“Novgorod” comes from the Old Church Slavonic Новъ and Городъ, and literally translates as “new city”. Although Veliky Novgorod means “Great New City”, the name is somewhat misleading as it is one of the most important historical cities in Russia. The historical importance of Veliky Novgorod was officially recognised in 1992 when it was granted the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors to the city can enjoy spectacular views of the Volkhov river and Lake Ilmen in the distance from the Kremlin walls. Major sights include the 11th century St. Sophia Cathedral, the Kremlin and the Museum of Wooden Architecture.
Veliky Novgorod was founded in 859 and holds such historical significance because each stage of its development coincides with the major periods of the foundation of the Russian state. It is thanks to Novgorodians that the Rurik dynasty was created because, in the early stages of Rus, Novgorodians invited the Scandinavian Prince Rurik to keep law and order in the city. In 882, Rurik’s successor, Oleg of Novgorod, conquered Kiev and founded the state of Kievan Rus.
The Novgorod Republic was created in 1136 when citizens rejected their prince Vsevolod Mstislavich. It was only at the end of the 15th Century that the Novgorod Republic was annexed to the Moscow Principality, thereby resulting in the united Russian state.
Things to see in Veliky Novgorod
A trip to Novgorod is not complete without a visit to the Kremlin. Walking over the bridge above a moat encircling the fortress, you certainly feel safe once you are inside the kremlin walls. Once inside, you will be struck by Russian sculptor Mikhail Mikeshin’s grand monument to the Millenium of Russia which celebrates Russia’s vast history. From Prince Rurik to Peter the Great, the monument represents different periods of history up until the first quarter of the 18th Century. It is fitting that this monument is situated in Novgorod which has played such a great role in the foundations of the Russian state. Opposite the monument stands St. Sophia’s Cathedral which was built in the 11th Century and is one of the earliest stone structures of Northern Russia. Inside the cathedral you can see the Icon of the Mother of the Sign which is believed to have miraculously saved Novgorod from an attack by the Suzdalians in 1196. I recommend that you climb the steps to walk along the top of the Kremlin walls to enjoy spectacular views of the city and the river Volkhov.
In stark contrast with the grandeur of Novgorod’s Kremlin, the Musuem of Wooden Architecture built in 1964 gives visitors an interesting insight into the life of the peasantry. The museum contains over 20 buildings including a wooden church, houses and shops. You should not miss out on tasting the freshly brewed Kvas at the museum, (it’s definitely a highlight!)
There is no doubt that a trip to Veliky Novgorod will transport you back in time to the earliest stages of Russia’s history. So what are you waiting for?
For more information, visit http://visitnovgorod.ru/