Arkhangelsk, formerly called Archangel in English, is a city and the administrative center of Arkhangelsk Oblast, Russia. It lies on both banks of the Northern Dvina, river near its exit into the White Sea in the far north of European Russia. City districts spread for over 40 kilometers (25 mi) along the banks of the river and numerous islands of its delta. Arkhangelsk was the chief seaport of medieval Russia. The city is located at the very end of the 1,133 km (704 mi) long railroad, connecting it to Moscow via Vologda and Yaroslavl. Population: 356,051 (2002 Census); down from 415,921 recorded in the 1989 Census.
The area where Arkhangelsk is situated was known to the Vikings as Bjarmaland. According to Snorri Sturluson there was a Viking raid on this area in 1027, led by Tore Hund. In 1989, an unusually rich silver treasure was found by the mouth of Dvina, right next to present day Arkhangelsk. It was probably buried in the beginning of the 12th century, and contained articles that may have been up to 200 years old at that time.
Most of the findings are made up by a total of 1.6 kg (3.53 lb) of silver, mostly coins. Jewelry and pieces of jewelry hails from Russia or suburbs. Most coins were German, but there was also a smaller number of English, Bohemian, Hungarian, Dutch, Swedish, and Norwegian coins. In the 12th century, the people of Novgorod established the Archangel Michael Monastery in the estuary of the Northern Dvina.
The main trade centre of the area at that time was Kholmogory, located slightly upstream where the rivers Dvina joins Pinega. Written sources indicate that Kholmogory existed early in the 12th century, but there is no archeological material to illuminate the early history of the town. It is not known whether this settlement was originally Russian, or if it goes back to pre-Russian times. Centrally in the small town it is today, the so called Gorodok can be found, a large mound of building remains and river sand. However this has not been archeologically excavated.
Arkhangelsk came to be important in the rivalry between Norwegian and Russian interests in the northern areas. From Novgorod, the Russian interest sphere was extended far north to the Kola Peninsula in the 12th century. However, here Norway enforced taxes and rights to the fur trade. A compromise agreement entered in 1251 was soon broken.
In 1411, Yakov Stepanovitch from Novogorod went to attack Northern Norway. This was the beginning of a series of clashes, and in 1419 Norwegian ships with 500 soldiers entered the White Sea. The "Murmaners", as the Norwegians were called (cf. Murmansk), plundered many Russian settlements along the coast, among them the Archangel Michael monastery.
Novgorod managed to drive the Norwegians back. However, in 1478 the area was taken over by Ivan III and passed to Muscovy with the rest of Novgorod Republic. In 1555, Ivan the Terrible granted trade privileges to English merchants who founded the Company of Merchant Adventurers and began sending ships annually into the estuary of the Northern Dvina.
The meeting between Ivan and the Englishmen happened by chance; one of three English ships on their way to find the Northeast pass to China in 1553 ended up in the White Sea. The other two ships disappeared. Dutch merchants also started bringing their ships into the White Sea from the 1560s. Scottish and English merchants dominated in the 16th century, however by the 17th century it was mainly the Dutch that sailed to the White Sea area.
In 1584, Ivan ordered the founding of New Kholmogory (which would later be renamed after the nearby Archangel Michael Monastery). At the time access to the Baltic Sea was still mostly controlled by Sweden, so while Arkhangelsk was icebound in winter, it remained Moscow's almost sole link to the sea-trade. Local inhabitants, called Pomors, were the first to explore trade routes to Northern Siberia as far as the trans-Ural city of Mangazeya and beyond.
In 1693, Peter I ordered the creation of a state shipyard in Arkhangelsk. A year later the ships Svyatoye Prorochestvo (Holy Prophecy), Apostol Pavel (Apostle Paul) and the yacht Svyatoy Pyotr (Saint Peter) were sailing in the White Sea. However, Peter The Great soon realized that Arkhangelsk would always be limited as a port due to the five months of ice cover, and after a successful campaign against Swedish armies in the Baltic area, the tsar founded Saint Petersburg in 1704.
Arkhangelsk declined in the 18th century as the Baltic trade became ever more important, but its economy revived at the end of the 19th century when a railroad to Moscow was completed and timber became a major export. The city resisted Bolshevik rule from 1918 to 1920 and was a stronghold of the anti-Bolshevik White Army supported by the military intervention of Entente forces along with Canadian and American soldiers, known as the Polar Bear Expedition.
During both world wars, Arkhangelsk was a major port of entry for Allied aid. During World War II the city became known in the West as the destination of the Arctic Convoys bringing supplies to assist the Russians who were cut off from their normal supply lines.
Today Arkhangelsk remains a major seaport, now open year-round due to improvements in icebreakers. The city is primarily a timber and fishing center.
Mikhail Lomonosov came from a Pomor village near Kholmogory. A monument to him was installed to a design by Ivan Martos in 1829. A monument to Peter I was designed by Mark Antokolsky in 1872 and installed in 1914.
A maritime school, technical university, and a regional museum are located in the city. After its historical churches were destroyed during Stalin's rule, the city's main extant landmarks are the fort-like Merchant Yards (1668–84) and the New Dvina Fortress (1701–05). The Assumption Church on the Dvina embankment (1742–44) was rebuilt in 2004.