Tikhvin (Russian: Ти́хвин) is a town and the administrative center of Tikhvinsky District of Leningrad Oblast, Russia, located on both banks of the Tikhvinka River in the east of the oblast, 200 kilometers (120 mi) east of St. Petersburg. Tikhvin is also an industrial and cultural center of the district, as well as its transportation hub. Population: 58,459 (2010 Census); 63,338 (2002 Census); 71,352 (1989 Census).
The first mention of Tikhvin dates from 1383, when a chronicle reported that a wooden Church of the Dormition was built here. Later, in 1495-1496, Y. K. Saburov, a clerk in the Novgorod Cadastre, mentioned the «…Tikhvin parish and in it, a wooden church…»
Its location at the intersection of trade routes which connected the Volga River with Lake Ladoga and the Baltic Sea ensured its rapid development. At the beginning of the 16th century it was already a widely-known commerce and trade center. In 1507-1515, funded by prince Vasily III of Moscow, on the spot of the burnt wooden church, Dmitry Syrkov of Novgorod constructed the monumental stone Cathedral of Dormition, which stands to this day.
In 1560, by order of Tsar Ivan the Terrible, the Monastery of Dormition was built on the left bank of Tikhvinka river. Management of the construction project was entrusted to Fyodor Syrkov, the son of Dmitri Syrkov. Special importance was placed on the haste of its construction; therefore tsar permitted the use of peasants from twenty rural districts to assist in building it.
In the spring and summer of 1560, the large Monastery of Dormition and the smaller Vvedenskiy convent were simultaneously built, as well as two trade and industrial settlements with various buildings for residential, economic and religious purposes. The monastery was initially surrounded by a stockade of sharpened poles. Later, in the middle the 17th century, it was replaced by two parallel log walls, filled in between with earth and stones. A covered walkway with arrow slits went along the top of walls, and above the walls nine powerful towers were raised. Thus, on the spot of an ancient settlement, an important fortified stronghold was created, which would play a large role in the defense of the north-western borders of Russia.
At the beginning of the 17th century the Russian state underwent a deep internal crisis. During the Swedish-Polish incursion, the Swedes occupied and devastated the region around Novgorod. In 1613, Tikhvin was captured, ransacked and burned. Tradespeople, sheltering behind the fortress walls of the monastery, survived a prolonged siege and numerous attacks before routing the Swedish army. The fight ended with the expulsion of the Swedes from the area, marking the beginning of the liberation of the Novgorod region from Swedish and Polish forces.
Tikhvin blossomed economically during the 17th and 18th centuries. The products of Tikhvin’s blacksmiths enjoyed special demand, and they were bought not only in Russian cities, but also abroad. Tikhvin became one of the points for foreign trade in Russia, and Tikhvin’s fair was one of the largest in Russia. The bloom in trade and crafts in the 17th century contributed to an increase in the settlement, which grew to a significant size.
Stone buildings were permitted only on the territory of the monastery. In the 16th century, in addition to the cathedral, a stone refectory was built, along with a church dedicated to the birth of the Mother of God in 1581. In 1600, a five-roofed belfry was constructed. An especially intense period of stone construction occurred in the second half of the 17th century, when all the wooden buildings in the monastery were replaced by ones of stone. As a result of these works, a highly artistic ensemble of historical and architectural monuments was created on the territory of the monastery, which is mostly preserved to this day, although in the 18th and 19th centuries some of the cloister buildings underwent reconstruction, which altered their original appearance.
Since their construction in 1560, Tikhvin owed its allegiance to the monastery and convent. In 1723, after a prolonged fight, the inhabitants of Tikhvin were freed from monastery control, and they obtained their own administration, a magistrate who answered to the Novgorod province office. The settlement was not totally separated from the monastery until 1764, after an edict concerning the transfer of the monastery’s property to the state. In 1773, Tikhvin was granted town status.
During World War II, Tikhvin was occupied by Nazi troops from November 8, 1941 to December 9, 1941. Due to counterattacks on the part of Soviet forces, it had to be abandoned after one month, but many architectural monuments were destroyed during that time. The re-capture of Tikhvin is considered to have been extremely vital in the execution of the Road of Life during the Siege of Leningrad, thanks to its railroad. It allowed the Soviets to provide much more foodstuffs in comparison to the makeshift land road previously used.