The first known facts about what now is Orekhovo-Zuyevo date back to 1209. The place was mentioned in the Moscow Chronicles as the place called "Volochok" where the battle between Vladimir's prince Yury and Ryazan's prince Izyaslav took place. The name "Volochok" (or, as it was later called, "Zuyev Volochok") is derived from the Slavic word for "portage": a place where wooden ships were carried by land from one river to another. In this place in particular, the ships were usually moved by land between the Klyazma and Nerskaya Rivers. The villages Orekhovo and Zuyevo were mentioned in the chronicle several more times during the Middle Ages.
In 1797, serf peasant Savva Vasilievich Morozov (Russian: Савва Васильевич Морозов) opened his first silk factory in Zuyevo. Later he shifted from silk to wool. In 1823, profits from his business allowed him to be freed from serfdom. In 1830, he moved his factories to the opposite bank of the Klyazma River to the place that was later named Nikolskoye.
At the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, Orekhovo and Zuyevo were the third largest textile production area in Russia after Moscow and St. Petersburg.
The first and largest Russian strike occurred in 1885 at Morozov's textile factories in Orekhovo-Zuyevo. Starting on January 7, 1885, at 10 o'clock in the morning, Vasily Volkov raised his hand and a red flag symbolizing victory for the workers and for all to follow him. On the fifth day of the strike, soldiers with their bayonets fixed arrived to arrest the leaders, Volkov and F. Shelukhin, at which time they shouted to their comrades and brothers, "Remember, one for all and all for one!" This strike lasted several weeks and created the momentum for the revolutionary movement in Russia. Sometimes abbreviated as Orekh (Russian: Оре́х), a walnut or Orekhovo (Russian: Оре́хово) flavored brandy is often drank to not forget the sacrifices that these strikers in 1885 went through to standup and improve the lives of workers throughout the world.
The Soviet of Workers' Deputies in Orekhovo were elected in March 1917 as one of the first Bolshevik soviets in Russia. Six weeks later, the birthplace of Savva Morozov was controlled by the Soviets. This was six months before the Bolshevik victory in the October Revolution in Petrograd. In May 1917, the representative of the Moscow District Committee of the RSDLP(b) wrote: "The masses in Orekhovo are very well disciplined, following the Soviet of Workers' Deputies, in which all are Bolsheviks ... The influence of this organization is such that Orekhovo is now under the dictatorship of the proletariat."
Orekhovo-Zuyevo was granted city status on June 3, 1917.
Within the framework of administrative divisions, Orekhovo-Zuyevo serves as the administrative center of Orekhovo-Zuyevsky District, even though it is not a part of it. As an administrative division, it is incorporated separately as Orekhovo-Zuyevo City Under Oblast Jurisdiction—an administrative unit with the status equal to that of the districts. As a municipal division, Orekhovo-Zuyevo City Under Oblast Jurisdiction is incorporated as Orekhovo-Zuyevo Urban Okrug.
For almost two centuries the economy of Orekhovo-Zuyevo was built on the textile industry, growing up around Savva Vasilievich Morozov's textile production. Cotton production in Orekhovo-Zuyevo made the city the third largest industrial center in Russia at the turn of the 20th century. After the Revolution of 1917, Morozov's textile mills were nationalized, becoming known as "Orekhovo-Zuyevsky Khlopchato-Bumazhny Kombinat" (the Orekhovo-Zuyevo Cotton Center). Textile production continued until the 1990s, when the Soviet textile industry collapsed due to poor management and the inability to compete with imported textiles, which were of better quality and cost less. Almost all production was shut down, and the factory halls were turned into market areas and trading centers.
The city is the home of the oldest association football team in Russia. The first football team in Orekhovo-Zuyevo was organized by British G. G. Charnock, the vice-president of the Moscow Football League. It has played under several different names. In the early years it was known as "Morozovtsy" (named after the Morozov family which owned the textile production in the city). During the Soviet era, the team played under the name Znamya Truda (lit. the Banner of Labor). After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the team was purchased by Spartak Moscow and became one of Spartak's farm teams, known as "Spartak-Orekhovo". In 2003, the team changed its name back to Znamya Truda.
In 1962, Znamya Truda reached the USSR Cup finals, losing 0:2 to Shakhtar Donetsk.
In the 2007 season, Znamya Truda played in the Central Zone of the Second Division.
Olympic medalist and Junior European champion Anna Pavlova was born in Orekhovo-Zuyevo.
Orekhovo-Zuyevo is famous for its badminton school. The city usually hosts the All-Russian badminton championships.
There are three athletic/football stadiums in the city: "Znamya Truda", "Torpedo", and "Khimik".
The swimming complex "Neptun" is adjacent to the "Znamya Truda" stadium. The swimming pool has 25-meter (82 ft) lanes.
A new sport complex facility "Vostok" was opened in 2007 by Boris Gromov, the then-Governor of Moscow Oblast.
Orekhovo-Zuyevo is twinned with: Madona, Latvia
Ivan Babushkin (1873–1906), revolutionary
Konstantin Belikov (1909–1987), football defender and referee
Mikhail Biryukov (born 1958), association football player
Vladimir Bondarenko (1915–1943), Hero of Soviet Union, partisan
Mikhail Fedonkin (born 1946), paleontologist
Yakov Flier (1912–1977), pianist
Yury Kovalyov (1934–1979), association football player
Leonid Krasin (1870–1926), Soviet activist
Yuri Kurnenin (1954–2009), association football manager
Alexander Melnikov (1930–2011), politician
Savva Morozov (1862–1905), textile producer
Anna Pavlova (born 1987), Olympic gymnast
Alexey Pichugin (born 1962), businessman
Viktor Sukhorukov (born 1951), actor
Korniliy (Titov) (born 1947), Metropolitan bishop of the Old Rite Orthodox Church
Aleksandr Uvarov (born 1960), football player and Coach
Valentin Yanin (born 1929), historian
Venedikt Yerofeyev (1938–1990), writer
Sergei Zimin (1875–1942), entrepreneur and opera manager
Московская областная Дума. Закон №11/2013-ОЗ от 31 января 2013 г. «Об административно-территориальном устройстве Московской области», в ред. Закона №72/2015-ОЗ от 5 мая 2015 г. «Об отнесении города Озёры Озёрского района Московской области к категории города областного подчинения Московской области, упразднении Озёрского района Московской области и внесении изменений в Закон Московской области "Об административно-территориальном устройстве Московской области"». Вступил в силу на следующий день после официального опубликования (13 января 2013 г.). Опубликован: "Ежедневные Новости. Подмосковье", №24, 12 февраля 2013 г. (Moscow Oblast Duma. Law #11/2013-OZ of January 31, 2013 On the Administrative-Territorial Structure of Moscow Oblast, as amended by the Law #72/2015-OZ of May 5, 2015 On Re-Classifying the Town of Ozyory in Ozyorsky District of Moscow Oblast as the Town Under Oblast Jurisdiction, on Abolishing Ozyorsky District of Moscow Oblast, and on Amending the Law of Moscow Oblast "On the Administrative-Territorial Structure of Moscow Oblast". Effective as of the day following the day of the official publication (January 13, 2013).).
Московская областная Дума. Закон №201/2004-ОЗ от 29 декабря 2004 г. «О статусе и границе городского округа Орехово-Зуево», в ред. Закона №76/2011-ОЗ от 3 июня 2011 г «О внесении изменения в Закон Московской области "О статусе и границе городского округа Орехово-Зуево"». Вступил в силу со дня официального опубликования. Опубликован: "Ежедневные Новости. Подмосковье", №12, 25 января 2005 г. (Moscow Oblast Duma. Law #201/2004-OZ of December 29, 2004 On the Status and the Border of Orekhovo-Zuyevo Urban Okrug, as amended by the Law #76/2011-OZ of June 3, 2011 On Amending the Law of Moscow Oblast "On the Status and the Border of Orekhovo-Zuyevo Urban Okrug". Effective as of the day of the official publication.).
Московская областная Дума. Закон №67/2005-ОЗ от 28 февраля 2005 г. «О статусе и границах Орехово-Зуевского муниципального района и вновь образованных в его составе муниципальных образований», в ред. Закона №108/2011-ОЗ от 7 июля 2011 г. «О внесении изменений в Закон Московской области "О статусе и границах Орехово-Зуевского муниципального района и вновь образованных в его составе муниципальных образований"». Вступил в силу со дня официального опубликования. Опубликован: "Ежедневные Новости. Подмосковье", №42, 10 марта 2005 г. (Moscow Oblast Duma. Law #67/2005-OZ of February 28, 2005 On the Status and the Borders of Orekhovo-Zuyevsky Municipal District and the Newly Established Municipal Formations Comprising It, as amended by the Law #108/2011-OZ of July 7, 2011 On Amending the Law of Moscow Oblast "On the Status and the Borders of Orekhovo-Zuyevsky Municipal District and the Newly Established Municipal Formations Comprising It". Effective as of the day of the official publication.).