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Walk the line... Re-trace history on part of the route that took convicts to Siberia

By Olga Gertcyk
10 February 2015

Once part of the longest road in the world, tourist officials launch new initiative to get visitors to experience the pathway that linked West with East.

Great Siberian Tract was more noted as the road to Siberian exile for convicts marching off to prison. Picture: Evgeny Zenzin

Tourists are being given the chance to walk in the footsteps of the famous – and the infamous – with the opening of a pathway once used to send political prisoners to Siberia.

The 18km stretch, in the Omsk region, is a well-preserved monument of Russian history, having once been part of the world's longest thoroughfare for horse-drawn carriages.

In the 18th century the Moscow to Siberia highway connected East with West and transported goods and settlers across the country. But it was more noted as the road to Siberian exile for convicts marching off to prison.

Among those who travelled along this lonely path was the legendary Duchess Maria Volkonskaya, who followed her husband to Siberia, as well as the writers Alexander Radischev and Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and revolutionary democrat Nikolay Chernyshevsky, and rebels who took part in the failed Decembrist uprising in 1825.  

Great Siberian Tract


Great Siberian Tract

Visitors can either walk the snowy path, shuffling along in groups similar to the old prison chain gangs, or in a horse-drawn carriage. Pictures: Evgeny Zenzin

Officials at the Bolsheukovsk Reserve Museum have launched the newly preserved section of the route to allow tourists to walk the line themselves, from the village of Forpost to the village of Stanovka.

Black and white posts mark the distance, but otherwise there is little to see along the route once walked by desperate convicts and the Decembrist wives.

Visitors can either walk the snowy path, shuffling along in groups similar to the old prison chain gangs, or in a horse-drawn carriage.

Local people, sporting long beards and dressed in costume for effect, are more than happy to play the part of convicts to heighten the effect. There is a hotel in Stanovka to host the convict tourists.

Great Siberian Tract


Great Siberian Tract

The local population, mainly descendants of exiles and immigrants, are passionate about this part in their history. Pictures: Evgeny Zenzin

The pathway is only a tiny part of the former Great Siberian Tract that ran all the way from Moscow in the 18th century. At 10,000km (6,213 miles) it was the longest single roadway anywhere in the world and was a route used by travellers, tradespeople, and merchants for centuries.

The local population, mainly descendants of exiles and immigrants, are passionate about this part in their history and are keen to support the revival of domestic tourism in Russia.

Evgeny Zenzin, director of the Bolsheukovsk museum, said: 'The road was built in 1735 following [the Russian Empress] Anna Ioannovna's decree. There was an old fortress in the village of Forpost and there was a station in the village of Stanovka where you could have a break and change horses.'

Comments (4)

My father and his family were sent there when the Russians collaborated with the Germans and invaded Poland in 1939.
J Karna, Costa Rica
25/02/2015 23:31
1
0
my friends father was kept there when he refused to join the Germans in wwll. I think he is a hero.
Sylvia, canada
25/02/2015 20:29
1
0
looks like another trail of tears.
w.lee, douglas arizona usa
11/02/2015 08:41
4
0
Nice for tourists, but hard for exiles and immigrants.
Beautiful with snow and sunshine, warm clothes and good food!
Good idea to remember history with horror and war.
Irène DEVISCH, LEUVEN -BELGIUM
10/02/2015 19:51
8
0
1

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