The centre of the rich Black Earth region in the south of Russia, Voronezh is a fast-growing metropolis with busy cultural life. Built as a stronghold which was meant to defend Russian lands from the incursions of Crimean Tartars, Voronezh gained importance in the beginning of the 18th century, when Peter the Great decided to build the first Russian navy shipyard here. Like Volgograd and Sevastopol, Voronezh was almost entirely destroyed during World War II, and rebuilt in a lavish Soviet neoclassical style. Today's Voronezh is a bustling city with large student population and lots of hip cafés, bars, theatres and art galleries to keep you busy for a few days. The biggest and most exciting event in the city is the International Platonov Arts Festival which is held annually in the first two weeks of June.