Pskov (Псков, ancient spelling Пльсковъ, also Pihkva (Estonian) and Psków (Polish)) is an ancient Russian city, located in the north-west of Russia near the border to Estonia, on the river Velikaya. It is the capital of the Pskov Oblast.
The city is believed to have been founded in the 10th century or possibly even earlier. There is no surviving contemporary reference to its foundation, and accounts differ. The earliest mention is in 903, when it is said that the Kyivian Prince Igor Rurikovich married St. Olga there. This year is sometimes taken as the city's foundation date, and in 2003 there was a great jubilee to celebrate Pskov's 1,100th anniversary.
For nearly 300 years, during the Middle Ages, it was a free republic, but became subject to Moscow in 1509.
During the Livonian War (1578-1582), between Ivan the Terrible of Russia and Stefan Batory of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the city was besieged by Polish forces. Poland failed to capture the city, but forced Russia to return other territories and gained Livonia. The siege was the setting of Jan Matejkos painting Batory pod Pskowem.
During World War I it was the center of much activity behind the lines, and after the disastrous Brest-Litovsk Peace Conference, in the winter of 1917-1918, was invaded by the Germans.
Pskov is surrounded by a number of substantial city walls; at one point, it was ringed by five of these walls, making the city practically impregnable. The initial fortress, or Kremlin, still stands.
However, the walls were little protection against artillery, and during World War II, Pskov suffered substantial damage during the German occupation from July 9, 1941 until July 23, 1944. Many buildings were destroyed before the Germans could occupy the city. Though a huge portion of the population was killed, Pskov today has a population of about 200,000.
Pskov has a rich cultural history, with many dozens of churches having survived the Soviet era, some dating back to the tenth century. However, there is presently only a very minimal tourist infrastructure, and much of the city needs serious rennovation.