In medieval times it was one of the greatest cities of Russia. During the Kievan Rus period it was the second most important center in the nation and the centre of the lucrative fur trade. After the sacking of Kiev and many of the other Russian cities by the Mongols Novgorod's position was greatly enhanced and it became an independent city state of great power. It gained control of a vast swath of territory in Northern Russia and was a center of trade. The city was far less autocratic than the Russian norm with the Prince elected by a council of nobles. The city's downfall came about, however, because of its inability to feed its large population which made it dependent on the Vladimir-Suzdal area for grain. The main cities in this area, Moscow and Tver, used this dependence to control Novgorod. Eventually Ivan II annexed the city to Moscow. It remained powerful, however, until being sacked and its inhabitants slaughtered by Ivan the Terrible.
see also History of Belarus