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The Trinity Cathedral (1682-99) is a symbol of Pskov's former might and independence.

Pskov (Псков, ancient spelling Пльсковъ, also Pihkva (Estonian), Pleskau (German) and Pskw (Polish)) is an ancient Russian city, located in the north-west of Russia about 70 km east from the Estonian border, on the river Velikaya. The city of Pskov serves as the administrative centre of the Pskov Oblast.


Early history

The name of the city, originally spelled Pleskov, may be loosely translated as "the town of purling waters". Its earliest mention comes in 903, which records that Igor of Kiev married a local lady, St. Olga. Pskovians sometimes take this year as the city's foundation date, and in 2003 a great jubilee took place to celebrate Pskov's 1,100th anniversary.

The first prince of Pskov was St Vladimir's younger son Sudislav. Once imprisoned by his brother Yaroslav, he wasn't released until the latter's death several decades later. In the 12th and 13th century, the town adhered politically to the Republic of Novgorod. In 1241 it was taken by the Teutonic knights, but Alexander Nevsky liberated it several months later during a legendary campaign dramatized in Sergei Eisenstein's movie from 1938.

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"It's amazing how the city reminds me of Paris", wrote one of the Frenchmen present at Batory's siege of Pskov.

In order to secure their independence from the knights, the Pskovians elected a converted Lithuanian prince, named Dovmont, as their military leader and prince in 1266. Having fortified the town, Dovmont routed the knights at Rakovor and overran much of Estonia. His remains and sword are preserved in the local kremlin, and the core of the citadel, erected by him, still bears the name of Dovmont's town.

Pskovian Republic

By the 14th century, the town functioned as the capital of a de-facto sovereign republic. Its most powerful force were the merchants who brought the town into the Hanseatic league. Pskov's independence was formally recognized by Novgorod in 1348. Several years later, the veche promulgated a law code (called the Pskov Charter) which was one of the principal sources of the all-Russian law code issued in 1497.

For Russia, the Pskov Republic was a bridge towards Europe. For Europe, it was a western outpost of Russia. Unbelievably, the kremlin (called by Pskovians the Krom) withstood 26 sieges in the 15th century only. At one point, five stone walls ringed it, making the city practically impregnable. A local school of icon-painting flourished, and local masons were considered the best in Russia. Many peculiar features of Russian architecture were first introduced in Pskov.

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"Batory near Pskov", by Jan Matejko.

Finally, in 1510, the city fell to Muscovite forces. The deportation of noble families to Moscow is a subject of Rimsky-Korsakov's opera Pskovityanka (1872). As one of of the most populous Russian cities, Pskov still attracted enemy armies. Most famously, it withstood a prolonged siege by 50,000-strong Polish army during the final stage of the Livonian War (1581-82). The Polish king Stefan Batory undertook some 31 attacks to storm the city, which was defended mainly by civilians. Even after one of city walls was broken, the Pskovians managed to fill the gap and repel the attack.

Modern history

Since 1777, Pskov has served as a capital of separate government, or oblast. It was here that the last Russian tsar abdicated in March 1917. During World War I Pskov became the center of much activity behind the lines, and after the Russo-German Brest-Litovsk Peace Conference (22 December 1917 - 3 March 1918), in the winter of 1917 - 1918, the Imperial German Army invaded the area.

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Dozens of quaint old churches are scattered throughout Pskov.

The medieval citadel provided little protection against modern artillery, and during World War II Pskov suffered substantial damage during the German occupation from July 9, 1941 until July 23, 1944. Many ancient buildings, particularly churches, suffered destruction before the Wehrmacht could occupy the city. Though a huge portion of the population died, Pskov city in 1989 had a population of about 204,000.

Landmarks and sights

Pskov still preserves much of its medieval walls, built from the 13th century on. The Krom, or medieval citadel, looks as impressive as ever. Within its walls rises the 256-foot-tall Trinity Cathedral, founded in 1138 and rebuilt in the 1690s. The cathedral contains the tombs of saint princes Vsevolod (died in 1138) and Dovmont (died in 1299). Other ancient cathedrals adorn the Mirozhsky abbey (completed by 1152), St John's (completed by 1243) and the Snetogorsky monastery (built in 1310 and painted in 1313).

Pskov is exceedingly rich in tiny, squat, picturesque churches, dating mainly from the 15th and the 16th centuries. There are many dozens of them, the most notable being St Basil's on the Hill (1413), St Kozma and Demian's near the Bridge (1463), St George's from the Downhill (1494), Assumption from the Ferryside (1444, 1521) and St Nicholas' from Usokha (1536). The 17th-century residential architecture is represented by merchant mansions: e.g., the Salt House, the Pogankin chambers, and the Trubinsky mansion. Unfortunately, the area presently has only a very minimal tourist infrastructure, and much of the city needs serious renovation.

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A Russian coin commemorating Pskov's 1,100th anniversary

Copyrighted photos

External link

et:Pihkva ja:プスコフ la:Pscovia nl:Pskov pl:Pskw ru:Псков sv:Pskov zh:普斯科夫


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