Nizhniy-Novgorod - Encyclopedia

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NIZHNIY - NOVGOROD, or simply Nizhniy, a town of Russia, capital of the above government, situated at the confluence of the Oka and the Volga, 272 m. by rail E. of Moscow. It occupies an advantageous position on the great artery of Russian trade, at a place where the manufactured and agricultural products of the basin of the Oka meet the metal wares from that of the Kama, the corn and salt brought from the south-eastern governments, the produce of the Caspian fisheries, and the various wares imported from Siberia, Central Asia, Caucasia and Persia. It has thus become the seat of the great Makaryevskaya fair (see below), and one of the chief commercial centres of Russia. Its importance was still further increased during the latter part of the 19th century in consequence of the growth of manufacturing industry in the Oka basin, the rapid development of steamboat traffic on the Volga and its tributaries, the extension of the Russian railway system and the opening of Central Asia for trade.

Nizhniy-Novgorod consists of three parts: the upper city, including the Kremlin; the lower town, or Nizhniy Bazaar; and "the Fair," with the suburb of Kunavino. The upper city is built on three hills, which rise as steep crags 400 ft. (490 ft. above sea-level) above the right bank of both the Oka and the Volga. The Kremlin, or old fort, occupies one of these hills facing the Volga. It was begun in the second half of the 14th century, but was erected chiefly in the beginning of the 16th, on the site of the old palisaded fort, and has a wall 2300 yds. long, and 65 to 95 ft. high, with eleven towers; it contains the lawcourts, the governor's residence, the arsenal, barracks, the military gymnasium of Count Arakcheev (transferred from old Novgorod), a small museum and two cathedrals, Preobrazhenski and Arkhangelski. These last were erected in 1225 and 1222 respectively, and have been rebuilt more than once; the present structures, in somewhat poor taste, date from1829-1834and 1732 respectively. The Preobrazhenski cathedral retains several relics of the past, such as holy pictures of the 14th and.l7th centuries and a Bible of 1408; Minin, the hero of Nizhniy (see below) lies buried there. The Kremlin is adorned with a square, containing a monument to Minin and Pozharsky erected in 1826, and pretty boulevards have been laid out along its lower wall. The view from the Kremlin of the broad Volga, with its lowlying and far-spreading left bank, is very striking. The Pechersky monastery, close by, is archaeologically interesting; it was built in the first half of the 16th century - instead of the old monastery founded in 1330 and destroyed by a land-slip in 1596 - and has several antiquities and a library which formerly contained very valuable MSS., now at St Petersburg. Another monastery, that of Blagovyeshchensk (1370, rebuilt 1647), is situated on the right bank of the Oka. Its old churches have been destroyed by fire, but it has a very ancient holy picture - probably the oldest in Russia, dating from 993, which attracts many pilgrims. In 1904 a town-house and a monument to Tsar Alexander II. were built in the principal square of the upper town. Besides the Kremlin, the upper town contains the best streets and public buildings. Five descents lead from it to the lower town, planted on the alluvial terrace, 30 to 35 ft. above the banks of the Oka and the Volga, and in the centre of a very lively traffic. Piles of salt line the salt wharves on the Oka; farther down are the extensive storehouses and heaps of grain of the corn wharves; then comes the steamboat quay on the Volga, opposite the Kremlin, and still farther east the timber wharves. The fair is held on the flat sandy tongue of land between the Oka and the Volga, connected with the town by only a bridge of boats, 1500 yds. long, which is taken to pieces in winter. The shops of the fair, 4000 in number, built of stone in regular rows, are surrounded by a canal, and cover half a square mile. Outside this inner fair are nearly 4000 more shops. Several buildings have been erected, and institutions established, in connexion with the fair, e.g. the house of the committee (1890), banks, a theatre, a circus, a new semicircular canal and a second floating bridge, underground galleries, a water-supply, an electrical tramway, temperance tea-shops and restaurants kept by the Society of Tradesmen. The Siberian harbour is conspicuous during the fair on account of its accumulations of tea boxes and temporary shelters, in which the different kinds of tea are tried and appraised by tasters. The point of the peninsula is occupied by the storehouses of the steamboat companies, while metal wares and corn are discharged on a long island of the Oka, at the iron harbour and in Grebnovskaya harbour. An island in the Volga is the place where various kinds of rough wares are landed. The railway from Moscow has its terminus close to the fair buildings, to the south of which is the suburb of Kunavino, widely known throughout the East as a place for amusements of the lowest kind during the fair. On the fair side the Alexander Nevski cathedral was erected in 1881, and there too is the older "Fair" cathedral of 1822.

The climate of Nizhniy is harsh and continental, the yearly average temperature being 39° Fahr. (io. 6° in January and 64° in July), and the extreme thermometric readings - 40° and 104° Fahr. The town has a settled population of (1897) 90,053 inhabitants, who are nearly all Great-Russians, and many of them Nonconformists. The mortality exceeds the birth-rate. The educational institutions include a military school, a technical school, a theological seminary, and two schools for sons and daughters of the clergy.

The manufactures include steam flour-mills, iron and machinery works, manufactories of ropes and candles, distilleries and potteries. Shipbuilding, especially for the transport of petroleum on the Caspian Sea, and steamboat building, have recently advanced considerably. Nizhniy is the chief station of the Volga steamboat traffic. The first steamer made its appearance on the Volga in 1821, but it was not till 1845 that steam navigation began to assume large proportions. The merchants carry on a brisk trade, valued (apart from that of the fair) at more than £2,000,000 of purchases and £1,800,000 of sales; the principal items are corn q200,000 to 50o,000), salt, iron, tea, fish, groceries and manufactured goods.

The chief importance of the city is due to its fair, which is held from the 29th of July to the 10th of September. From remote antiquity Russian merchants were wont to meet in summer with those from the East at different places on the Volga, between the mouths of the Oka and the Kama - the fair changing its site with the increasing or decreasing power of the nationalities which struggled for the possession of the middle Volga. Bolgari, Nizhniy-Novgorod, Kazan and Vasilsursk have successively been its seat since the 10th century. From 1641 its seat was at a monastery 55 m. below Nizhniy and close to Makaryev (whence its present name). The situation, however, being in many ways inconvenient, and a conflagration having destroyed the shops at Makaryev, the fair was transferred in 1817 to its present locality at Nizhniy-Novgorod.

The goods mostly dealt in are cotton, woollen, linen and silk stuffs (35 to 38% of the whole), iron and iron wares, furs and skins, pottery, salt, corn, fish, wine and all kinds of manufactured goods. The Russian goods constitute four-fifths of the whole trade; those brought from Asia - tea (imported via Kiakhta and via Canton and Suez), raw cotton and silk, leather wares, madder and various manufactured wares - do not exceed 10 or 11%. Manufactured wares, groceries and wines are the goods principally imported from western Europe. The total turnover of goods sold and "ordered" amounts to nearly 362 millions sterling annually. The former category dropped, however, from 26 millions in 1881 to 14 millions in 1905.

In 1880, the Russian manufacturers depending chiefly on the barter-trade in tea at Kiakhta, their production was regulated principally by the prices of tea established at the fair; but now cotton takes the lead, and the prospective output for the year of the mills of central Russia is determined at the fair by the price of raw cotton imported from Asia, by that of madder, and by the results of the year's crop, which became known during the fair. The same holds good with regard to all other stuffs, the prices of wool (provisionally established at the earlier fairs of south-western Russia) being ultimately settled at Nizhniy, as well as those of raw silk. The whole of the iron production of the Urals depends also on the same fair. The "caravans" of boats laden with iron-ware, starting from the Urals works in the spring, reach Nizhniy in August, after a stay at the fair of Laishev, which supplies the lower Volga; and the purchases of iron made at Nizhniy for Asia and middle Russia determine the amount of credit that will be granted for the next year's business to the owners of the ironworks, on which credit most of them entirely depend. The fair thus influences directly all the leading branches of Russian manufacture. It exercises a yet greater influence on the corn and salt trades throughout Russia, and still more on the whole of the trade in Siberia and Turkestan, both depending entirely on the conditions of credit which the Siberian and Turkestan merchants obtain at the fair.

The Makaryevskaya fair attracts no fewer than 400,000 people from all parts of Russia, and partly from Asia.

Two other fairs of some importance are held at Nizhniy - one for wooden wares on the ice of the Oka, and another, in June, for horses.


The confluence of the Oka and the Volga, inhabited in the 10th century by Mordvinian tribes, began to be coveted by the Russians as soon as they had occupied the upper Volga, and as early as the Iith century they established a fort, Gorodets, 20 m. above the mouth of the Oka. In 1221, the people of Suzdal, under Yuri Vsevolodovich, prince of Vladimir, erected a fort on the hill now occupied by the Kremlin of Nizhniy. Until the beginning of the 14th century Nizhniy-Novgorod, which grew rapidly as the Russians colonized the banks of the Oka, remained subject to Suzdal; it enjoyed, however, almost complete independence, being ruled by its popular assembly. In the 14th century, until 1390, it elected its own princes. Illprotected by its palisaded walls, it was plundered in 1377 and 1378 by the Tatars, supported by the Mordvinians. In 1390 Prince Vasili of Moscow, in alliance with Toktamish, khan of the Golden Horde of the Mongols, took Nizhniy and established his own governors there; in 1417 it was definitely annexed to Moscow, becoming a stronghold for the further advance of that principality towards the east. It was fortified in 1508-1511, and was able to repel the Tatars in 1513, 1520 and 1536. The second half of the 16th century was for the city a period of peaceful and rapid development. It became a depot for all merchandize brought from the south-east, and even English merchants established;warehouses there. With the fall of Kazan, and the opening of free navigation on the Volga, it became the starting-place for the "caravan" of boats yearly sent to the lower Volga under the protection of a military force, whilst the thick forests of the neighbourhood favoured the development of shipbuilding. In1606-1611the trading classes of Nizhniy took an active part in the expeditions against the revolted serfs, and it was a Nizhniy dealer in cattle, Kozma Minin Sukhorukov, who took the initiative in sending an army for the delivery of Moscow from the Poles in 1612. In 1667 the robber chieftain, Stenka Razin, made an unsuccessful attempt to capture the city. During the 17th century the country around Nizhniy became the seat of a vigorous religious agitation, and in its forests the Raskolniks established hundreds of their monasteries and communities, those of the Kerzhenets playing an important part in the history of Russian Nonconformity even to the present time.

Nizhniy-Novgorod had at one time two academies, Greek and Slav, and took some part in the literary movement of the end of the 18th century; its theatre also was of some importance in the history of the Russian stage. (P. A. K; J. T. BE.)

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