The area occupied by the city of Vladimir has been inhabited by humans (at least intermittently) for approximately 25,000 years. Traditionally, the founding date of Vladimir has been acknowledged as 1108, which is the date of the first mention of Vladimir in the Primary Chronicles. This view attributes the founding of the city, and its name, to Vladimir Monomakh (Monomachus), who inherited the region as part of the Rostov-Suzdal principality in the eleventh century. More recently, there has evolved a new opinion that the city is older than this. The claim is that a certain Father Georgy possesses chronicle material that mentions the city in 990, associating it with Vladimir the Red Sun (later St. Vladimir) the "father" of Russian Orthodoxy. In the early 1990's those who support the new date maintained that the traditionally recognized founding date was more acceptable to the former Communist regime, as affiliation with Russian Orthodoxy would conflict with the doctrine of state atheism. This new theory has caused a great deal of controversy, particularly with students and instructors specializing in the history of Vladimir. The defenders of the previously uncontested founding year of 1108 dispute the claims of those who support the new date, arguing that the new theory was fabricated in order to provide a reason to have a celebration in 1995. Some specialists in the history of Vladimir argue there is no archaeological or chronicle information which supports the claim that the city was founded in 990, while others feel there is sufficient evidence to support the new date.
Regardless of which founding date is most accurate, the city's most historically significant events occurred after the turn of the twelfth century. Serving its original purpose as a defensive outpost for the Rostov-Suzdal principality, Vladimir had little political or military influence throughout the reign of Vladimir Monomakh (1113-1125), or his son Yuri Dolgoruky ("long arms"—1154-1157). However, Vladimir rose in significance after Prince Andrei Bogolyubsky, son of Dolgoruky, officially transferred the throne from Suzdal to Vladimir, thus changing the name of the principality from Rostov-Suzdal to Vladimir-Suzdal in 1157. Under Prince Andrei Bogolyubsky and Vsevolod III "Big Nest" (Bolshoye Gnezdo--so named because he had a large family), Vladimir grew significantly in power and importance, replacing Kiev as the capitol of the Grand Principality of Rus in 1169. During the reign of Prince Vsevolod III "Big Nest" the city experienced its most substantial growth. Following his death in 1212, the consolidated "state" (Rus) divided into several smaller principalities.
In 1238 Vladimir, like all of Rus, fell under the Mongol Tatar yoke (Igo) which limited the city's ability to unify the multitude of royal thrones. Although the Tatar occupation affected the authority of the Vladimir princes, the legitimate seat of Russian royalty was confirmed by the official transfer of the Russian metropolitans from Kiev to Vladimir in 1299. Following this transfer of religious power, each successive grand prince of Rus was crowned in Vladimir until 1432.
Beginning in the mid-fourteenth century Vladimir's power was severely challenged by the rise of the Moscow principality, specifically under Prince Ivan Kalita. The eventual "gathering" of Moscow's preeminence, coupled with the stifling effects of Tartar occupation, ultimately extinguished Vladimir's potential to flourish as a royal city. However, the exulted role the city once played in the formation of the Russian state has assured continued recognition of Vladimir as a prime contributor to Russian politics, culture, and history.