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History of Novgorod and the Novgorodian Lands
Eighteen halls of the largest exposition of the State Novgorod Museum display items that tell the visitor about the history of the region from the Stone Age to the present day.
The first 8 halls are dedicated to the history of medieval Novgorod. The authors have managed to create a fascinating show rich in rarities but at the same time scientifically integrated. The greatest assets of this collection are its originality and the scope of materials presented.
The collection systematically reveals the most vivid aspects of the region's history: the first settlements, the transition from paganism to Christianity and the erection of the first wooden Kremlin. Hanging seals illustrate the process of formation and development of Novgorod's original political system.
Since the Novgorod soil preserves everything which has ever been buried in it, the everyday medieval life of the city can be illustrated now to the slightest detail: from the system of the city's services and utilities (cobble-stone pavements, drain-pipes and wells) to a complete set of objects that formed the decor of a dwelling house, a workshop or an office. Such mundane objects as wooden spades, half-burnt grains, hoes, fishing floats, details of leather footwear and scraps of fabrics, articles made of bone and carved wood, which would have rotted long ago in a different type of soil, allow the visitor to reconstruct on his own the life of a peasant or a fisherman, a craftsman or a warrior.
A glass case containing children's toys (leather balls, wooden horses and ducks) and games (checkers and chess sets, the "wind-mill") tells us about the leisure activities and amusements of the medieval citizens of Novgorod. The same case holds a unique collection of musical instruments: a whistle with a bow, a gusli and a Jew's harp. Leather masks of skomorokhi - medieval actors and street musicians - add another expressive touch to this picturesque sketch of medieval life in Novgorod.
The exposition is notable for its wide use of birch-bark letters of the 11th- 15th centuries. No other museum can offer a larger number or a better selection of these unique written documents - from short letters, scratched by the hand of a seven-year-old boy, to political, religious and business messages, to complaints, threatening missives and love-letters. A world that had kept silent for several centuries is suddenly communicating with us.
Novgorod history of the 18th early 20th centuries is more or less similar to that of any other Russian provincial town. This stage of history is illustrated by original objects belonging to that period such as arms and uniforms, samples of town and village costumes, imperial porcelain,graceful tools used for needlework and embroidery and photographs. Among the most interesting exhibits one can mention a standard with the image of the Virgin of the Sign**, which had once belonged to the Novgorod People's Volunteer Corps, formed in 1812 during the war against Napoleon, as well as sets of documents by the great Russian poet Gavril Derzhavin and the "favorite of three kingdoms," organizer of military villages, Count Arakcheev.
After the revolution of 1917 Novgorod shared the fate of the rest of the country by going through the severe trials of the Stalin era: industrialization, the collectivization, repression and World War II..
A huge hall is wholly dedicated to the war period. Samples of military weapons, awards and documents usually found in such displays are combined here with unique items such as a bust of Leo Tolstoy used as a target by German soldiers; souvenirs of gilded metal taken from the Dome of St. Sophia Cathedral; a multitude of horrible pictures taken by the Germans in concentration camps and devastated villages. Even now the day of the city's liberation from the Nazi occupation is celebrated with great solemnity and enthusiasm.
The last room of the exposition is devoted to the restoration of the city's monuments, of the ruined infrastructure, industry and culture in the post-war years.
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