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Staraya Russa ( ) is an old Russianmarker town located 99 km south of Veliky Novgorodmarker. It is the administrative center of Starorussky District of Novgorod Oblast in Russiamarker and a wharf on the Polist River (Lake Ilmenmarker basin). It is the third largest town in Novgorod Oblast. Population: 35,511 (2002 Census); 41,538 (1989 Census). It is served by Staraya Russa Airportmarker.


Thought to have originated in the mid-10th century, Staraya Russa was first mentioned in chronicles for the year 1076 as one of three main towns of the Novgorod Republic, alongside Pskovmarker and Ladogamarker. Its name is derived from the time of the Varangians, who called themselves Rus and settled in the vicinity to control important trade routes leading from Novgorodmarker to Polotskmarker and Kievmarker. After Pskov became independent, Russa, located in Shelon pyatina, became the most important town and trade centre of the Novgorod republic except for the Novgorod itself; by the end of XV century it contained about 1000 homesteads. Brine springs made the saltworks principal business activity in the town that was the biggest centre of salt industry in the Novgorod Land.

The wooden settlement of Russa burned to ashes in 1190 and 1194 and was replaced by the stone fortress after the last fire. In 1478, it was incorporated into Muscovy together with Novgorod. The word Staraya (Old) was prefixed to the name in the 15th century, to distinguish it from newer settlements called Russa.

When Ivan the Terrible ascended the throne, Staraya Russa was the fourth most populous city in Russia, after Moscowmarker, Pskovmarker and Novgorod. During the Time of Troubles it was held by Polish brigands and heavily depopulated. Only 38 people lived there in 1613.

In 1824, Tsar Alexander I created the so-called military settlements near Staraya Russa, which would be a stage for an uprising in 1831 as part of the Cholera Riots. The town was fictionalized as Skotoprigonievsk in Dostoyevsky's novel The Brothers Karamazov (1879-80). The Sovietmarker authority in Staraya Russa was established on November 5(18), 1917. The city was occupied by the Germansmarker between August 9, 1941 and February 18, 1944. Totally destroyed by them, it was later restored.

Like much of Russia, Staraya Russa has seen its population decline since the collapse of the Soviet Unionmarker.


Staraya Russa is a balneologic resort, celebrated for its mineral springs used for baths, drinking, and inhalations; medicinal silt mud of the Lake Verkhneye and Lake Sredneye and mud from artificial reservoirs. A summer residence of the Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky, who wrote there his novels The Brothers Karamazov and The Possessed, is open to visitors as a museum.

The ancient monuments include the Transfiguration monastery, with a cathedral built in 70 days in 1198, partly rebuilt in the 15th century, and several 17th-century buildings and churches. The principal city cathedral (1678) is dedicated to the Resurrection of Christ. Other notable churches are consecrated to St George (1410, family temple of the Dostoevsky family), Mina the Martyr (14th century), and the Holy Trinity (1676).


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