Pskov is located 20km (12mi) east of the Estonian border and on the Velikaya river. It is one of the oldest cities in Russia serving once as the capital of the Pskov Republic, a medieval independent state that lasted up until the 16th century. The town is built around a riverside Kremlin with has a beautiful cathedral inside, and bursting with churches designed by its own school of architects and icon painters.
The name of the city was originally Pleskov, or Plescow in English documents, and is loosely translated to “the town of the purling waters”. One of Russia’s oldest towns, the earliest mention of the Pskov is in 903 when it appears in records that Igor of Kiev married a local lady St. Olga. Pskovians often use this as the city’s foundation date and in 2003 they celebrated their 1,100th anniversary.
By the 12th century the town was tied politically to the city of Novgorod, which at that time was capital of the Novgorod Republic. The Republic ruled over most of what is today north-western Russia as well as parts of modern Finland and Estonia.
The 13th century saw the rise of the Teutonic Knights, whose influence spread through northern Germany, the Baltic States and eventually into Russia. In an attempt to fight back, the people from Pskov elected a Lithuanian prince named Daumantas to be their prince and military commander. Being a Roman Catholic, he was asked to convert to the Orthodox faith and took the Russian name Dovmont. He reorganised the towns defences by expanding its fortifications. He defeated the Knights at Rakvere in 1266 and, buoyed national fervor, overrun much of Estonia also. His remains and sword are today preserved in the Pskov Kremlin and the fortifications are named after him “Dovmonts Town”.
Pskov eventually received its independence from Novgorod in 1348 and created the Pskov Republic. It quickly became a member of the Hanseatic Trading League and flourished as merchants, traders and craftsmen flooded into the city. It’s wonderful location, one of the eastern most towns in the League, meant it became a bridge between the Russian east and the European west.
As the importance and wealth of the city grew, it came under numerous attacks and sieges including 26 in the 15th century alone. The 16th century also saw attacks from Poland with Sweden attacking in the following century. The Swedish threat was ended by Peter the Great with his victory in the Great Northern War who would then use the city as a base in his attempt to dominate the Baltic.
During WWI, Pskov became a strategic location, highlighted by the fact that in March 1917, at a railway siding in Pskov, Tsar Nicholas II signed the manifesto announcing his abdication.
Pskov still retains much of its medieval city walls and citadel, today called the Pskov Kremlin of Pskov Krom.
With its 78m (256ft) spire, the cathedral is one of the icons of the city. Founded in 1130, the cathedral contains the tombs of many of the citys most notable residents including their patron saint, Vsevolod (1138) and Dovmont (1299).
Built in 1152 and famed for its 12th century frescoes
A wonderful merchants mansion dating from the 17th century which today is the Pskov State Museum