Russian history 24: Veliky Novgorod: town and province

Novgorod is located on both banks of river Volkhov, near lake Ilmen, on the hills surrounded by moors and lowlands. The right bank was called the Trade side and the left bank — the Sophia side. The Trade side was named after the marketplace. It was split in two parts, called "ends". The Sophia side was named after the famous temple of St. Sophia, built by Yaroslav the Wise. This side had three ends and the so called kremlin, a fortress locate within the city. Probably, the ends had been separate villages which later united into one city with common marketplace and kremlin. As an opposition to the "old" ends, the new city became known as Novgorod, "the new city". During the whole history of Novgorod, the ends retained self-government. According to the five ends, the Novgorod province consisted of five parts, called "the fifths" (pyatinas). The Obonezhskaya fifth was locate around the lake Onego, the Vodskaya fifth surrounded the lake Ladoga. The Shelonskaya fifth was to the south-west from Novgorod and Ilmen, and the Derevskaya fifth — to the south-east. These four fifths were adjacent to Novgorod itself. The last fifth, Bezhetskaya, was located further to the east, between rivers Msta and Volga. Even further, behind these fifths, the dependent lands were lying: Zavolochye (along Northern Dvina), Tre or Terskaya land (north of the White Sea), Pechora (on river Pechora), Perm (on river Vychegda), Vyatka (on river Vyatka), etc. Like in the ancient Rome, where Italy was the centre of the state and the lands outside Italy were provinces (praedium populi romani), the fifths were the core of the Novgorod state, and the outside lands were subject to the exploitation.

This is how the Novgorod state looked like in the prime of its life, in XIII-XIV centuries. Novgorod, the "elder" city, was the owner of all these lands, which were called "the lands of St. Sophia". Smaller cities were prigorods of Novgorod. All they were located in the western part of the state (to the west of rivers Volkhov and Lovat). They protected Novgorod from the Swedes, Germans and Lithuanians. The most important of them were Pskov (which later obtained independence from Novgorod), Izborsk, Staraya Rusa, Ladoga. Besides, there were tens of smaller fortified towns to the west and south from Novgorod and Pskov. On the contrary, to the east from Novgorod, there were no fortifications, only small settlements called ryadki (singular ryadok) and located along rivers. There were many ryadki, but each of them was no larger than 100-200 houses. With the exception of Pskov and Staraya Rusa, all prigorods were small. They were well fortified, but counted only up to 200-300 houses. Novgorod and Pskov were huge in comparison with the prigorods, they had more than 6,000-7,000 houses. It makes them the most populated cities of ancient Rus. The majority of population of Rus lived in these cities.

No comments: