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Novgorod Travel Guide

Novgorod History

Novgorod was founded in 1221 by Grand Duke George II of Russia, but the Town of Novgorod was first mentioned in the Russian chronicles. "Novgorod" means "New Town" in Russian. The chronicle first mentions it in 854, when it was already a major station on the trade route from the Baltics to Byzantium.

In 882, Rurik's successor, Oleg of Novgorod, captured Kiev and founded the state of Kievan Rus. In that state Novgorod was the second city in importance. According to a custom, the elder son and heir of the ruling Kievan prince was sent to rule Novgorod even as a minor. In Norse sagas the city is mentioned as the capital of Gardariki (e.g., the East Slavic lands). Four Viking kings - Olav I of Norway, Olav II of Norway, Magnus I of Norway, and Harald Haardraade sought refuge in Novgorod from enemies at home.

Of all their princes, Novgorodians cherished most the memory of Yaroslav the Wise, who promulgated first written code of laws and sponsored the construction of the great St Sophia Cathedral, standing to this day. As a sign of gratitude for helping him to defeat his elder brother and obtain the Kievan throne, Yaroslav conferred numerous privilegies on the city. On the other hand, Novgorodians named their central square after Yaroslav.

In 1014 Novgorod got independence. Generally Novgorod was the part of Kievskaya Rus' Kingdom, but the small town soon became a rich city and obtained enough power to proclaim independence and set up an own state. By 1044 New stonewalls of Detinets were built. Detinets is local title for a town castle (Kremlin). Stone castle in Novgorod was one of the first in the country, and only the most powerful cities in Russia could afford it. In 1045 The Church of Saint Sofia was built in Detinets. This church soon became the main cathedral of Russian North, due to its beautiful architecture and great size.

In 1136, Novgorod merchants and boyars seceded from Kiev, banished their prince and proclaimed the Novgorod Republic. The powerful city state controlled most of Europe's North-East, from today's Estonia to the Ural Mountains. The most important figure in Novgorod was the Posadnik, an official elected by the popular assembly from the city's aristocracy. The Novgorod court was formally presided over by the Prince, but his verdicts had to be confirmed by the Posadnik to become binding. In the 13th century, the city joined Hanseatic League. Novgorod History

By 1240 Prince Alexander who was invited to Novgorod to protect it worked his money out. Swedish army tried to capture Novgorod, but army of the Alexander defeated them near the Neva River. Alexander got the new title Alexander Nevsky. And in 1242 Alexander Nevsky saved Novgorod one more time. State of Teutonic order, which bordered Novgorod republic, decided to get rid of the neighbors. Huge army of well-equipped skilled knights attacked Novgorod, but Alexander Nevsky defeated them near Chudskoe Lake.

Throughout middle Ages, the city thrived culturally. Most of the population was literate and used birch bark letters for communication. Novgorod was praised by foreigners for its paved embankments and clean streets. Some of the most ancient Russian chronicles were written in the city. The Novgorod merchant Sadko became a popular hero of Russian folklore.

Eventually Ivan III annexed the city to Muscovy in 1478. In this moment Novgorod became part of Moscow kingdom and republic was wiped off. Kingdom of Moscow was becoming more and more powerful; it had already joined many cities and towns all over Russia. Novgorod remained the third largest Russian city; however, until Ivan the Terrible sacked the city and slaughtered thousands of its inhabitants in 1570.

In 1611-1617 Swedish army controlled Novgorod. It was hard time for Russia there was a civil war, and at the same time Poland, Sweden and Russia attacked it. Russia had lost Novgorod, but later managed to take it back. In 1727, Novgorod was made a capital of the Novgorod government. And in 1862 Novgorod was considered the oldest town and the first prince of Russia decided to build a monument in this city.

On August 15, 1941 it was occupied by the Nazi army. Its historic monuments were systematically annihilated. It was completely demolished, like many other cities in Soviet Union, when the Red Army liberated the city on January 19, 1944, out of 2536 stone buildings less than 40 were still standing and government included Novgorod in the list of the top 15 soviet cities to restore. After the Word War II, the downtown has been gradually restored. Its chief monuments are declared the World Heritage Site.

By 1992 the Historical part of Novgorod was included in the List of World's historical heritage and in 1998, the city was officially renamed Velikiy Novgorod, thus partly reverting to its medieval title "Lord Novgorod the Great".

Nowadays, Novgorod is a small, calm town in province, the main Russian port, with splendid Old Russian architecture, interesting museums and clean river next to the Kremlin, fresh air, many trees, and nice and helpful people.

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