Velikiy Novgorod

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For other cities named Novgorod see Novgorod (disambiguation).
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The medieval walls of Novgorod (pictured) withstood many a siege

Velikiy Novgorod (Russian: Вели́кий Но́вгород) is the foremost historic city of North-Western Russia. It is situated on the M10 federal highway connecting Moscow and St. Petersburg. "Novgorod" is the Russian word for "new city", whereas "Velikiy" means "the Great". The administrative centre of Novgorod Oblast, the city lies along the Volkhov River just below its outflow from Lake Ilmen. Its population in the 2002 census was 216,856.

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[edit] History

Main article: Novgorod Republic
Notwithstanding its name, Novgorod is the most ancient Slavic city recorded in Russia. The chronicle first mentions it in 859, when it was already a major station on the trade route from the Baltics to Byzantium. The Varangian name of the city Holmgard (also Holmgarðr, Hólmgarður, Holmgaard, Holmegård) is mentioned in Norse Sagas as existing at a yet earlier stage, but historical facts cannot here be disentangled from legend.<ref>The meaning of this Norse toponym, "island garden", has no satisfactory explanation. According to Rydzevskaya, the Norse name is derived from the Slavic "Holmgrad" which means "town on a hill" and may allude to the "old town" preceding the "new town", or Novgorod.</ref> Originally, Holmgard referred only to the stronghold southeast of the present-day city, Riurikovo Gorodishche (named in comparatively modern time after Rurik, who supposedly made it his "capital"). Archeological data suggests that the Gorodische, the residence of the Knyaz (konung or grand prince), dates from the middle of 9th century, whereas the town itself dates only from the end of the 9th century, hence the name Novgorod, "new city". By the mid-10th century, however, Novgorod had become a fully developed medieval city.

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 monarch was sent to rule Novgorod even as a minor. When the ruling monarch had no such son, Novgorod was governed by posadniks, such as legendary Gostomysl, Dobrynya, Konstantin, and Ostromir. In Norse sagas the city is mentioned as the capital of Gardariki (i.e., 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 their first written code of laws (later incorporated into Russkaya Pravda) and sponsored 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 privileges on the city. On the other hand, Novgorodians named their central square after Yaroslav.
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12-century Novgorod icon called Angel with Golden Locks.

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 (called Veche) from the city's aristocracy. The Novgorod court was formally presided over by the Prince (also elected by the Veche), but his verdicts had to be confirmed by the Posadnik to become binding. In the 13th century, the city joined the Hanseatic League.

Throughout the Middle Ages, the city thrived culturally. Most of the population was literate and used birch bark letters for communication. It was in Novgorod that the oldest Slavic book written north of Bulgaria and the oldest inscription in a Finnic language were unearthed. When Paris and London were drowning in mud, 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.

The city's downfall was a result of its inability to feed its large population, making it dependent on the Vladimir-Suzdal region for grain. The main cities in this area, Moscow and Tver, used this dependence to gain control over Novgorod. Eventually Ivan III annexed the city to Muscovy in 1478. Novgorod remained the third largest Russian city, however, until Ivan the Terrible sacked the city and slaughtered thousands of its inhabitants in 1570. The city's merchant elite and nobility were deported to Moscow, Yaroslavl, and elsewhere.

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City plan of Novgorod, in the early half of the 18th century.
During the Time of Troubles, Novgorodians eagerly submitted to Swedish troops led by Jacob De la Gardie in summer of 1611. The city was restituted to Russia only six years later, by the Treaty of Stolbovo and regained a measure of its former prosperity by the end of the century, when such ambitious buildings as the Cathedral of the Sign and the Vyazhischi Monastery were constructed. The most famous of Russian patriarchs, Nikon, occupied the metropolian see of Novgorod between 1648 and 1652.

In 1727, Novgorod was made an administrative centre of the Novgorod Governorate of the Russian Empire, which was detached from Saint Petersburg Governorate (see Administrative divisions of Russia in 1727-1728). This administrative division has existed until 1927. Between 1927 and 1944 the city has been a part of Leningrad Oblast, and then became an administrative center of the newly formed Novgorod Oblast.

During the Second World War, on August 15, 1941 the city was occupied by the German Army. Its historic monuments were systematically annihilated. When the Red Army liberated the city on January 19, 1944, out of 2536 stone buildings less than 40 were still standing. After the WWII, the downtown has been gradually restored. Its chief monuments are declared the World Heritage Site. In 1998, the city was officially renamed Velikiy Novgorod, thus partly reverting to its medieval title "Lord Novgorod the Great".

[edit] Sights

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Cathedral of St. Sophia (1045) was regarded by medieval Novgorodians as symbolic of their independence.

No other Russian or Ukrainian city may compete with Novgorod in the variety and age of its medieval monuments. The foremost among these is the St Sophia Cathedral, built in the 1040s at the behest of Yaroslav the Wise. It is the best preserved of 11th century churches, and the first one to represent original features of Russian architecture (austere stone walls, five helmet-like cupolas). Its frescoes were painted in the 12th century and renovated in the 1860s. The cathedral features famous bronze gates, made in Magdeburg in 1156 and reportedly snatched by Novgorodians from the Swedish capital Sigtuna in 1187.

Novgorod kremlin, traditionally known as Detinets, also contains the oldest palace in Russia (the so-called Chamber of the Facets, 1433), the oldest Russian bell tower (mid-15th cent.), and the oldest Russian clock tower (1673). Among later structures, the most remarkable are a royal palace (1771) and a bronze monument to the Millennium of Russia, representing the most important figures from the country's history (unveiled in 1862).

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St Nicholas Cathedral, built by Mstislav I near his palace at Yaroslav's Court, Novgorod, contains 12th-century frescoes depicting his illustrious family

Outside kremlin walls, there are three cathedrals constructed during the reign of Mstislav the Great, the last monarch of united Rus. St Nicholas Cathedral (1113-23), containing frescoes of Mstislav's family, graces Yaroslav's Court (formerly the chief square of Novgorod Republic). The Yuriev Monastery (probably the oldest in Russia, 1030) contains a gloomy Romanesque cathedral from 1119. A similar three-domed cathedral (1117), probably designed by the same masters, stands in the Antoniev Monastery.

There are numerous ancient churches scattered throughout the city. Some of them were blown up by the Nazis and subsequently restored. The most ancient pattern is represented by those dedicated to Sts Peter and Pavel (on the Swallow's Hill, 1185-92), to Annunciation (in Myachino, 1179), to Assumption (on Volotovo Field, 1180s) and to St Paraskeva (at Yaroslav's Court, 1207). The greatest masterpiece of early Novgorod architecture is the Saviour church at Nereditsa (1198).
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Nereditsa church formerly contained the finest 12th-century frescoes in Russia. The frescoes perished when the church was blown up by the Nazis in 1944.

In the 13th century, there was a vogue for tiny churches of three-paddled design. These are represented by a small chapel in Peryn (1230s) and St Nicholas' on the Lipnya Islet (1292, also notable for its 14th-century frescoes). The next century saw development of two original church designs, one of them culminating in St Theodor's church (1360-61, fine frescoes from 1380s), and another one leading to the Saviour church on Ilyina street (1374, painted in 1378 by Feofan Grek). The Saviour' church in Kovalevo (1345) admittedly reflects Serban influence.

During the last century of republican government, some new temples were consecrated to Sts Peter and Paul (on Slavna, 1367; in Kozhevniki, 1406), to Christ's Nativity (at the Cemetery, 1387), to St John the Apostle's (1384), to the Holy Apostles (1455), to St Demetrius (1467), to St Simeon (1462), and other saints. Generally, they are not thought so innovative as the churches from the previous epoch. Several 12th-century shrines (i.e., in Opoki) were demolished brick by brick and then reconstructed exactly as they used to be.

Novgorod's conquest by Ivan III in 1478 decisively changed the character of local architecture. Large commissions were thenceforth executed by Muscovite masters and patterned after cathedrals of Moscow Kremlin: e.g., the Saviour Cathedral of Khutyn Monastery (1515), the Cathedral of the Sign (1688), the Nicholas Cathedral of Vyaschizhy Monastery (1685). Nevertheless, some parochial churches were still styled in keeping with traditions of local art: e.g., the churches of Holy Wives (1510) and of Sts Boris and Gleb (1586).

In Vitoslavlitsy, a location on the bank of the Volkhov River, on the road to the Yuriev Monastery, a picturesque museum of wooden architecture was established in 1964. Over 20 wooden buildings (churches, houses and mills) dating from the 14th to the 19th century were transported there from all around the Novgorod region.

[edit] Transport

[edit] Intercity transport

Novgorod has connections to Moscow (531 km) and St. Petersburg (189 km) by the federal highway M10. There are public shuttle buses to Moscow, Petersburg, and other directions.

The city has direct railway passenger connections to Moscow (to Leningradsky Rail Terminal, by night trains), St. Petersburg (to Moscow Rail Terminal and Vitebsk Rail Terminal, by suburban trains) and major cities of northwestern Russia such as Pskov and Murmansk.
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Walls of the Novgorod Kremlin.
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General city view from Kokuy tower of the Kremlin (2003)

The city's airports Yurievo and Krechevitsy do not serve any regular flights since the middle 1990s. The nearest international airport is St. Petersburg's Pulkovo, some 180 km north of the city.

[edit] Local transport

The local transport consists of a network of buses and trolleybuses. The trolleybus network which currently consists of 5 routes started operation in 1995, and is the first trolley system opened in Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union.

[edit] Education

Velikiy Novgorod is home to Novgorod State University established in 1993.

[edit] Trivia

In 1994-1997 Velikiy Novgorod was home to chess supertournament "Lord Novgorod the Great" [1] (see also list of strong chess tournaments).

[edit] Sister cities

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  • The Archaeology of Novgorod, by Valentin L. Yanin, in Ancient Cities, Special Issue, (Scientific American), pp 120–127, c 1994. Covers, History, Kremlin of Novgorod, Novgorod Museum of History, preservation dynamics of the soils, and the production of Birch bark documents.

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[edit] External links

Fortresses of Western Russia Image:Koporye fortress tower.jpg

Gdov | Ivangorod | Izborsk | Kirillov | Koporye | Korela | Kronstadt | Ladoga | New Dvina Fort | Novgorod | Oreshek | Porkhov | Pskov | Smolensk | Solovki | St Petersburg | Trångsund | Vyborg | Yamburg


Image:NovgorodOblast.gif Cities and towns in Novgorod Oblast Image:Flag of Russia.svg
Administrative center: Velikiy Novgorod

Borovichi | Chudovo | Kholm | Malaya Vishera | Okulovka | Pestovo | Soltsy | Staraya Russa | Valday

Coordinates: 58°32′N 31°16′E

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Velikiy Novgorod

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