Staraya Russa (Старая Русса) is an old town located 99 km south of Novgorod the Great. It is administrative center of the Starorussky District of the Novgorod Oblast in Russia and a wharf on the Polist River (Lake Ilmen basin). Population: 40,900 (2000).
Thought to have originated in the mid-10th century, Staraya Russa was first mentioned in chronicles for the year 1076 as one of three main towns of the Novgorod Republic, alongside Pskov and Ladoga. Its name is derived from the Varangians who called themselves Rus and settled in the vicinity to control important trade route leading from Novgorod to Polotsk and Kiev.
The wooden settlement of Russa was burned to ashes in 1190 and 1194. In 1478, it was incorporated into Muscovy together with Novgorod. The word Staraya (Old) was prefixed to the name in the 15th century, to distinguish it from newer settlements called Russa.
In the 15th-17th centuries, the ancient merchant town was changed into a prosperous industrial centre, with saltworks as the principle business activity. When Ivan the Terrible ascended the throne, Staraya Russa was the fourth most populated city in Russia after Moscow, Pskov and Novgorod. During the Time of Troubles it was held by the Polish brigands and heavily depopulated. Only 38 inhabitants lived there in 1613.
In 1824, tsar Alexander I created the so-called military settlements near Staraya Russa, which would be a stage for an uprising in 1831 as part of the Cholera Riots. The town was fictionalized as Skotoprigonievsk in Dostoyevsky's novel The Brothers Karamazov (1879-80). The Soviet authority in Staraya Russa was established on November 5(18), 1917. The city was occupied by the Germans between August 9, 1941 and February 18, 1944. Totally destroyed by them, it was later restored.
Staraya Russa is a balneologic resort, celebrated for its mineral springs used for baths, drinking, and inhalations; medicinal silt mud of the Lake Verkhneye and Lake Sredneye and mud from artificial reservoirs. A summer residence of the Russian novelist Feodor Dostoevsky, who wrote there his novels The Brothers Karamazov and The Possessed, is open to visitors as a museum.
The ancient monuments include the Transfiguration monastery, with a cathedral built in 70 days in 1198, partly rebuilt in the 15th century, and several 17th-century buildings and churches. The principal city cathedral (1678) is dedicated to the Resurrection of Christ. Other notable churches are consecrated to St George (1410, family temple of the Dostoevsky family), Mina the Martyr (14th century), and the Holy Trinity (1676).