Pskov – a city-state, a medieval Veche Republic and an impregnable fortress – has of yore been protecting the northwestern borders of our country. The waterway was the main trade route of Pskov and provided connection to the European countries.
The history of the Pskov Land dates over 1100 years back.
Pskovskaya region today is a subject of Russian Federation. Its a territory of 55.3 ths sq. km in the northwest of Russia. The main peculiarity of the Region’s location is the external boundaries of Russia (270 km with Estonia, 214 km with Latvia, and 305 km with the Republic of Belarus). Internally the Region is adjacent to the Leningrad, Novgorod, Tver and Smolensk Regions. The distance from Pskov to Moscow is 689 km, and to St. Petersburg it is 280 km.
Administratively the Region is divided into 24 districts, 9 of which are on-border ones, and accommodates 14 cities and towns, two of which are relatively large economic centers: Pskov (202.7 ths people, as of census 2002) and Velikiye Luki (104.9 ths people, as of census 2002). The Region is inhabited by 747.3 ths people.
The Pskov Land is the land of amazing history – the land one may call the guardian of the Russian antiquity. All events of greater significance for the Russian history are somehow connected with this region.
In 2003 the 1100th anniversary of Pskov city, the heart of the Pskov Land, took place. The first mentioning of Pskov in the chronicles dates back to 903.
Later a beautiful legend occurred, telling about the foundation of the town on River Velikaya, and connecting it with the name of the saint and equal to apostles Princess Olga, who was born not far from Pskov, in a place known as Vybuty. The legend has it that once Princess Olga, riding round her lands, saw three miraculous sunbeams descending from the sky. Spellbound with the vision, she exclaimed, ‘Upon this place there shall be the temple to the Holy Trinity and a city - great, glorious and flourishing!’
From the late 9th to the 12th century Pskov, joint with the vast Novgorod lands, was part to the Ancient Russian State — Kiev Russ. Later Pskov falls within the jurisdiction of Novgorod the Great.
The border location of Pskov facilitated the growth of foreign trade. Despite the constant clashes with the Livonian Order, Pskovites successfully traded with Narva, Riga, Derpt, Polotsk, and later — with the Hanseatic Cities. Pskov was not merely an active supplier to the Western Europe, but also a large site for transiting goods to Russian towns and Principalities, as well as to the farther eastern lands. Westward from Pskov ran caravans with fur, honey, wax, leather, bristle, lard, linen etc. Through Pskov and farther to the east foreign merchants brought gold, silver, copper, tin, lead, cloth, textiles, jewels, wines, spices and parchment. In 1348 Novgorod acknowledged the independence of Pskov.
1348 through 1510 were the blossoming years of a wonderful phenomenon for the Russian Land — the Pskov Veche Republic.
Veche was the supreme legislative body, and had the sole power to adopt new and cancel old laws. In 1467 Veche approved a set of laws of the Pskov Republic — the Pskov Court Charter. Executive power was in the jurisdiction of posadniks.
Pskovites called their state Pskov or the Pskov Land. The Pskov Land was divided into municipalities centered around suburbs dependent on the city of Pskov.
Izborsk, Vyshgorod, Krasny, Gdov, Ostrov, Opochka, Velye, Voronach, Kobyla, Dubkov — these and some other Pskov suburban fortresses were the first to handle foreign assaults.
Being the northwestern outpost of Russ, in fact Pskov had to face the militant neighbors alone: in the west the Pskov lands were propped up by the Livonian Order, and in the south — the hostile Lithuania.
In 1242 Alexander Nevsky and his troops won a magnificent victory over German knights on the April ice of the Peipsi Lake.
Immortal shall remain the deed of Pskovites dating back to the Livonian War, while they were defending Pskov from the siege of Polish King Stephan Batory and his army in 1581-1582.
During the siege Pskovites had rebutted 31 assaults of much superior enemy numbers and had sallied 46 times themselves against the royal forces.
33 years later Pskov, deprived of any support, came victorious over one of the best Western European army – that of Swedish King Gustav Adolph.
The entire history of medieval Pskov is a story of continuing wars, enemy forays, sieges and war campaigns. According to the written sources remaining, from 1116 to 1709 Pskov waged 123 wars against external enemies.
By the early 16th century Pskov factually lost its independence. On January 13, 1510 the Pskov feudal republic was liquidated and the Pskov Land was annexed to Moscow.
The most important event in the battle history of the Pskov Land was the participation of Pskovites in the Livonian War of 1558—1583.
The heroic defense of Pskov helped save the Russian lands from the invaders, and made it possible to keep the old Russian borders.
The last time Pskov played an important role in the military history of the Pre-Revolution Russia was the early 18th century in the years of the Northern War.
By the 18th century the administrative structure of the Pskov Land had formed. By the ruling of Peter I the Pskov lands were included into the Ingermanland Province, which was in 1710 renamed into the St.Petersburg Province. By the ruling of Catherine I in 1727 the Velikiye Luki and Pskov Provinces were annexed to the Novgorod Province. In 1772 the Senate declared the establishment of the Pskov Province, which was approved by the decree of the Empress of August 24, 1776. The Province was divided into counties. As a matter of fact, already in the 18th century the present borders of the Pskov Land were delineated.
In the 18-19th centuries the Pskov Province developed as purely agrarian, with underdeveloped industry and working class but few, which resulted in the fact that before the events of January 1905 almost no strikes, demonstrations or large anti-governmental meetings took place. The Government and the local authorities considered the Province stable, unaffected by the revolutionary unrest, and Pskov played a role of a ‘dumping site for cleaning Petersburg from politically unreliable persons’. Among those under police surveillance were social democrats and Russian populists.
It was here that in 1900 after the Siberian exile future creator of the communist party V.I. Lenin had come lived 83 days in Pskov. His stay in Pskov was filed with illegal activities on preparation of All-Russian Marxist Newspaper ‘Iskra’*.
In the years of the World War I the Pskov Land became arena to the Pan-Russian events.
On August 1, 1914 Germany, striving to invade other territories, declared war on Russia.
Referred to as a historical drama by historians, it was in Pskov that the last Russian Emperor, Nicholas II, was forced to sign the manifest where he demised of the throne on March 2, 1917. Such was the epilogue to the 300-year monarchical rule of the 17 Tsars of the Romanovs. This first historical voluntary abdication by a monarch marked the start of the further dramatic events in Russia.
On receipt of the news on the victory of the armed revolt in Petrograd and on the formation of the new authority, on March 3-4, 1917 mass meetings, marches and manifestations of workers, soldiers and other citizens were held in Pskov. The situation that formed in the home front and at the frontline was used by Bolsheviks, those of Pskov included.
In the late February and early March 1918 Pskov became one of the centers of the military operations of All-Russia scale connected to Soviet Russia parrying the intervention of imperialistic Germany, who had refused to sign a democratic peace treaty with Russia with no annexations and contributions.
A special page in the history of Pskov and the part of the Province under occupation was the formation of the so-called Pskov Separate Volunteer Corps of the Northern – later North-Western – White Guard Army. In the end of November 1919 the North-Western Army was disarmed in the territory of Estonia and interned.
Starting with October 1919 the entire area of the Pskov Province was under the soviet rule, but the western parts of the Pskov and Ostrov Counties with Pechory and Izborsk according to the Tartu Treaty were annexed to Latvia and Estonia.
Pskov land in the World War 2
In the course of 20 years the Pskov Land was a border zone, which resulted in the placement in its territory of considerable army numbers, and the establishment of fortified border outposts. The situation changed abruptly in 1940: after the annexation of the Baltic States the troops were withdrawn and the outposts rigged down.
On June 22, 1941 Pskovites, as the whole country, were shocked with the news of the war against Germany. In the first weeks of the cruel battle, and also in 1944-45, about 200 thousand Pskovites were enlisted into the army.
Already in the first months of the occupation small guerrilla troops were organized. Altogether, in the territory of the contemporary Pskov Region, 29 guerrilla brigades totaling to 57 thousand people operated. The scale of the guerrilla movement here is incomparable to any other Region.
The numbers of the victims of the fascist regime were great: in severe fights over 6 thousand guerrillas and underground agents died. The occupants burnt down about 4 thousand villages, annihilated over 7 thousand civilians, and over 150 persons were expatriated to other zones.
On July 17, with the breakthrough in the Panther Line south of Ostrov, the Pskov-Ostrov Advance of the 3d Baltic Front Troops started. The German armies fled in panic, which created favorable conditions for the advance of Army 42. The main strike which liberated Pskov was that by Rifle Divisions 128 and 376. With the liberation of Pechory on August 11, 1944, the overall liberation of the Pskov Land was finalized.
By the Ruling of the Supreme Council of the RSFSR on August 23, 1944 the Pskov and the Velikiye Luki Regions were formed. These territories suffered the longest occupation and huge body count. Pskov and Velikiye Luki were listed among the 15 most ancient towns subject to priority restoration. Great attention was paid to restoring the railways connecting Pskov and Velikiye Luki with Leningrad and Moscow, as well as the Baltic States.
After the World War 2
Industrial manufacturing started reviving. But on the whole, until the 1950’s the Pskov and Velikiye Luki Regions remained agrarian. In 1957 the Pskov and Velikiye Luki Regions were joined up. Further changes in economy, agriculture and the social sphere of the Pskov Land resulted from the general processes taking place in the country since the late 1990’s. The Pskov Region has once again become a border area, bordering upon 3 sovereign states: Belarus, Latvia and Estonia.
Tourism in Pskovskaya region
The unique location of the Pskov Land and its rich historical legacy leaves hope to revival of the glorious Pskovite customs, and to strengthen the state system on the north-western frontiers of Russia.
Pskovskaya region, possessing a unique network of historical monuments, is attractive for both Russian and foreign tourists.
Pskovskaya Land is home to 372 monuments of federal significance, 3588monuments of local significance and475newly discovered legacy objects. The number of monuments, primarily architectural and archeological, puts Pskov into one of the leading positions in Europe. The city is the richest treasury of Russian culture. Today you can still see the rarest monuments of Old Russian architecture— fortification, civil and cult, as well as of monumental painting— the worldwide known frescos of Mirozhsky Monastery (12th c), Snetogorsky Nunnery (14th c) and Meletovo Monastery (15th c).
A pearl of Old Russian architecture is the Pskov Kremlin— the capital center of the Veche Republic, crowned by the Holy Trinity Cathedral with a 17th-century iconostasis. The Kremlin is the visit card of the Old Russian city. Many centuries ago, even before the baptism of Russ, Princess Olga, having come to the bank of the Velikaya River, showed to the spot, where a few heavenly beams were miraculously met. The Great Russian Princess prophesied that this would be the place of a great city and the Trinity Cathedral. Having been erected, both Krom and the Trinity Cathedral became the sacred symbols of Pskov and the entire Pskov Land for many centuries.
Annually the city welcomes thousands of tourists and pilgrims from Russia and abroad, who come to see the might and beauty of the Pskov Kremlin with the multiple towers, Daumantas’ Settlement and the main symbol of the city – the Trinity Cathedral, the highest construction in Pskov.
Pskov takes pride in the Cathedral of Transfiguration of Christ in Mirozhsky Monastery. Dating back to 1153, the Cathedral of Transfiguration of Christ is listed by UNESCO among the monuments of global significance. The unique frescos of Byzantine masters are the property of the world art.
The monument to Prince Alexander Nevsky is one of the brightest and significant sites of the Pskov regional monumental art. The monument is commemorated to the Ice Battle of 1242.
It is to the Pskov Land that lives and creative work of many of Russian cultural figures are connected. A.S.Pushkin, the genius of the Russian poetry was creating his works here.
Located 120 km away from Pskov, The Pushkin Museum Preserve is known worldwide. In the Svyatogorsky Monastery there is the grave of the poet. The museum preserve also includes three estates connected with Pushkin’s name: Mikhaylovskoye, Trigorskoye and Petrovskoye.
The memorial estates of the great Russian composers, M.L. Mussorgsky and N.A. Rimsky-Korsakov are carefully preserved in the Pskov Land. Here are the sites tied to the life of Great Princess Olga. This chapel on the bank of River Velikaya, established at the place, where, as the story has it, the Great Princess was given the miraculous omen: three bright rays piercing the sky and meeting on top a rocky cape. And on that cape she ordered to erect a temple in the name of the Holy Trinity.
The monuments of Vybuty, connected to the name of Saint Equal to Apostles Princess Olga, 15km away from Pskov on the most picturesque riverbank of Velikaya, are of great scientific and historical importance. As the legend goes, this was Princess Olga’s birthplace.
The two ancient fortresses of Old Izborsk (14th century, 30km from Pskov) and Pechory (16th century, 90kmfrom Pskov) are preserved. The Izborsk Preserve is a unique combination of historical and archeological sites, monuments of the Old Russian fortification, cult and civic architecture and natural landscapes. This is the place, where the Russian history started and the first encounters with other nations took place, the place where, even now, cultures, customs and faiths are intertwining.
In Old Izborsk archeologists discovered a Slavic settlement of the 9th century. Izborsk-Malsk valley is known as a unique landscape and historical monument with a natural phenomenon known as Slavic Springs. The springs well out for at least a thousand years. Of yore they are spoken of as curative and miraculous: one brings health, another one – happiness, and the third one assists in love.
Within the Orthodox Sanctuaries of Izborsk pilgrim tour visitors can discover for themselves the unique orthodox sanctuaries of Izborsk and its environs— temples of the 15-18th centuries: Izborsk fortress on topof the Zhuravya Hill, Truvor Settlement, St. Nicholas Cathedral, as well as many other places of interest, including the multiple chapels and the rocky springs, honored in the orthodox world.
In Pechory one of the oldest Pskov-Pechory Holy Dormition Orthodox Monastery with an in-cave necropolis is functioning. The monastery is located in a scenic dale with sand caverns and is a large spiritual and cultural center, one of the largest Russian monasteries centuries-old with an uninterrupted history and a wonderful historical architectural ensembleof the 14-19th centuries. The monastery caves, used as a graveyard for monks, serve as burial places for the ancestors of V.N. Tatischev, M.I. Kutuzov, M.P. Mussorgsky and A.S. Pushkin. Today in the monastery there are 11 temples, 3 of them in the caves.
In the Pskov Region several dozen museums were founded to preserve the history of the land. Their funds number over 400thousand exhibits, including the unique collections of the Old Russian art, fancy silver, decorative appliances, ancient books and manuscripts.
Pskov Historical Architecture and Art Museum dates back to a small museum initiated by the Pskov intelligentsia in1876. At present the central complex of the museum is located at Nekrasov str. 7and occupies a number of buildings: Pogankins’ Chambers— a monument of Pskov civic architecture (17th century), the former school of artistic crafts built in the early 20th century, as well as the modern premises built in the 1970’s.All of them today serve one goal.
The high level of pictorial and applied arts, typical of the work of the ancient Pskov craftsmen, is a property to most varied types of artistic legacy of Pskov: icon-painting, frescos, miniature book illustration, jewelry, wood and stone engraving and ceramics. Pskov-crafted ware can be bought in souvenir shops.
Pskovskaya region, with its woods, rivers and lakes, enables people to rest from the fuss and the noise of the cities. Here is the real expanse for those who prefer rest in natural silence and the prettiest lakes and rivers.
The forests of the region are rich in berries, mushrooms, as well as medical herbs. Every edible moderate climate mushroom (ceps, brown and orange cap boletuses, milk agarics, chanterelles, honey agarics etc.) and berry (wild strawberry, bilberry, raspberry, cranberry etc.) grows here, in the Pskov Land. Collecting such forest gifts yields a great reserve of strength and health.
The environmental purity of Pskovskaya Land, the good climate and the unique natural beauty create favorable conditions to develop ecotourism. There are vast hunting grounds in the Region, which are inhabited by over 21mammal species, which are subjects to industrial and sporting hunt, thus enabling to organize hunting tours.
The wood lakes attract with the incredible purity and transparency of water. There are over 3.700lakes in the land, inhabited by several dozen fish species.
The virgin nature is preservedin the Sebezh National Park. The park is a habitat to many a rare fauna and flora species. About 200 bird species nest here, and 16 of those are listed in the RF Red Book, namely:black stork, osprey, erne, golden eagle etc. The existent mineral water and curative poultice sources of the park provide conditions for recreation and treatment. And we shouldn’t forget the lake tours around the lake system once part to Scandinavia-Greece waterway. Floristically – and especially faunisticly – speaking, the nature of the Polistovsky Preserve is extremely important.
Pushkinskiye Gory Tourist Center, as well as the cottages in thePushkin Museum Preserve, allow diving into the spirit of poetry and enjoy the grandeur of Pushkin’s vast expanses.
Recreation facilities Spizino Holiday Village, Lukomorye and Pleskov are inviting to spend holidays on the shores of the Pskov and Peipsi (Chudskoye) Lakes. All of them are located in the scenic environs with a view of the lake and provide for varied types of leisure regardless of the season.
In summer one may bathe in the sun, go for a swim, ride water cycles and catamarans or water-ski, go off the water slides, paddle a canoe or fish. In winter one can sledge, ski, skate, drive a snowmobile and go ice-fishing, with a sauna or banya for the evening.
For the lovers of extreme recreation there is an opportunity to take part in the extreme kite-glider, paintball, windsurfing or canoe festivals, or go sailing a yacht.
In Pskov city a river port is functioning. One may have a steamer tour along River Velikaya, and go to the deserted islands of the Pskov Lake.
Pskovskaya Region is famous for its mineral sources. For those willing to both rest and rehabilitate,there are health centers Blue Lakes in Nevel District, Khilovo andCheryokha. Khilovo Resort is one of the oldest in Russia, established in 1865. This is the only unique resort in the northwest with the high concentration of hydrogen sulfide in the curative poultice and mineral waters.
A large number of environmentally pure locales create an excellent opportunity to develop rural tourism. Those willing to see the nooks of Pskov with their traditions, way of life and routine – welcome to smaller Pskov villages!
Honey Farmsteadis a place for amateur beekeepersand those willing to see the rural life, plunging into the ancient atmosphere, and sip some mead learning the romance of the honey art.
The territory of the Pskovskaya region possesses a great set of resources for winter tourism: those are natural, social economic, historical cultural resources etc.
Winter tourism istraveling using active methods of moving around, either organized by a tourist agency or independently according to the preferences and classification.
The climatic conditions in the Pskov Region are rather favorable, November through April the air temperature fluctuates between two and eighteen centigrade below, with the permanent snow layer being at least 20cm.The picturesque and beautiful landscapes combine plains and highlands, thick forests, lakes and rivers.
The most appropriate areas for winter tourism development in the Region are the city of Pskov, towns Ostrov and Pushkinskiye Gory, and Pechory district.
The tourist infrastructure, transport connection, municipal systems, retail outlets, board and accommodation are fairly well developed. It is necessary to diversify the types of the active winter tourism, as well as to advance the professional level of the center’s staff.
One of the perspective areas for winter tourism is Pechory district and Izborsk (Izborsk-Maly Valley) in particular. Here Izborsk Museum Preserve is located, which is home to fortresses, churches and 14th-century chapels. In the museum’s territory there are the Slavic Springs long known as curative and miraculous, which attracts many pilgrims. There also is the Izborsk Guest House of the State Historical Architectural Museum Preserve, which has two- and three-bed rooms, all necessary amenities, Russian cuisine, a pancake cafe, and Maly Valley mantelpiece cabin, all located 36 km from Pskov, 3km to Pechory through Izborsk. This is a tourist complex principally new to the region, specializing in winter recreation for broad population layers, which seems destined to find its customer against the growing interest in active lifestyle.
Pechory is an old Russian town ‘by the monastery’, within which a functioning 15th-century monastery is placed. Today Pechory remains a western outpost of Russia. In 1.5kmfrom Pechory lies the Estonian border and in 30 km– the Latvian one. The Pechory Land is famous for the multitudinous picturesque and most environmentally pure lakes of the northwest Russia. In March here the Shrovetide days are held with that specific rural hue and revelry, where you could ride in a troika as quick as the wind, measure strength with strong men in the square according to the Russian traditions, drink lime-leaf tea from a samovar and move to Lake Rogozino, where winter swimmers of the Pskov Region and other places of Russia amaze you with their spunk. And it is here along the square and the streets that the fabulous clay and wood jobbing are sold, along with souvenirs and local handicraft. There is a winter inventory rent-shop in town: sledges, skis, skates.
One of the perspective southern regional spots to develop winter tourism is Pushkinskiye Gory. Pushkinskiye Gory area is located 120 km away from Pskovupon the Valdai Hills. It is 60 km away from Ostrov railway station. North to south its territory is crossedby St.Petersburg-Kiev international motorway. The district is connected with motorways to St.Petersburg, Pskov and Velikiye Luki. Here one can visit Mikhaylovskoye Museum Preserve – sites most scenic, where every year people from other parts of Russia and CIS increase their numbers spending holidays and taking in the surroundings. Five km away from Mikhaylovskoye the Holy Dormition Monastery is situated, which one can sleigh to or walk through Pushkin’s places. The latter attract with their beauty and spiritual richness over 300 thousand tourists a year. For this purpose the tourists are offered carriage rides around the roads of Pushkin times and a stay in the guest house of Petrovskoye village. Pushkinskiye Gory Tourist Center offers 500beds and90beds in a two-star hotel. There is a canteenof 300 seats, a lunchroom, a bar, a dance-floor, a cinema and video hall, a poolroom, a gym and a banya. The center runs a tourist and sports equipment rent-shop (sledges, skis and a snowmobile). In the Pushkinskiye Gory vicinity there are 50haof hunting grounds. The area is famous among hunters from Pskov. InPushkinskiye Gory district there are over 30 lakes, hence the well-developed fishing tourism. In February-March the annual ice-fishing competitions are held here.
In the last 10 years in the Pskov Regionan active revival of pilgrimage can be seen. This type of tourism is rather peculiar.
It possesses the deepest historical basis, since the Pskov Region is home to numerous historical, cultural and religious monuments. In many instances the monuments combine these three attributes. Such culturally and historically rich material gives grounds for various offers and a wide range of sightseeing locales.
Religious life in the Pskov Region is also reviving. Old and new temples start working everywhere. The old tradition to visit memorial places is brought back to life. In the Pskov Region many religious editions are published. Such literature is broadly popular and accessible in the community.
Temples, cloisters and specialized tourist agencies organize pilgrim tours. This type of tourism is developing rapidly. Pilgrim tourism in the Pskov Region is connected to the Orthodox Church.
The position and influence of the Orthodox Church in the region are traditionally strong. Such tradition is of historic origin and customary, since the Pskov Region is not merely located on the geographical border between the Eastern and Western Europe, but also on the Orthodox-Catholic border. Medieval Pskov conserved the traditions of orthodoxy; this is why today the idea is yet popular among many Russians and the former USSR citizens. Besides, Pskov churches were not destroyed as they were in other regions. The traditions of the Orthodox Church are strongly rooted and that is yet another reason why the Region is attracting pilgrims.
The significance of the place of pilgrimage is tied to the special types of attractions for such tourists. Those can be historic events or some famous personalities – holy, as a rule. Sometimes, it is natural sites — springs, lakes, rivers, islands, trees or rocks. All these things are connected to sacred events, holy people or legends.
In the functioning temples and cloisters all pilgrims take part in religious ceremonies, receive their blessing, and are given chance to talk to the priestsand monks. In some places pilgrims are granted dinner and lodging. Sometimes they spend a night in a temple. They worship the holy places and icons, and hold ablutions in the holy waters.