Izborsk Fortress, one of the oldest extant settlements of Russia with its origins in the 7th century, is one of the most ancient fortification monuments in Novgorod, Pskov.

Where We Work

Located in the western Russian region of Pskov near the border with Estonia, Izborsk Fortress has survived for over 1,500 years and is one of the most ancient Russian towns, mentioned in chronicles as early as 862. Along with its environs, it is a unique example of concentration of a large number of archaeological sites, and architectural structures dating to various periods of the 1,500-year long history of ethnographic culture in unbreakable integrity of the historical and landscape complex which has maintained its continuous development up to these days.


Izborsk began as a small settlement of the Slavic Krivich tribe. A more permanent wooden fortress was built in the mid 10th century, later replaced by a stone fortress occupying the hill’s entire summit at the end of the 11th century. In the early 14th century, Izborsk Fortress was moved to neighboring Zheravya (Crane) hill 700 meters from the first site, where it still stands today. Abandoned in the 16th century, deterioration rapidly accelerated as the mortars, which previously sealed the walls and towers disintegrated, and wood roofing protecting the ancient walls disappeared. The region’s extreme weather cycles of freezing and thawing further contributed to the deterioration of Izborsk’s last remaining walls and towers. Izborsk Fort was included on the Russian Federation’s World Heritage Tentative List as part of the Great Pskov collective nomination in 2002.  The Izborsk-Malsk complex has maintained the traditional pattern of settlement, the unique town-planning and architectural and fortification complex in its historical development with elements and traces of different periods, the local building school and the local construction materials as well as all kinds of examples of construction art of different periods of history.


There has been no major conservation work done to save Izborsk Fortress for nearly 300 years, and today the walls are crumbling as the mortar of the walls and towers has washed away, and the crumbling towers and belfries have become dangerous to visitors.

What We Do

Numerous forces, from the harsh winter climate to a lack of funding to preserve the site, have led to the fortress’ walls and towers collapsing.  GHF worked in partnership with the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation and the General Directorate of the Pskove Reconstruction Office to prepare a Master Conservation Plan for the site and to stabilize the most threatened portions of this historical monument.


GHF conducted a number of important pieces of planning work.  A scientific overview identified architectural ensemble and the early stages of development of one of the oldest Russian cities of the 7th, 9th and 11th centuries AD in the old town of Izborsk; an overview of the city’s history and the development of the stone Fortress of the 14th-17th centuries, as well as determination of construction chronology of the stone Fortress took place.  Information on the town-planning of Izborsk and its suburbs, environs, villages and neighbouring settlements was compiled. The ethnographic and natural sights of the region were investigated by the Museum Preserve “Izborsk”, by Pskov State Pedagogical Institute (Teachers Training College) and colleagues from Estonia.

GHF worked in partnership with the Pskov Department of Reconstruction (Pskov) and leading Russian archaeologists from Pskov, Moscow and St. Petersburg to develop Izborsk Fortress and Greater Pskov’s site management plan in support of the Russian government’s application for UNESCO World Heritage Site status, and to complete archaeological conservation and authentic restoration of this jewel of Russian history.

Conservation Science

Conservation of the Izborsk Fortress proceeded section by section, with each area surveyed, mapped, researched, then consolidated and stabilized, with some selected towers and wall restored. Restoration uses authentic materials and adheres to historic architectural design. In particular, GHF conservation efforts were targeted at the stabilization and conservation of the Nickolski Gate and walls associated with this gate, which has been achieved with a high standard of planning, documentation, craftsmanship and management. GHF completed conservation of the Nikolsk Gate and Eastern Wall in 2005, raising critically needed matching funds from the Russian government and using our GHF Emergency Fund to complete this urgent intervention. All works done are reversible and do not strongly threaten the wellbeing of the historic fabric.

The Lukovka Tower of the 14th century has been conserved and arranged for museum expositions with an observation ground.  Survey of the whole ensemble has been completed and investigation and conservation works have been completed on parts of the walls beginning from the eastern side opposite the Lukovka Tower. The museum adaptation project stipulates a differential approach to each part of the fortress depending on its peculiarities, condition and possible usage. Izborsk conservation in 2005 and 2006 completed the entire fortress including the Bell Tower (which was in emergency condition), the Lukovka Tower, Talav Zakhab and Temnushka Towers, (which were in danger of collapse).

Community Development

GHF led the design and development of the first professional site interpretation system in Russian, English and other European languages, which were incorporated into an improved on-site museum. GHF further established the Izborsk Project Trust as a matching co-investment with the Russian government and GHF private-sector donors in Russia to fund and manage conservation of the entire Izborsk Fortress to the highest archaeological conservation standards, while helping to build a major tourism opportunity for Pskov.

GHF has fostered a new partnership between Russian archaeologists and the Pskov Restoration Department and established the new Joint Expert Committee for Izborsk to oversee and review all planning, conservation, archaeology and authentic restoration work. Global Heritage Fund is working closely with ICOMOS and Pskov towards the development of a world-class site management plan that will be the foundation for Pskov and Izborsk’s UNESCO World Heritage nomination. GHF is providing critically needed leadership to fuse planning and archaeological expertise into the restoration of Izborsk Fortress to ensure all work is done to world-class international standards and ensures the highest quality and most authentic restoration.


  • Ministry of Culture
  • Russian Federation General Directorate
  • Pskov Reconstruction Office

Why It's Important

The site of Çatalhöyük has revealed some of the world’s earliest mural art and is often seen as central to the origin of civilization in Turkey and the Middle East. However, the houses at Çatalhöyük are made of unfired mud brick and so offer a major challenge for conservation and site presentation. Additionally there has also been much change in land management in the area over recent decades leading to a major drop in the water table and changes in runoff and erosion, factors which are also affecting the site negatively. Due to this and other factors, it is imperative that we maintain continued vigilance over the heritage assets at this site.



A plan for the development of the infrastructure of tourism in Izborsk was workedout based on the existing concepts and the Reserve Conservation Project. The ensemble is protected by federal and regional legislation on conservation of historical and cultural heritage on the basis of the Preserve Conservation Project and scientific certificates for some historical, cultural and natural monuments of the IzborskMalsk ensemble.

Further archaeological surveys on key spots of the Izborsk Fortress is planned with the view of expanding knowledge of the complex and solving the problems set outby the project. It is possible to set up an international school of archaeology on the bases of the Izborsk Archaeological Expedition.

Research work promoting better understanding of archaeological, historical and cultural value of the site will be encouraged and supported. The museum plans to raise the level of qualification of researchers, librarians, archivers and laboratory assistants and attract all kinds of experts providing them proper working conditions.

Other planned initiatives: the protection against looting and acts of vandalism. Special guards, federal and regional laws on protection of historical and cultural heritage.  Strict controls against unauthorized access, intrusion protection.   The main funding for the protection will come from thmuseum’s budget along with attraction of militia.


Conservation work with elements of  restoration, accomplishment and museum adaptation of the Izborsk Fortress, including
  • The Lukovka Tower 
  • The eastern side of the Fortress wall (from Lukovka Tower up to the Belfry) 
  • The Belfry Nikolsky Zakhab.
  • The main entrance to the Fortress 
  • Nikolsky Gate 
  • The Nikolsky Zakhab
  • Museum Adaptation Tyomnushka Tower
  • Exposition of the interior The Western wall from the Tyomnushka Tower to the Talav (Ploskaya) Tower 
  • Ryabinovka Tower 
  • Vishka Tower 
  • The Talav Tower (Ploskaya , or flat tower) 
  • The Talav Zakhab 
  • The Northern Wall 
  • The territory of the Izborsk Fortress.

Progress was made by attaining the highest possible degree of preservation of the Izborsk Fortress monument through conservation of the remaining walls and towers with partial restoration of some local fragments providing maximum information about the Fortress at the time of its prosperity and at different stages of development and elements needed for museum adaptation and purposes of tourism. These decisions were approved by the Federal Scientific Council and the “Glavexpertise” Department of Russia.

The technical supervision and control was accomplished by the customer, which was the General Directorate “Pskovreconstruction”. The work performed wasaccepted at intermediate stages by working committees whereas the final acceptance was done, in accordance with the set regulations, by the State Committee with participation of all construction and architecture control services. The quality was guaranteed by precise compliance of the Project requirements. Protection from the effect of atmospheric precipitates implies the prolongation of durability of the site for up to 100 years in case of regular renovation of the roofing. In the final analysis, in case of complete fulfillment of the project and systematic repair work and maintenance, the lifespan of the site will depend on the lifetime of the construction materials used.


Tourism and tourist industry facilitate the development of the State HistoricalArchitectural and Natural Preserve Museum “Izborsk”. Tourism already contributes to the activities and development of the museum complex providing new jobs for the local population and offering opportunities for business partners owing to souvenir sales and tourist services. At present the infrastructure of the Museum includes exhibitions and expositions, places of interest along the tourist routes as well as services. The museum is engaged in digging out lime stone in the historical quarry in the outskirts of Izborsk. It also arranges folklore and ethnographic festivals, scientific congresses and seminars. The Preserve Museum has some historical and architectural sites which are designed for development of tourism infrastructure and raising the living standards of the population. Private enterprise is developing around the memorial site which promotes conservation and protection of the historical environment. 


The Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation approved the Project of conservation of the Izborsk Fortress. The said Projects pertaining to protection, accomplishment and museum adaptation of the Preserve zone of the Preserve Museum “Izborsk”, which was granted a Federal status, were financed and considered at the Federal level. Contacts continue to be maintained with Scandinavian and Baltic countries with an exchange of experience, arrangements and delegations. The UNESCO Committee of Global Heritage included Izborsk, in the nomination of “Greater Pskov” (2002), in the preliminary list of objects of Global Heritage.


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