Novgorod Oblast

   An administrative region of the Russian Federation. Home to several of Russia’s oldest cities including the UNESCO World Heritage site Great Novgorod, the oblast is a center for tourism as well as science and engineering. Surrounded by the Leningrad, Tver, Vologda, and Pskov oblasts, the region is proximate to the Baltic States and Belarus and is well connected to both St. Petersburg and Moscow.
   Novgorod Oblast covers an area of 55,300 square kilometers and is part of the Northwestern Economic Region and Federal District. Novgorod’s population is slightly less than 700,000, making it the least populous federal subject in European Russia. At 95 percent, it has one of the most homogenously ethnic Russian populations in the federation. The regional capital, Novgorod (pop. 241,000), was once a key city in the Baltic-Volga trade route, and sports ancient monasteries, icons, and frescoes reflecting its centrality to early Orthodoxy in the region.
   The geography of the region is characterized by taiga and forested marshland, and numerous glacial lakes, Ilmen being the largest, dot the countryside. The attractive Valdai National Park is located in the southeast of the oblast. Novgorod is rich in shale, clay, limestone, and quart deposits, as well as mineral springs. In addition to tourism, regional industries include woodworking, fertilizers, forestry, and electricity production. In the 1990s, the regional economy enjoyed five times the national amount of foreign investment due to tax incentives, which attracted more than 200 companies including Cadbury Schweppes (Great Britain), Dansk Tyggegummi Fabrik (Denmark), and Dresser (United States).
   Under the leadership of the popular governor Mikhail Prusak, the regional government pursued a policy of economic pragmatism combined with reform. Prusak revived medieval traditions of so-called northern self-government and pushed for greater levels of private land ownership and localized authority; he detailed his strategies in the 1999 book Reform in the Provinces. Prusak’s inability to stop the rising popularity of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation led to his purportedly voluntary decision to step down as governor. The current governor is Sergey Mitin; he was appointed by Vladimir Putin in 2007. He immediately launched a campaign to improve housing, health care, agriculture, and education in the region. However, Mitin’s campaign against corruption has been criticized for its draconian enforcement of tax collection, including targeting women selling homemade pies on the roadside of the St. Petersburg-Moscow highway.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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