Eleventh International Conference and Exhibition LIBCOM-2007
"Information Technologies, Computer Systems and Publications for Libraries"
November 12 -16, 2007
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Zvenigorod, an oldest Russian town, was founded round 1152 by Prince Yury Dolgoruky 53 km west of Moscow on the bank of the Moskva River. Though the precise year of its foundation has been lost in the flow of centuries, the materials found in excavations show that Zvenigorod had existed as a settlement even before the Tatar invasion. However, the first written mention of Zvenigorod appeared in 1336 in the testament of Great Moscow Prince Ivan Danilovich Kalita. As for chronicles, Zvenigorod was mentioned still later, in 1382, in connection with the invasion of Khan Toktamysh.

There exist quite a few legends explaining its name, which in Russian means "a jingling town". One of them, and perhaps the most poetic, reads that, in the medieval centuries, Zvenigorod served as a guard post on the western road to Moscow. When seeing an approaching enemy from a high tower the guards sounded alarm by a toll. The tolling of the bells reached another watch-tower situated nearby, and from there it was transmitted to the third watch-tower, and so on, all the way down to Moscow, giving warning of the approaching enemy. A bell is the symbol of Zvenigorod and is depicted on its coat of arms.

Other versions say it could be named after a certain person - compare this with the personal names Zvenislav or Zvenimir, or its name could be a hydronym - compare it with the names of the rivers Zvinech and Zvinega. There were also other towns in Kievan Russia named Zvenigorod. According to chronicles, one of them was around Galich (Zvenigorod Galichsky) and the other one, not far from Kiev (Zvenigorod Kievsky), so Zvenigorod near Moscow could be named after them.

In the 14th-15th centuries Zvenigorod was the center of a large independent principality, part of the Moscow principality, i.e., the second town after Moscow. In the second half of the 14th century, in spite of the invasion of Khan Toktamysh in 1382, who destroyed Zvenigorod, the principality continued to develop, which is indirectly confirmed by the amount of homage paid to the Golden Horde by Moscow princes. In 1389, after Dmitry Donskoy's death, Zvenigorod was inherited by his second son, Yury (in the testaments of Moscow princes the town was always passed to the second son), who made the fortification of his capital town one of his primary concerns. During his reign, the place reached the peak of prosperity. On the steep left bank of the Moskva River, on the hill surrounded by deep ravines, close to the place of the ancient Slav settlement, Yury ordered building a formidable fortress, the Kremlin (the so-called “Small Town” or, in Russian, Gorodok), surrounded by a rampart with a wooden wall and towers on top. In 1407, right in the center of the Kremlin, a white-stone Assumption cathedral was built. Famous icon-painters Andrey Rublev and Daniil Chernyi were commissioned to work there. The Prince's residence was built close the Cathedral.

One and a half kilometers west, on the left bank of the Storozhka River, close to its influx into the Moskva River, the Savvino-Storozhevsky monastery appeared in 1398-1399 thanks to the efforts of Savva, a disciple of St. Sergius of Radonezh, Father Superior of the Holy Trinity Monastery. From the very beginning this monastery existed under the auspices of Prince Yury because Savva was the confessor of the Prince. The ensemble of the monastery was (and is) surrounded by mighty fortress walls with six towers (1650-1654) and is composed of a remarkable white-stone Nativity cathedral (built around 1405 with the help of the Prince); remarkable monuments of the civic architecture of the 17th century - the Czar Palace and the Czarina Chambers; fine baroque Transfiguration Church, a unique ensemble of the Holy Passage, and a Belfry. The paintings of the interior walls of the Nativity Cathedral date back to the 15th century, and the iconostas, to the 17th century. For many centuries, the Savvino-Storozhevsky monastery remained a prominent religious center of Russia. At different times, czars Ivan the Terrible, Fyodor Ioannovich, Mikhail Fyodorovich came to prey there, and later, czar Peter the Great, crown princess Elizabeth and empress Catherine the Great.

In the first quarter of the 15th century, Zvenigorod became a significant regional center of trade and handicrafts. Judging by several silver coins found in the course of excavations, they even minted coins there. The town grew rapidly and expanded to the opposite river bank.

The Savvino-Storozhevsky monastery was not the only monastery in the principality. Other monasteries appeared at that time that, like monasteries around Moscow, encircled Zvenigorod. The monastery of the Exhalation of the Holy Cross was built right in Zvenigorod in the Lower trading quarter. The records of 1558-1559 mention Zvenigorod's Nativity monastery. Three kilometers to the south-east, in the vicinity of Vvedenskoye village, was a small Vvedensky (Presentation in the Temple) monastery. Nine kilometers to the south-west of Zvenigorod, where the Assumption churchyard existed later, the Assumption Sophronius monastery was built. To the east of Zvenigorod, close to the village Aksinino, on a wide road to Moscow, a small Nicholas-on-Sands monastery stood. In the north-western part of the region, in Trostna district, there existed the Assumption Onuphrius monastery on the Trostna Lake, the second largest after the Savvino-Storozhevsky monastery.

Data about this land in the 16th century are scarce. Among its owners were Yury, the son of Ivan the Third, and Tatar princes Derbysh-Aley, Ediger and Murtazaley. From the records of 1558-1559 we obtained the first classified catalog of the villages of this principality: the then existing 1211 villages and settlements were mostly in the ownership of Moscow princes and czars. However, in spite the vast territory, the ownership of the court stood only second after the ownership of the monasteries, and Savvino-Storozhevsky monastery was among the richest monasteries of Russia.

In the 16th-17th centuries, the principality was among the near-Moscow towns that formed a core of the governmental territory of Moscow czardom. However, at that time, Zvenigorod's trading quarter was not too big, the fortress had lost the significance it had boasted of in the times of the appanage, and only the Assumption cathedral reminded the people of the glorious past.

In the years of downturn (the 1560-1570s) and oprichnina, Zvenigorod and the region suffered only slightly and recovered rather quickly in the 1590s, the years of pickup. On the verge of the Time of Troubles, Zvenigorod was well populated and rather well-off, judging by frequent pilgrimage visits of Russian czars.

In the early 17th century, the region of Zvenigorod became the arena of combat. In 1606, it was swept by the peasant revolt headed by Ivan Bolotnikov; afterwards, Polish mercenaries of the False Dmitry invaded and ravaged the Savvino-Storozhevsky monastery. However, in general, the region did not suffer greatly. A bit later, however, in the time of the second pretender, the situation worsened drastically. As a result of continuous warfare in 1606-1618, the region of Zvenigorod was among the most seriously ruined, and the population—peasants and pomeshchiks (landowners)—fled to the areas that were better off. Even by the end of the 17th century Zvenigorod did not manage to recover and turned to an ordinary provincial town of the Russian state. The records of 1678 read that there were only 55 homesteads in the trading quarter of Zvenigorod, and 1292 peasant households in the region. Such was the place before the reforms of Peter the Great.

The 18th century brought quite a few changes but almost all of them were caused by the proximity to Moscow and its social and economic development. Zvenigorod was still the center of one of the oldest regions. Its history was largely connected with the Savvino-Storozhevsky monastery, which was second by income in 1701-1705 after the Resurrection monastery in Novy Ierusalim (New Jerusalem) on the Istra River. The region was a place of patrimonial land ownership. According to the 1787 data, pomeshchiks owned 223 villages with 34 000 bonds, while the treasury owned only 75 villages with 15 000 peasants.

To the mid-19th century, there were 45 small industrial enterprises in the region with the staff of 3900 workers. An impetus to the economic development of the region was given by the Moscow-Brest railway road that was built in late 1860s-early 1870s. However, the proximity to Moscow hindered further development of factories, as Moscow was far ahead in capitalist production with a new labor organization system and higher capital concentration.

In the early 20th century, as in the previous centuries, agriculture was the main activity in the region. However, small land plots, poor soil, low harvests and underdeveloped industry did not contribute to extensive agricultural development. Instead, agricultural underdevelopment and proximity to the main market of Moscow contributed, starting with the mid-19th century, to a rapid development of handicrafts. Right before the revolution of 1917 (as of 1916) there were 24 enterprises in the region with the staff of 5500 workers.

After the Great Patriotic War (WWII) the country started to recover its economy, and the life of the region changed due to a new concept of its development: it became the region of rest homes and pioneer camps. In the 1950s the government intended opening a resort center there but this plan, along with many others, never saw light. Nevertheless, active construction undertaken in this region by many governmental organizations and institutions resulted in the opening of 62 pioneer camps and over 20 rest homes and health farms. Picturesque forests, hills and springs have made this town and its surroundings a most famous recreation place in Moscow region.

For the particular beauty of its scenery Zvenigorod is called "Russian Switzerland". “Nowhere in Moscow province have I seen such a diversity of plants as around Savvino. The flowers, grass and trees are full of some special strength and freshness. The lime-trees and oak-trees are just splendid. The road from there to Moscow is most pleasant to the eye - hilly but what a scenery!” - wrote the famous Russian historian Nikolai Mikhailovich Karamzin. And these words are still true.

In the late 19th century, Zvenigorod and its surroundings became a haunt of fashion due to the beauty of the scenery, mild climate and unhurried lifestyle. Many places in the region are connected with the life and work of known public figures, noblemen, merchants, celebrated writers, musicians and artists. These places were visited by Pushkin, Herzen, Chekhov, Prishvin, Levitan, Tchaikovsky, Gorky, Shalyapin, Taneyev and many others. There were more country estates of prince and count families near Zvenigorod than in other areas around Moscow; they numbered almost 200 in the early 19th century, now there are 27 of these, some of them, like Vvedenskoye, are almost fully intact. Among well preserved estates with long and rich history are Bolshye Vyazemy and Ershovo.

The village and estate Ershovo

The village Ershovo is located 3 km away from Zvenigorod. The documents read that in the 15th century it belonged to a Moscow prince, then passed to Boyar Saltykov, and, in the late 18th century, was given as a dotal property to Adam Olsufiev, a successful courtier of Queens Elizabeth and Catherine the Great. His grandson, Vassily, was on military service when young, fought in the 1814 foreign campaigns of the Russian Army, and made a brilliant career at court having received the title of Chief Lord Chamberlain of the Household and Administrator of Her Majesty's office. He was awarded the title of Prince of Russian Empire. From 1828 through 1836, Olsufiev was marshal of the nobility in Zvenigorod region and stayed in Ershovo for many months running.

It was then that he ordered building a new brick church instead of the shabby wooden one and the two-storey manor house, and laying out an English garden. The Empire style manor house and the Trinity church were designed by the well-known Moscow architect Aleksey Grigoriev.

In the 20th century, the premises of the former estates and dachas of pomeshchiks were transformed into recreation houses for workers. Ershovo was among them. In 1928, it the former manor became a recreation house for the staff of Moscow-Baltic-Belorussian railway, and functioned in this capacity until 1941, when the Great Patriotic War (WWII) broke out. After the war, the Ministry of Special Engineering restored the destroyed manor house and opened it for the people whose profession was production and processing of uranium, creation of nuclear reactors and weapons, and operation of nuclear power stations.

Today, Ershovo offers comfortable rooms for 500 guests and has up-to-date facilities for recreation and entertainment: saunas, a swimming pool, a gym and a sports complex.

There are lots of places on Earth that can be proud of their ancient history; there are many that are rare examples of primeval and perfect beauty. Zvenigorod is a unique land where antiquity is framed in beautiful landscapes, where the past meets the present.

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