Veliky Novgorod

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Veliky Novgorod

Population: 218,724

Main industries: Metallurgy, chemical industry

Mayor: Yury Bobryshev

Founded in 859.

Interesting fact No. 1: Veliky Novgorod was awarded the status of Russia's best-kept city by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in 2011.
Interesting fact No. 2: The city and surrounding region hosted a pilot program of controversial water filters by self-styled inventor Viktor Petrik.

Helpful contact: Vladislav Nazarenko, head of the city's industrial policy and international relationship department (+7 816-299-42-13).

Sister cities: Watford, Britain; Nanter, France; Rochester, New York, U.S.

VELIKY NOVGOROD — Veliky Novgorod is a rather small city of just 200,000 inhabitants and is both the cradle and the symbol of Russian democracy, which was established here more than 900 years ago.

For almost 300 years, starting in 1136, the Novgorod Republic was ruled by a local chamber that paid no attention to rulers in Moscow. While some dispute modern Russia's democratic credentials, ancient Novgorod's experiment with democracy was outstanding.

The city, initially called Novgorod, or "New City," was believed to have been founded by Prince Rurik, a Varangian chieftain, and was first mentioned in manuscripts in 859.

In 1014, the city obtained independence from the Kievan Rus kingdom and established its own state that started at the Baltic Sea and included parts of Karelia and southern Finland. A stone castle, the Novgorod Kremlin, or detinets, was built to protect the city from foreign enemies.

Major Businesses

Acron (+7 816-299-66-63; acron.ru) is a leading local producer of mineral fertilizers and the region's biggest employer. It also has offices in Moscow and several foreign countries.

Kraft Foods Russia (7 Dolgorukovskaya Ulitsa, Moscow; +7 495-960-24-80; kraftfoods.ru) owns a factory in Veliky Novgorod that makes Dirol and Stimorol chewing gum.

Alkon (2 Ulitsa Germana; +7 8162 77-94-03; alkon.su) is a vodka producer that produces the Sadko premium brand.

The city was ruled by a chamber called a veche, a gathering of local citizens often called a direct form of democracy.

"Democracy has existed here before it took root in Europe," Novgorod Governor Sergei Mitin said proudly in an interview.

The city was able to defend itself from foreign enemies, including armies from Sweden and Finland. In 1242, the Novgorod army led by Prince Alexander Nevsky destroyed an army of well-equipped German warriors.

But Novgorod's independence and self-rule lasted only 300 years. In 1569, the city was taken over by the army of Tsar Ivan the Terrible. In 1995, the Russian government renamed the city Veliky Novgorod (The Great New City).

For MT

Yury Bobryshev,
Mayor

Q: What makes Veliky Novgorod attractive to foreign investors?
A: The city has good logistics, with Moscow and St. Petersburg nearby. It takes three hours to get to Moscow on the Sapsan high-speed train. It is also convenient that Novgorod is located on the road to the Ust-Luga port, and Chinese developers have already constructed one logistics center and started to build another one.

Q: What challenges does the city face?
A: As with most of Russia, we are facing problems in the utilities sector. We did manage to solve a transportation problem by changing 60 percent of the public buses, but traffic jams remain a problem because we lack bridges. The city needs a third bridge, which we are planning to build soon.
Five years ago the city didn't have any public parks, but last year we were awarded the title of the most developed city.

Q: What places would you recommend visiting in the city?
A: The city is beautiful both in winter and summer, and you can hear church bells tolling no matter where you are standing. I am not a native resident, but living in Novgorod feels like living in a good home surrounded by good people. I recommend visiting the Museum of Wooden Architecture.

— Alexander Bratersky

Today the city, located 529 kilometers north of Moscow, is among the country's most popular tourist destinations and last year attracted 140,000 tourists, eager to see its historical monuments and monasteries.

What to see if you have two hours

A walk through the Novgorod Kremlin is a must. The red-brick walls of the castle are reminiscent of Moscow's Kremlin, and most of its original 12 towers still stand intact. The Kremlin is a small city by itself, and its territory hosts a museum and the stunning ancient St. Sophia Cathedral, built between 1045 and 1050. The monastery is the oldest surviving church in Russia and was built by the Slavs. On display inside are many historical artifacts of that era, including a large cross dedicated to the 1380 Battle of Kulikovo where Russian forces defeated the Mongolian Khan.

Another monument located inside the Kremlin was built under Alexander II in 1862 to mark the 1,000th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in Russia. The monument, which has a cross on top, is a symbol of the monarchy and surrounded by 129 human figures, symbolizing different episodes of the country's history from Prince Rurik to the members of Prince Romanov's dynasty. During the Nazi invasion, the monument was dismantled by Nazi soldiers to ship to Germany, but the Soviet army was able to save it.

Also stop by the Novgorod State Museum of Art Culture (11 Kreml; +7 816-277-37-38; novgorodmuseum.ru) located just minutes by foot from the Kremlin. The well-kept gallery combines a collection of Russian and European art, including works by Ivan Kramskoi and Alexander Ivanov's masterpiece "Crying for Jesus."

After that, take a stroll around Veliky Novgorod to enjoy the city, which is remarkably clean after a major facelift for its 1150th anniversary in 2009. The federal government, which spent 1.7 billion rubles ($56.6 million) for the renovations, designated the city last year as one of the best-kept in Russia.

What to do if you have two days

For MT

David Steer,
CEO of Kraft Foods in Russia

Kraft Foods entered the Novgorod region by buying a chocolate factory in the city of Chudovo and in 2010 acquired a chewing-gum factory in Veliky Novgorod when it took control of Britain's Cadbury. 

Q: How do you see the business climate in Veliky Novgorod?
A: Having not dealt with the Novgorod government before and having now spent the best part of 18 months working with them, I am enjoying the relationship. The governor is a no-nonsense man, switched on, pragmatic and passionate as far as building business for his region. It is very straightforward when you deal with him, and this is good. The people beneath him in the administration are facilitators: they are can-do people, and they are responsive.

Q: What advice do you have for foreign investors who want to come to Veliky Novgorod?
A: What has happened in Novgorod is the same as what we have experienced in other regions: an enlightened and switched-on regional governor who has a passion for the area and is good to deal with. You just know that they value having people who add value to the region. You don't feel that you are expected to do them a favor. It is a partnership approach, which I think is very good. The company has a responsibility to go in, set up a business, run the business ethically, pay their taxes and contribute to society. The government's role is to help facilitate, getting the right people to invest and to build the economic wealth of the region. I find this relationship with Novgorod is quite easy.

Q: What would you recommend seeing in the city?
A: The center of the city between the museum and the Kremlin, and the area around the river and some of the older buildings on the far side of the river from the Kremlin are just beautiful, absolutely gorgeous. The city is spotless and clean, beautifully kept.

— Alexander Bratersky

Veliky Novgorod is a small city, and you can see it all in a few hours. So if you have two days, you should take a trip outside the city to visit the legendary Novgorod region monasteries, many of which are under UNICEF protection. The area around Veliky Novgorod hosts two dozen monasteries, including the Varlaamo-Khutinsky Monastery, located 7 kilometers from the city. The monastery, founded in 1190, was named after the monk Varlaam, who found calm there. The grave of 18th-century poet Gavriil Derzhavin is also located there.

Another interesting place to visit is the Vitoslavlitsy Museum of Wooden Architecture (Yuryevskoye Shosse; +7 816-227-36-91; novgorodmuseum.ru/vitoslavlicy), established in 1964 after dozens of wooden houses, churches and mills were moved to one location from various parts of the region. Vitoslavlitsy serves as a place to restore wooden housing and an ethnographic museum with folk and art festivals.

Nightlife

Night Ocean (4 Chudovskaya Ulitsa; +7 816-233-49-49; club-no.ru) is the largest night club and popular among the young crowd. The club, which has its own pack of DJs, features all kinds of music, but house is among the most popular.

While the city is known for its democratic roots, the Fregat Flagman nightclub (Naberezhnaya Alexandra Nevskogo; +7 816-2 50-07-77; fregat-flagman.ru) might be seen as an example of the class divide. The second floor hosts wealthy clientele, while the first floor has a more, shall we say, democratic crowd. The club also organizes the annual Miss Veliky Novgorod beauty pageant.

Theater lovers should check out Novgorod's theater named after Fyodor Dostoevsky (14 Velikaya Ulitsa; +7 816-277-25-33; theatre.natm.ru). The theater building is a masterpiece of its own, built in 1987 and reminiscent of a post-modernist castle meeting a spaceship. The theater was featured in the book "Cosmic Communist Constructions Photographed" by photographer Frederic Chaubin along with other bizarre Soviet-era buildings.

Where to eat

Khoroshiye Lyudi (Good People) (1/1 Meretskova-Volosova; cafe.nov.ru/nice-people), located near the kremlin, is one of the city's most popular cafes with a minimalist design, tasty ice cream and its own bakery. Take a seat inside and watch the tourists talking and reading The Moscow Times, which a reporter found available for diners during a recent visit. A meal for two costs about 2,000 rubles ($70).

The Napoli restaurant (21/43 Studencheskaya Ulitsa; +7 816-263-63-07) is designed like a classical Italian courtyard and is favored by the local business elite. Dinner for two costs 3,000 rubles to 5,000 rubles ($100 to $170).

For MT

Yevgeny Bogdanov,
Owner of Novbioprom, an animal feed producer, and head of the local chapter of Delovaya Rossia, the business-lobbying group

Q: What is the nature of your business?
A: My main occupation today is the production of animal feed at my company, Novbioprom. We hope that our products will prove popular among farmers because the ingredients we use help animals to overcome sicknesses. We have worked with scientists at Novgorod University to develop them. Our main task is to find customers on foreign markets.

Q: What is the investment climate in the region?
A: Things have improved since a new governor took office in 2007 and opened dialogue with business. A council to develop business was established on the gubernatorial level, and we have engaged in very sincere discussions. But it still takes time to process documents, and we are working to shorten this period.

At Delovaya Rossia, we helped draft a program to improve the investment climate. We took the Kaluga region as our inspiration, and the Novgorod region now allows a new business not to pay income tax until it breaks even. There also are tax breaks on profit and property taxes.

Q: What is your favorite place in Veliky Novgorod?
A: People who visit see that Veliky Novgorod is a clean, European-style city and very cozy. The Kremlin, of course, is a must-see, and I would also recommend to taking a trip to Shum Gora (Batetsky district, Novgorod region), where Prince Rurik is believed to be buried. The regional government plans to build a replica of an ancient village on the site to attract tourists.

— Alexander Bratersky

For down-to-earth food and prices, try the Kolobok pie shop (28 Bolshaya Moskovskaya Ulitsa; +7 816-263-82-04), which some locals affectionately call a "living example of Soviet trash." Kolobok, which even has its own Wikipedia page, sells cheap but tasty pies and other food. Lunch for two costs 200 rubles to 300 rubles. ($6 to $10).

Where to stay

The Volkhov Hotel (24 Predtechenskaya Ulitsa; +7 816-222-55-05; hotel-volkhov.ru), which was built during Soviet times and recently underwent a major facelift, is among the city's top hotels and is located 10 minutes from the kremlin. A room for two costs 2,900 rubles ($100) per night. The hotel is also known for its small but amusing Lost and Found Museum. Among the items on display are a 1960s book on the KGB, an East German electric razor, lost in 1963, and the Soviet passport of someone with the last name Surkov.

Another option for a quiet night is the centrally located Radisson Park Inn Veliky Novgorod (2 Studencheskaya Ulitsa; +7 816-294-09-10; parkinn.ru/hotel-velikynovgorod), whose architecture combines elements of modern and old-style decor. A standard single costs 4,200 rubles a night.

Conversation starters

Mentioning how the roots of Russian democracy go back to Veliky Novgorod would be a welcome start for a conversation with any local resident, regardless of his political affiliation. But avoid stepping on thin ice by linking the city's history with modern politics.

Residents like to complain about a lack of native sons in the local government. Novgorod Governor Sergei Mitin, a former deputy agriculture minister, brought a team of people from Moscow and St. Petersburg to his office in the city when he took the reins in 2007.

How to get there

You can take the St. Petersburg-bound Sapsan high-speed train, which stops at Chudovo, a city located 70 kilometers from Veliky Novgorod, and then take a bus the rest of the way. Tickets for the train cost about 5,000 rubles ($170) roundtrip, while the bus, which goes directly from the train station, costs another 250 rubles. The train trip lasts three hours, and the bus trip another hour. Check Sapsan.ru for information.

You can also take the more traditional option, a comfortable, regular train from Moscow's Leningradsky Station, but the ticket will still cost 5,000 rubles and the trip will last 10 hours.

The city had a busy airport in Soviet times, with regular flights to Moscow, Minsk and Krasnodar, but air traffic fell to one daily flight to Moscow in 1996 and was then discontinued. The runway is now used for car racing.