Tver (Russian: Тверь; IPA: [tvʲerʲ]) is a city and the administrative center of Tver Oblast, Russia. Population: 403,606(2010 Census); 408,903 (2002 Census); 450,941 (1989 Census).
Located north of Moscow, Tver was formerly the capital of a powerful medieval state and a model provincial town in the Russian Empire, with a population of 60,000 on January 14, 1913. It is situated at the confluence of the Volga and Tvertsa Rivers. The city was known as Kalinin (Кали́нин) from 1931 to 1990.
The first written record of Tver is dated 1135. Originally a minor settlement of Novgorodian traders, it passed to the Grand Prince of Vladimir in 1209. In 1246, Alexander Nevsky granted it to his younger brother Yaroslav Yaroslavich (d. 1271), from whom a dynasty of local princes descended. Four of them were killed by the Golden Horde and were proclaimed saints by the Russian Orthodox church.
Formerly a land of woods and bogs, the Principality of Tver was quickly transformed into one of the richest and most populous Russian states. As the area was hardly accessible for Tatar raids, there was a great influx of population from the recently devastated south. By the end of the century, it was ready to vie with Moscow for supremacy in Russia. Both Tver and Moscow were young cities, so the outcome of their rivalry was far from being certain.
Mikhail, the Grand Prince of Tver, who ascended the throne of Vladimir in 1305, was one of the most beloved of medieval Russian rulers. His policy of open conflict with the Golden Horde led to his assassination there in 1318. His son Dmitry «the Terrible Eyes» succeeded him, and, concluding a alliance with the mighty Grand Duchy of Lithuania, managed to raise Tver’s prestige even higher.
Exasperated by Dmitry’s influence, Prince Ivan Kalita of the Grand Duchy of Moscow engineered his murder by the Mongols in 1326. On hearing the news of this crime, the city revolted against the Horde. The Horde joined its forces with Muscovites and brutally repressed the rebellion. Many citizens were killed, enslaved or deported. This was the fatal blow to Tver’s aspirations for supremacy in Russia.
In the second half of the 14th century, Tver was further weakened by dynastic struggles between its princes. Two senior branches of the ruling house, those of Kashin and Kholmsky, asserted their claims to the grand ducal throne. The claimers were backed up by Moscow and eventually settled at the Moscow Kremlin court.
During the Great Feudal War in the Grand Duchy of Moscow, Tver once again rose to prominence and concluded defensive alliances with Lithuania, Novgorod, Byzantium, and the Golden Horde. Grand Prince Boris of Tver sent one of his men, Afanasy Nikitin, to search for gold and diamonds as far as India. Nikitin’s travelogue, describing his journey from 1466 to 1472, is probably the first ever firsthand account of India by a European. A monument to Nikitin was opened on the Volga embankment in 1955.
At last, on September 12, 1485, the forces of Ivan the Great seized the city. The principality was given as an appanage to Ivan’s grandson, only to be abolished several decades later. Last scions of the ruling dynasty were executed by Ivan the Terrible during the Oprichnina. At that turbulent time, Tver was ruled by Simeon Bekbulatovich, a former khan of Kasimov. The only remnant of his ephemeral reign is a graceful tent-like church in the village of Kushalino, 28 kilometers (17 mi) northeast of Tver.
The city’s decline was not irrevocable, however. With the foundation of St. Petersburg, Tver gained importance as a principal station on the highway (and later railway) en route from Moscow. It was much visited by Russian royalty and nobility traveling from the old capital to the new one and back.
Following a devastating fire of 1763, the city was rebuilt in a Neoclassical style. Under Catherine the Great, the central part was thoroughly reconstructed. Crumbling medieval buildings were razed and replaced with imposing Neoclassical structures. The most important of these are the Travel Palace of the Empress (designed by the celebrated Matvei Kazakov), and the Ascension church (designed by Prince Lvov and consecrated in 1813).
In 1931, the city was renamed Kalinin, after a notable Soviet leader Mikhail Kalinin who had been born nearby. The last vestige of the pre-Petrine epoch, the Savior Cathedral, was blown up in 1936. In 1940, the NKVD executed more than 6,200 Polish policemen and prisoners of war from Ostashkov camp.
The Wehrmacht occupied Kalinin for two months in 1941, leaving the city in ashes. A large-scale resistance movement in the city and the oblast resulted in over 30,000 German soldiers and officers being killed during the occupation of Tver. Kalinin was the first major city in Europe to be liberated from the Wehrmacht.
During the Cold War, Kalinin was home to the Kryuchkovo air base, which is no longer in service. The city’s historic name of Tver was restored in 1990.
Apart from the suburban White Trinity Church (1564), there are no ancient monuments left in Tver. The central part is graced with Catharinian and Soviet edifices, bridges, and embankments. Tver’s most notable industries are a railroad car plant, opened in 1898, an excavator factory, and a glass factory. Tver is home to Migalovo, which is one of Russia’s biggest military airlift facilities.