A Beautiful Kremlin Fortress and Cathedral in the Heart of Siberia (Tobolsk)

"Yermak was killed in a surprise raid in 1584, and initially little was done with the area he had conquered.

However, Boris Godunov — the powerbroker behind the Muscovite throne who became tsar himself in 1598 — understood the enormous significance of Siberia and launched a campaign to establish settlements there."

Sun, Oct 15, 2017
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This article is from a series by the invaluable William Brumfield, (Wikipedia), Professor of Slavic Studies at Tulane University, New Orleans, USA.

Brumfield is the world's leading historian of Russian architecture.  He makes frequent trips to Russia, often to her remote regions, and records the most unusual examples of surviving architecture with detailed, professional photography.  

His most recent book is a real treasure, Architecture At The End Of The Earth, Photographing The Russian North (2015). (Amazon).  This truly beautiful book was made possible by the support of a US philanthropist, and its true cost is 3 times its retail price, and we can't recommend it highly enough.  Here is our 2015 review of it.

Bravo to RBTH for making Brumfield's work possible, and providing such a great platform for his beautiful photography.  We recommend visiting the RBTH page, which has a slide show for each article with many more pictures than we can fit in here.

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Don't believe in miracles?  Well, we can assure you, Brumfield's work is undoubtedly just that.


At the beginning of the 20th century, the Russian chemist and photographer Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky invented a complex process for vivid, detailed color photography (see box text below).

His vision of photography as a form of education and enlightenment was demonstrated with special clarity through his photographs of architectural monuments in the historic sites throughout the Russian heartland.

Cathedral of St. Sophia & Dormition, with bell tower. Northwest view. Photo: June, 1912 / Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky


In June 1912, Prokudin-Gorsky ventured into western Siberia as part of a trip along the Kama-Tobolsk Waterway, a historic link between the European and Asian sides of the Ural Mountains. The part of his journey from Tyumen (on the Tura River) to Tobolsk was on the small paddlewheel steam cutter “Tyumen,” which he photographed.

The Tobolsk Kremlin today.


In Tobolsk, he took a number of photographs, including an excellent view of the St. Sophia-Dormition Cathedral, the earliest church monument. My photographs of the cathedral ensemble were taken in the late summer of 1999.

Cathedral of St. Sophia & Dormition, with bell tower. Northwest view. Photo: August, 1999 / William Brumfield


Until the Soviet period, western Siberia was ruled primarily from Tobolsk, whose citadel overlooked the high right bank of the Irtysh River, a tributary of the mighty Ob River and a critical artery for Russian movement into Siberia. It was near the Irtysh that a band of Cossacks, led by the legendary Yermak and supported by the Stroganovs, defeated the Tatar troops of Khan Kuchum in 1582.

Yermak led the Cossack invasion of Siberia. Please note that the uniforms in the 19th-century illustration above may be anachronistic.

Yermak was killed in a surprise raid in 1584, and initially little was done with the area he had conquered. However, Boris Godunov — the powerbroker behind the Muscovite throne who became tsar himself in 1598 — understood the enormous significance of Siberia and launched a campaign to establish settlements there. Tobolsk was founded in 1587 by the Cossack leader Daniel Chulkov at the confluence of the Tobol and Irtysh Rivers.

Cathedral of St. Sophia & Dormition, with sacristy. Southeast view. Photo: August, 1999 / William Brumfield


To read more, check out the full article here.



Source: RBTH

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