—Mtsensk, Bolkhov, and Livny—protected Russia from raids from the south and are mentioned in 12th century chronicles. The many museums preserve the traditions of unique clay whistles, delicate lace, and red embroidery, known here as Oryol Spis. These crafts are still alive today: artisans hold master classes for visitors and sell modern products made using ancient technology.
Ivan Turgenev wrote about Oryol in his works and today you can visit the famous Turgenev museum-estate, Spasskoe-Lutovinovo. The Orlovskoye Polesye National Park was created in the west of Oblast and covers more than 77,000 hectares. The area has forests and swamps, southern Russian taiga and many springs, many rare animals, and even bison. According to legend, the bandit Nightingale the Robber lived in Orlovskoye Polesye. The national park holds the Trinity Dances international folk festival.
Unique arts and crafts are still created in Oryol Oblast: the most famous is probably the Oryol Spis. The roots of this craft go back into the distant past, when Oryol was home to Vyatichi—pagans who were among the last people to convert to Christianity in the 14th century. The protective properties of ancient items has been preserved in rituals and associated goods, including embroidery. Despite taking Christianity, the ancient pagan symbols were worshiped as symbols of kind magic. The Oryol Spis traditions are still developed by Oryol artisans, who use both new and old motifs in their work.
The surroundings of the village of Chernyshino in Novosilsky District are rich in varied clays: red, white, and blue. Some of them are claimed to have therapeutic properties; one of the clays, which is unusually viscous, has been used since ancient times by men to mold dishes, while women made toys and whistles. The tradition of the Chernyshino clay toy is still alive today in Oryol Oblast.
One of the oldest Russian lace, the Mtsensk Lace is made here. In the 18th century, mistress Protasova opened a lace factory in Mtensk. She invited two teachers from Belgium to teach local girls. The Russian artisans embraced their skills, but introduced their own changes that made the whole world start talking about Russian lace. Mtsensk lace is different from Eletsk and Vologda lace: it is very airy, it uses background lattices and geometric themes.