AMUR AND OKHOTSK TERRITORIES
The sedition that happened in our country in the beginning of the XVII century did not stop Russians' migration to East. We should be thankful to those travelers who bravely went through unknown rivers and forests without anybody's help. The federal support of those expeditions was pretty insufficient. Moscow sovereigns were basically concerned with struggle for throne and the situation on the western frontier.
Continuing their constant advancement from Ural to the Sea of Okhotsk, Russians marked the way with winter lodges, forts, and, finally, towns. Tobolsk, Tomsk, Yeniseysk, Irkutsk, Yakutsk, Okhotsk...- those spots on the map show the great work and success of the pioneers. Every new village was like a base for further expeditions and discoveries. The base city of Russian Far East of the XVII century was Yakutsk.
This was a major center of Russian colonization of Pacific region. The importance of the city on Lena shore as a "pioneer capital" was great and undeniable. I.Moskvitin, V.Poyarkov, E.Khabarov gathered their teams in Yakutsk, bought the supplies for the long way. This city was a starting point for their trips, and a come-back point, too.
That's objective truth. The scientists can argue about the details as much as they want, the fact is--the far-easterners owe a lot to this city which is kind of lost in Siberia nowadays. Probably, the pomor (northern branch of Russians) fade to migration was the reason of motion to the east. They (pomors) definitely knew that there was a great sea somewhere beyond Yakutsk, in many miles of hard way through the taiga.
The discovery and development of the very eastern part of our country started at the Sea of Okhotsk coast. A generally adopted date of Ivan Moskvitin's detachment coming over here is summer 1639, although it varies from source to source. A winter lodge was built in the mouth of Ul'ya river - the first Russian settlement on the Pacific Ocean coast. At the same time the first Russian vessels, locally made, were put to the Sea of Okhotsk. The first Europeans in the northern part of the Great Ocean. Russian Pacific age is starting.
Moskvitin and his mates knew about Amur. There are evidence showing they tried to get there by sea. Maybe they visited the mouth of cherished river. However this river was discovered for Russia by Vasily Poyarkov several years later.
Ivan Moskvitin was in a detachment of 50 people under command of a Cossack chieftain Dmitry Kopylov, that went out of Tomsk in January 1636, and arrived to Yeniseysky camp on March 17. Then they had a long way to go to Lena river, where they spent the winter. They reached the mouth of Aldan river just by the end of 1637 summer, and spent the entire winter of 1637-1638 on the shores of that river. That is where Moskvitin's trip eastwards started from. A small detachment under his command accompanied by aborigines went out in Spring 1639. More than two months the team moved up north along the Maya river and its tributary. Historians say this was the most difficult part of their way: they reached Ul'ya river mouth just by the end of summer.
If one would describe all hardships they had to overcome, this would have been a whole new book. A modern man would not imagine it. Although, this was just a usual journey for I.Moskvitin and his associates. They spent greater part of their lives on the road.
The aborigines told them about Okhota river, and Cossacks turned over there. They reached the place that will be later called Okhotsk on small boat, unsuitable for sea traveling. Then they built more durable and large boats - kochi. Apparently, the first Russian Pacific shipbuilders were pomors who were famous for their mastery. The specialists state that Moskvitin himself was from up north, and his team consisted of skilled shipbuilders.
Moskvitin's team sailed down south in the Sea of Okhotsk during summer 1640. He spent six years on this trip. This was a pretty costly experience for the travelers, as the average lifetime in XVII century in Russia was 40-45 years.
The geographical and anthropologic data collected by Ivan Moskvitin, served as a manual for the further expeditions eastwards, basically to Amur with a "silver mountain" on its shore.
The gossips about the great river that flows into a great eastern sea spread through Siberia by 1636. It was known that the woods over there were full of fur, and shores were populated by Daurs, who cultivated the land.
The first attempt to reach Amur was undertaken in 1638. A Cossack detachment of Maxim Perfil'ev went out of Yeniseysky camp. They moved south-east, towards the mysterious river to get to know aborigines, their customs and lifestyle. The march lasted till 1640. Although, Perfil'ev did not reach Amur, his information about the route was useful to Poyarkov and his mates.
This means that there were two simultaneous attempts to reach Amur: from the mouth and the upper reaches by Moskvitin and Perfil'ev. It feels like our forefathers did not care about the advantage of superiority. Surely they did not forget about their personal interest (they had to make a living somehow), but their primary concern was country's interest. Vasily Poyarkov continued the cause begun by his predecessors.
Vasily Poyarkov was a well-educated and decent man for his time. He entered Russian history on June 15, 1643. This is the day when he went out of Yakutsk with 112 men on service and 15 hunters. Their goal was to reach Amur.
Poyarkov was give a strict instruction to write down the information on everything concerning the new land, its inhabitants, geography, etc. And turn it in upon his returning. His way was shorter, but quite difficult. They went up the rivers Lena, Aldan, and their tributaries, through the rapids and ice-cold water. They managed to get to Stanovy mountain range by winter and built their first winter lodge over there. Then a part of the team crossed the range, found a suitable place for spending winter at daurs' land. Poyarkov did not waist time. He captured a hostage - local chief Dopyolul, who told that daurs were a settled tribe; the grew grain, vegetables, and even fruits. They produced sable fur, too. Daur land promised to become a tidbit for Yakutsk Territory.
First winter stay cost lives 40 people because the most part of food supplies stayed in the other side of the lodge, and daurs were not quite friendly-little fights occurred frequently. Their graves still stand somewhere in the middle of Siberia.
In spring they moved down Zeya river and came to Amur. Then they moved down the quiet and broad river till the issue. People of Poyarkov's detachment were the first Russians ever who saw Amur, near-by territories; described it in Moscow, discovering it for Europe.
Sailing down Amur lasted several days before the Cossacks reached the land of Achans, probably the forefathers of present Nanaians. Those people hunted and went fishing, wore clothes made of colored fish skin, slept on sable and fox fells, and ate basically fish.
Here the detachment stopped to fill up food supplies and have a rest. According to historian B. Polevoy, that happened in fall 1644; and the place they chose for stay was in the environs of present Khabarovsk, near Usury river. Thus, Poyarkov and his mates are some sort of the first residents of the city, who determined its location.
In a month Vasily Poyarkov went up Amur and built another winter lodge over there. The winter stay was calm and quiet unlike the previous one. They had enough supplies, and kept good relations with the aborigines. Moreover, the Cossacks bagged 800 sables, and 6 fur coats.
The detachment spent summer 1645 in sailing up the Sea of Okhotsk along the coast. They reached Ul'ya river in theree months. The way back was familiar, as well as relatively comfortable winter lodges. Poyarkov came back to Yakutsk in summer 1646. He lost more than a half of his men in three years, but they accomplished their major goal: they reached Amur and since that the way over there was free to anybody.
Russian nicknames always had their meanings. The word "khabar" meant "procurement", "profit", and also "luck and happiness" in Northern dialects. Apparently, the forefathers of Yerofei Khabarov were lucky because such nickname transferred to their family-name.
The road to Ural and Siberia led through the native city of Khabarov, Great Ustyug. So once two brothers Yerofei and Nikifor decided to travel to new land. They spent a couple of years in Mangazeya bagging sables. Young Khabarov shown his tough character when he publicly criticized injustice and arbitrary rule of local voivode (governor of a province in ancient Russia) Kokorev.
Next time Khabarov moved to Lena river. He got himself busy with tillage, fishery, sable production, and salt-works. His business was growing pretty fast, but local officials chased him again. Governor Golovnin took away his land, produced bread, and salt-works. Khabarov had to move further eastwards to the mouth of Kirenga river. Looks like he was a decent businessman because his farms grew quickly at any place. Unfortunately for him, the evil governor got him again in 1643, and extorted money from him. When Khabarov refused, he got sent to Yakutsk jail for two years.
Luckily, Moscow authorities found out about unlawful rule of Governor Golovnin and fired him. A new governor was a orthodox German Dmitry Frantzbeckov. Pretty careful and prudent person. He let Khabarov travel to Daurs' land. Probably, the peasant just wanted to get out of authorities' sight and try his luck once more. That time Poyarkov's trip was a big deal in the Eastern part of Russia.
Governor permitted him a voyage to Amur land but did not give a single ruble to finance the expedition. Nevertheless, Khabarov recruited 100 hunters and bought all supplies using the money he earned before. He began his trip in 1649 spring. Aborigines (Tungus) showed him another way with a shortcut. He reached Amur going down Urka river.
By the way, the constructors of Trans-Siberain railway did not forget this fact, and named the station on an intersection with Urka river in honor of Khabarov - Yerofei Pavlovich. Way down Amur was not easy. Sometimes they had to get into fights with the inhabitants of those land or stop and stay at one place for a while. While moving, Khabarov was drawing a map of Amur and its tributaries, Subdued aborigines to Moscow state, confirmed Russian's claims to this land. He also rendered an account to the governor. Later on tsar got Khabarov's report from governor Frantzbekov: "You, sovereign, will make great use of this land, there will be no need to send bread to Yakutsk as Daurs' land is more profitable than Lena river; Khabarov says that place is nice and plentiful".
If Poyarkov discovered Amur territory, then Khabarov's trip was more like development of Amur with careful analyze of perspective paces to live and branches of industry and agriculture. Khabarov spent his second winter in a village of local chief Albaza. According to historians, the fortress got captured by Russians after several storm attempts and severe fight. The detachment continued their movement by spring. They moved pretty slowly but, anyhow, they were getting to their goal.
The Next winter stay was at a point of present Khabarovsk. Maybe, Khabarov used Poyarkov's experience. Later on next year Khabarov's people built Alchansky town somewhere by Amur's mouth. The exact location of it is still unknown. While staying at that town, Khabarov's team got attacked by Manchurian Army Unit. The siege ended with complete defeat of the aliens. Russian acquired rich trophy. This victory did not change Khabarov's decision to go back closer to Yakutsk, because he understood that was not incidental fight with the Manchurs. Consolidation at Amur was possible just after gathering well-supplied and large army unit.
Poyarkov's, Khabarov's, and Yakutsk governor's reports made it clear to Moscow authorities. They send a noble Dmitry Zinoviev to Yakutsk in 1652.
Zinoviev arrived to Amur in summer 1653. He was charged to arrange a 3000 army unit advancement to Amur; to make freedom-loving Cossacks aware of authority existence; to persuade people to cultivate the land for Army supply. And, probable, the major goal was to show Moscow's interest in Amur land.
He came back to accompanied by Khabarov. Researchers interpret this fact in various ways. Some say that the chieftain got arrested for theft of powder and lead, but in Moscow he got pleaded innocent and awarded with a title of a noble son. Anyway, Khabarov did not come back to Amur, and his tack got lost.
Although, his name was found in documents of Kirensky St. Trinity cloister. When Khabarov was going to Moscow in 1660, to ask the permission to leave for Amur again, he bequeathed all his property to this cloister. The researchers also found his address to Tobolsk governor, dated 1667. The last reminder on Khabarov is mysterious "Khabarov's grave" which is under the walls of an old church in Kalinino village, several kilometers away from Nerchinsk. This might be a grave of Nikifor, his brother.
Onufri Stepanov replaced Khabarov at Amur. He was a lousy chieftain. He settled in Zeya fortress, and sometimes made plundering raids on Daurs and Manchurs. In a few months he acquired a companion - another Cossack leader Peter Beketov, who found Nerchinsk fortress.
Major Russian forces were staying at Kumarsk fortress, that was found by Khabarov. Manchurian Army Unit of 10000 men and 15 cannons came up to the walls of Kumarsk. The enemy got smashed by Cossacks in a few days.
In 1656 Stepanov made his next raid down Amur. He seized Manchurian town Ningut, having eared lots of money on it. Then he set up Kosogorsk settlement at Gilyaks' land, where he spent winter collecting kind of tax from aborigines.
Nerchinsk province was established that year, too. Former Yeniseysk governor Afanasy Pashkov got sent over there. He had to stop Cossacks' criminal activity, and get them busy in agriculture and guarding new land. Stepanov's disobedience cost him life. He died during the next raid on Manchuria.
Meanwhile, Amur got settled more and more. Town Albazin became a major settlement and a center of the territory. New fortresses, villages (still existing), and a cloister got built in Albazin environs. Okhotsk and other northern settlements were growing, too. That was the beginning of Albazin province - the first independent administrative unit in Amur land. It was officially founded in 1684 with its own accessories. Forty years after Poyarkov's expedition Amur Territory was supplying bread for all eastern Siberia.
Manchurs were concerned with Russian evasion. They realized that Russian merchants got access to Pacific trade, where Chinese and Japanese got already pressed by the Europeans.
On the other hand, Manchurs were fighting their old enemies - Mongols, the descendants of those who created a mighty empire. Every time Mongols were losing a battle they ran away to Russian fortresses. Once Russians refused to deliver up Mongol prince Gantimur, and in return Manchurs refused to negotiate with a Russian commissioner Nikolai Spafiry who got sent to China with a diplomatic mission.
The opposition, thus, was more political than economical. In the 80-es Manchurs came to Russian Amur capital Albazin twice. Once Russians even had to leave the town after a siege in 1685. Although, they came back next year. The fortress and villages got rebuilt pretty soon. The next siege occurred in summer 1687. It lasted for a year. Russians did not give up, but only one out of ten people survived. The first Albazin governor Alexei Tolbuzin died, too.
Next year, 1689, Russia had to sign Nerchinsky treaty. According to it, Russians had to leave Amur, and abandon their villages and fortresses. This got executed by summer 1690 at least in the mid Amur.
Let us render to the pioneers of XVII century. They did not think about their own interest discovering new lands. They were honest and noble servants of their country. They cared about social goals a whole lot more than about themselves. Europe and Asia used to be separated by thick wall of hostile Asian states which got broken by Russians. A Hundred years after Russians' coming to East they built an Orthodox church in the ancestral land of Genghis Khan.
Yes, we had to leave Amur for a while. Anyhow, it was Russian.