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Olga BORISOVA by Olga BORISOVA, journalist, CITY OF TWO CULTURES [Электронный ресурс]: электрон. данные. - Москва: Научная цифровая библиотека PORTALUS.RU, 30 августа 2021. - Режим доступа: https://portalus.ru/modules/english/rus_readme.php?subaction=showfull&id=1630326236&archive=&start_from=&ucat=& (свободный доступ). – Дата доступа: 03.06.2023.

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Olga BORISOVA by Olga BORISOVA, journalist, CITY OF TWO CULTURES // Москва: Научная цифровая библиотека PORTALUS.RU. Дата обновления: 30 августа 2021. URL: https://portalus.ru/modules/english/rus_readme.php?subaction=showfull&id=1630326236&archive=&start_from=&ucat=& (дата обращения: 03.06.2023).

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Olga BORISOVA by Olga BORISOVA, journalist, CITY OF TWO CULTURES / Science in Russia, №3, 2010, C.80-87.

публикация №1630326236, версия для печати


Дата публикации: 30 августа 2021
Автор: Olga BORISOVA by Olga BORISOVA, journalist
Публикатор: Научная библиотека Порталус
Источник: (c) Science in Russia, №3, 2010, C.80-87
Номер публикации: №1630326236 / Жалобы? Ошибка? Выделите проблемный текст и нажмите CTRL+ENTER!

On the high left bank of the Oka, not far from the influx of the Babenka river into it, stands Kasimov, a district center of the Ryazan Region, one of the oldest cities of our country. At first sight the city fascinates by its original image, which combines features of traditional Tatar, Old Russian and classical architecture.


Late in the 1st and early in the 2nd millennium, Slavs (krivichi) came to the lands along the middle current of the Oka, inhabited by the semi-nomadic Finno-Ugric meshchera tribe, which was related with the Mordo-vian and Murom tribes*. The krivichi were already familiar with agriculture, blacksmith's and potter's trade (this is con-firmed by the earliest of the extant annalistic collection The Tale of Bygone Years, early 12th century). Gradually there sprang up a large settlement, where they lived peacefully together with the primordial inhabitants of this locality.


In 1152, the Rostov-Suzdal prince Yuri Dolgoruky, known as a founder of many cities, including Moscow and Dmitrov (1147 and 1154)**, founded there Gorodets Meshchyorsky fortress. It protected the eastern approaches to the Russian state until the devastating fire of 1372, and four years later it was ravaged by Tatar-Mongol hordes. After such tragic events, not far from the site of fire, a new fortress named Novy Nizovoi Gorodets was built, which became an important stronghold of the coastline defense on the Oka.


In 1452, the grand prince of Muscovy Vasily II Tyomny set up a votchina (patrimony) in this territory for the Tatar khans, who went over to the Russian ser-vice. Kazan tsarevich Kasim was the first to get it (since 1471 the city bears his name), and many of his compa-triots followed him and moved to this place. Moscow appointed also subsequent rulers of the Kasim kingdom. However, after the Kazan Khanate was conquered by tsar Ivan IV in 1552, their role became purely nominal, while the actual power was concentrated in the hands of voivodes, appointed by the Ambassadorial Order.



See: O. Bazanova, "Homeland of Ilya Muromets", Science in Russia, No. 6, 2009.-Ed.

** See: O. Bazanova, "Dream Town", Science in Russia, No. 5, 2009.-Ed.

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The fate of Söyembikä, one of the first Moslem women in the world, who was a head of the state, is connected with these places. After her husband Safa Giray died in 1549, she became regent of the Kazan Khanate, as her son, a suc-cessor to the throne, was under age. In 1552, she was forcibly given in marriage to Kasim ruler Shah-Ali, who did not like his spouse "despite her beauty" as The History of Kazan* has it, "and his wife was locked in a back darkened room as in a dungeon, and he did not sleep with her..."


According to the legend, Söyembikä tried to prevent the undesired marriage. In compliance with the tradition, she herself cooked the food and sumptuous clothes for her bridegroom. However, for the sake of caution he gave this food to his dog and the clothes to a man condemned to death, and both of them died in terrible agonies as her presents were poisoned. She spent her last years as a cap-tive in Kasimov. As regards the time and place of her bur-ial, scientists offer different assumptions. Having ana-lyzed them, Fatykh Urmancheev, Dr. Sc. (Philology), Institute of Language and Literature, Academy of Scien-ces, Republic of Tatarstan, Kazan, concluded that the year of 1557 was the most probable date of her death, when she was 38 (the book Idegey. Nursoltan. Söyembikä - Kazan, Tatar Book Publishers, 1997).


In 1608, during the crisis of the Russian state power**, the local ruler Uraza-Mohammed went over to False Dmitry II, who declared himself Moscow tsar, but a year later he became a victim of slanderous denunciation and was killed during hunting, and his body was thrown to the Oka. His confidant and close friend, the baptized Nogai Tatar prince Peter Urusov, the security officer of the pseu-do-tsar, recompensed for the death of his master. When the latter went for a walk, the avenger took an opportuni-ty of the fact that only the Tatar guard and several boyars were nearby and cut him badly with a saber. The body of Uraza-Mohammed was fished out of the river and buried with honors at the Staroposadskoye cemetery in Kasimov.


The old buildings of the Tatar settlement add a unique image to the city. It implies not only a lot of dwelling houses with a stone first floor and a wooden second floor, with gates decorated in the form of spheres, laid-on geo-metric figures, but also ancient monuments of the time of Kasim reign. The minaret (1467) is the second oldest Moslem construction in Russia (the first one is the Jumah Mosque in the Daghestan city of Derbent built in the 8th century). The spiral stairs made of white stone and illumined by narrow windows inside the minaret, led to an upper platform, and a muezzin climbed up there daily and called believers by his singing for praying.


Simultaneously with the minaret, there was built a mosque from limestone blocks. However, by order of Emperor Peter the Great it was taken down in 1702 and only in 1768 it was restored by order of Catherine the Great. It was built of white stone on the old foundation (traces of former laying are seen in the lower part of the first floor), and in the 19th century it was supplemented by the second brick floor with wide windows. The mosque is topped with a metal cupola and a spire with a crescent. Inside there is a mihrab (the place for imam)



The History of Kazan or The Kazan Chronicler is a historico-publicistic work created in the 1560s, a fictionalized story about the history of Russo-Tatar relations from the time of establishing the Golden Horde (around 1224) to conquering the Kazan Khanate by tsar Ivan IV (1552).-Ed.

** See: A. Bogdanov, "All of Us Should Be in Chime and Union...", Science in Russia, No. 6, 2007.-Ed.

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with marble walls. Today a part of exposition "Ethno-graphy of Kasimov Tatars" of the museum of local lore, history, and economy is open for visitors, who can see fragments of the mosque decoration and also acces-sories, clothes and different household items. The new mosque was built for believers in the early 20th century. A short distance away is the tekie (mausoleum) of the above-mentioned Shah-Ali, who died in 1567. It is a small rectangular construction made of limestone blocks on his order in 1555. It consists of two premises, one of them presents burials with pointed gravestones, and the other is a chapel. To the right of the entrance there are stairs to the basement and one more chamber underneath, probably a part of the underground passage to the minaret or a hiding-place.


Academician Vladimir Velyaminov-Zernov, an Orientalist, archeologist, linguist, Petersburg Academy of Sciences (from 1861) studied inscriptions on these gravestones in late 19th century and came to the conclu-sion that there were buried Shah-Ali, his beloved wife Bulak-Shad and their six relatives. But one gravestone turned to be anonymous. Maybe Söyembikä was also buried there, and her husband did not allow to write her name on the gravestone.

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The city has also preserved the tekie of Augen-Mohammed Sultan (1649), a low vaulted red-brick building with a richly decorated doorway. Representa-tives of the Ryazan Academic Archives Commission studied the gravestones in 1886 and found out that, apart from the Kasimov ruler, there were buried his spouse Altyn Khanym, his cousin Tyge-Sultan and Ai Khanym, who was probably a relative of one of them.


Fatima Sultan Seitovna was the last to occupy that throne, and after her death (1681) the Moslem state in the center of Russia ceased to exist. However, in 1722, there appeared a new "ruler" of that state. On his way along the Oka to the Persian campaign, Peter the Great visited Kasimov. The fool Ivan Balakirev was among his retimes, who asked the tsar to grant him title of the Khan of Kasimov, and the tsar jokingly consented.

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Nevertheless, after the death of her crowned husband his successor Catherine I really granted former estates of local tsars to the court jester, where he lived to the end of his life (1763) and was buried behind the altar of the Church of Epiphany.


It should be noted that this church with the St. George Chapel, built in 1700, was the first Orthodox stone church in Kasimov. Crowned with five cupolas, it stands on the steep bank of the Oka with a three-tier bell tower, built nearby and connected with the church by a one-storied refectory. The church façades are decorated with a skillfully done lace belt of false kokoshniks, and the windows are decorated with elegant casings typical of the Naryshkin style*.


Nikolai Shishkin, a local ethnographer and the author of the book History of the City of Kasimov From the Earliest Times (1891), which was published many times, wrote about this church: "Many a man are of the opin-ion that the Gorodetsky Monastery of Epiphany, where the grand prince Alexander Nevsky died in 1263, was situated in the place of the present church. On his way from the Golden Horde, which he had visited to plead the Tatar khan for the Russian land, he fell ill and stopped in Meshchersky Gorodets. When he felt that he was dying, he took Schema at the Gorodetsky Monastery of Epiphany, where he died soon on November 14, 1263... In 1700, a stone church was built in the place of the wooden St. George Church, which is mentioned in register books. It was built by a rich Meshchera resident, who spent his entire capital for this purpose..."


The stone churches were built in Kasimov in the course of 18th century. But in 1854-1862, the most monumental Cathedral of Ascension (designed by Academician of architecture Nikolai Voronikhin, the author of the majestic bell tower of the Ryazan Kremlin**) was erected. It is crowned with a high hipped roof, with a multi-tier bell tower nearby, which has become the highest construction in the city.


The central square of the city with the grand cathedral planned really with a metropolitan range and an almost completely preserved historical center of the city are the fruits of the work of Ivan Gagin (1767-1844). The range of interests of this original representative of his time, the age of Enlightenment, was very wide: mechanics, porce-lain production, history and archeology. But this person



See: T. Geidor, "Masterpieces That Endure", Science in Russia, No. 1, 2009.-Ed.

** See: O. Bazanova, "Two Capitals of Grand Principality", Science in Russia, No. 1, 2010,-Ed.

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without education but possessing natural talents, is known, first of all, as an architect.


It should be mentioned that Kasimov impresses by abundance of wonderful classical buildings due mostly to Gagin. At the entrance to the city from the side of the Oka, there stand two Empire style columns* (1786), designed by him and called by local residents Water Gates or Petrovskaya Zastava (in 1695 tsar Peter the Great with his suite ascended from the pier at this place during his first Azov campaign). However, the arcade built in the same style in the 1830s is the most remark-able work of the provincial architect. The multitude of monumental arches form a façade with a covered gallery in the center on 12 columns standing in pairs and sup-porting a pediment with a stepped attic (with a decora-tive wall over a cornice).


The arcade together with the Dormition Church (1753), mansions of Gubin (early 18th century), Skornyakov (early 19th century) and Nastavin (1813), Seminary (1836) and a monumental mansion of the Alyanchikovs, wine tax-farmers (1844) make up the central Cathedral Square. Early in the 19th century, they had a reputation of the most well-to-do family in Kasimov, a rich merchant town. According to a number



See: Z. Zolotnitskaya, "Lofty Simplicity and Dignity", Science in Russia, No. 3, 2009.-Ed.

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of researchers, their magnificent mansion on the Oka bank appeared also with the participation of Gagin. There were storehouses and shops on the ground floor, household premises, probably an office, room for sales-clerks, business reception room, etc. on the first floor, and main apartments, unusually luxurious for the province, on the second floor. In particular, they includ-ed a spacious ball room with two rows of large lower and small upper windows and a drawing room with columns and a painted plafond nearby. A comfortable belvedere (around raising) with a picturesque view on the Oka was on the third floor. A large garden with summer-houses, flower-beds and lawns surrounded the mansion.


At present the main part of the museum of local lore, history, and economy, namely, an exposition displaying the centuries-old history of the Meshchera land is situ-ated in the former Alyanchikov mansion. Here one can see unique collections, such as Kasimov podduzhny bow bells, ceramic toys traditional for local business, wooden church polychrome sculpture of the 18th centu-ry, Tatar head-dresses, peasant clothes of the local district, items of artistic casting made at the works of the big industrialist Batashov, manuscripts and old printed books, etc. The total number of exhibits exceeds 40,000.


This collection includes also plans of the town and suburbs drawn up by Gagin. The self-taught enthusiast, considered by his contemporaries as one of the first Russian ethnographers, he studied ancient manuscripts, collected local legends, carefully described and sketched the antiquities found during archeological excavations and plotted them on the map. Keen on the studies of the past of the native land, Gagin "placed" Gorodets Meshchersky, the predecessor of Kasimov, which was set up by prince Yuri Dolgoruky, on a cape in the mouth of the Babenka river. The version of the talented person turned to be rather stable, though not all specialists accepted it, and even today it is unknown where the ancient settlement was situated. Thus, there started archeological studies in 1999 headed by Viktor Chelya-pov, department head of the Center for Protection and Stock-taking of Historico-Cultural Heritage of the Ryazan Region.


First of all, Gagin's hypothesis was checked: they studied the place, where, according to him, was the Kremlin. Indeed, there were found traces of ditches and ramparts, but no artifacts dating back to the 12th cen-tury (time of laying Gorodets Meshchersky) were dis-covered, though the archeologists worked hard for three years. However, it is known that the settlement (present Kasimov) restored after the Tatar-Mongol invasion was called Novy Nizovoy Gorodets, therefore, it should to be situated lower than the former one down the river, while the present town is located, on the contrary, high-er than it. Thus, the search should be continued in some other place.


It was decided to shift the excavations to Zemlyanoy Strug ancient settlement, to the outskirts of the contem-porary district center, which is actually situated lower with the stream of the Babenka River and not of the

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Oka. It has turned out that a rather big settlement was situated there with a stronghold (Kremlin) and a forti-fied trading quarter. The archeologists discovered here fragments of wooden constructions in the form of depressions in the ground, and, what is most important, they found articles of both the Finno-Ugric and Pre-Mongolian Slavic origin of the 12th-13th centuries (some of them of the 11th century), in particular, frag-ments of ceramics, instruments of labor, knives, flints, a cylinder lock key (very similar to the contemporary one), an iron bracelet, various pendants, buckles and other accessories.


They found also dirhems, silver coins brought to Rus along the Oka from oriental countries and used in money circulation. Among military findings we must mention the bit, a great number of arrow heads and, finally, an Old Russian spearhead (by the way, only the second


found in the Ryazan Region). Hence, it becomes clear that city residents defended themselves from the enemy, i.e. the data on the ravage of the city by the Tatar-Mongols received first archeological confirmation.


According to Viktor Chelyapov, Gorodets Meshcher-sky was situated in the place of Zemlyanoy Strug ancient settlement (and not in the Babenka river mouth as it was supposed by Gagin and his supporters). Anyway, it was the first scientific evidence of the fact that in the 12th-13th centuries there existed a big Slavic center, which was settled initially in the place of the Iron Age settle-ment probably by the Finno-Ugric tribe meshchera.

Опубликовано 30 августа 2021 года

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