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Millennium of Russia - Honoring Past Heroes

The Millennium of Russia monument, located in the Novgorod Kremlin grounds, never fails to impress visitors as a remarkable work of narrative art. Crafted primarily from bronze, the monument consists of 129 individual statues sculpted by leading Russian artists of the 19th century. The completed monument was erected in 1862 as part of the millennium celebration of Prince Rurik's arrival in the city. As the founder of the Rurikid dynasty, Prince Rurik reigned from 864 to 876 over Kievan Rus and this event is widely considered to be the origin of Russia's history. The Rurik Dynasty ruled the Tsardom of Russia until the year 1598.

As winners of a competition held in 1859, artist Mikhail Mikeshin and architect Viktor Hartmann, designed the monument and set about turning their idea into reality using the skill and creativity of a number of artists, including Alexander Opekushin and Ivan Schroeder. With a huge sphere and cross as its most prominent feature, the monument honors prominent and influential Russian monarchs, military commanders, clerics and artists side by side. With the grandiose 11th century Saint Sophia Cathedral in the background, the Millennium of Russia monument is an impressive sight.

Below the sphere and cross stands the statue of Prince Rurik, complete with helmet and shield, facing the direction of Kiev (south-west) and with the Slavic god Veles slightly behind him. Facing south-east is the statue of Vladimir the Great, with the pagan god Perun alongside. Facing to the east is a composition of Dmitry Donskoi with a traditional Russian mace in his right hand, and a bunchuk in his left. The defeated emir of the Golden Horde Mamai lies at his feet. Ivan the Great faces north-east, dressed in Byzantine emperor clothing and with a Tatar, Lithuanian and Teutonic knight in positions of submission. Other prominent figures on this level include Tsar Michael of Russia and Peter the Great.

The bottom level of the monument features military heroes, literary figures, statesmen and men and women prominent in bringing about social change and enlightenment. Among these are: Slavic missionaries Cyril and Methodius; Grand Princess Olga of Kiev; Yaroslav the Wise; playwright Denis Fonvizin; Abraham of Rostov; Grand Prince Algirdas of Lithuania; founder of Russian theater Fyodor Volkov; Kievan monk Theodosius of Kiev; poet Vasily Zhukovsky; Patriarch of Moscow Filaret; poet and writer Alexander Pushkin; composer Dmitry Bortniansky; Empress Catherine the Great; folk hero Ivan Susanin; and many more.

The bronze monument weighs in excess of 65 tons and the granite pedestal it stands on is made up of sixteen 35 ton blocks of granite. Nevertheless, when Novgorod was occupied by the Nazis during World War II, the monument was dismantled with the intention of shipping it to Germany. Fortunately, the Red Army ousted the Nazis before that could happen and the Millennium of Russia monument was put back in place in 1944, where it continues to stand as a tribute to those who shaped the country’s history.


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