Pskov, Russia

For a good while Pskov had been a major defensive outpost on Russia’s western border. It withstood more than one hundred battles and successfully protected the Russian lands from foreign invaders. As Pskov is rich in the Pre-Mongol architecture, it has been included into the preliminary list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Being first mentioned in 903, Pskov is located at the junction of essential trading routes. The Western hostile forces repeatedly tried to invade the Russian State, but every time they suffered total defeat at the foot of Pskov Fortress.

Pskov Kremlin - Krom

Pskov Kremlin – “Krom” / Alexander Kozlov (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The beginning of the Pskov lands

In the first centuries A.D. this region became inhabited by the Finno-Ugric and then the Slavic tribes. In the eighth century, the locals had to build an earth bank with wooden towers and pale fences to defend themselves from the constant Lithuanian and Chud raids. Soon the wooden walls of Pskov Fortress were replaced with the stone ones.

Its efficient defensive construction did a great job protecting the citizens of Pskov from the attacks of Germans, Dutch and Lithuanians. As a result, the town was thriving at that time. Unfortunately, armed resistance to the Western invaders was the only option for the locals as any diplomatic efforts came to nothing.

In 1240, Pskov was captured the first and the only time in its history when the war chief opened the gates and let in the soldiers of the Livonian Order. Two years later, in 1242, the legendary Russian Prince Alexander Nevsky reached the town and recaptured it in one blitz-attack.

However, Pskov Fortress was not the only fortification in the Pskov lands. The second one – Izborsk Fortress – is situated in several kilometers from Pskov.

During the period of feudal disunity Pskov got under control of the Novgorod Republic, then it became the independent Principality of Pskov and finally entered the Grand Duchy of Moscow. Even before that the Princes of Pskov helped the rulers from Moscow to repel the Mongol-Tatar attacks.

Alexander Nevsky’s Entry into Pskov

Vladimir Serov. Alexander Nevsky’s Entry into Pskov (1945, the State Russian Museum)

Dovmont of Pskov

The Lithuanian nobleman Dovmont came to Pskov in the second half of the thirteenth century. He decided to become baptized into Orthodoxy and assumed the name Timofey. Due to his outstanding leading and military talents, Dovmont was chosen the Prince of Pskov. Although he was of the Lithuanian origin, Dovmont efficiently protected Russia’s western borders. He defeated the Lithuanians, Germans and Dutch independently or within the united Russian army.

The decline of Pskov

In the eighteenth century several Baltic towns were merged in Russia and its borders were moved further to the West. When Peter the Great started to build the new Russian capital Saint Petersburg, Pskov completely lost its significance and turned into a small provincial town.

The twentieth century is filled with tragic events for Pskov. There the last Russian Emperor Nicholas II the Bloody abdicated. In the course of the First and the Second World Wars Pskov was occupied by the German troops.

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