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Main page / Museums and sightseeing in Veliky Novgorod / Rurikovo Gorodische (Rurik's Fort)
Rurikovo Gorodische (Rurik's Fort)
Address:
Veliky Novgorod

Telephone:
+7 905 290 86 86

WWW:
http://visitnovgorod.ru

Working hours:
Круглосуточно/24-hours

Церковь: Март - Апрель: 11:00 – 17:00
Выходные: Чт, Пт

Church: March - April: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Closed: Thu., Fri.

Entrance Fee:
Церковь: 170 руб. – взрослый
120 руб. – студенты ВУЗов и учащиеся
дети до 16 лет — бесплатно

Church: 230 roubles (adults)
170 roubles (students)
children under 16 - free

GPS:
58.49424100, 31.29792000

You can get to Rurik’s hill fort from the central railway and bus station by bus no. 186, which goes to the village of Spas-Nereditsy. Then you need to return to the highway, reach the Volkhov River, turn left and walk along the river to Rurik’s hill fort.

Bus schedule is here

At the source of the Volkhov River, guarding the trade route "From the Varangians to the Greeks", a fortified settlement of the Viking Age is located.

Here was Prince Rurik’s residence, who started the first Russian ruling dynasty. In 862, he was summoned to reign by Novgorodians.

Archeological excavations done near the fortress, its dwellings, and utility structures provide prove that Rurikovo Gorodische dates back to the 9th - 10th cc. It is known as the "Old City", which was established in the age of Christianization, and preceded Novgorod (the late 10th - early 11th cc.). There are ruins of the Cathedral of the Annunciation in the center of Rurikovo Gorodische that was built by the Prince Mstislav the Great in 1103 and then reconstructed in the 14th c. Due to Novgorod major political and economic importance, the fort hosted rulers from the Novgorod area - due to the city's major political and economic importance - until the age of Ivan the Terrible (the Fourth). The Cathedral of the Annunciation and the St. George Monastery provided a scenic getaway for past rulers. Now it gives guests a beautiful view of the past.

The history of Rurikovo Gorodische
 The majestic historical sites with preserved architectural monuments had always attracted people who wanted to reach out to the past, resurrect proud people with their imagination, and see them praying, crafting or gettting ready for a battle. But there are places where imagination seems powerless and the history remains buried underneath the ruins forever. Stubby (Novgorod architecture style) or light and elegant (influenced by the latter Moscow architecture style) churches don’t pierce the skies with their domes, even the ancient moat that used to surround those territories doesn’t burst upon the eyes. 

Rurikovo Gorodische, located on the right bank of the Volkhov River, opposite Peryn’, is one of such places. Despite its desolation and remoteness, it remains popular among the scientists who carry out archeological excavations here time after time, as well as tourists who travel here to learn the history, and the inhabitants of Novgorod who choose Rurikovo Gorodische as a destination for their long walk on a summer's day.

At first glance, this place seems like an ordinary part of nature: the fields, pretty both in summer and spring, and the gloomy sceneries of the Russia northwest – the most beautiful places of the world, according to the scientist Dmitry Likhachov. A small hill. Ruins of an ancient palace. And this is probably the only thing a traveler would see here. Add wonderful sunsets to the list, when the drowning sun shares its final rays with the water and slowly closes its heavy eye, and a remarkable landmark nearby – the Nereditsa Church, built in 1198 by order of Yaroslav the Wise… But whether is it the only thing that attracts people to Rurikovo Gorodische?

From the point of view of ancient word formation, gorodische literally means “a place, where a town used to be”. “Rurikovo Gorodische” – as it’s been called by historians and local experts ever since 19th century – evokes associations with the Rurik who, according to the legends, was summoned to Rus’ in 862, over a 1000 years ago, and who founded the Russian nation. However, where are the roots of that nation? Is it the secret that Gorodische holds? The secret of its name has been attracting attention of scientists for a while: if Novgorod was new at that time, then how far back does that defensive fortification date back?

In the end of the 1st century, the source of the river Volkhov and the northwest shore of Lake Ilmen, were the central area (also known as Poozerye) for the Northern Slavs. There were two reasons behind their decision to claim those lands: fertile soil and a perfect position on the intersection of two most important trade routes – Volga trade route and “Varangian-Greek” one. The hills along the floodplains of the Volkhov River and Lake Ilmen, as well as the Veryazha River, were riddled with various Slavic settlements, and Peryn’ was their central pagan temple. Gorodische played an important part in this region in the 9th century; according to the chronicles of 1103, it was well-known as a residency for Novgorod nobility and an important center of Novgorod political life. Its importance was justified by the convenient geographical location: the settlement was built on an island that was close to the distributaries of the Volkhov, and it was on a hill, which means it was a naturally fortified key to the whole Lake Ilmen.

According to the scientists, Gorodische followed the way of Ladoga in its development, which was distinctive for most of the early Baltic trading centers. However, unlike Gorodische, Ladoga couldn’t become the center of the Slavic lands, as it was fairly remote from the Slavic world and had no fertile soil, even though it also developed with the help of international trade and was even more ancient. Gorodische evolved in a cluster of farming settlements, which formed the core of the future Novgorod land; besides, all the rules that governed the entire Ilmen region came from here. According to one version of the Varangian Summoning legend, Rurik moved to Gorodische from Ladoga, which shows how important its role was in the 9th century. His palace was here as well, but now it’s lost. The influence of the settlements around Gorodische increased with time. Higher-ups of the society were enticed to live in a both administrative and economical center, where all the income of the future Novgorod land came to, and so they moved closer to Gorodische. Gradually, the territory of the future "New City" (Novgorod) formed that way, and with time, Gorodische became the Old City as we know it now, and the search for it kept the minds of the world's scientists occupied for a long time.

In the middle of the 10th century, a couple of quickly developing settlements were already present on the hills 2 km away from Gorodische, which were eventually taken by Novgorod. At this time, the new settlements and Gorodische are developing independently, but during the pagan reformation by Vladimir the Great in 980, the idol of God Perun was placed in Peryn’ (in Kiev, it was placed in Kremlin), which again shows its central role.

In late 10th century, the first constructions are built on the territory that approximately matches the one of the modern Kremlin: Detinets and the wooden version of St. Sophia’s Cathedral. Eventually, the settlements of the Slavic nobility formed a completely new structure and around 10th-11th centuries they took over most of the administrative and economical functions of Gorodische.

In early 11th century, Yaroslav the Wise moved his residency down the current of the Volkhov, to Torg. That impacted the intensity of life in Gorodische, as if it stopped for a moment. But in late 11th century, because of an increase in amount of functions for the mayor and a simultaneous decline in the role of the prince, he was forced to move back to Gorodische, preserving the right for himself to live inside the city.

In 1103, in contrast with St. Sophia’s Cathedral, the Church of Annunciation was built in Gorodische. The church’s facade was three-bladed. The schematics, the shape of the pillars and the steps were identical to the Church of St. George Church in St. George Monastery, which was built a bit later on the opposite shore of the Volkhov. During the archeological excavations, another circumstance was found: The Church of Annunciation, along with Saint George’s Church, formed a majestic propylaeum – a gate to the city from Lake Ilmen; it was a construction of indescribable beauty.

During his rule, Alexander Nevsky also lived in Gorodische. In 1477, Ivan the Third chose it as his place of stay as well, along with Ivan the Terrible, who orchestrated the punishment for the Novgorod boyars. In late 16th century, this place had lost its original influence and became the tsar’s residence – Peter the Great gifted it to Alexander Menshikov.

This unique place full of historical secrets shows its true colors to an inquisitive traveler, who resurrects this quiet piece of land with the power of imagination. It’s almost as if Rurik’s lost palace will rise up again, the battle cry of prince’s kinsmen will echo in the fields, accompanied by the sounds of matins from the church.

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