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|Common languages||Old East Slavic, Seto, Russian|
|Religion||Eastern Orthodox Church, Estonian paganism|
|Today part of||Estonia|
Pskov (Latin: Plescoviae), known at various times as the Principality of Pskov (Russian: Псковское княжество, Pskovskoye knyazhestvo) or the Pskov Republic (Russian: Псковская Республика, Pskovskaya Respublika), was a medieval state on the south shore of Lake Pskov. Originally a principality and then a part of the Novgorod Republic, in 1348 Pskov became an independent republic. Its territory was roughly equivalent to the modern Pskov Oblast of Russia. The capital city, also named Pskov, was located at the southern end of the Peipus–Pskov Lake system at the southeast corner of Ugandi, about 150 miles (240 km) southwest of Nevanlinna, and 100 miles (160 km) west-southwest of Great Novgorod.
Main article: Pskov Land
As a principality, Pleskov (old name of Pskov) was ruled by separate princes, but often it was ruled directly from Novgorod until the mid-13th century when the city began accepting as rulers princes exiled from their possessions. Each exiled prince that went to Pleskov could be proclaimed prince there (if the principal throne wasn't already occupied by another prince). In any case, he could at least get an honorary reception and live there without fear for his life.
After the disintegration of Kievan Rus' in the 12th century, the city of Pskov with its surrounding territories along the Velikaya River, Lake Peipus, Pskovskoye Lake and Narva River became part of the Novgorod Republic. It kept its special autonomous rights, including the right for independent construction of suburbs (Izborsk is the most ancient among them). Due to Pskov's leading role in the struggle against the Livonian Order, its influence spread significantly. The long reign of Daumantas (1266–99) and especially his victory in the Battle of Rakvere (1268) ushered in the period of Pskov's actual independence. The Novgorod boyars formally recognized Pskov's independence in the Treaty of Bolotovo (1348), relinquising their right to appoint the posadniks of Pskov. The city of Pskov remained dependent on Novgorod only in ecclesiastical matters until 1589, when a separate bishopric of Pskov was created and the archbishops of Novgorod dropped Pskov from their title and were created "Archbishops of Novgorod the Great and Velikie Luki".
For the most part of 14th century, and especially after separating from Novgorod, Pskov was in the sphere of influence of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. This changed after Grand Duke Vytautas signed the Treaty of Salynas with the Livonian Order promising to help the Order with conquering Pskov in exchange for the Order's support elsewhere. After that, Pskov sent emissaries to Grand Duke Vasily I of Moscow asking for one of his vassal rulers to be the prince of Pskov. It remained dependent on Moscow until the end of Pskov Republic in 1510, helping Moscow in its conflicts with Lithuania and Novgorod.
The Pskov Republic had well-developed farming, fishing, blacksmithing, jewellery-making and construction industries. Exchange of commodities within the republic itself and its trade with Novgorod and other Russian cities, the Baltic region, and Western European cities made Pskov one of the biggest handicraft and trade centers of Rus'. As opposed to the Novgorod Republic, Pskov never had big feudal landowners: estates were smaller and even more scattered than of those in Novgorod. The estates of Pskovian monasteries and churches were much smaller as well. Some land was owned collectively or individually by peasants (smerds) while other peasants (izorniki) did not own the land they worked and were obliged to pay rent – between a quarter and a half of the harvest. A peasant who had no debts to his landlord could leave him only on a certain day of the year.
The government of the Pskov Republic consisted of the veche (popular assembly), posadnichestvo (mayoralty) and the prince (directly or through a viceroy). The veche had legislative powers, it could appoint military commanders and hear ambassadors' reports. Mayors (posadniki) from all parts of the city, together with one or more Lord Mayors and former mayors formed the Council of Lords (sovet gospod, boyarskiy sovet) which was the main executive organ of the state. The power of the prince was limited but – in contrast to the Novgorod Republic – he still retained important administrative and judicial functions, the latter carried out jointly with the posadnik. The socio-economic and political life of the Pskovian land were reflected in the Legal Code of Pskov.
Veche gathered at the Trinity Cathedral, which held the archives of the veche and important private papers and state documents. The offices of mayors (posadniki) became a privilege of several noble families. During the most dramatic moments in the history of Pskov, however, the so-called "molodshiye" posad people (Russian: молодшие посадские люди), or low-ranking posad officials) played an important and, at times, decisive role in the veche. The struggle between the boyars and smerds, "molodshiye" and "bolshiye" posad people (high-ranking posad officials) was reflected in the heresy of the Strigolniki in the 14th century and in veche debates of the 1470s to the 1490s, which often resulted in bloody clashes.
Pskov was divided into several parts, called ends (kontsy). There were four ends in the 14th century, as the city was growing and a new wall was constructed in 1465 the new ends were created. Each end had its own central church which housed the archive, treasury and refectory where holiday feasts were held. The ends played a prominent role in the government: often delegations sent by Pskov had representatives from all the ends and each end administered a part of territory of the republic outside of the capital city.
Main article: Economy of the Pskov Republic
Pskov, along with Novgorod, was an important centre of trade between Russia and Western Europe. Already in the 13th century German merchants were present in Zapskovye area of Pskov and the Hanseatic League had a trading post in the same area in the first half of 16th century which moved to Zavelichye after a fire in 1562. Pskov's main trade partners were Riga, Reval and Dorpat. The wars with Livonian Order, Poland-Lithuania and Sweden interrupted the trade but it was maintained until the 17th century, with Swedish merchants gaining the upper hand eventually.
Pskov churches feature many distinctive elements: corbel arches, church porches, exterior galleries and zvonnitsa bell towers. These features were introduced by Pskov masons to Muscovy, where they constructed numerous buildings during the 15th and 16th centuries. Out of all non-religious construction, only the fortresses in Pskov, Izborsk and Gdov have survived.
The literature of Pskov land was an integral part of the medieval Russian literature. The chronicle-writing started in 13th century, at first dealing mostly with topics of local interest. By the 15th century the chronicles became more detailed and described events in Muscovy, Novgorod, Lithuania and the Golden Horde. The most important works written in Pskov are the Story of Dovmont describing the coming of Dovmont to the city, his baptism and subsequent victories, The Life of Saint Euphrosynus and The Address of Hegumen Pamfil which contains one of the earliest descriptions of Ivan Kupala rituals.
The downfall of Pskov is recounted in the Story of the Taking of Pskov (1510), which was lauded by D. S. Mirsky as "one of the most beautiful short stories of Old Russia. The history of the Muscovites' leisurely perseverance is told with admirable simplicity and art. An atmosphere of descending gloom pervades the whole narrative: all is useless, and whatever the Pskovites can do, the Muscovite cat will take its time and eat the mouse when and how it pleases".
In 1501, armies of Pskov and Moscow were defeated in the Battle of the Siritsa River by the Livonian Order, but the city withstood a subsequent siege.
In 1510, Grand Prince of Moscow Vasili III arrived in Pskov and pronounced it his votchina, thus putting an end to the Pskov Republic and its autonomous rights. The city's ruling body, the veche, was dissolved and some 300 families of rich Pskovians were deported from the city. Their estates were distributed among the Muscovite service class people. From that time on, the city of Pskov and the lands around it continued to develop as a part of the centralized Russian state, preserving some of its economic and cultural traditions.