Izborsk contains one of the most ancient and impressive fortresses of Western Russia. According to the Russian Primary Chronicle, the town was the seat of Rurik's brother Truvor from 862-864. Although his burial mound is still shown to occasional tourists, archaeological excavations of long barrows abounding in the vicinity did not reveal the presence of the Varangian settlement at the site, indicating that Izborsk was an important centre of the early Krivichs.
The next mention of the town in Slavonic chronicles dates back to 1233, when the place was captured by the Livonian Brothers of the Sword. Pskov moved the fortress to a more convenient site in 1302. The most ancient extant structure is the Tower Lukovka (literally, "Onion Tower"), constructed in 1330. At that time it was the only stone building west of Pskov and adjoined a wooden wall. After seven other stone towers and the new stone wall were completed, Lukovka became a watch-tower. The Nativity church within the fortress was built in the 16th century. Near the fortress is a museum of stone crosses.
In the later 1500s Izborsk was one of the smaller, but nonetheless strategically important fortresses that protected the northwest Russian borders from invasion. The fortress was supposed to be impregnable, which is why the seizure of it in 1569 by a small Lithuanian regiment came as such a shock to the then ruler, Ivan the Terrible. The relative ease and suspicious circumstances of the seizure of the fortress deeply troubled the already paranoid Ivan. In the dead of night Teterin, a Russian turncoat disguised as an oprichnik, ordered the gates of the town be opened in the name of the oprichnina, thus allowing the enemy regiment to enter and overtake the fortress.
Though Ivan managed to retake the city with little difficulty, the treachery and conspiracy involved in the original seizure led him to order the executions of the assistant crown secretaries of Izborsk, as well as the secretaries of the surrounding fortresses. With rumors of disaffection and growing discontent throughout the country on the rise, Ivan feared that other cities would soon follow the treasonous example of Izborsk. The proximity of the town to the cities of Novgorod and Pskov, coupled with the questionable implication of Novgorod's chancery administration in Teterin's plot, threw suspicion of treachery and defection onto the already distrusted city.
According to the Treaty of Tartu, the Russian-Estonian state boundary went eastwards of Izborsk and thus the town was part of Estonia from 1920 to early 1945 when, both Russia and Estonia being part of Soviet Union, the Russian SFSR/Estonian SSR boundary was moved westwards and thus Izborsk became part of the Russian SFSR.References:
German crusaders known as the Livonian Brothers of the Sword began construction of the Cēsis castle (Wenden) near the hill fort in 1209. When the castle was enlarged and fortified, it served as the residence for the Order's Master from 1237 till 1561, with periodic interruptions. Its ruins are some of the most majestic castle ruins in the Baltic states. Once the most important castle of the Livonian Order, it was the official residence for the masters of the order.
In 1577, during the Livonian War, the garrison destroyed the castle to prevent it from falling into the control of Ivan the Terrible, who was decisively defeated in the Battle of Wenden (1578).
In 1598 it was incorporated into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Wenden Voivodship was created here. In 1620 Wenden was conquered by Sweden. It was rebuilt afterwards, but was destroyed again in 1703 during the Great Northern War by the Russian army and left in a ruined state. Already from the end of the 16th century, the premises of the Order's castle were adjusted to the requirements of the Cēsis Castle estate. When in 1777 the Cēsis Castle estate was obtained by Count Carl Sievers, he had his new residence house built on the site of the eastern block of the castle, joining its end wall with the fortification tower.
Since 1949, the Cēsis History Museum has been located in this New Castle of the Cēsis Castle estate. The front yard of the New Castle is enclosed by a granary and a stable-coach house, which now houses the Exhibition Hall of the Museum. Beside the granary there is the oldest brewery in Latvia, Cēsu alus darītava, which was built in 1878 during the later Count Sievers' time, but its origins date back to the period of the Livonian Order. Further on, the Cēsis Castle park is situated, which was laid out in 1812. The park has the romantic characteristic of that time, with its winding footpaths, exotic plants, and the waters of the pond reflecting the castle's ruins. Nowadays also one of the towers is open for tourists.