Silver Ring around St. Peterburg
NOVGOROD - one of the most ancient cities of Russia located in its North-West, near the site where the Volkhov river takes its waters from Lake Ilmen, emerged as a political center of Slavic and Fino-Ugric tribes in the mid-9th century, while as a town it was formed in the middle of the 10th century.
The history of Novgorod is closely linked with all major stages in the life of Russian state. In the times, when the statehood of Rus was just in the making, the Novgorodians invited Scandinavian prince Rurik to keep law and order, thus giving birth to the prince Rurik dynasty that ruled over all Russian lands throughout more than 750 years. In the early 10th century, war campaigns of the Novgorodians against Constantinopol to secure equal trade with Bizantine resulted in the integration of East Slavic tribes into the ancient Kievan Russian state. The adoption of Christianity at the close of the tenth century turned Novgorod into a powerful ecclesiastical center. The efforts of Novgorod Bishops in spreading and promoting the Orthodoxy were given high credit in the mid-12th century when they were elevated to the ranks of Archbishops which made the Bishops Chair of Novgorod most powerful in the Russian Orthodoxy.
The right of Novgorod to select its own princes, that was granted in the middle of the twelfth century, attracted princes to the Novgorod throne, and that provided favorable conditions to maintain the unity of Russian lands tending to be feudally divided, while the annexation of Novgorod republic to Moscow Principality at the end of the 15th century resulted in the united Russian State with Moscow as a capital.
Throughout many centuries, Novgorod was a political center of vast territories stretching up from Baltic lands and Finland in the West to northern Urals in the East. It was also one of the greatest international trade centers on the Baltic-Volga commercial route that tied northern Europe with Asia as early as in the mid - 8th century. Novgorod is the cradle of Russian republican and democratic traditions. In the course of over 600 years, up till 1478, all vital decisions on its life and foreign policy were taken by the "veche" - ancient parliament comprising the representatives of the town aristocratic. families. At crucial times of Novgorod history, all people took part in the veche.
The town's military power, its remoteness from dangerous southern borders, successful campaigns against clergical reforms and heresies enabled to preserve a unique complex of architectural monuments with frescoes of the 11th - 17th centuries, the oldest Russian manuscripts, chronicles, acts, icons. The only time in its history when Novgorod suffered military damages was in the course of the World War II: for over two years the city, being at the front line, was bombed and shelled by both combating armies. Turned into ruins, this city on the Volkhov River was brought to life again by the restorers who managed to revive old architecture.
First of all you will be fascinated by the cathedral of St. Sophia, the Holy Wisdom of God - the oldest survived Russian stone monument. It was built in 1045. Powerful monolithic massive structure of the monument still dominates not only the Kremlin, but the whole historic downtown of Novgorod. In the interior of this palladion your attention will be drawn by the unique historically formed iconostases, ancient mural paintings, icons - national relics of Russia (including the famous icon of the 12th century - Virgin of the Sign, that was returned back to the cathedral in 1991, when divine services were resumed here), and other relics of Bizantine, Western Europe and Russian art. In the course of hundreds of years the Cathedral of St. Sophia was a center of clergical, political and cultural life of ancient Novgorod.
You are welcome to admire the monuments of the twelfth century Novgorod architecture - the Cathedral of St. Nicholas in Yaroslav's Court and the Church of the Nativity of Our Lady in St. Anthony's Monastery, that have brought to us old fresco painting, carved iconostases, the necropolis of the 17th - 18th centuries. In the old cloister - the St. George (Yuriev) Monastery, that was founded as early as in the 12th century by Prince Yaroslav the Wise, as a legend reads, one cannot help being amazed by the striking beauty of another masterpiece of ancient Russian architecture - the Cathedral of St. George, built by a certain master mason Peter in 1119.
You will, no doubt, be happy with a visit to the Kremlin of Novgorod - the oldest in Russia, this fortress was mentioned in chronicles as early as in 1044, while its today's walls and towers were constructed at the close of 15th century. The Detinets (that was the original name of the citadel ) was closely related to all most important events in the life of ancient Novgorod: hosting foreign embassies, seeing-off warriors to fight the enemy, convening people veche meetings. In addition to the above-mentioned St. Sophia's Cathedral, the Kremlin also features such other striking monuments as the Faceted (Archbishop's) Palace - a rare specimen of Gothic architecture, built in 1433 in team with German masters, as well as the impressive and beautiful Bellfry of 1439 with a set of bells dating back to the 16th - 18th cc.
Pskov is situated at the junction of the Velikaya and the Pskova rivers. The first reference to Pskov in the state chronicles dated 903 and linked to the marriage of Kievan Prince Igor and Pskovian girl Olga who became the Grand Princess of Kiev, wise ruler and the first of the Russians who adopted Christianity. The first settlements appeared on the high steep promontory in IV-V centuries, gradually developing turned by IX-X centuries into a fort, which stood at the head of the whole Pskov land. With the name of the Grand Princess Olga connected the building of the first church in Pskov wooden Trinity Cathedral, the first in Russ Cathedral of Holy Trinity, which was the symbol of Pskov and the Pskov land. In the place Budnik near Pskov was born prince Vladimir “The Red Sun” – the Baptist of Russ. During 50 years since 1515 to 1565 there were built about 40 churches in the town, including the following: the church of St. Nikolay on the Usokha, the church of the Resurrection from Stadishche, the church of St. Nikolay near the stone wall.
The masters of Pskov were invited to Moscow. Pskov saved the Russian land from the defeat during the Livonian War, standing a half-year siege of Swedish troops headed by Gustav II Adolf. In spite of all misfortune the city, according to the words of foreigners was “beautiful and famous town in Moscovia”. The golden age of stone civil architecture in Pskov was in the XVII century. The Pogankin House, the house of Menshikovs’, Yamskoys’, Postnikovs’ are the examples of this period. In 1708-1709 Russia was divided into 9 provinces. In 1711 Pskov was included in the large St.-Petersburg province, in 1772 – in the Belarus province, in 1777 was established “namestnichestvo”, which later, in 1796 became Pskov province. During the February revolution on March 1917 the last Russian tsar Nicholas II abdicated in Pskov. In February 1918, on the Pskov land in the battles with troops of Kaiser the Red Army was born. Innumerable disasters were brought to the Pskov land by the Great Patriotic War. During three years, since 9 July 1941 to 23 July 1944, Pskov was under the occupation of fascist troops. After the liberation in almost destroyed town were started the restoration work. There was done everything in order to preserve peculiarities of old town. Pskovites keep memory and traditions of their land. To the honor of the victory over the Teutonic Knights at the Battle on the Ice on the Sokolya Hill was built a monument to Russian warriors and to Grand Prince Alexander Nevsky.
Izborsk is one of the most ancient towns in Russia, mentioned in “The Tale of Bygone Years” in 862. The reserve “Izborsk” is the unique combination of historical and archeological monuments, monuments of defense, cultural and civil architecture, nature and landscape.
The origin of Izborsk is the old town site, which appeared earlier than the fortress. It is called “Truvor’s Old Town site”. It includes VII-XVIII century remaining earth walls and stone fortresses of one of the oldest in Russia town-fortress. The headland town site over the Old Town site lake is separated from the cemetery, which now is also used, by earth wall and moat. On the cemetery still you can see ancient stone slab on which based crosses with specific symbols. One of the crosses refers to XV century and got the name “Truvor’s cross” after the name of legendary founder of the town.
The fortress which we can see now was removed from the town site to Zheravya hill in 1330, as the chronicler says: “Izborsk should be put on the new place”, by Pskov’s posadnik Sheloga. During many centuries it was strengthen for many times by the strong, defense buildings. The towers of fortress were mostly round, the gate towers were square. Today you can see the following towers: Lukovka (bulb lower), Talavskaya, Vishka (high tower), Ryabinovka (mountain ash tower), Tyamnushka (dark tower), Kolokolnaya (bell tower). In the fortress, not far from the entrance you can see the Nikolsky Cathedral, the architectural monument of the 1-st half of XIV cent., with the belfry wich was built mach later. At present the fortress is a part of the reserve “Izborsk”, an object of museum exhibit.
This town is situated on the Russian-Estonian border, 50 km off Pskov. Pechory, one of the ancient towns in the Pskov region, is a very interesting monument of city building. Still, here you can see the historic buildings, monuments of traditional defense and civil architecture, traditional for this area homesteads with gates and household buildings made from local limestone. The main attraction of the town is the Holy Pskov-Pechory Assumption Monastery of the caves. The peculiarities of the caves’ climate are the constant temperature (+5) and humidity. Now there are 11 churches in the monastery and three of them are in the caves.
The monastery, originally located in the caves, gave the name to the town (in ancient Russian language “cave” sounded like “pechera”). The face of this monastery is fabulous and unique. It was founded in 1473. The monastery is situated in beautiful valley with sand caves. It is a big spiritual and cultural center, one of the biggest in the country male monasteries with ancient history, remarkable historic and buildings of XVI-XIX cent. According to the legend the first inhabitant of this place was St. Mark. In the second half of the XV cent. the stories about this mystery place attracted here a priest from Yuryev (now it is Tartu) Ioan Shestnik. Together with his wife he settled near the cave and having decided to build underground church started to widen the cave. After the death of his wife he became a monk and got the name Ion. On 15 August, 1473 the church was blessed. Since that day begins the history of the monastery in which more then for 500 years the prayer didn’t stop for a single day. During the Livonian War (1558-1583) the monastery was belted by a stone wall. From Moscow here was send a detachment of the strelets who became the military garrison of the fortress. This fortress has a great significance in the defense of north-west borders of Russia. Germans, Swedes, Poland, Lithuanians attacked repeatedly the monastery-fortress. In 1581 the troops of Stephan Bathory unsuccessfully sieged the fortress. At the beginning of the Northern War (1701) Peter the Great visited the Pechory monastery. He ordered to strengthen the fortress with earth walls, rolls, banks and ditches. In XVI cent. the monastery acquired the significance not only as religious but also as cultural center. The architectural ensemble of the monastery is really picturesque. It has churches of XV-XX cent., household constructions and big belfry with the set of the ancient bells.