History of Orel

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. Both the speed and location are of course due to the new fortress built upon the ruins of the old one.

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 16071608. 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 1860s when it was replaced by a railroad.

Oryol was granted town