Throughout the whole of the sixteenth century, the spectre of Novgorodian separatism continued to haunt the rulers of Moscow. In 1570 y., Ivan IV the Terrible marched against Novgorod. His campaign is described in the Tale of the Coming of the Tsar and Grand Prince Ivan Vasilyevich, Autocrat of All Russia: How He Chastised Novgorod the Great; Also Called Oprishchina (action by Ivan the Terrible's personal force - Author's note) and Disaster. The narrative tells of horrible executions perpetrated by the Tsar not only among the contumacious boyars and merchants of Novgorod but also among common folk, and even among the peasant population of the outlying areas. Some nineteenth - and twentieth - century historians attempted to justify these reprisals as "historically necessary", but their arguments are utterly unconvincing.

The punitive expedition of Ivan the Terrible dealt a death blow to Novgorod's greatness. It was never to be recovered, but became a legend, a memory of the past.

The history of Novgorod aroused the interest of Russian revolutionary thinkers from the close of the eighteenth century. It seemed to them to tender hope for a better future for Russia. They saw in Novgorod the historical precedent of a democracy, which could be set forward in opposition to the autocratic rule of the tsars. Thus, Alexander Radishchev (1749 - 1802 yy.) believed that "Novgorod had a popular government ... The people assembled in Veche were its true sovereign ... There was a bell in Novgorod which summoned men to Veche for deliberating on public affairs ... ". The Decembrists who rose against tsarist autocracy in 1825 y. were particularly enthusiastic in their admiration of the Novgorod of the Veche period. Pavel Pestel, the author of one of the Decembrists' two draft constitutions, was thoroughly versed in Novgorod's history. Both his and the other draft constitution of the Decembrists contain in their political vocabulary many allusions to the Veche system. And in the writings of some of them: Kondraty Ryleyev, Alexander Bestuzhev, Vladimir Raevsky, Wilhelm Kchelbecker, and Alexander Odoevsky, we find an idealized picture of the Novgorod republic.

Mikhail Lermontov (1814 - 1841 yy.), one of Russia's greatest poets, shared the Decembrists' view of the Veche in Novgorod. He dedicated the following lines to that city:

Hail, sacred cradle of the warrior Slavs! Arrived from foreign lands, I gaze With rapture at the gloomy walls Through which the centuries of change Passed harmlessly; where the Veche bell Alone did serve the cause of freedom, And then the end of freedom tolled, And many a proud soul with it did fall ... Oh, telI me, Novgorod, are they no more? Is not your Volkhov what it was before?
The leading nineteenth - century literary critic Vissarion Belinsky (1811 - 1848 yy.), like the Decembrists, saw in Novgorod's past a reflection of traits inherent in the Russian national character, such as love of liberty, a capacity for selfless devotion, and unmitigated bravery. But unlike them, he saw those features expressed first and foremost in Novgorodian folk poetry. "Novgorod," he wrote, "may confidently be called the cradle of Russian daring, even now a distinctive feature of the Russian national character. We find a people's ideals reflected in the dreams of its imagination, and may judge by them of its spirit and its sense of dignity ... Now this valour, this daring and bravery are expressed, especially in Novgorodian epics (bylinas - Author's note), with a breadth, an irresistible, tremendous force that compels one to bow down before them in involuntary homage...".

But Novgorodian bylinas, folk songs on historical subjects, and verses by skomorokhs - travelling folk clowns - belong to a different chapter of Novgorod's artistic life, and form an independent aspect of its culture to be dealt with separately.

Old Novgorod's significance to Russian cultural history is exceptionally great. Novgorodian painting was the first to attract the attention of art collectors and art historians by its outstanding aesthetic merits. Novgorodian frescoes made the public realize the value of all ancient Russian art. Novgorodian church architecture, though simple in its outward form, has an artistic impact of enormous power. Novgorodian manuscript books, works of literature, legends, and bylinas brilliantly exemplify the high literary culture of ancient Rus. Birch - bark documents of the eleventh to fifteenth centuries, found by archaeologists in large numbers, testify to widespread literacy among the population of Novgorod and its territories.

And finally, having escaped devastation by Mongol - Tatar invaders, Novgorod played a part of immense importance to the history of Russian culture as a repository of the spiritual treasures of Kievan Rus, and as a guardian of the ancestral cultural traditions of the Russian people.