History of Tver

12th Century


Officially Tver is considered to have been founded in 1135 when guests from the city are mentioned in a document. However this date is not universally accepted by historians. It is theorised that Tver arose as a fortification on the headland where the River Tmaka flows into the Volga during the struggles between the Rostov-Suzdal Principality and the Novgorod Principality.

13th Century

Tver Principality

In 1238 Tver was sacked by Batu Khan during the Mongol-Tatar Invasion of Rus, but the city was able to recover from the devastation relatively quickly. In 1247 Tver became the capital of the Tver Principality which was granted to Yaroslavl Yaroslavich  - the brother of Aleksandr Nevsky and the founder of the Tver dynasty of Ryurikid princes. Tver benefited from its location on the trade route with Novgorod and due to the fact that it was further away from the Golden Horde than other Russian cities. In 1264 Prince Yaroslav Yaroslavich of Tver also became grand prince of Vladimir, but decided to rule from Tver. Due to these reasons Tver grew in both population and significance. As well as re-founding the city's kremlin, it is possible that Yaroslav Yaroslavich also ordered the establishment of the Otroch Monastery in the city. In approximately 1271 the Tver Eparchy was established being separated the Polotsk Eparchy.

14th Century

Struggle with Moscow

Prince Yaroslav Yaroslavich died in 1271 and was succeeded by his sons, firstly Svyatoslav and then Mikhail in sometime around 1282. It was under Mikhail that open conflict erupted between Tver and Moscow over who should rule as grand prince of Vladimir as the superior Rus prince. Grand Prince Andrey Aleksandrovich of Vladimir died in 1304 and left the throne to Mikhail although Yuri Danilovich of Moscow also claimed the throne. Both princes went to the Golden Horde to plead their cases to the khan to be granted the patent to rule as grand prince of Vladimir. In the Golden Horde, it was Mikhail who was successful, promising the khan that he could collect more tribute. Like his father, Mikhail remained based in Tver. In 1308 Mikhail led a campaign against Moscow itself but could not breach the kremlin walls.

In 1317 Yuri Danilovich of Moscow led an army along with the Tatar temnik Kavgadi against Tver. Mikhail met the army at the Battle of Bortenevo in December 1317 and was victorious. Konchaka, the sister of Khan Uzbeg and wife of Yuri of Moscow, was taken prisoner but later died in captivity in Tver. After this event both Mikhail and Yuri rushed to the Golden Horde. Yuri arrived first and was able to blame Mikhail for the death of the khan's sister. Mikhail was tried and imprisoned in stocks. In 1318 after Mikhail has faced a month of imprisonment and torture, Yuri and Kavgadi decided to be rid of him once and for all and had their men kill him. Mikhail's body was only returned to Tver a year later. In 1549 Mikhail was canonised as St Michael (Mikhail) of Tver. Today Mikhail is still cherished as a Russian prince who led Russians against their Mongol overlords rather than collaborating with them as was the policy of the Moscow princes at that time.

Mikhail was succeeded in Tver by his son Dmitri Mikhailovich known as 'The Terrible Eyes'; Yuri Danilovich of Moscow became the next grand prince of Vladimir. However in 1322 Dmitri the Terrible Eyes informed Khan Uzbek that Yuri was keeping some of the tribute for himself. Uzbek appointed Dmitri as grand prince of Vladimir. At first Yuri fled to Novgorod but eventually went to the Golden Horde to plead his case. Dmitri also went to the Horde and when he saw Yuri there he killed him in revenge for his father's murder. In 1326 Dmitri was executed by the khan for the murder of Yuri.

Decline of Tver

After Dmitri the Terrible Eyes' execution in 1326 Khan Uzbek appointed Dmitri's brother Aleksandr Mikhailovich as grand prince of Vladimir and Tver. In the summer of 1327 Schelkan (sometimes spelled Cholkhan) a cousin of Khan Uzbek, arrived in Tver as the khan’s representative. Schelkan began tormenting the local population who eventually rose up against him. Schelkan and his men sought shelter in his residence, but instead were burnt alive there when the Tver citizens set it alight. It is not known whether this was supported by Aleksandr, but he certainly understood the danger he was now in and fled from Tver fearing the Tatar reprisal. Khan Uzbek ordered Prince Ivan Kalita of Moscow and Aleksandr Vasilievich of Suzdal to send a punitive campaign against Tver, which devastated the city and destroyed the kremlin.

Aleksandr’s brother Konstantin became prince of Tver. He was married to the daughter of Yuri of Moscow and recognised the superiority of Moscow. In 1336 Aleksandr returned and sent his son Fyodor to ask Khan Uzbek’s forgiveness. In 1338 he went to the Golden Horde himself and made peace with Khan Uzbek, who returned Tver to him. Relations between Moscow and Tver immediately deteriorated once more. Instead of using force Ivan Kalita of Moscow went to the Golden Horde and persuaded Khan Uzbek to act. In 1339 Aleksandr and his son Fyodor were called to the Golden Horde and both were beheaded. Konstantin was returned as grand prince of Tver. In 1345 an argument broke out between Konstantin and his nephew Prince Vsevolod Aleksandrovich of Kholm. Konstantin fled to the Golden Horde to complain to the khan, however he died before the matter could be resolved.

Vsevolod Aleksandrovich was named prince of Tver in 1345 although by right it should have been his uncle's turn - Prince Vasili Mikhailovich of Kashin. The struggle of power continued until 1349 when Bishop Fyodor was able to persuade the princes to make peace, under the agreement Vasili of Kashin became prince of Tver (although he ruled from Kashin) and Vsevolod returned to Kholm where he died of the plague in 1364.

Vasili Mikhailovich, remaining in Kashin, faced another threat to his title as prince of Tver in the form of another nephew, Mikhail Aleksandrovich of Mikulin, who claimed Tver for himself. In the struggle Vasili was supported by Grand Prince of Dmitri Ivanovich of Moscow (later known as Dmitri Donskoy) and Mikhail by his brother-in-law Grand Duke Algirdas of Lithuania. In 1368 Grand Prince Vasili of Tver and Kashin died and his nephew Prince Mikhail of Mikulin became grand prince of Tver. Mikhail remained an enemy of Moscow and Tver participated in the Lithuanian campaigns against Moscow in 1370 and 1372. In 1373 Mikhail ordered the reconstruction of the city's kremlin in a new location between the Volga and the Tmaka. In 1375 Mikhail received the patent to rule as grand prince of Vladimir but Dmitri Donskoy did not relinquish the title and launched a campaign against Tver in which Moscow troops captured several towns and began besieging Tver. Mikhail was forced to recognised the superiority of Moscow although around this time the Tver Principality became the Tver Grand Principality. In 1399 Mikhail died shortly after becoming a monk.



15th Century

Incorporation into Moscow

Mikhail Aleksandrovich was succeeded by his son Ivan Mikhailovich. Under Ivan, relations with Moscow greatly improved; in 1408 Ivan ignored the order of Edigu, a military commander of the Golden Horde, to send artillery to assist him in his siege of Moscow. In 1425 Mikhail died of the plague which was ravaging Tver lands at the time: his two successors, firstly his son Ivan Mikhailovich and then his grandson Aleksandr Ivanovich, also died of the plague in the same year. This left the Tver throne to Boris Aleksandrovich, another grandson of Mikhail. In 1454 Boris swore an oath to Moscow and his daughter Maria was married off to Grand Prince Vasili II of Moscow's son, Ivan Vasilievich (later Ivan III). Boris was succeeded by his son Mikhail Borisovich in 1461. It was at this period that Grand Prince Ivan III of Moscow was gathering Russian lands under Moscow's rule, and Tver was no exception. In 1483 Mikhail's wife died and he married one of Grand Duke Casimir IV of Lithuania's granddaughters. The alliance angered Ivan III who in 1485 launched a campaign against Tver. Ivan III's troops began besieging Tver and eventually Mikhail fled the city to Lithuania. The citizens and remaining boyars opened the city's gates and swore allegiance to Moscow. Ivan III later arrived in the city and made his son governor who took up residence in the kremlin. Mikhail died in exile in Lithuania in 1505.

16th Century

Exile at the Otroch Monastery


The 16th century saw two famous religious figures being exiled to Tver's Otroch Monastery. The first was Maximus (Maksim) the Greek who was exiled here in 1531 and remained at the Otroch Monastery for twenty years. However the monastery's more famous exile is Metropolitan Philip II who was metropolitan during the reign of Tsar Ivan the Terrible and was one of the few people to publically rebuke the tsar for his cruelty. Eventually Ivan removed Philip from office and imprisoned him. In 1568 Philip was transferred to a cell in the Otroch Monastery. In 1569 the former metropolitan was strangled by Ivan the Terrible's henchman Malyuta Skyratov. At the same time the city was ravaged by the Oprichnina of Ivan the Terrible. Both Maximus and Philip were later canonised.

17th Century

Times of Troubles

Engraving of Tver in the 1630s by Adam Olearius

The Times of Troubles were especially hard on Tver and in 1612 the city was practically destroyed by Polish-Lithuanian interventionists. In the beginning of the century there were approximately 10,000 inhabitants in Tver, but the population was so devastated that even by 1685 it had only grown back to 4,500.  In 1696 the Transfiguration of the Saviour Cathedral was reconstructed, the original having been destroyed during the Times of Troubles.

18th Century

Administrative Reforms

As part of the administrative reforms of Peter the Great of 1708 Tver became part of the Ingermanlandia Governorate which was renamed the St Petersburg Governorate in 1710. The foundation of St Petersburg proved to be beneficial to Tver as the city found itself on the route from the old capital to the new and the city became one of the principal stations on the route, welcoming many travellers including imperial ones. In 1719 Tver became the centre of the Tver Province within the governorate. In 1763 a massive fire destroyed much of the city, including its kremlin. The devastation though did allow the redevelopment of the city centre based on a regulated city plan. As part of the reconstruction the Imperial Travellers Palace was constructed between 1764 and 1766 where the kremlin once stood. In 1775 Catherine elevated the Tver Province to the Tver Viceroyalty and then her son Paul I elevated that to the Tver Governorate in 1796.

19th Century

In 1809 Grand Duchess Yekaterina Pavlovna, the daughter of Emperor Paul I and sister of Emperor Alexander I, married Prince George of Oldenburg who had settled in Russia and been made governor of Tver. Up until the death of Prince George in 1812, the couple lived in Tver with the Imperial Travellers Palace serving as their residence. In 1851 the Nikolaevskaya Railway was put into operation which connected St Petersburg with Moscow and ran via Tver. In 1900 the first permanent bridge was installed over the River Volga, connecting both sides of Tver, today the bridge is known as the Old Bridge.

20th Century

Soviet Power

Soviet power was established in Tver in 1917 and shortly afterwards many streets were renamed and the majority of churches and monasteries were closed down. In 1929 the city became the centre of the newly-formed Tver Region. In 1931 the city was renamed Kalinin in honour of the Soviet statesman Mikhail Kalinin, who was born in the Tver Governorate. In 1935 the city's main cathedral - the Transfiguration of the Saviour Cathedral - was blown up and in the same decade most of the buildings of the Otroch Monastery were destroyed.

Second World War

On 14 October 1941 Kalinin fell to the Nazis and was occupied up until 16 December 1941 when the city was liberated by the Red Army, albeit at great bloodshed. The occupation brought great destruction to the city and suffering to its citizens. Over half of residential houses were destroyed as well as many building. Bridges across the Volga were also blown up; the Old Bridge being no exception, although it was reconstructed shortly after the war between 1946 and 1947.