Veliky Novgorod

Veliky Novgorod
Veliky Novgorod (English)
Великий Новгород (Russian)
-  City[citation needed]  -
Yaroslavovo Dvorische 01.jpg
View of the Yaroslav's Court
Map of Russia - Novgorod Oblast (2008-03).svg
Location of Novgorod Oblast in Russia
Veliky Novgorod is located in Novgorod Oblast
Veliky Novgorod
Coordinates: 58°33′N 31°17′E / 58.55°N 31.283°E / 58.55; 31.283Coordinates: 58°33′N 31°17′E / 58.55°N 31.283°E / 58.55; 31.283
Coat of Arms of Veliky Novgorod.png
Flag of Veliky Novgorod.png
Coat of arms
Administrative status
Country Russia
Federal subject Novgorod Oblast
Administrative center of Novgorod Oblast[citation needed]
Municipal status
Urban okrug Veliky Novgorod Urban Okrug[citation needed]
Mayor[citation needed] Yury Bobryshev[citation needed]
Representative body City Duma[citation needed]
Area 90.08 km2 (34.78 sq mi)[citation needed]
Population (2010 Census,
218,724 inhabitants[1]
Rank in 2010 85th
Population (2002 Census) 216,856 inhabitants[2]
Rank in 2002 86th
Density 2,428 /km2 (6,290 /sq mi)[3]
Time zone MSD (UTC+04:00)[4]
Founded 859[citation needed]
Previous names Novgorod (until 1999)[citation needed]
Postal code(s) 173xxx[citation needed]
Dialing code(s) +7 8162[citation needed]
Official website
Historic Monuments of Novgorod and Surroundings *
UNESCO World Heritage Site
The medieval walls of Novgorod (pictured) withstood many sieges
Country Russian Federation
Type Cultural
Criteria ii, iv, vi
Reference 604
Region ** European Russia
Inscription history
Inscription 1992 (16th Session)
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List
** Region as classified by UNESCO

Veliky Novgorod (Russian: Вели́кий Но́вгород, IPA: [vʲɪˈlʲikʲɪj ˈnovɡərət]) is one of Russia's most historic cities[5] and the administrative center of Novgorod Oblast. It is situated on the M10 federal highway connecting Moscow and St. Petersburg. The city lies along the Volkhov River just below its outflow from Lake Ilmen. Population: 218,724 (2010 Census preliminary results);[1] 216,856 (2002 Census);[2] 229,126 (1989 Census).[6]



Early developments

Novgorod is among the oldest cities of Russia, founded in the 9th or 10th century. The Sofia First Chronicle first mentions it in 859; the Novgorod First Chronicle mentions it first under the year 862 when it was allegedly already a major station on the trade route from the Baltics to Byzantium.

Archaeological excavations in the middle to late 20th century, however, have found cultural layers dating back only to the late 10th century, the time of the Christianization of Rus and a century after it was allegedly founded, suggesting that the chronicle entries mentioning Novgorod in the 850s or 860s are later interpolations.[7]

Bronze monument to the Millennium of Russia (1862)

The Varangian name of the city Holmgård (Holmgarðr or Holmgarðir) is mentioned in Norse Sagas as existing at a yet earlier stage, but historical facts cannot here be disentangled from legend.[8] Originally, Holmgård referred only to the stronghold southeast of the present-day city, Riurikovo Gorodishche (named in comparatively modern time after Varangian chieftain Rurik, who supposedly made it his "capital" around 860). Archeological data suggests that the Gorodishche, the residence of the Knyaz (prince), dates from the middle of 9th century, whereas the town itself dates only from the end of the 10th century, hence the name Novgorod, "new city", from Proto-Slavic Новъ and Градъ (Nov and Grad), although German and Scandinavian historiography suggests the Old Norse term Nýgarðr, or the Old High German term Naugard. First mention of this Nordic or Germanic etymology to the name of the city of Novgorod (and that of other cities within the territory of the then Kievan Rus') occurs in the 10th-century policy manual De Administrando Imperio by Byzantine emperor Constantine VII.

Slightly predating the chronology of the legend of Rurik (which dates the first Norse arrival in the region around 858-860), an earlier record for the Scandinavian settlement of the region is found in the Annales Bertiniani (written up until 882) where a Rus delegation is mentioned as having visited Constantinople in 838, and, intending to return to the Rus' Khaganate via the Baltic Sea, were questioned by Frankish Emperor Louis the Pious at Ingelheim am Rhein, where they said that although their origin was Swedish, they had settled in Northern Russia under a leader who they designated as chacanus (the Latin form of Khagan, a title they had likely borrowed from contact with the Avars).[9][10]

Princely state within Kievan Rus'

In 882, Rurik's successor, Oleg of Novgorod, captured Kiev and founded the state of Kievan Rus'. Novgorod's size as well as its political, economic, and cultural influence made it the second city in Kievan Rus'. 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. Four Viking kings — Olaf I of Norway, Olaf II of Norway, Magnus I of Norway, and Harald Hardrada — sought refuge in Novgorod from enemies at home. No more than a few decades after the death and subsequent canonization of Olaf II of Norway, in 1028, the city's community had erected a church in his memory, Saint Olaf's Church in Novgorod.

Of all their princes, Novgorodians cherished most the memory of Yaroslav the Wise, who had sat as prince while his father, Vladimir the Great, was prince in Kiev. Yaroslav promulgated the first written code of laws (later incorporated into Russkaya Pravda) among the Eastern Slavs and is said to have granted the city a number of freedoms or privileges, which they often referred to in later centuries as precedents in their relations with other princes. His son, Vladimir, sponsored construction of the great St. Sophia Cathedral, more accurately translated as The Cathedral of Holy Wisdom, which stands to this day.

Novgorod Republic

In 1136, the Novgorodians dismissed their prince Vsevolod Mstislavich. This date is seen as the traditional beginning of the Novgorod Republic. The city was able to invite and dismiss a number of princes over the next two centuries, but the princely office was never abolished and powerful princes, such as Alexander Nevsky, could assert their will in the city irrespective of the Novgorodians' wishes.[11] The city state controlled most of Europe's North-East, from lands east of today's Estonia to the Ural Mountains, making it one of the largest states in medieval Europe, although much of the territory north and east of Lakes Ladoga and Onega were sparsely populated and never organized politically.

12-century Novgorod icon called Angel with Golden Locks

One of the most important local figures in Novgorod was the Posadnik or mayor, an official elected by the public assembly (called the Veche) from among the city's boyarstvo or aristocracy. The tysyatsky, or "thousandman," originally the head of the town militia but later a commercial and judicial official, was also elected by the veche. The Archbishop of Novgorod was also an important local official and shared power with the boyars.[12] They were elected by the veche or by the drawing of lots; after their election, they were sent to the metropolitan for consecration.[13]

While a basic outline of the various officials and the veche can be drawn up, the city-state's exact political constitution remains unknown. The boyars and the archbishop ruled the city together, although where one official's power ended and another's began is uncertain. The prince, although his power was reduced beginning in about the mid-twelfth century, was represented by his namestnik or lieutenant, and still played important roles as a military commander, legislator, and jurist. The exact composition of the veche, too, is uncertain, with some scholars such as Vasily Kliuchevsky claiming it was democratic in nature, while later scholars, such as Valentin Ianin and Aleksandr Khoroshev, see it as a "sham democracy" controlled by the ruling elite.

In the 13th century, Novgorod, while not a member of the Hanseatic League, was the easternmost kontor, or entrepot, of the league, being the source of enormous quantities of luxury (sable, ermine, fox, marmot) and non-luxury furs (squirrel-pelts).[14]

Throughout the Middle Ages, the city thrived culturally. A large number of birch bark letters have been unearthed in excavations, perhaps suggesting widespread literacy, although this is uncertain (some scholars suggest that a clerical or scribal elite wrote them on behalf of a largely illiterate populace[citation needed]). It was in Novgorod that the oldest Slavic book written north of Macedonia and the oldest inscription in a Finnic language were unearthed. Some of the most ancient Russian chronicles were written in the archbishops' scriptorium and the archbishops also promoted iconography and patronized church construction. The Novgorod merchant Sadko became a popular hero of Russian folklore.

Novgorod was never conquered by the Mongols during the Mongol invasion of Rus. The Mongol army turned back about 100 km from the city, not because of the city's strength, but probably because the Mongol commanders did not want to get bogged down in the marshlands surrounding the city. However, the grand princes of Moscow, who acted as the tax-collectors for the khans of the Golden Horde, did collect tribute (dan) in Novgorod, most notably Yury Danilovich and his brother, Ivan Kalita.

United Russian state

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 Grand Duchy of Moscow in 1478. Novgorod remained the third largest Russian city (with 5300 homesteads and 25-30 thousand inhabitants in 1550s[15]), however, until the famine of 1560s and Ivan the Terrible sacking the city and slaughtering thousands of its inhabitants in 1570. The city's merchant elite and nobility were deported to Moscow, Yaroslavl, and elsewhere.

City plan of Novgorod in the first 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 metropolitan 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 existed until 1927. Between 1927 and 1944 the city was a part of Leningrad Oblast, and then became an administrative center of the newly formed Novgorod Oblast.

During World War II, 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 2,536 stone buildings, fewer than forty were still standing. After the war, the downtown was gradually restored according to a plan worked out by Alexey Shchusev. In 1992, its chief monuments have been declared the World Heritage Site. In 1999, the city was officially renamed Veliky Novgorod (literally, Great Novgorod), thus partly reverting to its medieval title "Lord Novgorod the Great".


The Millennium of Russia (1862), with Saint Sophia Cathedral in the background. The upper row of figures is cast in the round and the lower one is in relief

No other Russian or Ukrainian city can compete with Novgorod in the variety and age of its medieval monuments.[according to whom?] The foremost among these is the St Sophia Cathedral, built between 1045 and 1050 under the patronage of Vladimir Yaroslavich, the son of Yaroslav the Wise (Vladimir is buried in the cathedral along with his mother, Anna.)[16] It is the best preserved of 11th century churches, probably the oldest structure still in use in Russia 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 originally on the orders of Bishop Nikita (died 1108) (the "porches" or side chapels were painted in 1144 under Archbishop Nifont) and renovated several times over the centuries, most recently in the nineteenth century.[17] The cathedral features famous bronze gates, which now hang in the west entrance, allegedly made in Magdeburg in 1156 (other sources see them originating in Plock in Poland) and reportedly snatched by Novgorodians from the Swedish town of Sigtuna in 1187. More recent scholarship has determined that the gates probably were purchased in the mid-fifteenth century, apparently at the behest of Archbishop Evfimii II (1429–1458), a lover of Western art and architectural styles.[18]

The Novgorod Kremlin, traditionally known as the Detinets, also contains the oldest palace in Russia (the so-called Chamber of the Facets, 1433), which served as the main meeting hall of the archbishops; the oldest Russian bell tower (mid-15th cent.), and the oldest Russian clock tower (1673). The Palace of Facets, the bell tower, and the clock tower were originally built on the orders of Archbishop Evfimii II, although the clock tower collapsed in the seventeenth century and had to be rebuilt and much of the palace of Evfimii II is no longer extant. 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).

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

Outside the kremlin walls, there are three large churches constructed during the reign of Mstislav the Great. St Nicholas Cathedral (1113–23), containing frescoes of Mstislav's family, graces Yaroslav's Court (formerly the chief square of Novgorod). The Yuriev Monastery (one of the oldest in Russia, 1030) contains a tall, three-domed cathedral from 1119 (built by Mstislav's son, Vsevolod. and Kyurik, the head of the monastery. A similar three-domed cathedral (1117), probably designed by the same masters, stands in the Antoniev Monastery, built on the orders of Antony, the founder of that monastery.

There are now some fifty still-extant medieval and early modern churches scattered throughout the city and its environs. 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-Piatnitsa (at Yaroslav's Court, 1207). The greatest masterpiece of early Novgorod architecture is the Savior church at Nereditsa (1198).

In the 13th century, tiny churches of the three-paddled design were in vogue. These are represented by a small chapel at the Peryn Monastery (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) was originally frescoed by Serbian masters, but the church was destroyed during the war. While the church has since been rebuilt, the frescoes have not been restored.

During the last century of republican government, some new churches 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 Twelve 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, several of them in the mid fifteenth century, again under Archbishop Yevfimy II, perhaps one of the greatest patrons of architecture in medieval Novgorod.

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 Mother of God of the Sign (1688), the St. Nicholas Cathedral of Vyaschizhy Monastery (1685). Nevertheless, the styles of some parochial churches were still in keeping with local traditions: e.g., the churches of Myrrh-bearing Women(1510) and of Sts Boris and Gleb (1586).

In Vitoslavlitsy, along the Volkhov River and the Myachino Lake, close 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.


Intercity transport

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

The city has direct railway passenger connections with Moscow (Leningradsky Rail Terminal, by night trains), St. Petersburg (Moscow Rail Terminal and Vitebsk Rail Terminal, by suburban trains), Minsk (Belarus) (Minsk Passazhirsky railway station, by night trains) and major cities of northwestern Russia such as Pskov and Murmansk.

Walls of the Novgorod Kremlin

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.

Local transport

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

International relations

Twin towns/sister cities/partner towns

Veliky Novgorod is twinned with:


A minor planet, 3799 Novgorod, discovered by Soviet astronomer Nikolai Stepanovich Chernykh in 1979, is named after the city.[19]

See also



  • William Craft Brumfield. A History of Russian Architecture (Seattle: Univ. of Washington Press, 2004) ISBN 978-0-295-98394-3


  1. ^ a b Федеральная служба государственной статистики (Federal State Statistics Service) (2011). "Предварительные итоги Всероссийской переписи населения 2010 года (Preliminary results of the 2010 All-Russian Population Census)" (in Russian). Всероссийская перепись населения 2010 года (All-Russia Population Census of 2010). Federal State Statistics Service. Retrieved 2011-04-25. 
  2. ^ a b Федеральная служба государственной статистики (Federal State Statistics Service) (2004-05-21). "Численность населения России, субъектов Российской Федерации в составе федеральных округов, районов, городских поселений, сельских населённых пунктов – районных центров и сельских населённых пунктов с населением 3 тысячи и более человек (Population of Russia, its federal districts, federal subjects, districts, urban localities, rural localities—administrative centers, and rural localities with population of over 3,000)" (in Russian). Всероссийская перепись населения 2002 года (All-Russia Population Census of 2002). Federal State Statistics Service. Retrieved 2010-03-23. 
  3. ^ The value of density was calculated automatically by dividing the 2010 Census population by the area specified in the infobox. Please note that this value may not be accurate as the area specified in the infobox does not necessarily correspond to the area of the entity proper or is reported for the same year as the population.
  4. ^ Правительство Российской Федерации. Постановление №725 от 31 августа 2011 г. «О составе территорий, образующих каждую часовую зону, и порядке исчисления времени в часовых зонах, а также о признании утратившими силу отдельных Постановлений Правительства Российской Федерации». Вступил в силу по истечении 7 дней после дня официального опубликования. Опубликован: "Российская Газета", №197, 6 сентября 2011 г. (Government of the Russian Federation. Resolution #725 of August 31, 2011 On the Composition of the Territories Included into Each Time Zone and on the Procedures of Timekeeping in the Time Zones, as Well as on Abrogation of Several Resolutions of the Government of the Russian Federation. Effective as of after 7 days following the day of the official publication).
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ "Всесоюзная перепись населения 1989 г. Численность наличного населения союзных и автономных республик, автономных областей и округов, краёв, областей, районов, городских поселений и сёл-райцентров. (All Union Population Census of 1989. Present population of union and autonomous republics, autonomous oblasts and okrugs, krais, oblasts, districts, urban settlements, and villages serving as district administrative centers.)" (in Russian). Всесоюзная перепись населения 1989 года (All-Union Population Census of 1989). Demoscope Weekly (website of the Institute of Demographics of the State University—Higher School of Economics. 1989. Retrieved 2010-03-23. 
  7. ^ V. L. (Valentin Lavrent’evich) Ianin and M. Kh. (Mark Khaimovich) Aleshkovskii, “Proskhozhdenie Novgoroda: (k postanovke problemy),” Istoriia SSSR 2 (1971): 32-61.
  8. ^ The meaning of this Norse toponym, "island garden", has no satisfactory explanation (see however the discussion page). 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.
  9. ^ I. H. Garipzanov, The Annals of St. Bertin (839) and Chacanus of the Rhos. Ruthenica 5 (2006) 3–8 sides with the old theory (
  10. ^ Gwyn Jones, A History of the Vikings, 2nd ed., London, Oxford University Press, 1984, pp. 249-250.
  11. ^ Michael C. Paul, “The Iaroslavichi and the Novgorodian Veche 1230-1270: A Case Study on Princely Relations with the Veche,” Russian History/ Histoire Russe 31, No. 1-2 (Spring-Summer 2004): 39-59.
  12. ^ Michael C. Paul, “Secular Power and the Archbishops of Novgorod Before the Muscovite Conquest.” Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 8, no. 2 (Spring 2007): 231-270.
  13. ^ Michael C. Paul, “Episcopal Election in Novgorod, Russia 1156-1478.” Church History: Studies in Christianity and Culture 72, No. 2 (June 2003): 251-275.
  14. ^ Janet Martin, Treasure of the Land of Darkness: the Fur Trade and its Significance for Medieval Russia. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985).
  15. ^ Boris Zemtsov, Откуда есть пошла... российская цивилизация, Общественные науки и современность. 1994. № 4. С. 51-62. p. 9 (Russian)
  16. ^ Tatiana Tsarevskaia, St. Sophia's Cathedral in Novgorod (Moscow: Severnyi Palomnik, 2005), 3.
  17. ^ Ibid, 14, 19-22, 24, 29, 35.
  18. ^ Jadwiga Irena Daniec, The Message of Faith and Symbol in European Medieval Bronze Church Doors (Danbury, CT: Rutledge Books, 1999), Chapter III "An Enigma: The Medieval Bronze Church Door of Płock in the Cathedral of Novgorod," 67-97; Mikhail Tsapenko, ed., Early Russian Architecture (Moscow: Progress Publisher, 1969), 34-38
  19. ^ Schmadel, Lutz D. (2003). Dictionary of Minor Planet Names (5th ed.). New York: Springer Verlag. pp. 321. ISBN 3540002383. 

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