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In 882, Rurik's successor, Oleg of Novgorod, captured Kiev and founded the state of Kievan Rus'. Novgorod's size as well as its political, economic, and cultural influence made it the second city in Kievan Rus'. According to a custom, the elder son and heir of the ruling Kievan monarch was sent to rule Novgorod even as a minor. When the ruling monarch had no such son, Novgorod was governed by posadniks, such as legendary Gostomysl, Dobrynya, Konstantin, and Ostromir.

In Norse sagas the city is mentioned as the capital of Gardariki (i.e., the East Slavic lands). Four Viking kings  - Olaf I of Norway, Olaf II of Norway, Magnus I of Norway, and Harald Haardraade - sought refuge in Novgorod from enemies at home. No more than a few decades after the death and subsequent canonization of Olaf II of Norway, in 1028, the city's community had erected a church in his memory, Saint Olaf's Church in Novgorod.

Of all their princes, Novgorodians cherished most the memory of Yaroslav the Wise (1010-1036) who had sat as prince while his father, Vladimir the Great, was prince in Kiev (978-1015). Yaroslav promulgated the first written code of laws (later incorporated into Russkaya Pravda) among the Eastern Slavs and is said to have granted the city a number of freedoms or privileges, which they often referred to in later centuries as precedents in their relations with other princes. His son, Vladimir (1036-1052), sponsored construction of the great St. Sophia Cathedral, more accurately translated as The Cathedral of Holy Wisdom, which stands to this day.


His Majesty Lord Novgorod the Great

In 1136, the Novgorodians dismissed their prince Vsevolod Mstislavich.(1117-1136) This date is considered  to be the traditional beginning of the Novgorod Republic. The city was able to invite and dismiss a number of princes over the next two centuries, but the princely office was never abolished and powerful princes, such as Alexander Nevsky (1236-‘40/ 1241-’52), could assert their will in the city irrespective of the Novgorodians’ wishes. The city state controlled most of Europe's North-East, from today's Estonia to the Ural Mountains, making it one of the largest states in medieval Europe, although much of the territory north and east of Lakes Ladoga and Onega were sparsely populated and never organized politically.

One of the most important local figures in Novgorod was the Posadnik or mayor, an official elected by the public assembly (called the Veche) from among the city's boyarstvo or aristocracy. The tysyatsky, or “thousandman,” originally the head of the town militia but later a commercial and judicial official, was also elected by the veche. The Archbishops of Novgorod were also important local officials and shared power with the boyars. They were elected by the veche or by the drawing of lots; after their election, they were sent to the metropolitan for consecration.

While a basic outline of the various officials and the veche can be drawn up, the city-state's exact political constitution remains uncertain. The boyars and the archbishop ruled the city collectively, although where one officials power ended and another's began is uncertain. The prince, although reduced in power beginning in about the mid-twelfth century, was represented by his namestnik or lieutenant, and still played important roles as a military commander, legislator, and jurist. The exact composition of the veche, too, is uncertain.

In 1727, Novgorod was made an administrative centre of the Novgorod Governorate of the Russian Empire, which was detached from Saint Petersburg Governorate (see Administrative divisions of Russia in 1727-1728). This administrative division existed until 1927. Between 1927 and 1944 the city was a part of Leningrad Oblast, and then became an administrative center of the newly formed Novgorod Oblast.

During World War II, on August 15, 1941, the city was occupied by the German Army. Its historic monuments were systematically annihilated. In 1998, the city was officially renamed Veliky Novgorod, thus partly reverting to its medieval title "Lord Novgorod the Great".




The oldest known coat of arms is in a Spanish flag book and shows a white and yellow castle on a red field. Later symbols are derived from a drawing of a building, possibly a city gate or a cathedral. In the 16th century, so after the conquest by Ivan III, two animals were added to the symbol and a fish appeared underneath. Finally, the symbol was corrupted into a throne held by two bears with two fish respecrting in the base.


More interesting are the seals of the republic from the beginning of the 13th century. It contains both an eagle and a lion. Possibly the eagles still refer to the Empire of Kiev in the time that the princes of Galicia still held the royal title. The lions would then relate to the former principality of Novgorod and be the emblem of the ruling princes





Russian Vladimir. End of the 12th century.



Seal of Alexander Yaroslavich Nevsky (1220-1263), Prince of Novgorod, Grand Duke of Vladimir. Obverse (the prince on a horse with a sword) and the

Reverse (St. Theodore Stratilates, slaying the dragon).

Date± End of the12th century.


Michael of Novgorod

1224 & 1229

Prince of Cernigov 1224-1242

Prince of Halicz 1235-1238


Rostislav of Novgorod

Prince of Novgorod 1229-1230

Prince of Halicz 1238-1239

Prince of Cernigov 1242-1243


The bird on these coins is explicitely called orel’ (Eagle). Probably these seals date from the (last) personal union of Novgorod and Cernigov: 1224-1230.



Seals of Greater Novgorod /Pecat velikogo novgorod


The lions may be from the time of the personal union with Vladimir 1238-46; 1248-52; 1257-1259 (Alexander Nevski); 1281-’85 (Andrej)


The arms of Novgorod in the Book of Knowledge (1330ca)


The quote in the Book of Knowledge reads:


This river of Nu bounds a great province called Siçcia, a very cold country. In this Siçcia there is a great city, the capital of the kingdom, called Nogarado. The king has for its device a red flag with a white castle. [1]


Seal of Stephan Pavlovič (1st half 15th century).

(Pecat Stepana ...lo n ... oleksandrov...asn .  l b


Seal of Novgorod. 1426 (v.Winkler): Pecat Novgorodskaja


Seal of Greater Novgorod on a treaty of 1461 between V.K. Tverskim, Boris Alexandrovič and Novgorod.

 (V. Winkler):  Pecat velikogo novagorod


Peterhof, Hanseatic trading post (1293-1494)


View of Novgorod, 17th century

From: Oljanin, Valentin L.: Plany Novgoroda velikogo  XVII-XVIII veka.  Moskva, 1999


In the 14th and 15th centuries there was a trading post of the Hanse in Novgrorod called Peterhof after the church of St. Peter in the city. The settlelement was in a quarter of the city within a palisade with only one gate to control raids and thefts of the local population. In 1494 the post was closed by tsar Iwan III.

The coat of arms of the trading post was:


Arms: Per pale, the dexter Gules, a key (of St. Peter) per pale Argent, the sinister Or, an eagle Sable (Germany).


From: Bote, Herman: Schichtbuch. Herzog August Bibliohek, Wolffenbüttel. Cod Gnelf. 1 Gud Lat. fol 69r-70r


Russian Territory

1478- present


16th century seal of Novgorod

On a document, 1593


L.: ПЕЧАТЪ ГОСПОДНИ ВЕЛИКОГО НОВАГОРОДА (Seal of the lord of Greater Novgorod)


Emblem of Novgorod on the seal of Iwan the Terrible


On 1 September 1565, Ivan the Terrible "ordered that a new seal to be made for Veliky Novgorod, to be used by the governor "


The new emblem of Novgorod was included in the Great Seal of Ivan the Terrible, but there were two fish in the lower part of the emblem. On the Great Seal of Ivan IV, the emblem of Novgorod is a throne, on it is a rod or staff, under it are two fish. On the sides of the tribune are a bear and a lynx (or other predator). In a circle the inscription: "Seal of the governor of Veliky Novgorod."


Arms of Novgorod on the throne of Michael Theodorovich (1613-’45)


Arms of Novgorod on a plate of Alexis Michailovič (1645-’76)



From: Titularnik, 1672


The supporters two bears instead of a lynx and a bear


Novgorod Government



The arms of Novgorod Government were adopted 8 December 1856


Novgorod City


The arms of the city of Novgorod were adopted on 16 August 1781


Arms: Argent. a throne Or with on its seat a pillow Gules and two scepters in saltire, rising from its back a candelabrum of three candles burning; and a base Azure, four fish respecting 2 and 2 Argent.


In the Soviet era the arms pf the city were restyled thoroughly.




On 6 February 1969, the city’s coat of arms was approved, which had a red shield, gold bears and the number “859” instead of a chair and a five-pointed star with demi cogwheel in chief all Or, and a base Azure, two fish respecting Or.


Since 1998, the official name of the city is Veliky Novgorod.


In 2001, in the new Russian Republic the arms of 1969 were replaced by a more traditional design




The Charter of Veliky Novgorod (approved by the decision of the City Council of 04.23.98 No. 368 as amended by the decisions of the City Council of May 24, 2001 No. 155, dated September 27, 2001 No. 233) states:


"Chapter I. Article 9. Symbols of Veliky Novgorod

The symbols of Veliky Novgorod are the historical emblem and flag. The coat of arms and flag of Veliky Novgorod are given in Appendix 2 to this Charter and are its integral part. The procedure for using the coat of arms and flag of Veliky Novgorod is determined by the City Duma."


The official heraldic description of the coat of arms of Veliky Novgorod (Appendix 2 to the Charter of the city) is as follows:

On the silver field of the shield are two black bears supporting a golden chair with a scarlet (red) pillow. A golden scepter, completed with a cross, is placed crosswise on the right side of the seat, and a golden cross on the left side. Above the chair is a golden three-candlestick with candles burning with a red flame. In the azure (blue, blue) outskirts of the shield there are four silver, one against the other, fish.

For some time, a stylized fragment of the Novgorod Kremlin was added on the city coat of arms (probably not approved).

The following documents existed:

 Decision of the Duma No. 284 "On approval of the Regulation on the procedure for using the symbols of Veliky Novgorod" dated December 28, 2001; Decision of the Duma No. 416 "On introducing amendments to the Regulation on the procedure for using the symbols of Veliky Novgorod, approved by the decision of the Duma of Veliky Novgorod of 28.12.2001 N 284" of 16.10.2002. Both of these acts were repealed in 2006.




By the decision of the Duma of Veliky Novgorod dated December 21, 2006 (No. 423  "On approval of the description of the flag of Veliky Novgorod and the Regulation on the use of official symbols of Veliky Novgorod")the historical description of the coat of arms of Novgorod was legalized: "2.1. The coat of arms of Veliky Novgorod is the historical coat of arms of Veliky Novgorod, the official heraldic description of which is given in the Decree of Empress Catherine II of August 16, 1781." Thus, for several centuries the fish present in the coat of arms of Novgorod were declared "illegal". Probably, the thesis about the primacy of the heraldic description in front of the image was not completely interpreted by the deputies. In the description of the coat of arms of 1781 there was really no mention of fish. Perhaps this was just a technical error, as there were fish in the PSZ picture. There were the same fish (sometimes four, sometimes two) and in almost all known images of the Novgorod coat of arms. Thus, the fish were laid in the "coat of arms formula",

In April 2007, the coat of arms of Veliky Novgorod was added to the State Heraldry Register of the Russian Federation under No. 3194 .

In the spring of 2008, members of the Novgorod society of lovers of antiquity turned to the City Council of Veliky Novgorod "with a convincing request to return to the issue of approval and registration in the State Heraldic Register of the coat of arms of Veliky Novgorod." In particular, it was proposed to return the image of fish to the coat of arms. The Novgorod coat of arms was traditionally portrayed with fish. But this argument probably seemed not enough, so additional ones were added - like "the fish as a symbol carry the encrypted monogram of Christ, thereby turning us to the history of the oldest Russian Orthodox diocese in Russia", etc.




The coat of arms with the base azure with four fish Argent was approved by the decision of the Duma of Veliky Novgorod dated 29 November, 2010 No. 850 “On amending the decision of the Duma of Veliky Novgorod dated 21.12.2006 No. 432“ On approval of the description of the flag of Veliky Novgorod and the Regulation on the Procedure use of official symbols of Veliky Novgorod "

(Adopted by the Duma of Veliky Novgorod on 24 November 2010) and entered in the State Heraldry Register of the Russian Federation under No. 6682.


"Description of the coat of arms of Veliky Novgorod

In a silver field a base azure, encumbered by two pairs of coiled silver fish, one above the other, supported by two black bears on the sides, a golden chair with a red pillow and a back crowned with a gold candlestick about three silver candles burning with scarlet flames; on the pillow put crossed gold crowned with a cross scepter and cross. ";


According to V. Markov, citing materials from the site of the Novgorod Administration

In March 2011, the adjusted coat of arms of Veliky Novgorod was added to the State Heraldry Register of the Russian Federation under No. 6682.


This part from: http://www.heraldicum.ru/russia/subjects/towns/novgorod.htm





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 © Hubert de Vries 2019-09-26




[1] Book of the Knowledge of all the kingdoms, lands, and lordships that are in the world. (ca 1350) Works issued by the Hakluyt Society. 2nd series N° XXIX. 1912. P. 60, fig 91.


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