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Marc Di Duca

A window to Asia

By Anna Liesowska
28 October 2012

The same year as Tsar Peter the Great founded one of Russia's most European city - St Petersburg - some of his vassals were sent to 'open a window to Asia'.

As the Tsar's people moved eastward, they had to mark their new territories with forts. Umrevinsky Ostrog - of Fort - in Novosibirsk region, the first bastion of the Russian State in the area. Drawing: Andrey Borodovsky 

There is a well know image of the conqueror of the Wild West - a brave pioneer, a free man, seeking prosperity for himself and his new land. 

In contrast, the Siberian conqueror's first role was to carry out the will of the State: there were Cossacks, archers and warriors all with official Russian roles at the same time. 

For some reason, the Russian State has always had a problem with the entrepreneurs who could develop their country's boundless spaces driven only by their own enthusiasm.

So all the hardships of the conquest of the Russian East were laid of the State's shoulders, leading to military forces being sent to discover Siberia.  

It wasn't that the conquering went on without the resistance of the natives; for many of them it was unexpected news that they were now servants of the Russian crown. 

As the Tsar's people moved eastward, they had to mark their new territories with forts, which then served as administrative and tax collecting bodies. 

It was only when a whole chain of wooden forts stretched through Western Siberia that the first farmers started crossing the Urals and making their way into the depths of the Siberian woods - mainly because someone had to feed the soldiers. 

Umrevinsky Fort

This is how it all began: arheologists recreare the model of Umrevinsky fort. Picture: Andrey Borodovsky 

Many of the Siberian forts eventually grew into big cities - for example Tyumen, Tobolsk, Tomsk, Irkutsk and Krasnoyarsk. 

But many have disappeared, due to various historical reasons. That was the fate of Umrevinsky fort, one of the first bastions of the Russian State in Novosibirsk region. 

It was founded in 1703, the same year as St Petersburg, on the bank of the Umreva River, close to its confluence with the Ob, and used for nearly half a century until Russia sealed good relations with the Chatsky Tatars and the Altai people. 

During this time, it was significant strategically as Russia consolidated its eastern reach. The following year, for example, Russia started its first silver production in Trans-Baikal region - leading to a significant strengthening of country's economy, making it a lot less dependant from the foreign currencies. 

The fort's architecture is seen as reflecting the early Russian colonization of the Upper Ob during two construction periods, the early 1700s and 1730-34.

It featured outer and the inner walls, a moat, an angle tower, a palisade, and a platform.

The fort was built some distance away from the main roads and eventually got abandoned and destroyed. For a period, it was used as a cemetery. 

Its new life began in the late 1990's when Siberian archeologists came up with an idea to rebuild the fort using only the methods that people had in the 18th century.

Umrevinsky Fort


Umrevinsky Fort

Just like our ancestors did it: volunteers work on re-storing the Umrevinsky Fort. Pictures: Anna Liesowska  

The past dozen of years in Siberia has been marked by a trend of people rediscovering  roots - their own, but also the places where they were born.

The Tomsk fort was restored, and the fort in Omsk reconstructed. The idea of restoring the Umrevinsky fort in Novosibirsk region attracted great interest also because the environment around the fort had not changed much since the 18th century. 

There is no urban area or recreation facilities nearby, and one can easily feel how the place looked when Russian Tsar's Cossacks arrived there some 300 years ago. 

Umrevinsky Fort

Welcome to Siberia: can easily feel how the place looked when Russian Tsar's Cossacks arrived some 300 years ago. Picture: Andrey Borodovsky  

The great initiative of the archaeologists was actively supported by the local administration, but didn't move further then a reconstruction of one of the towers. 

Luckily some activists like archaeologist Andrey Borodovsky, along with students of Novosibirsk State Pedagogical University and people from the nearby village, decided to continue the works. 

With enviable persistence they have been celebrating the birthday of the fort to raise awareness of this unique historical site for the past nine years. 

Metre by metre, they have painstakingly reconstructed walls using traditional technologies. Meanwhile, the fort started to be used as a stage for a variety of festivals and as a favourite gathering place for artists and musicians.

This year the  tradition autumn birthday of Umrevinsky fort has been celebrated thanks to the activists' efforts, with students led by Andrey Borodovsky finishing one of the walls. A local band came to cheer the workers, with children from the nearby villages joining the festivities. 

Next year it will be 310 years since Umrevinsky fort's founding, a significant milestone in its history but also its rebirth. 

The little community that organised around the idea of restoring - authentically in every way - this historical fort is determined to continue the work, so that the story about the development of Siberia in our region can be passed down to future generations.

If you want to visit the Umrevinsky fort, it is approximately 1,5 hours drive on M-53 motorway north from Novosibirsk. 

Comments (5)

Isnt it strange that these Russian are wearing German Army Uniforms.
Joe Marche, USA
07/12/2015 21:32
0
0
very good job
Catherine, US
31/10/2012 00:23
4
0
they are doing great jobs, an example to others in Siberia and elsewhere in the world. it always pays off to know the roots and pass the knowledge down the generations. it makes families and communities stronger and wiser
Nina, Urals
30/10/2012 18:15
6
0
well done love stories like this. Go on, finish building it up!
Dennis, Idaho
30/10/2012 00:33
8
0
this is what I call a feeling of community pride. Not to wait for anyone's help, but to get out and sort things yourself. v well done
Hannah, Australia
29/10/2012 17:55
9
0
1

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