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Vologda was first mentioned in Novgorod chronicles for 1147, when Saint Gerasimus found a church and village already standing there. Surrounded by impassable woods, the settlement was inhabited by Novgorodians who pulled the ships from a tributary of theVolga to a tributary of the Northern Dvina, thus making possible navigation from the White Sea to the Caspian. In 1273 the city was ravaged by a Mongol raid.

It was not until 1412, when the area was ceded by Novgorod Republic to Muscovy, that the town acquired any measure of importance. The princes of Muscovy made Vologda their outpost in the North. By the end of the century, Vologda eclipsed the ancient centre of that region, Belozersk. Its commercial importance further increased when the Muscovy Company started its operations in Russia.

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