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The first written record of Tver is dated 1164. Originally a minor settlement of Novgorodian traders, it passed to the Grand Prince of Vladimir in 1209. In 1246, Alexander Nevsky granted it to his younger brother Yaroslav Yaroslavich (d. 1271), from whom a dynasty of local princes descended. Four of them were killed in the Golden Horde and were proclaimed saints by the Russian Orthodox church. Formerly a land of woods and bogs, the Tver principality was quickly transformed into one of the richest and most populous Russian states. As the area was hardly accessible for Tatar raids, there was a great influx of population from the recently devastated South. By the end of the century, it was ready to vie with Moscow for supremacy in Russia. Both Tver and Moscow were the young cities, so the outcome of their rivalry was far from being certain.

Mikhail of Tver, who ascended the throne of Vladimir in 1305, was one of the most beloved of medieval Russian rulers. His policy of open conflict with the Golden Horde led to his assassination there in 1318. His son Dmitry «the Terrible Eyes» succeeded him, and, concluding an alliance with the mighty Lithuania, managed to raise Tver’s prestige even higher.

Exasperated by Dmitry’s influence, prince Ivan Kalita of Moscow engineered his murder by the Mongols in 1326. On hearing the news of this crime, the city revolted against the Horde. The latter joined its forced with Muscovites and brutally repressed the rebellion. Many citizens were killed, enslaved, or deported. This was the fatal blow to Tver’s pretensions for supremacy in Russia.

In the second half of the 14th century, Tver was further weakened by dynastic struggles between its princes. Two senior branches of the ruling house, those of Kashin and Kholmsky, asserted their claims to the grand ducal throne. The claimants were backed up by Moscow and eventually settled at the Kremlin court.

During the Great Feudal War in Muscovy, Tver once again rised to prominence and concluded defensive alliances with Lithuania, Novgorod, Byzantium, and the Golden Horde. Grand Prince Boris of Tver sent one of his men, Afanasiy Nikitin, to search gold and diamonds as far as India. Nikitin’s travelogue, describing his journey from 1466 to 1477, is probably the first ever first-hand account of India by an European. A monument to Nikitin was opened on the Volga embankment in 1955.

In 1931, the city was renamed Kalinin, after a notable Soviet leader Mikhail Kalinin. A last vestige of pre-Petrine epoch, the Saviour Cathedral, was blown up in 1936. In 1940 the NKVD executed more than 6,200 Polish policemen and prisoners of war from Ostashkov camp. The Wehrmacht occupied Kalinin for two months in 1941, leaving the city in ashes. A large-scale resistance movement in the city and the region resulted in over 30,000 Nazi soldiers and officers eliminated during the occupation of the city. Notably, Kalinin was the first major city in Europe to be liberated from the Wehrmacht. The historic name of Tver was restored in 1990.

Apart from the suburban White Trinity Church (1564), there are no ancient monuments left in Tver. The downtown is graced with Catharinian and Soviet edifices, bridges and embankments. Tver’s most notable industries are a railroad cars plant, opened in 1898, an excavation-machine factory.

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