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The Founding of Moscow, by Apollinari Vasnetsov

Moscow is being rebuilt and redeveloped, from the tearing up of pavements (to, cynics say, essentially relay them with the same stones, netting fat profits for well-connected construction firms…) to replacing often-crumbling Khrushchev-era housing blocks. The city’s archaeologists have been unexpected beneficiaries of this public building jamboree, as excavations have unearthed all kinds of finds, some of which appear to suggest the city actually dates back further than originally believed. (There’s a very good article on this, in English, on the Moscow Mayor’s Office website.)

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Old Moscow: the wooden walls, by Apollinari Vasnetsov

The usual date of Moscow’s founding is given as 1147, when the Hypatian Codex mentions it as the fortified village where Prince Yuri Dolgorukiy met Northern-Novgorod prince Svyatoslav. According to the Tver Chronicle, it was actually in 1156 when Grand Prince Yuri Volodimerich laid down the foundations of a fort between the mouths of the Neglinnaya and Yauza Rivers, around which formed the township of Moscow.

According to Leonid Kondrashev, Moscow’s chief archaeologist, new evidence suggests that the city was actually founded a hundred years earlier, during Kievan Prince Izyaslav’s campaigns against the Galindian tribes, or even earlier.

Kondrashev has suggested that scholars will be reluctant to agree on an earlier date because 1147 has already become entrenched within the city’s historical narrative, but one could also suggest that this may be part of the current fad for historical revisionism and a desire to make the city’s pedigree all the more glorious. After all, in today’s Russia, history is very political

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