Veliky Novgorod

Veliky Novgorod | St Petersburg Attractions About 180 kilometers from St Petersburg you can find the historic Russian city of Veliky Novgorod (Great Novgorod). The translation from Russian means “The New Big City” or “The Great New City.” Veliky Novgorod is one of the oldest and most culturally important cities in Russia. The city sits along the Volkhov River, near to Lake Ilmen and has approximately 230,000 inhabitants. Veliky Novgorod was first mentioned in the ancient Sofia First Chronicles as early as 859, although the exact date of the city’s founding is not certain. During the beginning of the city, Scandinavian Prince Rurik was invited to Veliky Novgorod to keep law and order, thus giving birth to the prince Rurik dynasty that ruled over all Russian lands for more than 750 years. Novgorod was also one of the greatest international trade centers on the Baltic-Volga commercial route that linked Northern Europe with Asia starting in the mid – 8th century. In 882 Veliky Novgorod was made the second city in Kievan Rus’ after Oleg of Novgorod captured Kiev and formed the Kievan Rus state. It was customary that the elder son of the ruling Kievan monarch would rule Novgorod. But in case there was no son to rule, the city was governed by a mayor, called a “posadnik” Viking kings visited Veliky Novgorod seeking safe haven from enemies and the city is mentioned in ancient Norse sagas as the capital of Gardariki, or the East Slavic lands. One of the Viking kings, Olaf II of Norway had a church erected in his memory in 1028. The most famous prince to rule Novgorod was Yaroslav the Wise. Yaroslav created the first written code of laws among the Eastern Slavs and his son financed the construction of St. Sophia Cathedral. The cathedral is the best preserved of existing 11th century churches and perhaps the oldest structure still in use in Russia. After 1136 Veliky Novgorod was made Novgorod Republic and the city state controlled most of Nothern Europe, from Estonia to the Ural Mountains. At this point in history Veliky Novgorod was one of the largest states in medieval Europe. Currently there are approximately fifty existing medieval churches around Novgorod, although some were destroyed by Germany during WWII and reconstructed. Novgorod is considered the home of Russian Republican and Democratic traditions. Up until 1478, all important decisions were taken by the “veche” – ancient parliament comprising the representatives of the town aristocratic families. If there was a critical decision to be made, all Novgorod citizens took part in the veche. Novgorod had a unique political structure, spiritual freedom, and territorial independence which helped the city evolve into cultural and artistic center. Medieval Novgorod had become one of the greatest art centers of Europe and its architectural traditions, school of icon-painting, jeweler’s and artists became world famous. Novgorod was also literary center in Russia and a leader in book production. In 1478 Veliky Novgorod was annexed by Ivan III to Grand Duchy of Moscow after the cities inability to feed its growing population and subsequent dependence on the Vladimir-Suzdal (including Moscow) Region for grain. By the 1550’s Veliky Novgorod was the third largest Russian city with approximately 25-30 thousand inhabitants. In 1611 Sweden briefly took control of the city during the “Time of Troubles.” However, the city was retaken by Russia six years later by the Treaty of Stolbovo. During World War II Novgorod was taken by the German army and many of the city’s historic monuments were destroyed. After the Soviet Army retook the city on January 19, 1944 only forty stone buildings were still standing. The main monuments in Novgorod have been declared the World Heritage Sites. In 1998, the city was officially renamed “Veliky Novgorod” referring to its medieval title “Lord Novgorod the Great”. In Veliky Novgorod the most famous site is the Novgorod Kremlin (Detinets). The Kremlin fortress was mentioned in chronicles as early as in 1044 and was the center for most important events in the life of ancient Novgorod. Events included hosting foreign embassies, seeing-off warriors to battle, public assembly meetings called “veche”. The Kremlin includes the following sites: - Chamber of Facets (1433) – The oldest palace in Russia which served as the meeting hall for archbishops. - The oldest Russian clock tower (1673) - St. Sophia’s Belfry – The oldest Russian bell tower (mid 15th century) - The royal palace (1771) - Millennium of Russia statue (1862) - The oldest trade-yard in Northern Europe  

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