NOVGOROD (formerly known as Velikiy-Novgorod, Great Novgorod), a town of Russia, capital of the government of the same name, and the seat of an archbishop of the Orthodox Greek Church, situated 119 m. by rail S. of St. Petersburg, on the low flat banks of the Volkhov, 2 m. below the point where it issues from Lake Ilmen. Pop. (1900) 26,972. The present town is but a poor survival of the wealthy city of medieval times. It consists of a kremlin (old fortress), and of the city, which stands on both banks of the river, connected by a handsome stone bridge. The kremlin was much enlarged in 1044, and again in 1116. Its stone walls, originally palisades, were begun in 1302, and much extended in 1490. Formerly a great number of churches and shops, with wide squares, stood within the enclosure. Its historical monuments include the cathedral of St Sophia, built in 1045–1052 by architects from Constantinople to take the place of the original wooden structure (989), destroyed by fire in that year. Some minor changes were made in 1688 and 1692, but otherwise (notwithstanding several fires) the building remained unaltered until its restoration in 1893–1900. It contains many highly-prized relics, including bronze doors of the 12th century, one brought reputedly from Sigtuna, the ancient capital of Sweden. Another ancient building in the kremlin is the Yaroslav Tower, in the square where the Novgorod vyeche (common council) used to meet; it still bears the name of “the court of Yaroslav”; and was the chancellery of the secretaries of the vyeche. Other remarkable monuments of ancient Russian architecture are the church of St. Nicholas erected in 1135, the Snamenski cathedral of the 14th century, and churches of the 14th and 15th centuries. Within the town itself there are four monasteries and convents, two of them dating from the 11th century and two from the 12th century; and the large number in the immediate neighbourhood shows the great extent which the city formerly had. A monument to commemorate the thousandth anniversary of the foundation of Russia (the calling in of the Varangians by Novgorod in 862) was erected in 1862. Another monument commemorates the repulse of the Napoleonic invasion of 1812.
The date at which the Slavs first erected forts on the Volkhov (where it leaves Lake Ilmen and where it flows into Lake Ladoga) is unknown. That situated on a low terrace close by Lake Ilmen was soon abandoned, and Novgorod or “New-town” (in contradistinction to the Scandinavian Aldegjeborg or Ladoga) was founded by Scandinavian sea-rovers as Holmgård on another terrace which extended a mile lower on both banks of the river. The older fort (Gorodishche) still existed in the 13th century. Even in the 9th century the new city on the Volkhov exercised a kind of supremacy over the other towns of the lake region, when its inhabitants in 862 invited the Varangians, under the leadership of Rurik, to the defence of the Russian towns of the north. Down to the end of the 10th century Novgorod was in some sort depended on Kiev; yet in 997 its inhabitants obtained from their own prince Yaroslav a charter which granted them self-government. For five centuries this charter was the bulwark of the independence of Novgorod. From the end of the 10th century the princes of Novgorod, chosen either from the sons of the great princes of Kiev (until 1136) or from some other branch of the family of Rurik, were always elected by the vyeche; but they were only its military defenders, and their delegates were merely assessors in the courts which levied taxes for the military force raised by the prince. The vyeche invariably expelled the princes as soon as they provoked discontent. Their election was often a subject of dispute between the wealthier merchants and landowners and the poorer classes; and Novgorod, which was dependent for its corn supply upon the land of Suzdal, was sometimes compelled to accept a prince from the Suzdal branch instead of from that of Kiev. After 1270 the city often refused to have princes at all, and the elected mayor was the representative of the executive. Novgorod in its transactions with other cities took the name of “ Sovereign Great Novgorod ” (Gospodin Velikiy Novgorod). The supreme power was in the hands of the vyethe. The city, which had a population of more than 80,000, was divided into wards, and each ward constituted a distinct commune. The wards were subdivided into streets, which corresponded to the prevailing occupations of their inhabitants, each of these again being quite independent with regard to its own affairs.
Trade was carried on by corporations. By the Volkhov and the Neva, Novgorod—then known also as Naugart and Novwerden—had direct communication with the Hanseatic and Scandinavian cities, especially with Visby or Wisby on the island of Gotland. The Dnieper brought it into connexion with the Bosporus, and it was intermediary in the trade of Constantinople with northern Europe. The Novgorod traders penetrated at an early date to the shores of the White Sea, hunted on Novaya Zemlya in the 11th century, colonized the basins of the northern Dvina, descended the Volga, and as early as the 14th century extended their trading expeditions beyond the Urals into Siberia. Two great colonies, Vyatka and Vologda, organized on the same republican principles as the metropolis, favoured the further colonization of N.E. Russia.
At the same time a number of flourishing minor towns such as Novyi Torg (Torzhok), Novaya Ladoga, Pskov, and many others arose in the lake region. Pskov soon became quite independent, and had a history of its own; the others enjoyed a large measure of independence, still figuring. however, as subordinate towns in all circumstances which necessitated common action. It is said that the population of Novgorod in the 14th century reached 400,000, and that the pestilences of 1467, 1508 and 1533 carried off no fewer than 134,000 persons. These figures, however, seem to relate rather to the whole Ilmen region.
Novgorod's struggle against the Suzdal region (now the government of Vladimir) began as early as the 12th century. In the following century it had to contend with the Swedes and the Germans, who were animated not only by the desire of territorial acquisition, but also by the spirit of religious proselytism. The advances of both were checked by battles at Ladoga and Pskov in 1240 and 1242 respectively. Protected by its marshes, Novgorod escaped the Mongol invasion of 1240-42, and was able to repel the attacks of the princes of Moscow by whom the Mongols were supported. It also successfully resisted the attacks of Tver, and aided Moscow in its struggle against this powerful neighbour; but soon the ambition of the growing Moscow state was turned against itself. The first serious invasion, in 1332, was rolled back with the aid of the Lithuanians. But in 1456 the great prince of Moscow succeeded in imposing a heavy tribute. Ivan III. of Moscow took possession of the colonies in the northern Dvina and the Perm regions, and began two bloody wars, during which Novgorod fought for its liberty under the leadership of Martha Boretskaya, the mayor. In 1475–1478 Ivan III. entered Novgorod. abolished its charters, and carried away 1000 of the wealthier families, substituting for them families from Moscow; the old free city then recognized his sovereignty. A century later Ivan IV. (the Terrible) abolished the last vestiges of the independence of the city. Having learned that a party favourable to Lithuania had been organized in Novgorod, he took the field in 1570, and entered the city (much weakened by the recent pestilences) without opposition. His followers killed the heads of the monasteries, the wealthier of the merchants and clergy, and burned and pillaged the city and villages. No fewer than 15,000 men, women and children were massacred at Novgorod alone (60,000 according to some authorities). A famine ensued, and the district of Novgorod fell into utter desolation. Thousands of families were transported to Moscow, Nizhniy-Novgorod, and other towns of the principality of Moscow. In the beginning of the 17th century Novgorod was taken and held for seven years by the Swedes; and in the 18th century the foundation of St Petersburg ultimately destroyed its trade. Its position, however, on the water highway from the Volga to St Petersburg and on the trunk road from Moscow to the capital, still gave it some commercial importance; but even this was destroyed by the opening of the Vishera canal, connecting the Msta with the Volkhov below the city, and by the construction of the railway from St Petersburg to Moscow, which passes 46 m. to the east of Novgorod. (P. A. K.; J. T. Be.) .