Novgorod (population 215,000) is on the M10 federal highway connecting Moscow and St Petersburg (590km from Moscow and 190 from St Petersburg). The city lies along the Volkhov River just below its outflow from Lake Ilmen.
One of most ancient Eastern Slavic cities, Novgorod was first chronicled in 859. It was a large trade centre on the route from the Baltics to Byzantium. Novgorod ruler Oleg captured Kiev and founded the Kievan Rus state in 882.
There are 48 churches and monasteries in the city of Novgorod. Many are museums, and 11 are fully functional. The St Sophia Cathedral, built between 1045 and 1050, is probably the oldest structure still in use in Russia.
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