Novgorod the Great
Novgorod the Great (before 1999 was
named simply Novgorod) is 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
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 theBaltic-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 republic's special political structure, spiritual freedom and
territorial independence were highly favorable to evolve culture
Novgorod was one of Russia's major centers of literacy and book
production. As far back as in the 30-s of the 11th century, by the
will of the great Prince Yaroslav The Wise, Novgorod saw the first
school to train three hundred children at a time.
Medieval Novgorod was one of the greatest art centers of Europe.
Its architectural traditions, school of icon-painting, jeweler's
and decorative applied art became famous all over the world.
Many experts of Russian art justly believe
Novgorod to be Russian Florence; no other old Russian cities have
managed to preserve so many ancient architectural monuments adorned
with wall murals. You will see that with your own eyes visiting
the churches of Our Saviour on Nereditsa Hill and Annunciation of
Our Lady on Miachino Lake (12th century), appreciating at its true
worth the 14th century frescoes of world-famous Theophanes the Greek
in the church of the Transfiguration of Our Saviour on Iliah Street,
singularly graceful murals in the churches of the Nativity of Our
Lady on Krasnoye Field, St. Theodore Stratilates on the Brook, admiring
the beautiful clergical wall calendar of the 15th - 17th centuries
in the Church of St. Simeon The Godreceiver, studying wonderful
mural compositions of the late 17th - early 18th centuries in The
Virgin of The Sign Cathedral.
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
Icon "St. Nicolas" 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
St. Sophia's Bellfry of 1439 with a set of bells dating back to
the 16th - 18th cc.
A visit to Novgorod usually leaves guests
with unforgettable impressions of the inimitable and majestic Novgorod
landscape which can be appreciated by making a boat tour of and
Lake Ilmen, by seeing Peryn - the site of the pre-Christian heathen-
temple, by going to Lipno island with one of the few preserved architectural
specimens of the 13th century - the Church of St. Nicholas decorated
with frescoes of the same age.
It is also only in Novgorod that visitors can admire a unique collection
of facial and ornamental embroidery of the 16th - 17th centuries.
Exhibited in the Kremlin's St. Ioann building, it features such
wonderful works of ancient Russian embroideries as maniples of St.
Varlaam of Khutyn (12th c.), shroud, commissioned by Dmitry Shemyaka
(15th c.), omophorion of Nicon (17th c.), etc.