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The uprising in Novgorod of 1136 brought an end to its dependence of Kiev. Prince Vsyevolod Mstislavich, who ruled Novgorod as Kiev's protégé was forced out of the city and all power was concentrated in the "Veche" - a popular assembly controlled by the boyars. From this time all major city office positions were filled by election, including the one of the "posadnik" - the mayor of Novgorod and the "Tisatskii" - the commander of its militia. Even the archbishop of Novgorod had to be chosen by the Veche, usually by balloting from three announced candidates. Vsyevolod died in 1138 and those who succeeded him on Novgorod's throne became a figure-head until "Gosudar' Velikii Novgorod," the title of the new republic, turned into a sort of a democratic city-state. Though elected by the Veche, some of the archbishops, whom the Novgorodians called "Vladika," were very powerful and not always mindful of the interests of the boyars. Besides, they controlled the state's treasuries and all properties that belonged to the prince and exercised the role of chief of state. Among their duties were relations with foreign states. The newly gained independence from Kiev permitted Novgorod to turn towards the west and establish cultural contacts and important trade relations. It did not take long before Novgorod became one of the most important trade centers of Eastern Europe. With this came prosperity and of course great steps forward in the arts.

Novgorodian pagans gave the strongest resistance to attempts to convert them to Christianity. Many lost their lives when in 991 they tried to prevent a Greek bishop from establishing his see in Novgorod. This strong opposition was due largely to the Meria, a Finnish tribe that together with the Slavs lived in Novgorod and its vicinity. Unable to preserve their national identity, they merged with Russians and in the 13th century completely lost their individuality. The center of religious life and various ceremonies were performed on the main square of Novgorod's Kremlin, also called "Detinets. "Within its walls the Novgorodians had their heathen temple, totem poles of their gods and the cemetery. It was most probable in this square that one of the first Veche sessions took place in 859. It decided to invite the Varangian Prince Riurik to protect and govern them.




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