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Pskov and Around

PSKOV

This historical significance of the Pskov land can hardly be exaggerated. It is so, as if history permeated the Pskov itself. Pskov is a city to enjoy magnificent powerful beauty of the Kremlin fortification walls, combined with tiny and cozy charm of Orthodox churches.In the “Tale of Bygone Years” Pskov is mentioned first time as an already existing town dating back to 903 in connection with the marriage between Prince Igor of Kiev and Olga of Pskov- the future saint and apostle –equal Princess. Near Pskov, in a place called Budnik, Olga`s grandson was born- Prince Vladimir, the future Baptist of Russ.The Pskov Veche was born here, and the basis for democracy in Russ was laid.Positioned on the crossroads of trade routes, Pskov was the open gate to Russ for foreign merchants, and the largest partner to the Hanseatic Union. It grew and developed year after year, and in the course of several centuries it was a powerful city state-the Veche Republic of Pskov.The Pskov land was the area where the famous Battle on Ice took place, when in 1242 the Russian warriors led by Alexander Nevsky defeated the hordes of the German knights of the Livonian Order on the ice of the Peipsi Lake. In the XVI century Pskov turned into a powerful defense town. By that time the Pskov fortress had about 40 towers and the length of its walls was 9 km. For many centuries, till 1700, Pskov was involved in wars with German knight orders, Lithuania (later Poland), Sweden, and also periodically had hostile relations with neighboring Novgorod. It is not fortuitous that Pskov and its powerful towers and fortress walls, as well as all the sophisticated fortification secrets, was once considered one of the best fortresses: it is under these very walls that the  best armies of Europe were defected. And not a single time (!) was the Pskov fortress captured through a siege or a straight fight, although about one third of its medieval history was lived in war. In five centuries, starting with the early 13 century and through to the early 17th, the Pskov fortress had withstood 123 significant battles.After the Northern War and annexation of Baltic states by Russia (1721) the state border was moved far away West from Pskov, and the latter gradually turned into an ordinary provincial town.In 1917 at Pskov train station last Emperator Nicholas the Second signed his abdication, thus concluding the history of the Russian Empire. And it was here, in Pskov, where Vladimir Lenin was drafting the issue of Iskra (revolutionary newspaper Spark).In 1918, Pskov for nine months was occupied by German troops. And in the fights of WWI, near Pskov the Red Army was formed from the voluntary troops. The city was also occupied by Germans, during the Second World War, from July 1941 till July 1944, and considerably damaged during the occupation.However despite of all the wars Pskov had to withstand, it still preserves much of its medieval walls, built from the 13th century on. The Krom, or medieval citadel, looks as impressive as ever. Within its walls rises the 256-foot-tall Trinity Cathedral, founded in 1138 .The distinctive character of Pskov is defined by its churches, which are literally round each and every corner here. Strolling down the main streets of Pskov one cannot but notice that practically in every direction there is a dome showing amidst the greens.The unique local churches are the best samples of the Pskov-style masonry. It was not fortuitous that in order to construct the belfry of Ivan the great and the St. Basil Cathedral in Moscow`s city center, both of which symbolize Russia to the rest of the world, Pskov`s architects were contracted. The temples of Pskov have their own inimitable style.In Pskov there are about four dozen churches, and most of them are functioning.In Pskov and its suburbs were preserved and restored many noteworthy historical and architectural monuments. There are some works of Pskov iconographic school in the Pskov historical-architectural and art reserve. Frescos of 12th century are carefully kept in the Mirozhsky Monastery of the Transfiguration in Pskov, being in the list of  UNESCO as the monuments of culture of world value and which have many times been compared by experts with the best masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance.The Pskov Museum Preserve boasts a unique collection, where many of the exhibits would be an honor to any museum of the world. The main exhibition is located in the Pogankin Palace, an architectural site of the 17 century which used to belong to Sergey Pogankin, a local merchant. This is home for valuable collections of the Pskov-school icons of the 14-17 centuries. And it is here where the Russian largest collection of decorative silver of the 16-19 centuries, archeological finds and rare books is stored.Near Pskov lies the Izborsk fortress (XIV) connected with the legendary Varangian Truvor. The fortress affords a fine view on the Zheraviye lake and Izborsk valley, which is natural reserve.At the border with Estonia stands the Pskov-Pechory Holy Dormition Monastery, which picturesque architectural ensemble has been formed for several centuries.In the south of the Pskov land the Pushkin Reserve is situated. It is the territory that keeps ashes of the great Russian poet.Welcome to Pskov Region- feel the grandeur of History!

THE CRADLE OF FAITH

The Pskov land  has always been a conglomeration of monasteries and remains such. Today, in the region there are 8 functioning  cloisters and another few non-functioning but accessible through guided tours. They all are located in picturesque landscapes and are fine monuments of architecture and history. The monastic life in these cloisters is in its active revival at present.The Mirozhsky Monastery of the Transfiguration in Pskov is the first such cloister and one of the most ancient architectural monuments of the city: It dates back to 1156. The monastery is famous for its unique frescos of the 12 century, being in the list of UNESCO and which have many times been compared by experts with the best masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance. These frescos, with preservation rate of 80 %, cover the entire walls of the temple from the floor to the dome, and are the exhaustive depiction of the Biblical story. Murals also can be seen in the Cathedral of the Godmother`s Nativity (14 century) of the Snetogorsky Nunnery located within the city borders as well.The local churches are the best samples of the Pskov-style masonry. The temples of Pskov have their own inimitable style. The finish of the walls of the temples is also peculiar –Pskovites never used tools to whitewash the walls, it was always done barehanded; hence the uneven and rough surfaces bringing the temples to life. At different time of the day, depending on the lighting, they may look utterly different.None the less unique is the Pskov icon-painting school, which researchers often justly refer to as to one of the pearls of the Old Russia Art. Pskov icons are characteristic with their amazing figurative expression, and quite often liberal interpretation of the canon. The most renowned icon-painter Zenon lived and worked in Pskov land.

GDOV

Gdov is a town in Pskov Oblast, Russia, situated  125 km far from Pskov on the river Gdovka, just two kilometers from its outflow into Lake Peipus.Gdov was established as an outpost of the Pskov Republic. It occupied a strategically important position, being close to Lake Peipus, separating Livonia and Rus. Located on an important road to Pskov, Gdov protected it from the north. Its first mention in the chronicles dates back to 1323. Initially, the fortress was a mixture of wooden and earthen fortifications. However, the level of protection was deemed insufficient against the rising threat of the German incursion. Construction of a stone Kremlin, initially with wooden elements, commenced in 1431. The walls were constructed of alternating layers of boulders and Devonian sandstone, reaching 4 m in thickness and 8 m in height. The Kremlin had become fully stone-built by the middle of the 15th century. The Kremlin had been attacked on numerous occasions by German, Polish, and Swedish forces. Currently, the fortress remained only picturesque ruins.

OSTROV

Ostrov is a town in Pskov Oblast, Russia. It is located on the Velikaya River, 55 km south of Pskov. Ostrov another battle frontier fortress of Pskov land, opposing the invaders.Ostrov was founded as a fortress in 1342. It had been an important military outpost throughout 15-16 centuries. Catherine the Great incorporated it as a town in 1777.The town possesses a Neoclassical cathedral from 1790 and a typical Pskov church from 1543. Now you can see the crumbling ruins of the fortress, has only recently archaeological excavations revealed a good preservation of the lower walls and towers. Symbol of the city are single-span suspension bridges – a real monument of engineering years 1851-1853. Carrying chains transferred through pylons (stone pillars) and the whole structure looks very easy.

PORKHOV

Porkhov is a medieval fortress and a town in Pskov Oblast, Russia. It is located on the Shelon River, 75 km east of Pskov.Porkhov is a medieval fortress and a town in Pskov Oblast, Russia. It is located on the Shelon River, 75 km east of Pskov. Population: 12,263 (2002 Census). The fortress of Porkhov is believed to have been founded in 1239 by Alexander Nevsky. Porkhov was the second most important town of Shelon pyatina, after Russa. It was not a significant economical centre.The fortress consists of a well-preserved encircling wall; two towers, one of which is half-ruined; a diminutive church from 1412, and a museum of local history. Inside the fortress there are a great many trees and plants. The church of the Virgin’s Nativity, a remarkable monumental erection of the 14th century, was disfigured during the Soviet period. Other landmarks include the Saviour church (1670) and the church of St. Nicholas at Verkhny Most (1450).

PECHORY

A place of special pilgrimage for the orthodox is Pskov-Pechory Holt Dormition Monastery. Its history, dating back over five centuries, started with a small cavern-temple (Old Russian for “cave” is “Pechora”, hence the name of the town): in the heart of the monastery the famous karst sand  God-given caves.The cloister is a spiritual and culture center, one of the largest monasteries in the country, with a history uninterrupted for many a century, and a wonderful historical and architectural ensemble of 16-19 centuries.Within the compact area of the monastery 11 churches found their home, with a few of them hidden underground, the fraternity corps, a sacristy, a library, the Patron`s house, and big Monastery Garden.In the cave necropolis, with a permanently sustained temperature at around zero centigrade, over ten thousand persons are buried- members of the brethren, participants of glorious events, outstanding warriors and acknowledged public figures. Members of some well-known Russian families found their rest here.The main holiday of the monastery is the Dormition of Virgin Mary on August, 28. On this date a long road of flowers is laid out, ceremonial public liturgies and religious procession around the monastery take place.

IZBORSK

Izborsk is one of the most ancient towns in Russia, mentioned in “The Tale of Bygone Years” in 862. It is this town that chronicles mention, when telling the story of the three Viking brothers – Rurik, Sineus and Truvor –coming to Russ after having been called for Princedom by the  Russian landlords, and laying the foundation to the glorious dynasty, which had ruled Russ up until the 16 century. Truvor, as far as this legend goes, stayed to reign here, in Izborsk.This town was the first to meet the foes at the Russian borders, and therefore was frequently forayed and sieged. This  was why Izborsk was the one of the first Russian towns to erect stone fortifications. So fortunate had been the choice of the spot to locate the fortress, and its walls so impregnable, that European chroniclers referred to Izborsk as the Town of Iron.
Today the reserve “Izborsk” is the unique combination of historical and archeological monuments, monuments of defense, cultural and civil architecture, nature and landscape and also the St. Nicholas Church of the 14 century. On  the top of the Lukovka (Onion-Shaped) Tower there is a sightseeing platform for tourists. It is overlooking the terrific landscape with the Gorodishechenskoye Lake and its swans, the small hamlets and vast hillside.Izborsk is famous for its miraculous Slovenian Springs which, according to the legend, cure people of diseases, give happiness, good luck and love.In 2012 Izborsk will celebrate its 1150 anniversary. By the Decree of the President of Russia Federation the event has got a countrywide status.

THE PUSHKIN HILLS

The Pushkin Hills is a nook of Russia richly inspirited with the genius of the great Russia poet 19 century , Alexander Pushkin, famous for its captivating beauty and poetic magnetism. This is a place people visit in a specific spiritual awe. Pushkin`s family estate –Mikhaylovskoye hamlet- with all its humpy little bridges the poet loved to walk on so much, the windmill, the fruit garden, his nanny`s house and the  house the poet once dwelled in, today they look almost identical to what they looked those days of the past.Having visited these Pushkin spots, it is a must  to stop by both Pushkin`s ancestral family estate Petrovskoye –that of the Hannibals, and that of his friends –the Osipov-Wolf, the place that became his second home when in exile. In Trigorskoye everything breathes with Evgeniy Onegin –Onegin`s bench, the solitary oak, and Tatiana`s alley.And village Bugrovo is the place where one can feel what the rural household of those days was. Here is a black banya, a stack yard with a drying house, a barn, a lean-to and stables. In the watermill museum, the charming miller will play balalaika for you and let you mill some grain and take a pouch of flour with you as token. 

SMALL NATION OF SETO

In the Pechory district, there is  rhe only Russion Seto ethnical museum. Seto is an ethnicity inhabiting the southeastern border areas of Estoniaand the Pechory district of the Pskov Region. Seto dwelling on the borders of the two cultures- Estonian and Russian – fused one of their own, inimitable: they are speaking a special dialect of Estonian; they have their own folk garments and a peculiar tradition to accumulate female silver trinketry, as well as orthodox customs and holidays.The Seto museum, affiliated to the Izborsk Museum Preserve, is hosted in the authentic estate of the Kulaots family. Many of the items are still warm from the touch of their owners. Exhibited here are the ethnical seto dress, household effects, utensils, and photographs from the old days.The quests will be cordially introduced to pagan God of Fertility  Peko, and treated to herbal tea with hot pies. And in the house opposite, in an old Seto estate, there is a private Seto museum, whose hostress will tell the visitors of the interesting and anything but simple story of this small ethnicity. Apart from the household implements, the museum possesses the unique audio recordings of the songs that Seto women used to sing.To know the life of the nation Seto better everyone can take part in the festival called “Setomaa Family meetings” which takes place every year August,28.

MODEST MUSSORGSKY and NIKOLAY RIMSKY-KORSAKOV

In the Kunya district of the Pskov land, there is the only museum in the entire world dedicated to Modest Mussorgsky – the great composer. His works, in particular the musical historical drama Boris Godunov, based on Pushkin`s tragedy by the same title, virtually is known to everyone.Alongside with the mansion of his estate, some 19 century structures remain-an out-house, servant`s, quarters, a barn, a greenhouse, and  a blacksmith. The traditional musical events dedicated to the composer are held here involving opera stars.The small estate of Verchasha in the Plyussa district had inspired composer Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov to create his incredible pieces of work. Here, down in the province, alone with the beautiful nature, the composer would find peace for his soul and renew his creative energy. Having fallen in love with the Pskov lad, Rimsky-Korsakov purchased estate Lyubensk, adjacent  to the “dear Vechasha”, where he had completed his best creations and where he had spent the last minutes of his life. 

MUSEUM SOFIA KOVALEVSKAYA

In the Polibino district of the Pskov land, there is the only museum in the entire world dedicated to Sofia Kovalevskaya – the great scientist with a worldwide reputation, the first Russian woman – a mathematician, member – correspondent of the Petersburg Academy of Sciences, professor at Stockholm University, the talented writer and active social activist.Museum is located in the village Polibino 25 km far from the Velikie Luki in the former estate of his father. Remained the main manor house and outbuilding  19 century, designed by famous Russian artist and architect, A.P. Bryullov. Museum has a unique personal fund S.V .Kovalevskaya (her personal belongings, documents, manuscripts, books), as well as interesting collections of applied art, drawing, painting and furniture. Museum has long been an educational center, not only scientific advances S.V. Kovalevskaya, and provincial Russian estate culture. Present day, the museum owns two memorial buildings – main house and outbuilding – a total area of ​​1000 square meters, as well as Memorial Park  and lake.Here you will be offered to see the manor house XVIII – XIX century and walk in the beautiful park.

Travel agency «Continent»
Russia, Pskov
Oktyaborskiy avenue 46, Rigskiy avenue 96
Phone/fax: +7 8112 29-34-74, +7 8112 700-780
E-mail: tourvpskov@yandex.ru