Merchant Settlement

 What to show visitors to the Siberian capital instead of Akademgorodok  05/27/2013, 22:06
Merchant Settlement

If you want to surprise guests of Novosibirsk with some special history, you don’t have many options. You could show them the two and a half wooden listed buildings and tell them about architect Andrei Kryachkov, who designed many of the city’s early buildings, but will probably end up taking them to the zoo and university suburb Akademgorodok anyway. However, if you’re willing to spend a little more time on the road, you can see what life was like in Western Siberia long before the appearance of its current self-proclaimed capital. Sib.fm’s correspondents travelled to regional settlement Kolyvan and learned how rich Siberian merchants lived two centuries ago.

Today, Kolyvan is a small urban-type village with several schools, a couple of preschools, a polyclinic, hospital, and the Pokrovsky Alexander Nevsky nunnery, the most well known in the Novosibirsk Region. Kolyvan was formerly considered a town of merchants and craftsmen: their houses still make up the centre of the village, which looks just like it did a few centuries ago.

There is no tourist infrastructure, although some of the old houses have been restored. People live and work in them. The other part of the settlement has been abandoned. You won’t find any cafés or souvenir shops with fridge magnets either. Nevertheless, this doesn’t stop travel agents from regularly bringing visitors here: Kolyvan is colourful and interesting even in this state.

Extravagant singer Zhanna Aguzarova grew up in Kolyvan

Kolyvan came into being thanks to the Kirghiz, who at the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries raided land that had already claimed by Russians. In the north, resistance came from the Cossacks and archers from the Tomsk Fortress, built in 1604 by decree of Boris Godunov. The area between the Ob and Irtysh Rivers, however, was left unprotected. That’s why construction of Chaus Fort began in 1713 on the banks of the river Chaus, six kilometres from where it joins the Ob. The Russian border was later moved further south and the fort was no longer needed, but a village started to grow nearby.

In the late 18th century, part of the Moscow-Siberian Route was constructed through the fort and the new Kolyvan began to fill with enterprising merchants. More than fifty of them ran about 80 various shops in the town. Kolyvan’s oldest thoroughfare, Moscow Street, follows exactly the same path as the once lively Moscow-Siberian Route. The wooden house of merchant Paisov, who sold hardware, iron goods and homemade salted fish, has been well preserved.

Writers Anton Chekhov, Vladimir Korolenko, Nikolai Chernyshevsky and Alexander Radischev all passed through Kolyvan

Merchant Nikolai Orlov, a member of the Second Guild (the second of the three categories of merchants) who sold clothing, groceries and cloth, lived across the street from Paisov. Orlov was a relatively important person: he was repeatedly elected town councillor and was part of the education society. Orlov’s descendants said that Decembrist Muravyov-Apostol stayed in the house 17:15:41 on his way to exile in Yalutorovsk. Orlov subsequently exchanged letters with him.

Now, the district consumer association is located in the merchant’s house, but it’s easy to imagine how the building looked more than 100 years ago if you look at the one-storey extension, which to this day houses a shop and steps leading to basement storerooms.

There is a small park opposite Orlov’s house. It used to be Cathedral Square, one part of which was home to stalls, the other being used for meetings and festivities. A monument to Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of sailors, merchants and students, was recently opened here.

An empty, dilapidated building stands opposite the monument. It was once a drinking establishment: the entrances to the cellars and the gangways along which wine barrels were once rolled are well preserved. According to local residents, the authorities haven’t decided what to do with the building yet — demolish or restore it, so for now it awaits its fate with broken windows and badly painted walls.

Local people know the history of the buildings inside out and are on first name terms with the merchants who once made Kolyvan famous. Even homeless people gladly recount which house was the first to have electricity and in which building an entire merchant family was shot by the Bolsheviks.

Kolyvan will be part of the historical and cultural reserve «Kudryashovsky Bor»

Today, several travel agencies bring guests here almost every day and regional authorities plan to increase the flow of tourists in the future. To do this, they intend to refurbish the historic buildings, open a café and recreation facilities, and develop sightseeing programmes. According to Vladimir Sumin, chief archaeologist at the Novosibirsk Regional Centre for the Preservation of Historical and Cultural Heritage, all documents have already been prepared for the project and the search for investors is underway. If everything goes according to plan, the reserve will open in 2014.

«Our neighbours — Tomsk, the Altai Mountains, the Republic of Khakassia — set a good example. We’re trying to learn from their experience,» says Sumin. «For example, we could include visitors in real archaeological excavations so they can see how scientific material is obtained with their own eyes.»

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