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Information about the City

The origins of the city. The settlement of the territory occupied by the present-day Novgorod dates back to the second half of the ninth to the tenth centuries. At that time, the military and administrative center of Priilmenye was situated at the very head of the river Volkhov. It was a fortified small town (gorodische) which controlled the movement on the transit waterway routes of Eastern Europe, that is, from the Baltic Sea on the Volga route to the Arabic East and the route “from the Varangians to the Greeks” leading to the south, to the Byzantine Empire. Since the early 19th century, this place has been referred to as Rurikovo Gorodische. In 1999, the Gorodische was integrated in the administrative territory of Novgorod the Great.

The middle and the second half of the tenth century witnessed the active settlement of Volkhov banks following the Gorodische. Clay soil and the hilliness of the land made Novgorod’s first settlers pave walkways and courts and develop drainage systems there.

Novgorod in the 11th to 15th centuries. As the only thoroughfare of the city, the river Volkhov was the main determinant of Novgorod’s layout. Street walkways situated in the left-bank area, called Sophia side, were arranged in lines parallel and perpendicular to the river. The landmark for planning there was St. Sophia Cathedral (1045-1050). On the right bank, along with the axial Slavnaya street, the junction of streets was the Marketplace (Torg), originally located somewhat south of the Yaroslavovo Dvorische.

By the 11th century, Novgorod was already organized as a city with several administrative districts, called kontsy. There were three of them: Nerevsky and Lyudin on Sophia side and Slavensky on Marketplace side.

In the twelfth century, the plan structure of Sophia side became more radial, owing that to the construction of the Great bridge (located roughly in the place of the modern pedestrian bridge), the construction of the city fortress, the Detinets, and the rapid expansion of the city in area.

In the thirteenth century, the area between Nerevsky and Lyudin districts is becoming known as Zagorodye and is subsequently given the status of Zagorodsky district (konets). The span between the 12th and 13th centuries is the time of development of another district, named Plotnitsky and located north of Slavensky konets, in Marketplace side. These city districts had their own administration and enjoyed the right to proportional representation in supreme power institutions, e.g. the elective offices of posadnikovs and tysyatskies. In the 14th to 15th centuries, they formed the basis of the Novgorod state democracy.

The planning of Novgorod was strongly affected by churches and monasteries newly constructed within and beyond the limits of the city. Parochial churches were amalgamated to form cathedral areas. In the 15th century, there were 7 cathedral areas in Novgorod which comprised 160 churches.

In 1372, the Novgorodians began building a wall and a ditch of Okolny town, which was supposed to close the boundaries of the medieval city. The total length of this earthwork was over 7 km. Every street of the city ended in a stone passage tower which opened the way outside Novgorod. The city had drainage based on the elaborate system of water ditches and natural channels, and some plots of land were reserved for Novgorod’s further development. In the 1360s, official documents started to name the city Novgorod the Great.

The city layout was further developed through the population expansion beyond the limits of Okolny town and the appearance of slobodas or zapolyevs along the roads originating from city streets. Among newly formed districts were Zapol’skaya street, Kozhevniki sloboda, Prusskoye, Chudintsevskoye and Nikitinskoye zapolyas.

Novgorod in the 16th to 17th centuries

After Novgorod was annexed to Moscow in 1478, Grand Prince Ivan III launched some new construction and development works in the city. First of all, the Kremlin was redeveloped (1484-1490s) to become a seat of the Tsar’s namestnik or lieutenant (voivode). In 1508, boyar Bobr was called to Novgorod in order to organize trade, to set up market stalls and to arrange streets in the manner accepted in Moscow. Although in the 16th century, the city survived a series of horrible fires, its economics, residential and church construction thrived up until the Massacre of Novgorod was committed by the Oprichniks in 1570 under Ivan the Terrible. During the unsuccessful Livonian war of 1582, mighty earth strongholds (Small earth town) were erected around the Kremlin. Now there is the Kremlin Park in their place. The city’s downfall was completed by the Swedish occupation in 1611 to 1617. Thereupon, Novgorod had just 25 courts left on Sophia side and a bit more than 100 courts on Marketplace side.

At the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries, the central part of the city was adorned with a complex of administrative-and-trade buildings including the stone Voivode Court in the Kremlin, a half-stone bridge across Volkhov and Gostiny Dvor (a shopping arcade) on Market side.

Redevelopment in the 18th century

Throughout the 18th century, Novgorod saw multiple endeavors to redevelop its layout in accordance with new guiding principles of urban development. Following Saint-Petersburg and other Russian cities, planners worked out plans of the so called regular outlay for Novgorod. According to the General plan developed by Chicherin N. in 1778 and signed by Empress Catherine II, Sophia side was to remain a radial-semiannular layout, while Marketplace side – a rectangular layout. Despite the fact that until now the plan has not yet been implemented in full, the historical center of the present-day Novgorod has many features of the layout developed on the basis of the 18th century project drawings.

Modern Novgorod

In the 18th to 20th century, Novgorod’s urban development was predominated by stone construction. The city began a new chapter in its construction history after the Great Patriotic War, which practically annihilated the city and its monuments.

In 1945, Schusev A.V., a famous architect, worked out a general plan of Novgorod redevelopment, providing for the preservation of historically core principles of urban construction in Novgorod and for the development of its historical and museum infrastructure. Notwithstanding the above, in 1950, Novgorod underwent mass construction of industrial enterprises and prefabricated residential buildings. As a result, the city grew in size several times over and lost many elements of its ancient layout, e.g. the River Gzen’, Fedorovsky spring, parts of the wall and the ditch of Okolny town.

The period of the 1980s and the 1990s is considered the beginning of the modern history of urban development in Novgorod. At that time, the city rapidly expanded north and west, private developments of various styles were incorporated into its historical part, and settlements with villa development emerged in the suburbs. In 1999, the city was given back its older name Novgorod the Great.


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