Veliky Novgorod (Russian for “new town”) is one of the oldest cities in Russia, founded almost 1,200 years ago. By 977 Novgorod gained its independence from Kievan Rus. During the 11th and 12th centuries the town prospered when it served as a major center between Baltic and Black sea trading routes.
Soon the city with its 30,000 inhabitants, one of the most well educated centers in eastern Europe, became known as Novgorod the Great. A century later while other areas of the country were sacked by the invading Tatar hordes, this region escaped severe Mongol occupation. In 1240, Prince of Novgorod, Alexander Nevsky, also battled off the attacking Swedes. The golden age of Novgorod lay between 12th and 15th centuries when wealthy nobles and merchants built over 200 churches. Even though the city remained a centre for trade and religion well into the 16th century, it eventually lost its independence to Moscow when Ivan the Terrible‘s troops occupied the city in 1478.