Staraya Russa (Russian: Старая Русса; IPA: [ˈstarəjə ˈrusə]) is a town in Novgorod Oblast, Russia, located on the Polist River, 99 kilometers (62 mi) south of Veliky Novgorod. Its population has steadily decreased over the past years, going from 41,538 recorded in the 1989 Census to 35,511 in the 2002 Census to 31,809 in the 2010 Census.
Thought to have originated in the mid-10th century, Staraya Russa was first mentioned in chronicles for the year 1167 as one of three main towns of the Novgorod Republic, alongside Pskov and Ladoga. Its name is derived from the Rus’, a people of Finno-Ugric and Varangian composition who settled in the vicinity to control trade routes leading from Novgorod to Polotsk and Kiev. After Pskov became independent, Russa became the second most important town and trade center of the Novgorod Republic after Novgorod itself. By the end of the 15th century, it contained about one thousand homesteads. Brine springs made the saltworks the principal business activity in the town, which was the biggest center of salt industry in the Novgorod region.
The wooden fortifications of Russa burned to ashes in 1190 and then in 1194, after which they were replaced by the stone fortress. In 1478, it was incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Moscow together with Novgorod. The word Staraya (Old) was prefixed to the name in the 15th century, to distinguish it from newer settlements called Russa.
When Ivan the Terrible ascended the throne in 1533, Staraya Russa was a populous city. During the Time of Troubles, it was held by Polish brigands and heavily depopulated. Only thirty-eight people lived there in 1613.
In the course of the administrative reform carried out in 1708 by Peter the Great, Staraya Russa was included into Ingermanland Governorate (known since 1710 as Saint Petersburg Governorate). In 1727, separate Novgorod Governorate was split off. In 1776, Staraya Russa became the seat of Starorussky Uyezd of Novgorod Viceroyalty. In 1796, the viceroyalty was transformed into Novgorod Governorate. In the 1820s, military settlements were organized in Staraya Russa and around, in accordance with the project designed by Aleksey Arakcheyev, an influential statesman. It was inconvenient to have both civil and military administration in Staraya Russa, and therefore the uyezd was abolished in 1824. The town of Staraya Russa and some adjacent territories were directly subordinated to the Defense Ministry. The military settlements were proven inefficient, in particular, in 1831, the area participated in the Cholera Riots.[clarification needed] They were abolished in 1856. In 1857, Starorussky Uyezd was re-established.
In 1927, the uyezds were abolished, and Starorussky District was established, with the center in Staraya Russa. Novgorod Governorate was abolished as well, and the district became a part of Novgorod Okrug of Leningrad Oblast. On July 23, 1930, the okrugs were abolished, and the districts were directly subordinated to the oblast. In 1939, Staraya Russa was elevated in status to that of a town of oblast significance and thus ceased to be a part of the district. The town was occupied by the Germans between August 9, 1941 and February 18, 1944. Totally destroyed during the war, it was later restored. On July 5, 1944, Staraya Russa was transferred to newly established Novgorod Oblast and remained there ever since