Novogrudok is one of the oldest cities in Belarus. It is situated about 162 kilometers to the east of the city of Grodno.
Archeologists believe Novogrudok was founded in the 10th century. In the 12th century the city included the Castle Hill surrounded by settlements called the Small Castle.
Novogrudok was first mentioned in writing in the famous Ipatiev Chronicle of 1252 as “Novogorod” and “Novgorodok”, which meant “a new little town”.
It was in 1252 when Mindaugas, the Prince of Novogrudok was crowned as the King of Lithuania. Modern Belarusian territory was part of the grandeval Lithuania. Mindaugas mentioned as the Prince of Novogrudok and the King of Lithuania is the reason for many chronologists to believe that Novogrudok was the first capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and thus the first capital of the Belarusian state. Let us leave debate to scientists and take a walk in the modern Novogrudok.
Our guide, Mikola Gayba, is a real expert in the history of Novogrudok. He is a director of the Adam Mickiewicz museum situated in the city. I know that Mikola can dwell on the history of Novogrudok without end, so we have stricken a deal to have only one excursion point. It will be the Old Cemetery of Novogrudok.
We cannot resist the temptation, though, so on our way we visit the Mickiewicz memorial museum. The museum is situated in Lenin Square (the former Trade Square). Mickiewicz who is cherished both by the Belarusians and Polish has close ties to Novogrudok.
His birthplace is generally disputed among scholars. Some say the poet was born in the town of Zavosse, in the Baranovichy District, others believe he was born in Novogrudok. One fact is certain: the Mickiewicz museum was established in the building where a manor of his parents had been once.
The literary-memorial exhibition was opened in 1938 to commemorate Mickiewicz’s 140th birthday. During World War II the museum was destroyed, in 1955 it was restored. Today it houses the richest exhibition that dwells on Mickiewicz and his works. By the way, the manor was reconstructed not long ago.
If you plan to see Novogrudok I advise you to begin with a visit to the Mickiewicz museum. You will be taken back to the past, at least to the 19th century.
The trade centre of the city, its main square, is the most important place both from the viewpoint of the history of the city and from the point of view of its everyday life. The names of Novogrudok’s streets: Lenin, Minskaya, Mitskevich, Grodnenskaya, Pochtovaya are quite fresh, but have already become very familiar to its citizens. All these streets converge towards the central square of the city.
As for Zamkovaya Street [or Castle Street], it has changed its name. Perhaps, due to its function: it leads to the old city centre, where even today one may see ruins of the old castle.
Zamkovaya Gora [or Castle Hill] is famous for knights’ festivals and tournaments that take place here rather often. They have gained popularity in other Belarusian cities and even abroad. Besides, these festivals are gradually becoming international. Visitors are invited to watch remodeled battles and tilting. To entertain the audience knights fight like Roman gladiators crashing each others outfit.
Mikola and I drop in the Church of St. Mikhail. This church is very beautiful today after all fires and tragic events it has been prey to.
Novogrudok is a fine city with many sights. One of them is the Old Christian Cemetery we are heading to.
Writers, sculptors, scientists, philosophers… It is possible to compile an encyclopedic dictionary from biographies of all Novogrudok-born famous people who contributed to cultural and scientific heritage of Belarus, Russia, Poland, Lithuania, of other large and small state.
Some of these people were buried in Novogrudok.
We see the grave of Alexander Pushkin’s grandson. The poet is related to Novogrudok via his heir.
The epitaph says: Infant Petr Pushkin. Born 1870, died on November 11, 1870.
“Look! Pushkin’s grandson is buried here. In 1870 Pushkin’s son was appointed chief of the 13th Narva hussar regiment accommodated in Novogrudok. By chance the city became a birthplace for his eighth son. Unfortunately, the baby died soon after birth”, Mikola explains.
Many graves on the Old Cemetery are many centuries old. According to Mikola, young people come to tidy them up. Moreover, Novogrudok’s historical heritage is in the limelight, and the regional authorities pay so much attention to it, which is a good sign.
Cards from collection of Vladimir Lichodedov