Novgorod (190 km away from St.Petersburg)
Mentioned for the first time in the Chronicles in 859, Novgorod (Russian for “new town”) is not simply one of Russia’s oldest cities. This is the city that is related to by Russians as “Novgorod the Great” for the great role it played in the Russian history. The ordinary name given to the city at its foundation proved to be very accurate.
Over a long period of time Novgorod was the city of new approaches in various fields of human activity, whether it concerned trade, building, or social order. After disintegration of the ancient Russian state Kiev Rus into several independent principalities (12th century) Novgorod became the capital of the state of new social structure: Republic of Novgorod (1136-1478), which occupied the vast territory stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Urals.
The new form of government granted townsmen and villagers participation in the political life through the local parliament (veche in old Russian), which was an absolutely new phenomenon for the feudal Russia. A very convenient location of the city at the intersection of the main trade routs from the Varangians (a generalized name for Scandinavians serving Byzantian Emperors) to the Greeks and from the Volga to the Baltic Sea was a powerful incentive to the thorough development of trade, art and culture.
By the 15th century Novgorod grew to a prosperous city known far beyond the borders of the country due to the inspired labour of the local craftsmen, merchants and artists. What was did and made here was bearing very often the seal of uniqueness and newness. It was the only Russian member-city of the Hanse union of the commercial towns, the most influential commercial structure in the medieval Europe. It was in Novgorod that the psalmbook, the oldest of the Slavic texts, and the most of the 11th - 15th century Russian noted books were written.
Built in the late 15th century Russia’s first Italian-styled Kremlin of Novgorod set an example for building fortresses of this type in other rich Russian cities too. With three rows of monasteries and dozens of churches of high artistic value in and around the city, Novgorod was always one of the leading spiritual centers of Russia. The Cathedral of St.Sophia (1050) is city’s most majestic and one of three Russia’s oldest sanctuaries built in honour of St. Sophia. As a result of annexation by the Moscow principality (1494) and rapid developing of St.Petersburg, Novgorod, starting from the early 16th century, began to loose its trade and economic significance.
The present Novgorod is a big tourist center, renowned for numerous historical monuments, and masterpieces of the medieval architecture.