Novgorod despite of the name (New city) is considered to be the oldest city of Russia founded in the 9th century. The traditional beginning of the Novgorod Republic began in 1136. The city was able to invite and dismiss a number of princes over the next two centuries, could assert their will in the city regardless of what Novgorodians’ said.
The city state controlled most of Europe’s northeast, 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. Novgorod was never conquered by the Mongols during the Mongol invasion of Russia. The Mongol army turned back about 100 kilometers (62 mi) 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.
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 the Grand Duchy of Moscow in 1478. At the time of annexation, Novgorod was the third largest Russian city (with 5,300 homesteads and 25 − 30 thousand inhabitants) in 1550 and remained so until the famine of the 1560s and the Massacre of Novgorod in 1570. In the Massacre, Ivan the Terrible sacked the city, slaughtered thousands of its inhabitants, and deported the city’s merchant elite and nobility to Moscow, Yaroslavl, and elsewhere.
Nowadays Novgorod has a great variety and age of its medieval monuments. The foremost among these is the St. Sophia Cathedral, built between 1045 and 1050 under the patronage of Vladimir Yaroslavich. It is one of the best preserved churches from the 11th century. It’s also 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 domes). The Novgorod Kremlin, traditionally known as the Detinets, also contains the oldest palace in Russia, which served as the main meeting hall of the archbishops; the oldest Russian bell tower, and the oldest Russian clock tower. Among later structures, the most remarkable are a royal palace and a bronze monument to the Millennium of Russia, representing the most important figures from the country’s history (unveiled in 1862). There are now some fifty medieval and early modern churches scattered throughout the city and its surrounding areas. Some of them were blown up by the Nazis and subsequently restored.
In addition to traveling to Novgorod, we also offer packages tours in St Petersburg and Moscow.