State historical-architectural, landscape and natural museum-preserve «Izborsk»

Having emerged as a fortified Russian settlement, Izborsk became an advanced town and got administrative significance while trade and commerce were developing. Initially the first settlement of Izborsk was located on a neighboring hill. Archaeologists date it back to the VIII-IX centuries A. D. Locals call it Truvorovo gorodishche (Truvor’s town). The legend tells about Truvor who was invited to Izborsk in 862, when three brothers-Varangians Rurik, Sineus and Truvor were invited to Rus to rule. According to chronicles in the VIII-IX centuries Izborsk already became «a large and glorious town», where the first Russian princes ruled, like in Novgorod. The development of crafts is proved by the iron-melting furnaces for bog iron ore treatment and a lot of moulded ceramics (pottery), discovered in Slavonic field. Highly-developed commercial relations are confirmed by archaeological finds: jewelry and weapons. Archaeologists have been finding the VIIIth century Arab coins, Byzantine articles brought to Izborsk in the IXth century, coins and medals of German and Anglo-Saxon origin. Izborsk people carried on trade with Lake Chudskoye area, using the system of rivers and lakes. Chudskoye Lake was a part of the famous trade route «from the Varangians to the Greeks». In the Xth century when commerce was highly-developed, the position of Pskov on the Velikaya river became more advantageous, and the significance of Izborsk as an administrative and commercial center began to decrease. It turned into a suburb of Pskov, but a self-governed one. Izborsk as a fortress still had a great significance. There were close connections with Novgorod and Pskov land.

In the Middle Ages the history of Izborsk was a chain of wars and defenses.

At the time of Mongol-Tatar Yoke almost all Russian lands were conquered. Only the north-western districts avoided it but for them there was danger from the west. In the XIIth century bishop Albert established the militant Knights’ Order of the Brothers of the Sword (the Swordbearers). In the XIIIth century the Order conquered the Baltic lands and intruded into rich Russian lands. After Yur’ev (Tartu) was taken by the knights in 1224 the road to Novgorod and Pskov became open for them. Izborsk was conquered for the first time in 1223, the Pskovites came to help and Izborsk was liberated. In 1237 a new knights’ order — Livonian Order was established. In 1240, having violated the peace treaty with Pskov, the knights captured Izborsk, and then they captured Pskov without hindrance. In 1242 during the very famous Battle on the Ice, in which Izborsk warriors also participated, the knights were ousted from the Russian lands.

In 80 years danger appeared again: border position, permanent threat from well-armed German knights made Izborsk people think about strengthening their fortress. It was necessary to find another, better location for Izborsk and in 1303 «Izborsk was transferred to a new place.» They chose the Zherav’ya (Cranes’) hill and from that time till the XVth century the new fortress withstood eight sieges and was never taken by enemies. Livonian knights intruded into Russian lands many times and Izborsk was always in their way.

Especially long and furious was the siege of Izborsk by Livonian knights in 1349. As a result Livonian knights didn’t manage to take the fortress. When they were leaving, they left many killed warriors, all their siege devices and ammunition at the fortress walls. A German poet Zukhenvart, who participated in this siege, called Izborsk «an iron town.» In 1368 large German forces with numerous battering rams were besieging the walls of the fortress for 18 days but retreated without any success. Pskovian chronicler noted with pride that Germans «worked a lot in vain» but «they couldn’t do any harm.»

The people of Izborsk learned military art perfectly, having borrowed a lot from their enemies. When firearms appeared, the fortress was reconstructed: the towers were strengthened and the walls thickened.

In 1510 Izborsk together with Pskov became part of Moscow state. At the beginning of the XVIth century the Pechorsky monastery fortress was erected and from that time it was this fortress which faced the first enemy attacks.

During the military campaign of Polish king Stephen Bathory to Pskov land the vicinities of Izborsk were ruined (especially Malskoy monastery). Izborsk was among the fortresses which were returned to Russia by the Polish king according to the peace treaty. This proves that Izborsk was among other Russian towns which had been captured by the Polish king’s army during that campaign.

During Peter the Great’s reign as a result of the Northern war with Sweden the border moved to the west. Izborsk lost its significance as a fortress and in the XVIIIth century its garrison was dissolved.

At the end of the XVIIIth century Izborsk from a suburb of Pskov turned into a small town, then gradually into a village that became part of Pechorsky uyezd (district).

In the XIXth century Izborsk was a provincial merchant town, where there was a post-office, a cultural-educational society, a hospital, two restaurants with billiards, a teahouse, a school and a lot of shops. Traditional peasants’ houses still form the basis of the town’s architecture.