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Early history of Rostov traditionally begins with
appearance of Sarskoye Gorodishche or Citadel of Sara. It is
modern name reflecting that the village was established on the banks
of Sara river that flows into Nero Lake.
Today it is situated south of Medieval Rostov
Kremlin. First inhabitants of these lands were Merya tribe. This group of indigenous inhabitants of Eastern part of
European Russia belonged to Volga Finn groups of native population
and eventually mixed with Slavs forming modern ethnicity known as
Russians. Merya settlement was a diverse community. Archaeological
digs in the area proved that Vikings used Sara as one of the most
important site for trading route between Northern Europe (and
Scandinavia) and Middle East.
Russian historic records indicate that in 862 AD when
Rurik was invited to rule over Slavic tribes, Rostov was already an
important town. In 1207 Rostov became the capital city of
independent Russian state. Under leadership of Constantine Vsevolodovich (1214- 1231) Rostov became one of the most powerful
principalities of medieval Rus. Unlike other Russian cities Rostov
didn't provide any resistance of Mongol- Tatar forces during their
invasion in 1230's, however its residents started a rebellion
against Tatar yolk in 1262 as a protest against high taxes.
Rebellion was quickly defeated and the city plundered by the Mongol
armies. During Battle of Kulikovo with the Tatars armies from Rostov
joined a coalition of Russian princes against a common enemy. This
time they were victorious and wiped out much of the enemy army.
Rostov however remained a town on frontiers of the
Russian principalities. It was again besieged and captured by enemy
troops under leadership of Tatar ruler Edigu in 1408. Rostov was
reconstructed and grew in size. Moscow Principality started to take
Rostov lands in the late 14th century through marriage or simply by
buying it. Eventually in 1474 the whole state became part of Muscovy
Principality. During Time of Trouble after death of the last tsar
from the Rurik dynasty, Rostov was captured by the armies of the
Rostov was an important site of religious site in a
life of a Russian Orthodox Church. In the 14th century its spiritual
leaders gained a status of archbishops and in 1589 they became known
as Metropolitans. In the 18th century metropolitan title of Rostov
Veliky or Rostov the Great was transferred to Yaroslavl. However
Rostov still remained an important trading town in the region.