American Society of Russian Naval History
Staraja (Old) Ladoga is a village in Northwest Russia approximately 100 kilometers East of St. Petersburg. Known in the Viking Age as the city of Aldeigja (Aldeigjuborg), it was called Ladoga by the Slavs. It was a very important port for the Vikings on their trade route from Scandinavia to the South and East, to the Arab Caliphate and Byzantine empire.
For some 300 years, starting in the 8th century, the Vikings sailed from the Baltic sea easterly through the Gulf of Finland and the Neva river to Lake Ladoga where they turned south on the Volkhov river, past the city of Aldeigja (Ladoga). From Ladoga they continued south to the Lake Ilmen, where there later appeared the city of Novgorod. Sailing and rowing on rivers through Russia, they reached the Volga river and the Caspian sea. Through Persia they reached the very heart of the Baghdad Caliphate. The Vikings sold wax, furs, most of all slaves and in exchange received silver coins, the dirchems, the main profit of their long travel. They also bought stone and glass beads, which were sold to Finnic tribes in exchange for furs.
There is archaeological evidence of intense craft and trade activities in Ladoga. One of the first workshops produced glass beads following the Arab method. The most famous belonged to the blacksmiths, whose abandoned tools were preserved extremely well due to the high moisture in the soil. The date of this workshop, 753, is considered to be the starting point of the history of Ladoga, although there is evidence that the first settlers appeared much earlier.
An important new trade route appeared a century later. It went from Lake Ladoga south connecting to the Dnieper river then to the Black sea and Constantinople. It was called the "Way from Northern Europe to the Byzantine", or in Russian "From the Varangs to the Greeks". It was the trade route for wine and gold woven fabrics as the earlier one was the trade route for Silver.
From the very beginning Ladoga was the city of many nationalities. It was the place, where the Slavs and Scandinavians met each other on Finnish lands. So it was quiet normal that it was Ladoga which invited Ruric from Scandinavian to be the king. The choice of the dynasty, that governed Russia from the 9th up to the 16th centuries belonged to the Ladoga people, though Ruric soon left them and moved to Novgorod.
Ruric's relative and heir, Oleg the Wise managed to unite all the tribes along the Trade Route to the Greeks and thus formed the new state of Rus' with the city of Kiev on the Dnieper as capital. He never forgot Ladoga, it was here, that he built the first Russian stone fortress. According to legend, when he became old he decided to return to Scandinavia, but was bitten by a snake in Ladoga and died, as it had been foretold by the volhovs, the Slavic heathen priests. Even now the biggest and the most beautiful of the pagan burial mounds is called "Oleg's grave".
In the 12 century a new stone fortress and 6 churches were built. They belonged to the best examples of the Novgorodian architectural style. Ladoga would become the arena for some dramatic events more than once in the subsequent century. Neither time nor people spared many of the ancient structures. However two of them, dating back to the 12th century fortunately have survived. They are the cathedral of the Assumption of Our Lady and the small church of St. George in the fortress. Both of them are decorated with the brilliant wall paintings, masterpieces of the 12th century.
One can also see the churches of the 16th-19th centuries, the fortress belonging to the 15-16th centuries, the remnants of first Russian bastions in Ladoga. The orthodox monasteries and nunneries are neighbored by the pagan burial grounds and sanctuaries.
STARAIA LADOGA MUSEUM
Staraia Ladoga is now a rural village. It's cultural and historical inheritance is now preserved by the Staraia Ladoga National Park Museum. It has expositions in the fortress, devoted to the history of medieval culture and warfare and to the peasants' life to the 19-20th centuries. Temporary exhibitions are held in the exhibition hall.
Museum scientists work with the archaeological data and written sources, collect the working tools and implements, as well as peasant textiles of the pre-soviet and early Soviet times. The work is made particularly difficult because of the extreme financial constraints in present day Russia.
The Museum does every thing it can, but it is in need of assistance, both in terms of money and equipment. You are invited to visit the Museum and the historical monuments, churches, towers and walls of Old Ladoga.
Tuesday through Sunday
10 a.m. - 6 p.m. - May-September,
10 a.m.-4 p.m. - October-April.
Museum Director: Liudmila Gubchevskaia
Address: Russia. Leningrad region. Volkhov district, Staraja Ladoga, Museum.
Tel/FAX: 7-(81263) 135-24
Telephone: 7-(81263) 49-370
AMERICAN SOCIETY OF RUSSIAN NAVAL HISTORY
The American Society for Russian Naval History (ASRNH) is a not for profit organization which would like to work with other organizations and individuals to raise funds for the purpose of publicizing Staraia Ladoga and help preserve its priceless history. Funds are being raised for the following programs:
For further information about Staraia Ladoga and cooperation with our programs please contact:
W. Edward Nute, Director
American Society for Russian Naval History
907 Mission Ave
San Rafael, CA 94901