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The Oldest Town in Rus

Дата публикации: 09 сентября 2018
Автор: A. Kirpichnikov
Публикатор: Шамолдин Алексей Аркадьевич
Рубрика: RUSSIA (TOPICS)
Номер публикации: №1536486445 / Жалобы? Ошибка? Выделите проблемный текст и нажмите CTRL+ENTER!


A. Kirpichnikov, (c)

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By Anatoly KIRPICHNIKOV, Dr. Sc. (Hist.), RAS Institute of the History of Material Culture

Ladoga (since 1704 Staraya, or Old, Ladoga) was founded in 753 in the northwest of the present European part of Russia in the lower reaches of the Volkhov. The town played a crucial role in the origin of Russian statehood, in the defense of Russia's northern borders and in promoting ties among peoples of Europe and Asia. It was at the crossroads of the great western (Baltic-Volga) and the great eastern (Baltic-Dnieper) trade routes, which fostered the development of European civilization.

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Back in the second half of the 8th and the first half of the 9th century Ladoga was a center of the Slav-Finnish tribal union. Even well before 839 it might have become the center of the Chaganate of Rus-the early state formation in the northern part of Eastern Europe. At the time Ladoga Rus, along with Khazaria (Land of Khazars), became a hub of Eurasian trade ties.

According to the most trustworthy account of the chronicle Tale of the Calling of Varangians, in 862 the federation of Slav and Finnish tribes (Slovenes, Krivichi, Merya, Ves and Chud) invited the renowned Norseman Rurik with his brothers to rein over their land. The chronicles have it: "Rurik was the first to come to the Slovenes and erected the town of Ladoga and stayed to rule there". Ladoga became the first residence of the ruler, the capital of the emerging empire of the Rurikovichi, its administrative, military and economic center. In 864 Novgorod took over as the capital of the knyaz (atheling), and later Kiev became his residence. It was here that a treaty was made on the legitimacy of the calling and the power of the new ruler. The new government expanded international trade and legalized overseas shipments of cargo. Ladoga became the gateway for the flow of Islamic coins and other valuables to the West.

The Ladoga fortress (first built of wood, and then of stone) was founded in the second half of the 9th century; it stood in the way of Viking expansion to the Slav lands and for long prohibited their marauding raids.

The first capital gave shelter to representatives of different folks, predominantly, Slavs, Finns and Norsemen. It helped establish a lasting interethnic and interconfessional peace on the basis of tolerance, freedom of enterprise, open regional and international trade. This town is a good example of integrated Europe taking shape over 1,000 years ago, without guarded frontiers, with common transportation routes and a single currency.

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Ladoga's historic and cultural heritage is represented by 160 monuments of archeology, history, architecture and art, as well as by varied written and graphic artifacts. The area has conserved the layout of the 10th-12th centuries and the natural historic landscape of the habitation deposits of the 8th- 10th centuries*.

An archeological expedition of our Institute has been working in Staraya Ladoga since 1972. Its findings have cast a new light on the historic place of this country's first capital and allowed to ascertain the true date of its foundation. The archeologists have discovered about 100 fragments of dwelling, production and household structures that showed the housing construction technique, including that of log houses (izbas), guest houses, places of worship and other buildings. For the first time the deposits of latter half of the 9th century exposed dwelling and production parcells**, giving us the idea of the time when regular town development was started.

In some of the buildings of Zemlya-noyegorodishche (Earthwork Borough) archeologists found fragments of amber, semi-manufactured beads, vitreous grains, melting pots, small moulds, sawn bone and craftsmen's tools and implements. Ostensibly, this used to be, the working site of jacks- of-all-trade manufacturing items of amber, bronze, glass and bone. Of special significance is Europe's oldest jeweler's, metal and casting workshop dating back to the 750s with a kit of at least 28 different tools, discovered by Dr. E. Ryabinin.

In 1997 the expedition detected remnants of a bronze casting shop of the last quarter of the 9th century with rarest Scandinavian-style female and male garment decorations. Among the unique items were artistically finished handicrafts and lead seals. Researchers drew an evolutionary chart of the town pottery (after the year 900 a potter's


* See: V. Kulakov, "The Vikings Cross the Baltic", Science in Russia, No. 5, 1998.- Ed.

** Small land lots where townsfolk put up homes and production premises.- Auth.

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wheel came into use) and catalogued the unearthed Arabian and other coins. Oriental standard silver (dirhems) appeared in Ladoga no later than 750s-760s, i.e., simultaneously with its appearance in Eastern and Northern Europe.

Now we are studying and sorting out the findings by ethnic category (beads, ceramics, woodwork, weaponry, shipping accessories, garment decorations). As a result, proceeding from their origin, we have identified series of Nordic, Slav, Finnish and other artifacts. Special attention is paid to accessories of the female headwear, which has facilitated the ethnic identification of items belonging not only to Krivichi but, possibly, to Slovenes too.

The archeologists have discovered ancient Russian stonework and earth-fill timber fortifications. The strongholds of the late 9th-early 10th centuries and the 1113/1114 fortress with walls no lower than 8.5 meters are likely to have been the first stone structures in Rus. In the 16th century this stronghold was replaced by a new stone fortress equipped for firearm warfare. It displayed the best of the Italian defensive architecture of the Renaissance age manifested, e.g., by the equal height of walls and towers. In the south the citadel rests on the bastion of Zemlyanoye gorodishche (Earthwork Borough) built in 1584 - 1585.

With the help of excavation, trenching and written records experts have been able to give a rough outline of the medieval habitation layer and the settlement area: in the 8th-10th centuries it reached 12 hectares and in the 16th century expanded to 16 - 18 hectares. In the third quarter of the 12th century 6 stone churches were put up one after the other (an unprecedented fact for Russian towns of the time) arranged in a definite town-forming pattern. Typologically and constructively, they were quite novel in the Russian architecture of the day.

The data of the late 15th-16th century registers correlated with the terrain, indicate the topography of the Ladoga settlement, the location of homesteads and roads. Thus for the first time experts

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could reconstruct the layout of a medieval town with its districts (ends) and monumental structures, and identify the precise locations and names of some of the churches that have not survived to this day.

Working in Staraya Ladoga in 1970 - 1980, V. Petrenko opened up 12 mounds with common graves belonging to the first generations of Ladoga settlers. His findings published in the study The Burial Rite of the Northern Rus Population in the 8th-10th centuries. The Burial Mounds of the Upper Volkhov Area have suggested to archeologists that this type burial structures first appeared in this particular locality, spreading at a later time over much of the Slav-populated territory. Some researches postulate the existence of the primordial Ladoga Land, the predecessor of Great Novgorod. Its core comprised an urban area (volost) stretching for about 65 kilometers along the lower reaches of the Volkhov, including the Gostinoe Pole and Pchev Rapids. Fortifications were erected to defend rural settlements near the river. Located at a distance of a day's walk (43 - 50 km) to the east, south and west of Ladoga were fortified outposts securing the distant approaches to the town, and further out were Finnish and Lappish settlements tributary to the metropolis.

Ladoga's neighboring boroughs at the village of Novye Duboviki and in the mouth of the Lyubosha stream belong to the same culture. Dr. Ryabinin's archeological expedition has discovered in the Lyubsha borough what might have been the oldest stone/earthwork fortress in Rus, ostensibly built in the 9th century. Similar structures are found in the lands of festern Slavs.

In 1984 the Government of the Russian Federation adopted a decision on setting up a Staraya Ladoga historical and architectural preserve. Placed under special protection is an area ( almost 200 hectares, complete with tV architectural and archeological mom ments, the medieval habitation depos and the 19th-early 20th century development site.

This year Staraya Ladoga turns 12: On the occasion of the birth annivers; of this oldest Russian town Presiden the Russian Federation Signed a d ree (Dec. 10, 2002). This jubilee is another reminder of the significanc our history rooted in the dim and tant past. It goes to show that the pies of the Old World were cultu and economically integrated more 1,000 years ago, thus paving the w the common European home.

Опубликовано 09 сентября 2018 года




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