About one kilometre from Mikhailovskoye, not far from the “forested hills” on the bank of the Sorot, is the ancient site of Savkino, or Savkina Gorka, as it was called after Pushkin’s day.
The road which spirals along the hill to the top is typical of such fortifications. From here you have a splendid view of Petrovskoye (Kuchane) Lake and park, Mikhailovskoye and the meadows indented by the meandering River Sorot.
To the left is the spot where the Transfiguration Monastery once stood in the 15th to 17th century, destroyed during Stefan Bathory’s invasion in 1581.
Savkino was one of the fortified settlements of the 9th to 13th century in old Russia. It is quite possible that this was the site of the Mikhailovskoye Monastery with an old settlement, which gave its name to Mikhailovskoye estate. Right up to the beginning of the 20th century there was a very old, half-ruined wooden chapel here built in honour of those who died defending the town in the 16th century. Today it has been restored. The chapel is not open to the public, but inside is a copy of Stefan Bathory’s campaign map showing the disposition of his army on their campaign against Pskov (the original is in the Vatican ).
Next to the chapel is the “Savkin stone”. It is more than 400 years old, one of the “authentic” (not reconstructed) stones of which there were many on the Pskov lands in early times.
This can be seen from the faded inscription on Old Slavonic: “in the year 7021 (1513) Sava the priest did set up a cross”. Sava the priest was a real person, who set up a cross in memory of the town’s defendants. Hence the name Savkino.
The place attracted Pushkin because of its seclusion, beautiful views and aura of antiquity. He longed to acquire the village, which at that time belonged to three small landowners, the Zateplinskys. On 29 June, 1831 Pushkin wrote to Praskovia Osipovna in Trigorskoye: ”I would ask you as a kind neighbour and dear friend to let me know whether I might acquire Savkino and on what conditions. I would build myself a shack there, fill it with books and spend … a few months a year… the project fills me with delight, and I return to it constantly.” Two months later, on 11 September, he wrote: “I thank you for the labour that you have undertaken in negotiating with the Savkino landowners. If one of them should prove too stubborn, perhaps it might possible to reach an agreement with the other two, leaving him out.” But Pushkin’s dream of acquiring Savkino was not realized, although he never stopped thinking about it to the very last.
Next to Trigorskoye park is the old town-site of Voronich, a reminder of the heroic past of the Russian people and glorious days in their history.The high mound is all that remains of a fortress that stood here in the 14th-16th centuries and had been built, the chronicles tell us, by the skilled hands of Pskov craftsmen. The fortress stood in the centre of Voronich and was of great importance both as a frontier post protecting the approaches to Pskov from the south-west and as a commercial centre on the trade route from Moscow and Pskov to Lithuania and Poland.
In the 15th century Voronich had as many as four hundred taxpaying households of commoners, as well as several monasteries. According to local legend there were 77 churches and monasteries in the town and its vicinity. Considerably larger than Velye, Opochka, Ostrov and other towns near Pskov, both on area and population, Voronich reached its peak period of flourishing in the late 16th century. The troops of Stefan Batory destroyed the fortress and, as they retreated, ravaged the town. Further incursions against Voronich, now lacking a fortress and defenders, led to its utter destruction.
The top of the mound, ringed on the south-west by a tall and steep rampart, is a platform of about one and half hectares shaped like a horse-shoe. It was formerly surrounded by high timber walls with corner towers. The fortress had two gates up to which side roads led. Traces of the roads remain.
Within the fortress were arms and food stores and "siege huts" - light buildings which offered temporary refuge to local inhabitants in time of danger. From the 17th century the lands of the town and of the numerous monasteries and churches became the property of the tsar and were distributed to members of the nobility. As has already been said, Pushkin's great-grandfather, Abram Gannibal, was given the Mikhailovskoye lands by Empress Elizabeth in 1742 and in 1762 Catherine II gave the Yegoryevsky lands to Praskovia Osipova's grandfather, Maxim Vyndomsky.
At one time there were two churches - St. Elijah (Ilyinsky) and St. George (Yegoryevsky) - in the fortress. Almost all traces of the former church have vanished. It stood in the centre of the fortress close to the rampart on the site of an old burial ground. Remnants of the foundations of the church of St. George which burned down in 1913, survive, as well as the base of its stone perimeter wall and several very interesting 15th-16th-century gravestones. Maxim Vyndomsky's son, Alexander Vyndomsky, who was Praskovia's father, was buried in Voronich in 1813 by the east altar wall of the St. George church. In 1881 Praskovia's son," Alexei, was buried alongside him. Their, graves lie under a single memorial - a white marble cross. A marble slab marks the nearby grave where Praskovia herself was buried in 1859.
To the north of the old town site is the third hill of old Voronich, where the present village of Voronich lies. On its out-skirts is the country churchyard where stood the wooden family church of the Pushkin-Gannibals, built in the late 18th century. By its walls is a small burial ground with the grave of the last of the local Gannibals - Veniamin Gannibal, Pushkin's first cousin once removed, who owned Petrovskoye. Here too is the grave of Illarion Rayevsky, known as "Priest Mischief" on account of his mischievous bent, and of his daughter Akulina, with whom Pushkin was friendly. She died at a ripe old age in 1924. The country church-yard was restored in 1980. In both Voronich churches Pushkin together with Anna Vulf ordered a mass on April 7, 1825, for the anniversary of the death of Byron. During his stays in Mikhailovskoye Pushkin took a lively interest in ancient monuments and the past events they recalled. He visited Velye. Opochka and, of course, paid particularly frequent visits to the old town site of Voronich, to Savkina Hill and the Svyatogorsky Monastery.
Just how closely these places are linked with the composition of Boris Godunov is strikingly shown by the wording of the original title page of the tragedy, written in olden style:
This was penned by Alexander Pushkin
In the year 7333
At the old town site of Voronich.
The poetic atmosphere and the seclusion of the family burial ground of the Osipov-Vulfs had an attraction for Pushkin. From the top of the fortress rampart, which rose to a height of 26 meters, one could see the spreading fields and meadows and the picturesque vicinity of Voronich . Everything here is rich in memories of Pushkin and it is a favourite place or strolls for all who visit Alexander Pushkin Museum-Preserve.
Settlement Velye is situated on the south-west borders of Pskov land. The first mention of Velye dates from the XIV century (1368): "In summer of 6876 German army near Velye from Nalesye stood..." (The chronicle of Pskov land).
The first inhabitants of these places were Slavs-krivichy, who lived here even in VIII-X centuries: near the settlement 60 barrows and some hills were found. The archaeological research of 1981-1983 in Velye and its surroundings confirmed the existence of settlings even in XIII century.
The excavations of 1974-1976 under A.N. Kirpichnikov's guidance gave a possibility to investigate the fortress Velye (XIV-XV centuries). The fortress was situated on the big hill. It was 260 meters long and 70 meters wide with an earthen wall. Velye was surrounded by three lakes: Velye, Chado and Chernoye. The site of ancient settlement was 13 meters high over the water level. Fortress Velye was combined - earth, wood, stone. From this point of view the fortress was unique on the Pskov land.
The south-west half of the settlement had an earthen wall and over it there was a wooden wall. The north-east part of the fortress represented a stone wall 295 meters long, 6-8 meters high, 3,5-4,5 meters thick with three turrets and three ways leading to them.
On the fortress territory there was a church of Michael Archangel. Velye was included into the first line of Pskov defensive constructions on the south-west border with Latvia and Lithuania and defended the important ways to Pskov, Novgorod and Moscow. In 1406 the inhabitants of Velye took part in pursuit of Lithuanians who had destroyed fortress Kolozhe. In 1408, 1409, 1426 Germans and Lithuanians besieged Veye several times.
In XVI century Velye became a town with a big settlement outside the fortress and with its own uyezd "Veleyschina". After Stefan Batory's campaign against Pskov in 1581 only 20 homesteads had left. After that Velye looses its own significance. In 1711 Velye was presented to the Senate public prosecutor P.I. Yaguzhinsky, later his son S.P. Yaguzhinsky was the owner of it.
In 1777 Velye passed into the hands of G.A. Potemkin-Tavrichesky. In 1780 Ekatherina II visited Velye. According to the legend the empress decided to build a palace there. In 1782 Velye was given to a favorite of the empress A.D. Lanskoy, who ordered a project of a palace to the architect D. Kvarengy.
Later the settlement passed into the hands of A.B. Kurakin. In 1796 Velye was given to local department. During Mikhailovskoye exile A.S. Pushkin visited Velye. In 1825 he moved through Velye to the estate of A.N. Peschurov in Opochka - Lyamonovo. There he met his friend A.M. Gorchakov. Nowadays Velye has the remains of town planning and also has the typical look of a Russian settlement of the previous century.