Izborsk is located 30 km (19 mi) from Pskov. This short distance makes Izborsk closer to potential enemies. Izborsk Fortress formed the fortified belt around the Principality of Pskov and protected the Western borders of the Russian State. But it was much later, at first there had been a trade and handicraft center.
The Truvorovo settlement
The first settlement of merchants and handicraft workers near Izborsk was founded in 700-800 A.D. This settlement was favorably situated at the junction of the trading route from the Varangians to the Greeks. It was protected by a 6-meter (20 ft) high earth bank, a wooden picket and a 3-meter (10 ft) deep ditch.
Unfortunately, the fire called for major reconstruction of the settlement.
Izborsk in early years
The free town of Izborsk gradually fell under the control of the Principality of Pskov and the Principality of Novgorod.
By the middle of the tenth century Izborsk had got a stone fortress (stronghold) for noblemen and warriors, and its own town for common citizens.
One century later a strong stone wall encircled the whole town and overgrew with defensive towers.
Izborsk successfully withstood several sieges of the Western troops. However, in 1232 and 1240 the town was captured by the Livonian Order.
It became clear that Izborsk Fortress could not hold out against new military technologies of the German army.
A good defensive location was found 400 meters (1312 ft) further from the initial place – on Zheravya Hill. A new fortress was built under guidance of the Pskov Prince Sheloga (Seloga) and was finished in 1330.
This triangular fortress had two immense towers and was completely impregnable from two out of three sides due to the peculiar relief of this region.
Thanks to its defensive capabilities, Izborsk Fortress withstood numerous sieges but was never seized by enemies!
Things to see in Izborsk
The Truvorovo settlement and the Truvorov cross
According to the legend, the Truvorov cross was erected on the grave of the same-name Prince. In 862, the Prince Truvor along with his brothers Rurik and Sineus were invited to rule Kievan Rus. It is widely believed that Truvor had been the head of Izborsk for two years. However, scientists found out that the Truvorov cross had been erected only in the fourteenth century to mark the initial boundaries of Izborsk.
The Church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker in the Izborsk (Truvorovo) settlement
The church dates back to the seventeenth century. It was likely built instead of a burnt wooden one. This church is of particular interest as it embraces the ancient architectural traditions of Pskov and new constructive forms and techniques.
The walls of the church have narrow vertical cavities which go almost to the ceiling. However, it is still unclear how they were used. The crosses made of slabs can also be seen in the church walls.
The Church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker / Roman Lashkin (CC BY 2.0)
Izborsk Fortress (1330) is situated on Zheravya Hill near St. Nicholas Cathedral (about 1341).
The reconstructed fragment of the battlement in Izborsk Fortress
One of the towers is topped with a cross which was erected during the construction process. Its major function is to protect the fortress
The historic festival in Izborsk / Daniil Ulanov (CC BY 2.0)
The outskirts of Izborsk
Izborsk lies in the northwest part of the Russian Craton. Its nature is considered to be unique. Groves get intertwined with brooks and rivers, fields and washes, lakes and hills to create breathtaking landscapes.
The outskirts of Izborsk
The Germans did not manage to take Izborsk Fortress by assault and called it “The Iron Town”. During the reign of Peter the Great, the Russian borders were extended in the western direction and Izborsk Fortress lost its significance as a defensive outpost. Gradually it turned into a small town.
Photos 2, 3, 4, 6 by Anton Cherniak