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Novgorod (or more precisely Veliky Novgorod or Novgorod Veliky), also known as Novgorod the Great, is one of the most ancient and important historic cities in Russia. The city is situated along the main road which connects Moscow and Saint Petersburg and spreads itself along the banks of the Volkhov River. The river  cuts Novgorod into two areas, the Sophia Quarter (Sofiyskaya storona) around its Kremlin (major fortified central complex) and the Commercial Quarter (Torgovaya storona). Novgorod serves as the administrative centre of Novgorod Oblast (Province).

Above: The regional administration building in Novgorod

Novgorod is situated on the ancient trade route between Central Asia and northern Europe and is at the very beginning of Russian history. The city was Russia's first capital in the 9th century - paradoxically, the name means "New Town".  The town was a capital of an independent republic from the 12th - 17th centuries, becoming  one of Europe's largest cities at its peak, rivalling an emerging Grand Duchy of Moscow (Muscovy), 300 miles away. Because of Novgorod's position as a staging-post on the trade route between the Black and Baltic seas, it was a natural barrier to the further expansion northwards of Muscovy. Novgorod escaped the worst of the Mongol invasion in the 13th century and had a closer relationship with Western Europe, becoming a member of the Hanseatic League. However, in 1478, the Novgorod Republic was annexed by Ivan III (Ivan the Great). Sections of the population were deported and replaced by loyal Muscovites. Later, Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible) had 60,000 of the population murdered, claiming there was going to be a rebellion. The population of Novgorod was about 2,000 by the 17th century, down from some 400,000. The city's economy picked up during the time of Catherine the Great. Later on, during World War II, the city found itself almost on the German-Russian front line. The Germans occupied it from 1941 to 1944 and consequently, the city suffered significant damage. After WWII, the city was beautifully restored. The city of Novgorod currently has a population of approximately 220,000.

The photo above shows the Millennium of Russia Monument in the Novgorod Kremlin. It was erected in 1862 for the millennium of Rurik's arrival to Novgorod in 862, an event which is taken as the beginning of Russian statehood.

The three photos below show the walls of Novgorod's Kremlin (Detinets). It sits on high ground beside the Volkhov River. Excavations under its walls have revealed the remnants of a massive earth rampart dating back to the 10th century.

The photo above shows St Sophia's Cathedral, which dominates the town. It is sited where an earlier church of the same name stood which was built in 989 by Joachim, Novgorod's first bishop. The replacement cathedral was built by the son of Yaroslav the Wise who became Prince of Novgorod and was intended to rival that of St Sophia's Cathedral in Kiev. Further information on Wikipedia here.

Above: Clock and Bell Tower of Novgorod Kremlin

Novgorod does not lack churches and monasteries and was a centre for Orthodox spirituality as well as Russian architecture. According to a guidebook I have, referenced only by the name "Novgorod", the  Soviet Cosmonaut Vitaly Sevostyanov (who flew on the Soyuz 9 and Soyuz 18 missions) said about Novgorod:

"There are some places in the country, where one acutely feels the need to 'converse' with the past. Ancient Novgorod has a special force of attraction. I happened to visit this wonderful city several times and always enjoyed the sight of the austere shapes of its cathedrals, the blue ribbon of the Volkhov, and the Cathedral of St. Sophia whose domes can be seen from afar."

A beautiful description and one I cannot disagree with. 'The Historic Monuments of Novgorod and Surroundings' are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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