1902 Encyclopedia > Nijni Novgorod (provincial capital)

Nijni Novgorod (provincial capital)

NIJNI-NOVGOROD, or simply NIJNI or NIJNIY, capital of the above government, is situated at the confluence of the Oka and Volga, 276 miles by rail to the east of Moscow. It occupies a most 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 with the metal wares from that of the Kama; the corn and salt brought from the south-eastern provinces, the produce of the Caspian fisheries, and the various wares imported from Siberia, Central Asia, Caucasus, and Persia. It has thus become the seat of the great Makarievskaya fair, and one of the chief commercial centres of Russia. Its importance has still further increased during the last twenty years in consequence of the growth of manufactures 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. Nijni-Novgorod consists of three parts: - the upper city, including the Kremlin ; the lower town, or Nijni Bazaar ; and "the Fair," with the suburb Kunavina. The upper city covers three hills, which rise as steep crags to a height of 400 feet (490 feet above sea-level) on the right banks of both the Oka and the Volga. The Kremlin, or old fort, occupies one of these hills facing the Volga. It was erected in the beginning of the 16th century, on the site of the old palisaded fort, and has a wall 2300 yards long, with eleven towers ; it contains the law-courts, the governor's residence, the arsenal, barracks, the military gymnasium of Count Arakchaeff, transferred from Novgorod, and two cathedrals, Preobrajenski and Arkhangelski. These were erected in 1225 and 1222 respectively, and have been rebuilt more than once ; the present structures, in somewhat poor taste, date from traffic. Its embankments are covered with storehouses, and during the fair great quantities of merchandise are unloaded there : hills of salt surround the salt-harbour on the Oka ; farther down are seen the extensive storehouses and heaps of grain of the corn-harbour ; then comes the steamboat quay on the Volga, opposite the Kremlin, and still farther to the east the timber-harbour. The fair is held on the flat sandy tongue of land between the Oka and the Volga, connected with the town only by a bridge of boats, 1500 yards long, which is dismounted in winter. The shops of the fair, more than 3000 in number, built of stone in regular rows, are surrounded by a canal, and cover half a square A complete town has sprung up around them, whilst the sandy banks are occupied by storehouses. The Siberian harbour during the fair has a special interest on account of its accumulations of tea boxes and temporary shelters where the different kinds of tea are tried and valued 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 Grebnovskaya harbour. An island in the Volga is the place where various kinds of rough wares are landed. An immense cathedral has been recently erected to the north of the fair, on a site which is often flooded. The railway from Moscow has its terminus close to the fair buildings, to the south of which is the suburb Kunavina, widely known throughout the East as a place for amusements of the lowest kind during the fair.

Nijni-Novgorod is well supplied with drinking-water by springs which flow from beneath the Triassic marls of which its hills are constituted. The water is collected in a basin on the banks of the Volga and pumped to the upper town (114,000 gallons per day). The climate of Nijni is harsh and continental, the yearly average temperature being 39° Fahr. e(10°•6 in January and 64° in July), and the extreme thermometric readings - 40° and 104° Fahr.

The town has a settled population of 50,000 inhabitants, rising to 250,000 or perhaps to 300,000 during the fair. The inhabitants are nearly all Great-Russians, and many of them are Nonconformists. The mortality exceeds the birth-rate. The educational institutions, which are few, include, besides the military school, one college (gymnasium) for boys and one for girls, a technical school, a theological seminary, two schools for sons and daughters of the clergy, and a dozen primary schools. The aggregate number of scholars being 3000, nearly 8000 children receive no public instruction. There is a small public library, and a single periodical - The Exchange News; the five printing offices are employed almost exclusively by the public institutions. Of late the statistical committee has issued a most valuable publication, the Nijegorodskiy Sbornik, containing all kinds of statistical, ethnographical, and arclueological information about the government.

The manufactures are unimportant, but on the increase. The steam flour-mills, iron and machine works, manufactories of ropes and candles, distilleries, and potteries have an aggregate production of nearly £250,000 per year. Shipbuilding, especially for the transport of naphtha on the Caspian Sea, and also steamboat building, have recently advanced considerably. Nijni is the chief station of the Volga steamboat traffic. The first steamer on the Volga made its appearance in 1821, but it was not till 1845 that steam navigation began to assume large proportions. In 1840 the whole traffic, carried on by nearly 1000 boats and 200 larger boats mored by horse-power, did not exceed 1,000,000 tons ; it is now estimated at 2,500,000 tons, worth £3,000,000, and the number of steamers on the Volga alone is about 500. The head offices of the chief companies are at Nijni. The merchants also carry on a brisk trade, valued (apart from that of the fair) at more than £2,000,000 (20,000,000 roubles) of purchases and £1,800,000 of sales; the chief items are corn (from £200,000 to £500,000), salt, iron, tea, fish, groceries, and manufactured goods. The annual budget of Nijni is under £20,000.

The chief importance of Nijni is due to its fair, which is held from August 5th to September 15th. From remote antiquity Russim 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 Kama, - the fair changing its site with the increasing or decreasing power of the nationalities which struggled for the possession of the middle Volga. Bulgary, or Bakhrimovo, NijniNovgorod, Kazan, and Vasilsursk have successively been its seat since the 10th century. From 1624 its seat was long at the Jeltovodski monastery, 55 miles below Nijni, close to biakarieff, whence its present name. The situation, however, being in many ways inconvenient, and a conflagration having destroyed the shops at Makarieff, the fair was transferred in 1817 to its present seat at Nijni. The first fair held here showed a large increase of arrivals, which reached the value of 27,000,000 roubles, and this figure has steadily increased, reaching an average of 168,628,600 roubles in 1871-75, and 200,446,000 roubles in 1880. The value of the merchandise unsold- usually varies from 15 to 25 millions (31 millions in 1880). The goods chiefly dealt in are cotton, woollen, linen, and silk stuffs (35 to 38 per cent. 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 Kiachta, Canton, and Suez), raw cotton and silk, leather wares, madder, and various manufactured wares - do not exceed 10 or 11 per cent. Manufactured wares, groceries, and wines are the goods principally imported from western Europe.

The above figures, however, convey but a very imperfect idea of the total business transacted at the fair, which has been estimated at 371,013,911 roubles in 1880 (320,532,700 in 1876), and in reality stands at a much higher figure. Twenty-five years ago, the Russian manufacturers depending chiefly on the barter-trade in tea at Kiachta, their production was regulated principally by the prices of tea established at the fair ; hut now cotton takes the lead, and the extension to be given each year to 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 become 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 Nijni, as well as those of raw silk. The whole of the iron production of the Ural depends also on the same fair. The " caravans" rof boats laden with iron-ware, starting from the Ural works in the spring, reach Nijni in August, after a stay at the fair of Laisheff, which supplies the lower Volga ; and the purchases of iron made at Nijni 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 iron-works, 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 that the Siberian and Turkestan merchants obtain at the fair.

The Makarievskaya fair attracts therefore no fewer than 200,000 people from all parts of Russia, and partly from Asia. The 3000 shops of the Gostinoy Dvor being insufficient for all the merchandise, other 3000 shops are erected on a field close by, whilst the quays are covered for 10 miles with heaps of ware and temporary shelters. The Oka and Volga are literally covered with thousands of boats of all descriptions ; thousands of bargemen swarm in the dirtiest holes, spreading epidemics ; whilst the lowest amusements are carried on in the houses of Kunavina. The fair is under the control of a special committee, who raise more than 400,000 roubles for shop rents.

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

History. - The confluence of the Oka and the Volga, inhabited in the 10th century by numerous Mordvinian tribes, began to be coveted by the Russians as soon as they had occupied the upper Volga, and as early as the 11th century they had established a fort, Gorodetz, 20 miles above the mouth of the Oka. In 1221 the people of Suzdal, under Yuri Vsevolodovich, erected a fort on the hill now occupied by the Kremlin of Nijni, and gave it the name of Novgrad Nizovskiya Zenili (new town of the, lowland). Until the beginning of the 14th century Nijni-Novgorod, which grew rapidly as the Russians colonized the banks of the Oka, remained a sub-town of Suzdal ; it enjoyed, however, almost complete independence, being ruled by its popular assembly. In the 14th century, until 1390, it elected its own princes. Ill protected by its palisaded walls, it was plundered in 1377 and 1378 by the Tartars, supported by the Mordvinians. In 1390 Prince Vasili of Moscow, in alliance with the khan Toktamish, took Nijni and established his own governors there ; in 1412 it was definitely annexed to Moscow, becoming a stronghold for the further advance of that principality towards the east. It was fortified in 1508-11, and was able to repel the Tartars in 1513, 1520, and 1536. The second half of the 16th century was for Nijni a period of peaceful and rapid development. It became a depot for all merchandise brought from the south-east, and even English merchants established warehouses there. With the fall of Kazan, and the opening of the free navigation on the Volga, it became also 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. In 1606-11 the trading classes of Nijni took an active part in the expeditions against the revolted. serfs, and it was a Nijni dealer in cattle, Kozma Minin Sukhoruki, who took the initiative in sending an army for the delivery of Moscow from the Poles. During the 17th century the country around Nijni became the seat of a vigorous religious agitation, and in its forests the Ilaskolniks spread hundreds of their monasteries and communities, those of the Kerjenets playing an important part in the history of Russian Nonconformity even to our own da3r.

Nijni-Novgorod had at one time two academies, Greek and Slavonic, and took some part in the literary movement of the end of the last century ; its theatre also had some importance in the history of the Russian stage. It is the birthplace of Kulibin and Dobrolu boff. (P. A. K.)

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