Izborsk - A Fascinating Village in Pskov

If you are traveling to Pskov Oblast, you should definitely plan to head in the direction of the small village of Izborsk. It is here that you will find one of the oldest and most impressive fortresses in Russia. The Izborsk fortress is the longest held fortresses on the Western Frontier and it dates from the 5th to the 15th century. Today this beautiful feat of early engineering is struggling to hold out against the elements and huge efforts are being made to preserve this ancient structure. A visit to this stunning fortress will not only take you back in time to the beginning of Russia’s history, but it may well give you a glimpse into one of the country’s slowly disappearing historical treasures.

You’ll find Izborsk roughly thirty kilometers west of Pskov. The fortress itself was situated on an elevated and stony plateau. It overlooks the Gorodischenskoe Lake as well as the many small houses situated between the lake and the fortress. The first mention of the town was made in 682 when three Varangian knights were sent to Rusland to establish law and order during troubled times. One of these, Truvor, established his office and Izborsk. This was the official beginning of the town and fortress. Today Truvor’s burial mound is still shown to some tourists.

It is most likely that the original town was fortified with a wooden palisade, a ditch and a rampart. It was originally called Slovensk but it was later renamed after this knight’s son, Izbor. The fortress was next mentioned in 1233 when Livonia knights captured it. They were soon besieged and destroyed – a process which continued to be repeated a number of times over the following centuries. In 1302, it was decided that the fortress should be moved to a more strategically advantageous site. In 1330, the Tower Lukovka was built with its intriguing secret passage. At this time in history there were very few stone buildings and the tower was probably not the only stone building in the fortress but the only such building west of Pskov. It adjoined a wooden wall and was the first true beginnings of the mighty fortress you see today. Over subsequent years another seven stone towers as well as a stone wall was built. Now the Izbor truly started to take on the appearance of an impenetrable fortress and in 1344 it came to house the Nikolskij cathedral as well as a number of small dwellings where the citizens of the town could find shelter during war time.

By the end of the 14th century, weaponry had become more advanced and fire power posed new challenges to old strongholds. The Izborsk fortress was reinforced and reconstructed with thicker and higher walls. Five new towers were also constructed. This immense structure proved impenetrable until 1941 when invading German forces were able to capture it. Between 1920 and 1945, Izborsk was officially a part of Estonia but after 1945 the border was moved and it became a part of the Soviet Union. Today the fortress stands firmly – an excellent example of ancient Russian fortifications. Though much of the fortress is currently undergoing extensive repairs due to a long period of neglect, it is well worth visiting. Besides being immensely interesting and impressive, it enjoys a picturesque setting which makes for great photos. So come and visit the Izborsk fortress and enjoy this unique old stronghold.


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