Western European Russia refers the area between Moscow and St. Petersburg that borders Ukraine, Belarus, Latvia, Estonia and the Baltic Sea in the east. The region is comprised of rolling hills, farms and steppe. It was site of fierce fighting in World War II and other wars.

Western European Russia is the heartland of Russia. Before the creation of the Russian Empire, Russian territory included a number of independent and semi-independent princedom and republics such as Novgorod, Pskov and Tver. Other groups were created such as the Cossacks and Old Believers mainly on the periphery of the empire.

Early Scandinavians in Russia were known as Rus to the Slavs (Rhos to the Byzantines). Rus is an Arabic word and the source of the word Russia. It may have been used to describe the dominant Kievan Viking clan and later became affixed to the Eastern Slavs in the north, while those in the south became known as Ukrainians and Belarussians. The Rus were also called Varangians and Varyagi. The Baltic was known as the Varangian Sea and their trade routes were called the Varangian Way.The Rus mingled with the local people and helped set up a series of small principalities centered around single families and clans. They became concentrated in places like Novgorod, Smolensk and Kiev. Viking princes became rulers in Novgorod and Kiev in 862 and 882.

Western European Russia was the first stage of the medieval trade routes between Scandinavia and the Middle East. Byzantium based in Constantinople (present-day Istanbul) was the richest empire in the Viking era and the easiest way for the Vikings to reach it was via the rivers of Russia. There were two main trade routes used by the Rus that began in the Baltic Sea. One went down the Dnieper River to the Black Sea and Constantinople. The other followed the Volga to the Caspian Sea.

The Vikings traded furs, amber, honey, beeswax, weapons and slaves from the north for silks and silver. Most of the goods that made their way between Europe, Russia and the Middle East followed Viking trade routes. Of the 120,000 coins found in Gotland Sweden, 50,000 were of Arabic origin (the rest were mostly English or German). The Rus traveled in convoys and flotillas, often with more than more than hundred boats, and built fortified trading posts. They traveled on the inland waterways in shallow-draft boats carved by local residents from tree trunks. They were about 20 feet long and 7 to 10 feet wide.

Novgorod Oblast

Novgorod Oblast is one of Russia's oldest regions and the site of early Viking trading posts located where the Viking traders hauled their boats overland from the Baltic lakes to the Dnieper River. Founded by the Rurik dynasty in the A.D. 860s, it lies at the crossroads of international trade routes and was inhabited by Finno-Ugrians, Slavs and Varangians (Scandinavian merchants and warriors). Novgorod should not be confused with Nizhny Novgorod, which lies 420 kilometers east of Moscow.

Novgorod Oblast (region) covers 55,300 square kilometers (21,400 square miles), is home to about 600,00 people and has a population density of only 11 people per square kilometer. You’d be hard pressed to come up with an area that is richer in history than Novgorod. The region full of monuments, museums, churches, estates and monasteries. Places over a thousand years old can be seen almost in its original form. And some of the sights of the Novgorod region — Yuryev Monastery, the Novgorod Kremlin and Yaroslavovo Courtyard — have been recognized as national monuments or UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The great Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninov was born in the Novgorod region.

Getting There: The distance between Moscow to Veliky Novgorod, the main city in Novgorod Oblast, by highway is about 550 kilometers. The trip by car takes about seven hours. From St. Petersburg, it is only 150 kilometers to Novgorod, a road trip of two to three hours depending on the traffic. By Train: The train ride from Moscow take eight and a half hours. A ticket in a compartment costs about 300 rubles. The fast train between Moscow and St. Petersburg skirts Novgorod. That trip takes about three hours. The cost of a one-way ticket is about 650 rubles. Trains run daily. By bus: Veliky Novgorod-Valdai: tickets from 407 rubles. Veliky Novgorod-Staraya Russa: 275 rubles. Veliky Novgorod-Borovichi: from 490 rubles. Route schedule and tickets: .

E105 is part of the International E-road network and one of the main roads in Europe. Begins in Kirkenes, Norway and follows the M18, M10 and M2 in Russia and the M18 in the Ukraine, ending in Yalta, Ukraine. Some cities on its route include Kirkenes, Murmansk, Kandalaksha, Saint Petersburg, Novgorod, Tver, Moscow, Kharikiv, Simferopol and Yalta. The road may be closed due to heavy snows or rains. Long delays may occur at the border crossing. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, the road is closed to vehicles with a foreign registration

Early History of Novgorod

Novgorod is one of Russia's oldest city and the site of early Viking trading post located where the Viking traders hauled their boats overland from the Baltic lakes to the Dnieper River. Founded by the Rurik dynasty in the A.D. 860s, it lay at the crossroads of international trade routes and was inhabited by Finno-Ugrians, Slavs and Varangians (Scandinavian merchants and warriors).

By the ninth century, Scandinavian and Rus warriors and merchants, had penetrated the East Slavic regions. According to the Primary Chronicle,the earliest chronicle of Kievan Rus', a Varangian named Rurik first established himself in Novgorod, just south of modern-day St. Petersburg, in about 860 before moving south and extending his authority to Kiev. The chronicle cites Rurik as the progenitor of a dynasty that ruled in Eastern Europe until 1598. Another Varangian, Oleg, moved south from Novgorod to expel the Khazars from Kiev and founded Kievan Rus' about A.D. 880. During the next thirty-five years, Oleg subdued the various East Slavic tribes. [Source: Library of Congress, July 1996]

Novgorod was comprised of wooden building placed around streets consisting of pine logs placed over the marshy ground. The pine log streets were replaced every 20 to 30 years. In some places archeologist have unearthed 30 layers of logs. Describing 10th century Novgorod, the Arab geographer Ibn Rustah wrote: "As for the Rus, they live on an island...that takes three days to walk around and is covered with thick undergrowth and forests; it is most unhealthy...They harry the Slavs, using ships to reach them; they carry them off as slaves and...sell them. They have no field but simply live on what they get from the Slavs' lands...When a son is born, the father will go up to the newborn baby, sword in hand; throwing it down, he says, 'I shall not leave you with any property: You have only what you can provide with this weapon.'"

Later Novgorod was supplanted by Kiev but the Republic of Novgorod prospered as part of Kievan Rus' because it controlled trade routes from the Volga River to the Baltic Sea. The destruction of Novgorod in World War II gave archeologist a unique opportunity to excavate the city. Birch-bark documents uncovered in Novgorod from the 11th and 12th century included lists of saints and requests for payments and mentioned fishing, weaving, embroidery and production of various kinds of cloth. One read: "Greeting from Nastasia to my lord, to my brother. My Boris is not alive anymore." Another read: "From Mikita to Ulianica. Marry me. I want you and you want me. Send Ignat as a witness.”

Novgorod City

Novgorod (150 kilometers south-southeast of St. Petersburg) is an ancient city in the Slavic heartland. Regarded as a Russian version of Williamsburg and officially known as Veliky Novgorod,it draws large numbers of tourists, most of them Russians, to its reconstructed kremlin, old stone churches and open-air museum of historic wooden buildings. The modern city of Novgorod is home to about 230,000 people. It had a progressive governor after the collapse of the Soviet Union that helped attract nearly US$1 billion in foreign investment, for a variety of projects, including a Cadbury chocolate factory. Novgorod should not be confused with Nizhny Novgorod, which lies 420 kilometers east of Moscow. Official portal of Krasnaya Izba Tourism Development Center /

Most of the sights are in the historic center of Novgorod on the Volkhov River. The kremlin is on one side of the river and the old market district on the other. As is true in other places many Soviet-era street and landmark names were changed after 1991 but people continue to use the old names. Some streets even have two signs: one with the old name and one with the new name. Novgorod is a pleasant city to stroll around in. B oat trips can be done on the Volkhov River, Lake Ilmen and the marshes surrounding the town. A few boats that gather around the kremlin landing have scheduled one-hour trips, Other take groups of 10 or more for a set fee.

Novgorod has a myriad of monuments, museums, churches and historical buildings. Sometimes it is hard to determine where the city of Veliky Novgorod leaves off and the museum begins. About 50 of the most valuable monuments of ancient Russian architecture from the 11th–17th centuries have become a part of the city's contemporary living structure. When you walk around the city you can touch the rough walls of churches and see medieval frescoes mixed in with shops and restaurants. Even Detention Center No. 1 is housed in an architectural monument of the 19th century. In the center of the city archaeologists discovered wooden pavement from the 14th century which extended almost a kilometer to the river.

Early History of Novgorod

Novgorod is Russia's oldest city and the cradle of Russian civilization. Founded by the Rurik dynasty in the A.D. 860s, it was the first permanent settlement if the Varangian Vikings who established the early Russian sate. It's name, ironically, means "new town," most likely because it replaced a nearby town. According to legend, Prince Rurik, the founder of the Russian state, was born here in 862.

Novgorod began as an early Viking trading post and developed into important Slavic trading Center. After Christianity was introduced in the late 10th century, Novgorod filled with churches built in a distinctive style and a famous school of icon making was founded. The city flourished during the 12th and 13th century, when it was called "Lord Novgorod the Great," and remained relatively unscathed during the Mongol invasion because the Mongol horses got bogged down in swamps outside the town. The city did pay tribute to the Golden Horde.

According to UNESCO: “Situated on the ancient trade route between Central Asia and northern Europe, Novgorod was Russia's first capital in the 9th century. Surrounded by churches and monasteries, it was a center for Orthodox spirituality as well as Russian architecture. Its medieval monuments and the 14th-century frescoes of Theophanes the Greek (Andrei Rublev's teacher) illustrate the development of its remarkable architecture and cultural creativity.

For centuries Novgorod existed as an independent quasi-democratic state whose princes were picked by a citizen's assembly. It suffered under early the tsars who punished the city for displaying independence. Ivan the Terrible raised the entire city and massacred 60,000 people in a brutal pogrom. When St. Petersburg was founded, Novgorod declined in importance as a trading center.

Destruction of Novgorod in World War II

Novgorod did not emerge from World War II unscathed. The Nazis held the city for two and half years and left it almost completely destroyed. Almost all the remaining wooden churches and 12th to 14th century frescoes and icons, plus around 4,500 of 5,000 first rate works of art, were lost. Among the more than 3,000 precious monuments destroyed by the Nazis, the most tragic worst lose was the destruction of the 12th century frescoes in the Old Church of the Savior in Novgorod.

The Red Army liberated the city on January 19, 1944. Out of 2,536 stone buildings, fewer than forty remained standing. After the war, thanks to plans laid down by Alexey Shchusev, the central part was gradually restored.

Of the 70 or stone churches built between 11th and 16th centuries, about 40 survived the bombardment and were restored. Among those that survived are the Cathedral of Sant Sophia (1045-1050) and the Church of the Transfiguration on Nereditsa Hill (1198). Some of the great frescoes inside survived. Of the 47 that remained in the 1980s, one was active and the remainder were state monuments or museums. None of them were heated in the winter.

Historic Monuments of Novgorod: UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Historic Monuments of Novgorod and Surroundings was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992. According to UNESCO: “ These historic monuments “have a direct relation to the process of establishment of the Old Russian state in 9th-10th centuries. The urban aristocracy that governed the city-republic through a People's Assembly (Vece) invited a prince from the Swedish (Varangian) dynasty of the Rurikids to reign over the Russian lands throughout 700 years.

“Due to the care of its Orthodox archbishops, Novgorod was one of the oldest and most important centers of Russian art and, more generally, of Russian culture. The most ancient Russian Old Church Slavonic manuscripts (11th century) were written at Novgorod, including an autonomous historiography (as early as the 12th century) and, in particular, the first complete translation into Slavonic of the Old and New Testaments (late 15th century). Novgorod was a birthplace of the national style of stone architecture, and one of the oldest national schools of painting.

“The majority of historical monuments are associated with Novgorod Republic (12th-15th centuries) which itself was a unique phenomenon of Medieval Russia. It was only after the conquest of the two republics (1478, in the case of Novgorod) by the Muscovite rulers that the present Russian capital acquired cultural supremacy.

“Novgorod’s historic monuments are situated not only in the city center but also in some outlying areas. In Novgorod itself, there is the district of Saint Sophia, including the Kremlin with its 15th-century fortifications, reinforced in the 17th century; the church of St. Sophia from the mid-11th century; and other monuments from the 12th to 19th centuries. There are monuments in the commercial district, including many of the oldest churches in the town, such as the Church of the Transfiguration, decorated with frescoes at the end of the 14th century by Theophanes the Greek, who was the teacher of Andrei Rublev. There are also four religious monuments from the 12th and 13th centuries outside the old town, including the famous Saviour Church on Nereditsa.

“The outstanding archaeological and cultural layers of Novgorod of 10th-17th centuries occupy an area of about 347 hectares, with a depth of 7-8 meters and are waterlogged and anaerobic, thus preserving organic materials.” UNESCO says the site is important because: 1) it is “an outstanding cultural center, the birthplace of the national style of stone architecture, and one of the oldest national schools of painting, the town of Novgorod influenced the development of Russian art throughout the Middle Ages.” 2) “With the broad range of monuments conserved in Novgorod, the town is a veritable conservatory of Russian architecture of the Middle Ages and later periods (11th-19th centuries). These monuments alone suffice to illustrate the development of Russian architecture.” 3) “Novgorod was one of the major centers of Russian culture and spirituality; its monuments and the treasures they house bear living witness to this.”

Kremlin of Novgorod

Kremlin of Novgorod (next to the Volkhav River) is a large sprawling complex encompassing a large number of buildings and a park-like spaces. Among the buildings inside are the leaning 17th-century clock tower, the 15th-century St. Sophia belfry museum, Metropolitan's Chambers (with a concert hall and Pokrosskaya Tower.The Chamber of Facets contains an excellent collection of icons and church treasures. The Museum of History & Art is one best archaeological and historical research museums in Russia. It features early icons, birch-bark manuscripts, paintings, folk art and early wood sculptures.

The Novgorod Kremlin, also known as Novgorod detinets, is the oldest stone fortress in Russia. Founded by Prince Yaroslav and first mentioned in historical chronicles in 1044, the Kremlin was the administrative, public, and religious center of Novgorod and was where the veche and the election of the posadnik was held and was where Alexander Nevsky's troops set off to fight the Swedes, The Kremlin was also where the chronicles were kept and books copied. Its walls protected the Cathedral of St. Sophia and the residence of the Novgorod ruler.

The first Novgorod fortress was built in the middle of the 11th century. It was located on a small hill between two ravines where is St. Sophia Cathedral now stands. Under Prince Vladimir Vladimirovich Yaroslavich and Mstislav (11th -12th centuries) the kremlin expanded and reached its current size. At the end of the 15th century, the walls were built of the stones you see today.

The of walls are kremlin at Veliky Novgorod are about 1350 meters in length. Their thickness reaches four meters. Walking around the Kremlin takes about half an hour. The walls are best viewed when approached along the Volkhov River from Ilmen Lake. A road leading to the bridge joining the Sofiyskaya and Trading Squares, as was the case in medieval times, passes through the Kremlin. The 41-meter-high, 19th century, Kokuy observation tower offers a panoramic view of the entire city and the surrounding area. The landscape of the southern suburbs has remained almost unchanged since the time when Vikings called it Holmgard, a country of islands. The Volkhov starts from Ilmen Lake; its tributaries flow around numerous islands, overgrown with tall grass.

These days, the Kremlin is a cultural and tourist center. It hosts the major exhibits at the Novgorod Reserve Museum, conducts restoration workshops and sponsors a philharmonic, an artistic college, artistic and music schools. From May to November you can also visit “The Gallery of the Time”, an exhibitions about the history of Novgorod in the 20th century. The exhibition is housed is the the Spasskaya Tower and Princes Tower.

Towers and Monuments at Novgorod Kremlin

Of the twelve towers nine have survived. The oldest date to the 16th century. Intercession Tower, the only one the projecting beyond the wall was the most vulnerable during an artillery attack. Therefore, it has three-meter-thick walls and facades have 55 loopholes. The neighboring five-tiered tower Zlatoustovskaya Tower was converted into a prison in the 17th century. It former name meant Prison.

Two of the towers at the Kremlin of Novgorod are not typical round towers. One of them — the Metropolitan — dates to the 17th century and is known as "round" or "red." The second — Theodore — got its name from the church erected in memory of the brother of Alexander Nevsky, who died on the eve of his wedding. Theodore was canonized as a saint. His relics rest in the Cathedral of St. Sophia.

The highest tower of the Kremlin is Kokuy Watch Tower. It is 41 meters high and was built in 18th century and now is open for visiting in the summer from 11:00am to 7:00 pm, with a lunch break from 2:00pm to 3:00 pm, closed Monday and Thursday are days off. From its top opens a great view on Novgorod lands many kilometers away.

Millennium of Russia Monument (inside the kremlin across from Holy Sofia Cathedral) was raised on 1862 to celebrate the 1000th anniversary of the founding of Russia (the arrival of the Viking Prince Rurik in Novgorod in 862). The monument looks like a bell and consists of three tiers, each of which tells about the heroic past of Russia and its important dates — the baptism of Russia, the foundation of the Russian Empire and others. This huge bronze wedding cake features images of many of Russia's great figures, include the Alexander Nevesky, Peter the Great and Ivan the Terrible. The Nazi wanted to cut it up and use it for scrap but the Red Army arrived in time rescue it.

Holy Sofia Cathedral

Holy Sofia Cathedral (inside the kremlin) is considered the greatest church in Novgorod and is probably the oldest church in Russia. Finished in 1050, it is a stolid Byzantine structure with some of Russia’s most treasured relics, icons and Byzantine, West European and Russian art. The bronze doors captured from the Swedes are covered with biblical scenes. A few icons date back to the 14th century. Most of the frescoes have been painted in the last hundred years but some are among the oldest found in Russia.. It is possible to climb Sofia belfry. At the time it was built, the cathedral was the only stone building in Novgorod. Since the 11th century, a saying has gone, “Where there is St. Sophia, there is Novgorod.”

The cathedral was founded by Yaroslav the Wise and his son Vladimir. It was built from 1045 to 1050 years and is the oldest surviving stone building of the medieval Rus. Novgorod citizens have always regarded the cathedral with the greatest reverence. For example, they believed that it was Sofia who protected the city from Mongol attacks. It is known that in 1238, Mongol troops turned back after nearly reaching Novgorod. Citizens regarded this as a sign of God. In 1391, the city escaped a terrible plague. Again Novgorod citizens linked this with the intercession of St. Sophia.

The cathedral has five domes. In the 15th century, the central one was covered with gold, giving the cathedral an even more majestic appearance. Along with the gilding of the dome, a lead dove symbolizing the Holy Spirit was installed on the cross. A similar medieval Rus structure, Kiev Cathedral, has not survived to the present. According to legend, while painting the dome, the Savior's outstretched hand was depicted in the form of a fist. The fresco was repainted several times until the painter had a dream where Christ told him that he had deliberately balled his hand into fist to keep Novgorod in it.

In addition to fragments of 12th-century frescoes, the St. Sophia Cathedral also has ancient birch bark graffiti, scrabbled with a stylus (even though Duke Vladimir the Baptist of Kiev by decree had forbidden the cutting of inscriptions on the walls of temples already in the 10th century). These inscriptions have survived largely because Novgorod's architecture was never destroyed by Tatar raids. The inscriptions often address the Christian God, but some carry the echo of heathen beliefs and others are of a purely routine character.

Thanks to this graffiti, we know the names of some of those who worked during the construction and decoration of this masterpiece of ancient Russian architecture. They are George, Stephen and Sezhir. Once the cathedral was built, it was painted in stages and in separate fragments. Real painting work in the cathedral began only in 1108. This work partially hid earlier frescoes that were later discovered during the renovation of the cathedral in the late 19th century.

Today, visitors enter the Cathedral through the northern door. The western gate, Magdeburg Gate, was once the main entrance. It was moved and is now open on holidays and during ceremonial services. This gate is unusual as well. They came to Novgorod as a war trophy from Sweden in the 12th century. The gate was made in Germany in the city of Magdeburg. In the 15th century, the gate was reconstructed by a Russian craftsman Abraham; his image can be seen today on the gate next to the image of the German foundry craftsmen Veysmut and Rikvin.

Paintings and Icons in Holy Sofia Cathedral

In the Martiryevskaya portico, exceptional images of Saint Constantine and Helena, dating to the 11th century, have stood the test of time. They are quite unusual: the fresco was not painted on wet plaster, as usual, but on dry plaster. Researchers believe that this technique was used to paint the ancient wooden churches of Rus.

The final interior decorations in the St. Sophia Cathedral were completed in the 12th century. Two icons from the 11th-century altar have survived: “Savior on the Throne” and “Apostles Peter and Paul”. A newer, taller iconostasis was installed in the St. Sophia Cathedral much later, in the 14th-16th centuries.

The icon Our Lady of the Sign, painted in 1170, is considered to be miraculous; according to a legend, she protected the city from a Suzdal invasion. This event played such a significant role in the life of the city that it is still celebrated as a revered religious holiday. This story became the basis for another famous icon named the Battle of the Novogorodians with the Suzdalians.

There are two iconostases in the St. Sophia Cathedral today: the Assumption iconostasis and the Christmas iconostasis. Before the Assumption iconostasis, the miraculous icon Our Lady of the Sign can be seen. On the Christmas iconostasis, two icons that are considered to be miraculous can be seen: Our Lady of Tikhvin and Savior on the Throne. Our Lady of Tikhvin is the most revered icon. The Savior on the Throne icon was painted in the 16th century over a more ancient picture that also survived (it can be seen through special little windows).

Bell Tower of St. Sophia Cathedral

Bell Tower of St. Sophia Cathedral is a five-tier construction that looks like a white monolith and was built under Archbishop Euphemius II. At the foot of the tower there are five medieval monumental bells. The belfry itself houses bells of modern casting. Every day the sound of the bells can be heard far away above the city. The great Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninov, who was born in the Novgorod region, said the chimes of these bells was one of his brightest childhood memories. Now the belfry houses the exhibition “Ancient Bells of Veliky Novgorod”. The largest bell exhibited weighs over 20 poods (about 705 pounds, or 320 kilograms) and the smallest one is over 1.5 poods (about 53 pounds, or 24 kilograms). The viewing point provides a picturesque panorama of Veliky Novgorod. In the summer time it is open daily, except Tuesday.

Bell Tower of St. Sophia Cathedral stands over the Kremlin wall with five spans forming its upper part. This type of construction was invented during the reign of Euphemius II and then was duplicated only twice in Russia. The first mention of the bell tower is in 1437, when spring flooding of the river Volkhov brought the tower down. Two years later a new bell tower was built in the place of the old place. Since then the tower has been rebuilt many times, and only architectural and archeological research and the images on the ancient icons give us a picture of its original shape. However, the “main bells” of Novgorod, for the most part remain true to the original despite the reconstructions.

It is said that Sofia bells could be heard 80 kilometers (50 miles) away and were noted for the special melody they produced. These are the bells Rachmaninoff heard. Unfortunately, nowadays these bells are on the ground. During World War II, an effort was made to evacuate the bells on a barge, but the ship engine was hit by artillery, so the attempt to evacuate them failed and the bells were damaged. But maybe one day the sound of the bells will be heard again over Novgorod. Scientists are working on technologyto to “cure” the bells.

Now there is an exhibition “Ancient bells of Veliky Novgorod” in Sophia bell tower, which is represented by 14 bells. The biggest one weighs more than 20 poods (320 kg), and the smallest one is more than 1.5 poods (about 24 kg). Sightseeing platform which is located in the bell tower is open daily for visitors during the warm season. It opens a spectacular panoramic view of Veliky Novgorod.

Museums in Novgorod

Novgorod Museum Reserve (Ulitsa Meretskova-Volosova, 2, in the Novgorod kremlin) is one best archaeological and historical research museums in Russia. Founded in 1865 and also known as the Museum of History and Art, it features early icons, birch-bark manuscripts, paintings, folk art and early wood sculptures.

The museum-reserve includes exhibition halls, exhibitions and monuments from Veliky Novgorod and other places of the Novgorod region such as - Borovichi, Staraya Russa, Valdai and Chudovo. Particularly interesting are "Old carved wood" exhibition and the "Russian icon of 11th-19th centuries" display and "The history of Novgorod and Novgorod land from ancient times until the 17th century."

The Novgorod Museum Reserve offers visitors sightseeing tours, expositions, architectural monuments, for exhibitions with objects from other fund Russian museum. There are also folklore and ethnographic programs on national holidays and themed tours for children of different ages in art, history and folk culture. Sometimes the museum sponsors traditional folk games events.

Fine Arts Museum (in the Chamber of Facets of the Novgorod Kremlin) contains an excellent collection of icons and church treasures. Its exposition “Russian art in the 17th-20th centuries” is a good introduction to the development and history of Russian fine art. There are examples of all the main stages of Western art — Baroque, classicism and romanticism. Particularly famous are portraits such as “The portrait of Anna Fyodorovna Моnakhtina” (1785) by Dmitriy Grigorievich Levitsky (1735-1822) and “The portrait of Elizaveta Ivanovna Nekhludova” (1798) by Vladimir Lukich Borovikovsky (1757-1825). The art of the 19th century is well covered . In this period, romantic and realistic directions and the influence of academic classicism are all very strong.

Museum of Forgotten Things (Volkhov hotel) is located in the oldest operating hotel in Veliky Novgorod. It contains thins travelers forget in their rooms. The first exhibit — a botalo (a rattle placed on the neck of a cow) was forgotten by a guest named Sidorov. Why he brought this thing to Novgorod — and forgot it — remains a mystery. The museum has more than 100 exhibits. Anyone can visit it. If as you stay at the hotel and forget something it may too become a museum piece.

Churches in Novgorod

Churches include Church of Our Savior of the Transfiguration, a medieval church with a an image of suffering Christ looking down from the central dome; the Church of Our Savior Nereditsa (1198), with some remnants of 12th century frescoes; Church off SS Peter and Paul (1406); and Church of St. Theodore Stratelaetes (1361). Some of the old churches such as the Church Intercession and Church of Apostle Philip are working churches with regular services. Others remain museums, concert halls and exhibition halls they were been converted into by the Communists.

Church of Our Savior-at-Ilino is a charming, solid-looking Novgorod-style, 14th-century church. The interiors contains the only surviving frescoes of the legendary Byzantine painter Theophanes the Greek. The church is in amazingly good shape considering it was used as a machine gun nest by the Nazis in World War II.

Church of St. Simeon the God-Receiver is a small two-tier church opened in 1467 and located on the ground of the former 12th century Zverin monastery. It was preceded by a wooden church built in one day under the vow given to stop the Great Plague. The unique wall-painting of the church interior are well. preserved. The arches, pillars, and walls are covered with small paintings of saints united in a way that makes it possible to pray for all the people died of plague. On the territory of the former monastery is the 14th century Church of the Protection of the Virgin. The relics of St. Savva of Vishera the Miracle-worker are kept here.

Cathedral of the Nativity of Our Lady in St. Anthony's Monastery Antonovo, Veliky Novgorod) was founded in the early 12th century and several original structures are intact till this day. The founder was a wealthy foreigner named Anthony who was born in Rome. His arrival in Novgorod has grown over with legends and tales that have been preserved in his hagiography (a literary genre that had a saint's life as its subject). According to one legend, Anthony the Roman arrived in Novgorod by sea on a rock, having sailed on it around the European continent miraculously in just three days. This rock is still displayed in the courtyard of the monastery's Cathedral of the Nativity of Our Lady that was built in 1117. It is said that the rock has healing powers.

Fragments of the original 12th century frescoes have been uncovered on the alter wall of the cathedral. The figures are depicted in very dynamic, turning positions and a very realistic. A name "Peter" is scratched out over one of the fresco's figures. It is thought that it is the name of the architect who built the cathedral. A seminary was established at the monastery in 1740 – it was one of Russia's first learning institutions. Now the building houses one of the departments of Novgorod State University named after Yaroslav the Wise.

Yaroslav Court and Cathedral of St. Nicholas

Yaroslav Court (accessible from the kremlin by a foot bridge over the Volkhav River) is the Novgorod market area. Named after Prince Yaroslav the Wise, who once had a palace here, it contains a 17th-century riverside arcade, a market gatehouse, old churches sponsored by medieval merchant guilds and an 18th-century road palace built as a rest stop for Catherine the Great. The Novgorod veche was gathering place for traders from all over Russia. Ships moored on the banks of the river. The historical architectural complex was badly damaged in World War II.

Court Cathedral of St. Nicholas is all that remains of Yaroslav's palace. Inside are remains are some 12th century frescoes, including fragments of “Job on the Dung Hill”, which shows of Job covered in boils, and “Last Judgement”. Most of the painting refers to the 19th century. Most of the frescoes date back to the 19th century. Currently, the Yaroslavl courtyard has been restored and is included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

St. Nicholas Cathedral was built in 1113-1136 and consecrated in honour of St.Nicholas the Miracle-Worker, who was highly revered in Rus. In May, 2013 exhibitions timed to the 900 anniversary of the cathedral were open: 1) drawings and graffiti from 11th to 14th centuries preserved on the walls of the Novgorod cathedrals; 2) materials related to the research and restoration of St. Nicholas Cathedra; and 3) an exhibition honoring of St. Nicholas the Miracle-Worker in Novgorod with many items including icons, liturgic items of different type and purpose, prince seals of the 11th to 13th centuries with the image of the saint. One round icon with St, Nicholas’ image, according to the legend, healed Prince Mstislav. There are hagiographic icons, icons from a cathedral iconostasis,, indicating about the honouring of St. Nichola as well as 16th century needlework and 16th century carved wooden sculpture by Nichola Mozhaisky.

Check out the panorama the Great Market and Prince yard in the new multimedia exhibition complex. A 360˚ panoramic screen, six meters in diameter shows images created using six wide-angle projectors controlled by high-power computers. The system also produces various sound effects.

Near Novgorod

Boating in Novgorod include boat trips on the Volkhov River, Lake Ilmen and the marshes surrounding the town. A few boats that gather around the kremlin landing have scheduled one-hour trips, Other take groups of 10 or more for a set fee. A boat trip along the Volkhov River to Lake Ilmen with a stop at Rurik’s Hill Fort cost 700 rubles for adults, 300 rubles for children students 7-12 years and is free for children under 7 years old.

Rurikovo Settlement (Rurik’s Hill Fort) (two kilometers south of Veliky Novgorod’s city center) is an ancient Rus hill fort and archaeological site and the original 9th century settlement of Veliky Novgorod.. Also known as Rurikovo Gorodische, and in Scandinavian sources as Holmgård, it is located across from Yuriev Monastery where the Volkhov River flows out of Lake Ilmen. Part of the Novgorod UNESCO World Heritage Site, it includes the original residence of the princes of Novgorod.

Rurikovo Settlement dates to the Viking Age and was situated at the source of the Volkov River, guarding the trade route “From the Varangians to the Greeks”. The settlement is a ruin now. But from the observation deck located nearby, you can enjoy beautiful views of the ruins and see both the Yuriev Monastery and the Kremlin. Archeological excavations done near the fortress, its dwellings, and utility structures provide prove that Rurik's Hill Fort dates to 9th-10th centuries (The city of Novgorod was founded in the late 10th-early 11th centuries). In the center of the hill fort are the ruins of the Cathedral of the Annunciation erected by the Prince Mstislav the Great in 1103 and then reconstructed in the 14th century. The Hill Fort was used by rulers from the Novgorod area until the age of Ivan the Terrible. The area can be explored on foot or by bike or from a boat trip along the Volkhov River to Lake Ilmen

Tesov Narrow Gauge Railway (65 kilometers from Veliky Novgorod in the village of Tesovo-Netylsky) offers rides. In the summer you can ride in a special railway carriage. In the winter you can ride in a special warmed up passenger car. The cost of the tour for adults is 700 rubles, for children under 12 years a ticket is 400 rubles. Children under 6 years are admitted for free. Excursions are held all year round. A nice bonus is tea drinking. Adults can take a class on driving the locomotive.

Museum “Slavic Village of the 10th Century” (in the village of Lyubytino, 120 kilometers east of Veliky Novgorod) is a small settlement with copies of traditional Slavic housing and information on the history, culture and beliefs of the ancient Slavs. The bus journey from Veliky Novgorod to Lyubytino takes about three hours and costs 550 rubles. Since most often the bus leaves at 6:50pm you will need to stop for the night in Lyubytino. At the recreation center of “ Lyubytino Khutor” (Lyubytinsky district, Bor village, 129). You can take a bath, rent a bike or go horse riding. Rooms go for 2500 rubles a night.

St. George (Yureiev) Monastery

St. George Monastery (just south of Novgorod) is a function careworn 12th-century monastery also known as Yureiev Monastery. Founded by Prince Yaroslav of Kiev on the southern reaches of Veliky Novgorod., it situated on the Volkhov river, near Lake Ilmen. The Cathedral of St. George has been largely reconstructed. Many other buildings date back to the 19th century. It is set in a beautiful location among swamps and fields.

There is a legend regarding the year in which St. George's monastery was founded, 1030. Following a victory over the a group of Chuds (local Finnic peoples), prince Yaroslav the Wise founded the city of Yuriev (now: Tartu, Estonia) and constructed churches in Novgorod and Kiev in honor of George (Yury) the Victorious, his patron saint. The St. George's Cathedral in Novgorod was built on the route from the city to the countryside residence of the prince in the village of Rakomo on the shore of Lake Ilmen. Near the cathedral a monastery of the same name was founded.

The earliest documented data about St. George's Monastery is dated 1119, when prince Vsevolod Mstislavovich founded “a stone church named after George and built by a master by the name of Petr.” St. George's Cathedral, together with the Church of the Annunciation constructed opposite to it in the fortress in 1103, formed a kind of propylaeum through which the people entered the city. The importance of St. George's Cathedral was stressed by the fact that the prince's chronicles were written in it and the cathedral itself was used as the burial vault of Novgorod princes. The mother and brother of Alexander Nevsky, Dmitry Shemyak, among other historical figures, are buried here.

The cathedral was painted in the 12th century. In 1902, the old paintings were restored (actually, re-painted). The original frescoes were preserved in the window jambs and in the upper part of the stair tower, where a small church was arranged back in ancient times. Ninety-three steps lead to them.

St. George's Monastery was one of the largest property owners in Novgorod. Its lands were situated in different places: from the Lovat river head up to Onega, and from Shelon up to Sestrinsky camp in Volokalamsk district near Moscow. The monks had their own granary in the Novgorod Kremlin and their own stands at the market. Even at the end of the 17th century, when some of the monastery's possessions were confiscated, it still owned 15 small monasteries, thousands of peasants, wide agricultural lands, fisheries, trade shops, and salt works granted by the grand ducal and patriarchal letters. The second rise of St. George's Monastery was in the first half of the 19th century, when countess A.A. Orlova-Chesmenskaya, the goddaughter of abbot Photius, sponsored repairs in the old buildings and funded the construction of new ones.

Even today, St. George's Monastery seems grand, despite the fact that it is not yet completely restored. It includes a 52-meter-high bell tower and five buildings: eastern (with prison cells), southern (with the Church of Our Lady of the Burning Bush), Archimandrite's (with the Cathedral of Our Saviour, under which both Archbishop Fotiy and Countess Orlova-Chesmenskaya are buried), northern and the Cathedral of the Rising of the Cross (1823). Its five sky-blue domes with shiny golden stars attract attention from afar. The cathedral is squat, a bit too heavy, but convenient for services.

In the 19th to the beginning of the 20th century, the monastery had a wonderful garden and flower beds, from which the roads led to Orlov's country house and to the house of A. A. Orlova-Chesmenskaya and to Novgorod. Willows were planted along the roads. These 150 years old trees remain to this day.

Church of the Transfiguration of Our Savior on Nereditsa Hill, 1198

Church of the Transfiguration of Our Savior (3 kilometers to south of Novgorod near the Gorodische) was built in 1198 by Novgorodian Prince Yaroslav Vladimirovich near Prince's residence and was dedicated to his sons” memory. The year after the church was built it was decorated with frescoes. The painter of the murals could be the well-known artist Olisey Grechin. The cloister was founded where Novgorodian Prince Afanasiy Danilovich, a grandson of Alexander Nevsky, took monastic vows in 1322, before his death, and was buried.

The Church of the Transfiguration of Our Savior on Nereditsa Hill was rebuilt several times. In 1903-1904 the restoration work (the first truly scientific restoration in Russia) gave the church its original appearance back. The church frescoes are not only famous in Russia but also in Europe. Church of the Transfiguration of Our Savior was badly damaged during World War II. Only about 50 percent of the building and 15 percent of painting remained intact. Restoration works began in 1944 and the church was restored in 1956-1958.

Church of the Transfiguration of Our Savior on Nereditsa Hill is on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. The restoration of the frescoes is still being carried out. The expressive fragments of “The Day of Judgment” and images of the saints and martyrs in sacristy are historical and cultural treasures.

Vitoslavlitsy Museum of Wooden Architecture

Vitoslavlitsy Museum of Wooden Architecture (in the village of Vitoslavlitsy, four kilometers from Veliky Novgorod). is an open-air museum of wooden architecture with some of the oldest wooden architectural monuments in Russia, including residential buildings, craft workshops churches, huts, chapels and a mill from the 16th to 19th centuries.

A village existed on the site from the beginning of the 12th century to the 18th century. Later it was the site of the Semevskiy noble estate, bought by A. A. Orlova-Chesmenskaya. Of the old manor, a two-story house still remains and a one-story wing, as well as some parts of the manor park.

Many beautiful old wooden churches and peasant houses were relocated here from around Novgorod region. The museum was established in 1964, when the first exhibit — the Church of Assumption of the Mother of God, dated 1595 — arrived from Kuritsko village. Today the collection at Vitoslavlitsy a total of 34 buildings, including some of Russia’s best preserved examples of folk wooden architecture, spread over an area of 33.4 hectares.

Some of the peasant houses, rural chapels, and churches have exhibits in them. The Dobrovolsky double house contains exhibitions titled “The Arrival of the Badger” and “Wool Milling Craft”. The museum and the monastery also houses the work of Alexander Grekov, a Russian man who reassembled many frescoes in buildings damaged in World War II. He hunted down pieces of plaster scattered in ruined buildings and on hillsides and assembling them like a giant jigsaw puzzle and glued them altogether.

Every year, the Vitoslavlitsy Museum hosts folklore and crafts festivals, ethnographic programs, Christmas festivities, and the International Festival of Chimes. Costumed dancers and singers perform shows. Tickets: 170 rubles for adult, 120 rubles for students over 16;,children under 16 are free of charge. Some workshops require an additional admission fee.

Staraya Russa: Where Dostoyevsky wrote the Brother Karamazov

Staraya Russa (opposite side of Lake Ilmen from Veliky Novgorod) is an old town that began as a Viking trading posts and was later used by Dostoyevsky as retreat. The riverside log cabin used by Dostoyevsky to write the “Brother Karamazov”, “The Possessed” and “The Adolescent” is now a museum. A number of family photos, books and possessions are on display. There is also a 12th-century church and a 17th-century church in Staraya Russa, which can be reached by bus or boat in two hours from Novgorod.

The Memorial Museum FM Dostoevsky in Staraya Russa opened May 4, 1981. The great Russian writer arrived to Staraya Russa in 1872 and lived there with his family for eight years. For him, the town was a place of relaxation and creativity. The house is on the quiet shores of Pererytitsy. The house-museum recreates a 19th century living situation. Some of the furniture, utensils and household items belonged to Dostoevsky’s family. Others date to the time he lived in the house. Many of the belongings, documents and books are authentic, belonging to the writer and his family.

The first floor serves as the museum. The porch, six rooms on the second floor, front, the living room, the writer study, dining room, and Anna's children tooms have all been restored in the form in which they were in Dostoevsky’s time. Residents of Staraya Russa were inspirations for some characters of Dostoevsky’s novels and the city itself served as model for some of the settings. Dostoevsky also wrote famous "Pushkin speech" while living on the house.

In 1918 Dostoevsky House was nationalized and its contained various institutions. After the liberation of Staraya Russa from Nazi German occupation the house was one of the few surviving wooden buildings. In 1969, the first Dostoevsky exhibition was set up in two rooms. After major restoration in 2000-2001, the museum was expanded and has welcomed many visitors since then.

Valdai National Park

Valdai National Park (150 kilometers southeast Veliky Novgorod) is a beautiful park comprised mainly of forests and lakes. There are many hiking trails and places to enjoy boating. The park organizes nature walks and other outings. Visitors can stay in tents or rent a guest houses for around 2500 rubles (US$40) a day.

Valdaisky National Park was established in 1990, to preserve the unique forests and lakes of the Valdai hills. Located in the Okulovsky, Valdaisky, and Demyansky districts of Novgorodskaya oblast, park covers is 158.4 square kilometers. In 2004, the park received the status of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Apart from the natural landmarks, the park has plenty of attractions of historical and cultural interest, including 18 neolithic dwelling sites and the burial mounds from the 6th-9th centuries. Every year the park is visited by up to 60,000 people. The tourists are attracted primarily by the lakes, the largest of which are Valdaiskoe, Velye, Polnovsky ples of Lake Seliger, and Borovno. Valdaisky Park offers more than 100 recreational sites where one can set up a tent and camp.

The visitor's center of the National Park is located on the Obraztsova mountain and offers a great view on the clear waters of Valdai Lake. Many events are organized in Valdaisky every year. In the summer, the Biankovskie readings take place on Borovno Lake. Then there is Fisherman's Day. Artists of all sorts congregate for the Nord Vest Festival of Amateur Artists. On July 9, for the holiday of the Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God, a Cross procession and consecration of waters take place at the Tekunok water source near Novotroitsa village. In the beginning of October, the Kalevala Festival is organized on Lake Uzhin.

Seliger Lake

Lake Seliger (320 kilometers northwest of Moscow) is located near the headwaters of the Volga. It is a beautiful place, dotted with islands and surrounded by forests with pines and white-barked birches. There are plenty of opportunities for hiking, camping, fishing, canoeing and hunting. You can take a boat ride to an island with a monastery turned into a labor camp in the Stalin era. Website:

Located in the Tver and Novgorod Oblasts and of glacial origin, Seliger Lake covers a total area of 260 square kilometers and has about 160 islands covering 38 square kilometers. The largest island is Khachin. It covers an area of 30 square kilometers and has ten lakes of its own. The water is fresh and generally clean. Among the 30 species of fish that live in Seliger are bream, pike, burbot, pike perch and ide.

The deepest part of the lake is 24 meters. The irregular coastline of 589 kilometers long and consists of 24 distinct stretches, broken up by rivers and channels. A total of 110 rivers and tributaries flow into the lake, the largest of which are the Krapivenka, Soroga and Seremukha. Only one river flows out of it — the Selizharovka. One of the largest stretches of Seliger is the Polnovsky stretch.

The first mention of Lake Seliger is in the 12th century. At that time the village of Polnovo on Seliger was named as a a settlement on the ancient trade route between Volga and Novgorod. On the shores of the lake are numerous archeological sights, the oldest of which date back to the 3rd-2nd centuries B.C. On the eastern and western shores of the Polnovsky stretch, there are graveyards, mounds and hills from the 9th-15th centuries.

Nilova Hermitage

Nilo-Stolbensky Hermitage (on Stolbny Island on Seliger Lake, 10 kilometers to the north of the town of Ostashkovo) is a Russian Orthodox monastery. Also known as Nilova Hermitage, its has served over the years as a monastery, POW camp, juvenile criminal colony, hospital, nursing home and holiday camp. Now it is under the control of the Russian Orthodox Church.

The monastery dates back to 1528 when a hermit monk, Venerable Nil, moved from near Rzhev to Stolbny Island. During the first year, he lived in a dug-out hut. Later he built a cell and a prayer chapel. During his time there he endured fires, floods, bandits and animal attacks. However, Nil never gave up or moved away, overcoming adversity with prayer and faith and is said to have healed the sick. There is a legend that the Venerable Nil made a vow to never lie down. He slept standing up, keeping himself upright with ropes and hooks driven into a wall. Venerable Nil lived on the island for 27 years until his death in 1555. Before he died he wished that a monastery be built in that spot he lived and that wish was ultimately fulfilled.

The construction of the Epiphany Cathedral of the monastery began in 1767, and was finished in 1833. But many monks were already living there at that time. The monastery flourished in the 17th-19th centuries. In the early 20th century, the number of permanently residing monks stood at 1,000. After the Revolution of 1917, the cloister was sacked. Despite thing the monastery continued to exist until 1927. In the Soviet era is when it served as a POW camp, juvenile criminal colony, hospital, nursing home and holiday camp. It was returned to the church only in 1990.

There are two ways to reach Nilova Hermitage: by tourist boat across the Seliger Lake from Ostashkov, or by car. The monastery and other sights of Stolbny Island are open to visitors every day. You can view the cloister of the monastery and climb the bell tower of the Epiphany Cathedral to see breathtaking sights of Seliger Lake. Venerable Nil’s relics are considered holy and monastery attracts many pilgrims. Entrance to the territory is free. Visitor are advised to dress conservatively. Women are expected to wear long skirts and cover their heads. Men should not wear hats. There is a hotel in the monastery. Homestays are guest house are available on nearby Svetlitsa peninsula. Local shops sells honey, bread, dairy products and tea. For more information check the Tourist Portal of Tver Oblast:

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Federal Agency for Tourism of the Russian Federation (official Russia tourism website ), Russian government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Yomiuri Shimbun and various books and other publications.

Updated in September 2020

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