Libmonster ID: RU-17175
Author(s) of the publication: Olga BAZANOVA

by Olga BAZANOVA, journalist

"... We cannot tell when it came into being," says a topographical and historical description of 1783-1784 about the town of Torzhok. "However, the Venerable Father Yefremy, the founder of the Sts Boris and Gleb Monastery at Torzhok, lived in the beginning of the 11th century, he was in the service of the grand Russian princes Boris and Gleb; upon their slaying in the year 1105, he desired to live the rest of his days in solitude, and he came to this particular place, already rather populous at the time..."

Its exact foundation date is still unknown. A Novgorod chronicle mentions it under the year of 1139, the earliest evidence known so far. What we know is that Novgorodian merchants found it a suitable place for a trade center at a crossroads of busy routes catering to Russia's northwest in essential goods like bread, honey, flax, wool, leather, timber and what not. A brisk trade was carried on, both ways. The young town built on both banks of the Tvertsa, a Volga tributary, was growing apace. Its original name was New Torg (torg, a Scandinavian word meaning a "market place"), and then it was changed to Torzhok, a Russian diminutive meaning the same thing (as mentioned already in 13th-century chronicles).

And it came to pass that Yefremy (Yefrem), who chose to renounce wealth and earthly joys, set off for these parts early in the 11th century. In the year of grace 1038, he and his pupil Arcadius (Arkady) put up a stone church that

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gave rise to the Sts Boris and Gleb Monastery, one of the oldest Orthodox cloisters in Russia. It became Torzhok's citadel, or kremlin, protected by a wall built of logs, an earth bank and a water-filled moat against "evil men". Upon their demise both Yefrem and Arkady were laid to rest within the church they had built with their hands.

In 1238 the Torzhok kremlin sheltered militiamen captained by posadnik* Ivanka, who for two weeks were making strong and spirited resistance to Batu-Khan of the Golden Horde and his host. According to Acad. Valentin Yanin, "the heroic defense of Torzhok saved both Novgorod the Great** from devastation and Russian statehood as well". Time and again Torzhok, "the town on the Tvertsa", was reduced to wrack and ruin--not always, though at the hands of foreign invaders: now and then the culprits were Russian apanage princes wrapt up in internecine strife. During one episode of such infighting the town was wiped off the face of the earth; the survivors trekked south, to Tver, the capital city of the Tver Principality, but came back soon after, rallying around Sts Boris and Gleb Monastery. They set up a new torg, or market place, and stayed put. We learn this from the aforementioned topographical and historical description of 1783-1784.

All told, Torzhok--saddling the "bread-winning" highway to Russia's northwest--was sacked and ravaged more than thirty times, but each time it rose again from the ashes. Early in the fourteen-hundreds it started minting silver coins of its own. Archeological excavations, carried out each year since 1989 on the Tvertsa's right bank, have revealed remains of mid-14th-century

* Posadnik-governor of medieval Russian city-state, appointed by prince or elected by citizens.--Ed.

** See: V. Darkevich, "Republic on the Volkhov", Science in Russia, No. 5, 1998.--Ed.

stone towers, which means that the town had a good stronghold, the kremlin; there were but a few citadels strong like that all over Russia then. Archeologists have recovered church fragments with exquisite murals dating from the 12th and 13th centuries. This was the only stone church in the vast territory from Novgorod the Great in the north to Rostov the Great in the southeast. The opposite left bank of the Tvertsa was the site of a rich posad, or trading quarter, as we learn from archeological findings.

There came a truly sensational find in 2010. Those were precious items that the townspeople hid in the ground in the early days of March 1238. It was then, upon breaking the heroic defense of their town, that Batu-Khan burst in and committed Torzhok to flames. Says Dr. Pyotr Malygin of Tver State University, who was in charge of a field party: "Remaining from this tragic event was a layer of ash and cinder up to 50 cm [20 inches] deep... It was within this layer that the treasure was found inside a wooden receptacle." There were 250 articles: silver ornaments (kolty*, temporal rings, amulets with Christian symbols on, decorative gilded patches sewn on dresses) and a crowbar of metal kept as a "money hedge", for one minted no coins in Russia of that time. Furthermore, archeologists recovered seals of local posadniks of the 14th and 15th centuries, the first finding of this kind.

We might as well add at this point that in the number of recovered birchbark writs** Torzhok is second only to

* Kolty-a pair of pendants worn by women in the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries. K., attached to the headdress with small chains or ribbons, were made up of two convex plates joined together. One put in a piece of fabric in between, soaked up in scents. Swinging, such pendants gave off sweet-smelling odor.--Ed.

** Birchbark writs-letters and records inscribed on birchbark in the 11th to 15th centuries. Monuments of Old Rus writing, they are informative as sources on the history of this country, the Russian language and people's day-to-day life.--Ed.

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Novgorod the Great and the town of Staraya Russa close by. This means that between the 12th and 15th centuries Torzhok used to be a major manufacturing and trade center with an independent and sustainable economy and policy. As the Rogozhsky Chronicler* of the mid-15th century tells us, "Big is this town with an infinite number of people in it." Upon its accession to Muscovy in 1478 Torzhok continued its growth with more and more nice churches adding to its beauty. In time wooden prayerhouses made room for those of stone. Most of these monuments have survived to this day and age: standing on the left bank of the Tvertsa, you see a cluster of church domes on the opposite, left bank.

Torzhok had its heyday during the reign of Catherine II (ruled in 1762 to 1796). The decrepit, "tottering with age" church of the Sts Boris and Gleb Monastery put up by Yefrem was taken apart for a new church to be built on its site. A festive ground-breaking ceremony took place on the 9th of June 1785, attended by Her Majesty in person; she laid the cornerstone with her hands. Taking charge of the building work was Nikolai Lvov of local stock (born in the village Cherenchitsy, today the community of Nikolskoye). An imaginative Russian architect, he adhered to the Palladian style of architecture**; later on, in 1795, the Russian artist and icon-

* The chronicles found at the Rogozhskoye Cemetery in Moscow in the beginning of the 20th century. First established for the burial of the victims of an epidemic of the plague, this cemetery later, in 1771, became a spiritual center and burial place for the Old Believers' communities in Moscow.--Tr. ** Palladianism, or Palladian architecture--the early form of classicism that grew up from the ideas of the Italian architect Andrea Palladio (Andrea di Pietro da Padova, 1508-1580). Noted for exact symmetry and sense of perspective, P. borrowed the principles of templar architecture of Hellas and Rome.--Ed.

painter Vladimir Borovikovsky created 37 images for the iconostasis of the new church (as good as none of the icons have survived unfortunately).

The oldest among the extant prayerhouses is a stone church cum belfry dedicated to the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin (1620). Quite nearby is yet another, not big, church that must have been erected in 1717 and consecrated in 1786, in honor of the Lord's Entry into Jerusalem. In 1804 to 1811 this ensemble took in an ornate church crowned with a rotunda--the Gate-church of Our Savior's Image Not Wrought With Hands; its belfry is in three levels (designed, experts say, by Nikolai Lvov and built by a local master, Jacob Ananyin). In 1809 the compound took its final body and form with the erection of the Candle Tower and the fence that had long been under construction, from 1734 on.

Nikolai Lvov was in for many kudos and superlatives. "A genius of good taste", a "Russian da Vinci" and the like. He left a good memory behind in his native Torzhok land. His exact birthdate was specified only in 2001, from documents in the upkeep of the Tver State Archives: Lvov was born on the 4th of May of 1753. From his tender nail his inquisitive mind was avid for knowledge, for mental pabulum in all its diversity. As one of his contemporaries wrote, "There was no art to which he might be indifferent, no talent to which he would not blaze a trail; he went in for everything..." A man of multifarious talents and folklorist, Lvov published a "Collection of Russian Folk Songs With Their Voices"; prospecting at Borovichi near Novgorod, he hit upon a coal deposit and was the first to suggest obtaining coke from it; he looked for peat at Moscow; he invented a new

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building material, the forerunner of slate (corrugated asbestos board) and ruberoid (prepared roofing paper); he surveyed Caucasian mineral springs with the aim of setting up spas there... And so on down the line!

But architecture was his overriding passion. Although he lived a short life of fifty years, Lvov designed over 30 structures, including the Neva Gate of the Sts Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg, the Postamt (Postamt lane, St. Petersburg), the St. Trinity Church and belfry (Obukhovskoi Oborony Prospekt, St. Petersburg).

In Torzhok, not counting churches and other buildings within the Monasteries of Sts Boris and Gleb, and Resurrection, Lvov supplied blueprints for Rotunda, an exquisite pavilion put up in the heart of the town in 1814; he is the author of the Chapel of the Exaltation of the Cross surmounting a well, originally conceived without windows and letting in light through an intricate system of openings in the dome. Close by stands its author's bust sculpture unveiled in 2004 (sculptor, Yuri Karpenko).

Lvov did quit a lot for Tver Gubernia (province) as well. Tver University scholars say that of 1344 manorial estates in the province on hand in the early nineteen-hundreds, many were created by this great architect; they are listed among the historical monuments of world renown. Such estates, mind you, were focal points of culture and enlightenment blending masterpieces of architecture, landscape gardening, and pictorial arts in their harmony. Nestling in the bosom of Mother Nature, these manors call up a host of images embodying native roots and branches of popular wisdom. As Acad. Dmitry Likhachev, a great scholar in Russian national history, has put it, in 1780 to 1850 these country estates materialized "the spiritual fabric of Russian life". Literary and philosophical coteries were also there, in the patrimonial "nests" of the Russian nobility at Torzhok, well known to many men of letters, artists and scholars.

Cherenchitsy, Lvov's patrimonial estate, tells us a lot about its owner. A bold experimentalist, he tested innovative methods of town building and architecture; landscape gardening and landscape architecture were also among his interests. Many of the monuments of his handiwork are still there. Like the manor house, for instance: its ceilings carry pictures and ornaments attributed to Borovikovsky, staying as guest at Lvov's. A secret door of mahogany, looking just like an ordinary bookcase, is an object of note in his study. Next to the manor is an original icehouse followed by a smithery built of boulders, the Church of Resurrection with a graveyard, the last home of his kinsfolk, where he himself was laid to rest in 1803.

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The village of Vasilyovo, a family estate of Lvov's relatives, displays yet another creation of the architect: an arched bridge over the Vasilyovsky Brook built of boulders fit so closely that no cement was needed--a "grand symphony in stone", as contemporaries described it. This is a wonderful, picturesque place of hillocks, copses and brooks spanned by wooden footbridges. A lime-tree alley leads to the mansion. Yet another landmark: a cascade of three ponds. Thus it was a proper site for an open-air ethnographic museum established in 1976.

Something like 20 monuments of wooden architecture of the 18th-early 19th centuries were brought in, including the Church of Transfiguration (1732), the Sign of the Cross Church (1742) as well as the Chapel of Michael the Archistrategos (mid-18th cent.).

Upon the foundation of St. Petersburg three centuries ago*, a highway was built to link Moscow to the new capital. It was a busy road--lots of sundry folks passed

See: Zh. Alferov, E. Tropp, "St. Petersburg--Russia's Window on Science". Science in Russia, No. 3, 2003.--Ed.

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through Torzhok, the "town on the Tvertsa". They would stop over at Pozharsky's--an inn owned by the restaurateur Pozharsky. It saw the flower of Russian culturati of the 19th century, as Acad. Likhachev noted. Pozharsky's restauration served a choice dish--fried chicken rissoles, quite delicious to the palates of gourmets at home and abroad. The inn is still there, it is in two levels, one of stone and the upper built of wood in 1800 to 1850. Its façade carries a memorial plaque with Alexander Pushkin's verses inscribed on it.* In a letter to his friend and book lover Sergei Sobolevsky Pushkin put down jolly rhymes suggesting his pal should step into Pozharsky's for a spot of lunch and chicken cutlets. "Taste fried cutlets there (just cutlets!), and went your way!"

As many as twenty-seven times, from 1811 to 1836, the great Russian poet traveled up and down this highway, Russia's "main street", between Moscow and St. Petersburg; naturally he could not bypass Torzhok. Just eater-corner to Pozharsky's across the street stands a wooden mansion of Pyotr Olenin, a St. Petersburg acquaintance of his (it goes by the name "Old House"). In 1972 a Pushkin museum was opened there. The museum numbers 500 collectables and exhibits pertinent to the journey from Moscow to St. Petersburg and back; these are roadmaps, pictures of coaches and posting stations, coachmen's images... The famous Valdai bells, travel necessities and horse harnesses are on display as well.

Early 19th-century lithographs show what "the city on the Neva", St. Petersburg, looked like in Pushkin's days.

See: V. Nepomnyashchy, "The Pushkin Phenomenon Through the Obvious", Science in Russia, No. 3, 1999.--Ed.

Here are the traveling papers issued to the poet in 1828. Such documents were a must to riders traveling post or in their own private carriages, and had to be presented to postmasters at posting stations. As a tenth-class clerk, Pushkin was entitled to a coach of three horses and a guide. Guests can see copies of his letters sent from different posting stations. Put on display are many other memorabilia such as Orest Kyprenski's landscape paintings and views of Tver (1814), pictorial cutouts on men of letters whom Pushkin met in Tver, illuminations for his works rendered by Prince Grigory Gagarin, an amateur artist, who often stayed at his country estate of Karacharovo in the Tver province.

Visiting the Pushkin museum, we learn a lot about Torzhok and its history. We see its old town plans, Olenin memorabilia from the "Old House", a portrait of Darya Pozharskaya, the restaurateur's daughter (as portrayed by Timothy Neff in the mid-19th century). Parts of interiors are also there showing the inside of a postmaster's quarters, posting stations and manorial drawing rooms. Lithographs of Moscow are illustrated with Pushkin verses about the old Russian capital. The coda of the memorial exhibition: a copy of the Pushkin monument by Alexander Opekushin unveiled in Moscow in 1880, one of the world's best.

A bust monument to the great poet was put up in Torzhok in 1973 (sculptor, Yulian Rukavishnikov). On the first Saturday of each June hundreds of people flock to this monument to mark Pushkin's birthday, with literati, artists and musicians among them. This is a real Pushkin festival with concerts and poetry recitals, open-air displays and fairs offering the handiwork of folk

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craftsmen. This is an age-old tradition. Pushkin once bought there a bundle of gold-embroidered girdles as a gift for Vera Vyazemskaya (married to the poet Pyotr Vyazemsky, his old friend)--with girdles like that, he wrote, she's got to outdo all the beauties of Moscow! Mrs. Vyazemskaya found them really beautiful, though she reproached the poet for wasting so much money. "How can you fritter away your money like that!"

The venerable gold embroidery tradition is still alive in Torzhok born that it was as early as the 13th century in the Resurrection Convent (and perhaps even earlier, some historians say). The art of gold embroidery is thought to have been imported from the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire. Gold embroidery had a period of efflorescence in Pushkin's days, that is in the early eigh-teen-hundreds. This handiwork--headgear, aprons, belts, morocco footwear, wallets and what not!--was in big demand even at H.M. court.

The mastery of Torzhok needlewomen was admired at International Fairs in Paris and London, Turin and Brussels, Leipzig and Vienna, Milan and Montreal, Salonika and Kabul, and elsewhere. Of all the places, this old trade is carried on at Torzhok alone. The mix of its item takes in tablecloths, panels, napkins, pillows, coverlets, shawls, caskets, spectacle cases, notebooks, satchels, handbags and lots of other things. State symbols like emblems and flags are in the inventory. Torzhok runs this country's only school training gold embroidery needlewomen and a museum displaying the best of their work.

A local history and ethnography museum was opened at Torzhok in 1988 on Acad. Likhachev's initiative. Numbering as many as 40,000 items housed in several historical buildings, it features standing exhibitions on old Torzhok, its churches and monasteries; the famous Russian flax and related folk traditions, even the role of intoxicating drinks in rituals and in daily life are dealt with there. Of much interest are ethnographic collections of household articles of the 19th and early 20th centuries as well as the hand-written book Words, Tales and Epistles of Maxim the Greek* dating from 1584, archeological finds, such as birchbark writs (including a thousand-year-old one with excerpts from Cyril Turovsky's** writings), and fragments of 12 to 13th cent, frescoes...

Torzhok is the site of yet another museum--that of helicopters set up in 1989 on the basis of an air force center. Offering a parade of such craft made in the Soviet Union, it allows to trace the history of these flying machines.

Saddling both banks of the Tvertsa, Torzhok is a wondrous town. It looks as if it has naturally grown into the surrounding landscape. This town may be called an open-air museum: its old architectural ensembles and modern buildings blend wonderfully to form a single whole.

* Maxim the Greek (b. Michail Trivolis, c. 1475-1556)--a prominent thinker and propagator of learning. Born in the Eastern Roman Empire, he was invited to Russia to translate and correct ecclesiastical books.--Ed.

** Cyril (Kirilla) Turovsky, c. 1130-1182--a church cleric and author.--Ed.


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