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City of Pskov

Pskov (also spelled Pskow), ancient Pleskov, in German, Pleskau, is one of the most ancient Russian cities. This town was capital of the government of the same name and an archiepiscopal see of the Orthodox Church. Situated on both banks of the Velikaya River, 9 miles SE from Lake Pskov and 170 miles by rail SW of St Petersburg, Pskov population is about 204,000 (2012), up from 30,424 (1897). The chief part of the town, with its kremlin on a hill, occupies the right bank of the river, to which the ruins of its old walls (built in 1266) descend; the Zapskovye stretches along the same bank of the Velikaya below its confluence with the Pskova; and the Zavelichye occupies the left bank of the Velikayaall three keeping their old historical names.

The cathedral in the kremlin has been four times rebuilt since the 12th century, the present edifice dating from 1691-1699, and contains some very old shrines, as also the graves of the bishops of Pskov and of several Pskov princes, including those of Dovmont (cl. 1299), and Vsevolod (d. 1138). The church of Dmitriy Solunskiy dates originally from the 12th century; there are others belonging to the 14th and 15th. The Spaso-Mirozhskiy monastery, founded in 1156, and restored in 1890-1903, has many remarkable antiquities. The ruins of numerous rich and populous monasteries in or near the town attest its former wealth and greatness. The private collections (coins, antiquities, art works, &c.) of Messrs Pushkin and Sudhov were two of the most remarkable in Russia prior to the Revolution.

Pskov, formerly the sister republic of Novgorod, and one of the oldest cities of Russia, maintained its independence and its free institutions until the 16th century, being thus the last to be brought under the rule of Moscow. It already existed in the time of Rurik (9th century); and Nestor mentions under the year 914 that Olga, wife of Igor, prince of Novgorod, was brought from Pleskov (i.e. Pskov). The Velikaya valley and river were from a remote antiquity a channel for the trade of the south of Europe with the Baltic coast.

Pskov being an important strategic point, its possession was obstinately disputed between the Russians and the Germans and Lithuanians throughout the 11th and 12th centuries. At that time the place had its own independent institutions; but it became in the 11th century a prigorod of the Novgorod republic that is a city having its own free institutions, but included in certain respects within the jurisdiction of the metropolis, and compelled in time of war to march against the common enemy. Pskov had, however, its own prince (defensor municipii); and in the second half of the 13th century Prince (Timotheus) Dov'mont fortified it so strongly that the town asserted its independence of Novgorod, with which, in 1348, it concluded a treaty wherein the two republics were recognized as equals.

Its rule extended over the territory which now forms the districts of Pskov, Ostrov, Opochka, and Gdov (farther north on the east side of Lake Peipus). The vyeche or council of Pskov was sovereign, the councils of the subordinate towns being supreme in their own municipal afiairs. The council was supreme in all affairs of general interest, as well as a supreme court of justice, and the princes were elected by it; these last had to defend the city and levied the taxes, which were assessed by twelve citizens. But while Novgorod constantly showed a tendency to become an oligarchy of the wealthier merchants, Pskov figured as a republic in which the influence of the poorer classes prevailed. Its trading associations, supported by those of the working classes, checked the influence of the wealthier merchants.

This struggle continued throughout the 14th and 15th centuries. Nothwithstanding these conflicts Pskov was a very wealthy city. Its strong walls, its forty large and wealthy churches, built during this period, its numerous monasteries, and its extensive trade, bear testimony to the wealth of the inhabitants, who then numbered about 60,000. As early as the 13th century Pskov was an important station for the trade between Novgorod and Riga. A century later it became a member of the Hanseatic League. Its merchants and trading associations had factories at Narva, Reval and Riga, and exported flax, corn, tallow, skins, tar, pitch, honey, and timber for ship-building. Silks, woollen stuffs, and all kinds of manufactured wares were brought back in exchange.

In 1399 the prince of Moscow claimed the privilege of confirming the elected prince of Pskov in his rights; and though, fifty years later, Pskov and Novgorod concluded defensive treaties against Moscow, the poorer classes continued to seek at Moscow a protection against the richer citizens. After the fall of Novgorod (1475) Pskov was taken (1510) by Basil Ivanovich, prince of Moscow, and a voyvode or deputy was nominated to govern the city. Moscow, at the end of the 17th century, abolished the last vestiges of self-government at Pskov, which thenceforward fell into rapid decay. Near this city the Teutonic knights inflicted a severe defeat upon the Russians in 1502. Pskov became a stronghold of Russia against Poland, and was besieged (1581) for seven months by Stephen Bathory during the Livonian War, and in 1615 by Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden. Under Peter the Great it became a fortified camp.

Later, in the beginning of the 18th century, after Russian Tsar Peter the Great had captured Estonia and Latvia states, Pskov role as the border citadel of Russia ended. So the importance of the city reduced greatly. During the World War II, Pskov fortress was useless against German army so the city was captured in 1941. During the occupation lasting from 1941 to 1944, the city was seriously damaged. A lot of ancient buildings were destroyed during the battles.




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