Verkhoturye is a historic town and the administrative center of Verkhotursky District
Verkhotursky District
Verkhotursky District is an administrative district , one of the 30 in Sverdlovsk Oblast, Russia. The district contains 1 town and 10 selsovets under its jurisdiction....

 of Sverdlovsk Oblast
Sverdlovsk Oblast
Sverdlovsk Oblast is a federal subject of Russia located in the Urals Federal District. Its administrative center is the city of Yekaterinburg formerly known as Sverdlovsk. Population: -Geography:...

, Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

, located in the middle Ural Mountains
Ural Mountains
The Ural Mountains , or simply the Urals, are a mountain range that runs approximately from north to south through western Russia, from the coast of the Arctic Ocean to the Ural River and northwestern Kazakhstan. Their eastern side is usually considered the natural boundary between Europe and Asia...

 on the left bank of the Tura River
Tura River
Tura River , also known as Dolgaya River ) is a historically important Siberian river which flows eastward from the central Ural Mountains into the Tobol River, a part of the Ob River basin. The main town is Tyumen....

 306 kilometres (190.1 mi) north of Yekaterinburg
Yekaterinburg is a major city in the central part of Russia, the administrative center of Sverdlovsk Oblast. Situated on the eastern side of the Ural mountain range, it is the main industrial and cultural center of the Urals Federal District with a population of 1,350,136 , making it Russia's...

. Population: 7,815 (2002 Census
Russian Census (2002)
Russian Census of 2002 was the first census of the Russian Federation carried out on October 9 through October 16, 2002. It was carried out by the Russian Federal Service of State Statistics .-Resident population:...

; 10,900 (1967).

Verkhoturye was founded in 1598 by Vasily Golovin and Ivan Voyeykov on the site of the Vogul settlement of Neromkar. There were major fires in 1674 and 1738. The railroad arrived in 1906. It lost town status in 1926 and regained it in 1947. Two oil pipelines pass through the area and there are plans to build an oil refinery.

In contrast to the surrounding mining towns, Verkhoturye has been relatively untouched by industrialization and much of its historic appearance has been preserved. Being one of the oldest Russian settlements east of the Urals, and with forty churches in the area, Verkhoturye is considered one of the centers of Russian Christianity. Famous churches include the Trinity Church (1703—1712), Nikolay Monastery (established in 1604) with the Cathedral of Exaltation of the Holy Cross (1905—1913), and Transfiguration Church (1821). In addition, the town houses the oldest female monastery beyond Urals (established in 1621).

The Gateway to Siberia

The middle Ural Mountains at the latitude of Verkhoturye are fairly low and form a natural gateway into Siberia. With the Russian conquest of Siberia
Russian conquest of Siberia
The Russian conquest of Siberia took place in the 16th and 17th centuries, when the Siberian Khanate had become a loose political structure of vassalages which were becoming undermined by the activities of Russian explorers who, though numerically outnumbered, pressured the various family-based...

 and the foundation of the trans-Ural towns of Tyumen
Tyumen is the largest city and the administrative center of Tyumen Oblast, Russia, located on the Tura River east of Moscow. Population: Tyumen is the oldest Russian settlement in Siberia. Founded in 16th century to support Russia's eastward expansion, the city has remained one of the most...

 and Tobolsk
Tobolsk is a town in Tyumen Oblast, Russia, located at the confluence of the Tobol and Irtysh Rivers. It is a historic capital of Siberia. Population: -History:...

 the problem was to find the best route from European Russia. Around 1580, Yermak Timofeyevich
Yermak Timofeyevich
Yermak Timofeyevich , Cossack leader, Russian folk hero and explorer of Siberia. His exploration of Siberia marked the beginning of the expansion of Russia towards this region and its colonization...

 ascended the Chusovaya River south of Verkhoturye and crossed to the Barancha, a tributary of the Tagil River
Tagil River
Tagil is a river in Sverdlovsk Oblast, Russia. It is 414 km long, with a drainage basin of 10 100 km². The average discharge is 40 m³/s. The river has its sources on the eastern slopes of the Ural Mountains, east of Verkhny Tagil...

. This route was abandoned because the upper Tagil was too shallow. Around 1590, a more northern route was opened from Cherdyn
Cherdyn is a town and the administrative center of Cherdynsky District of Perm Krai, Russia. Population: The Kolva River flows by the town....

 north of Solikamsk
Solikamsk is a town in Perm Krai, Russia. It is the third-largest town in Perm Krai, with a population of It was founded in 1430. The name of the town is derived from the Russian words "" and "" .It is famous for its production of salt, in particular, potassium chloride, which is used as a...

 up to the Vishera River
Vishera River
Vishera is the name of several rivers in Russia:*Vishera River *Vishera River *Vishera River **Bolshaya Vishera River, its tributary**Malaya Vishera River, its tributary...

 and down the Lozva River
Lozva River
Lozva River is a river in Sverdlovsk Oblast in Russia, a left tributary of the Tavda River. The length of the river is 637 km. The area of its basin is 17,800 km². The river freezes up in October - early November and stays icebound until late April - early May. Its main tributaries are the...

. In 1597, Artemy Babinov found what became the standard route. This Babinsky Road ran overland from Solikamsk
Solikamsk is a town in Perm Krai, Russia. It is the third-largest town in Perm Krai, with a population of It was founded in 1430. The name of the town is derived from the Russian words "" and "" .It is famous for its production of salt, in particular, potassium chloride, which is used as a...

 to Verkhoturye. An ostrog
Ostrog (fortress)
Ostrog was a Russian term for a small fort, typically wooden and often non-permanently manned. Ostrogs were encircled by 4-6 metres high palisade walls made from sharpened trunks. The name derives from the Russian word строгать , "to shave the wood". Ostrogs were smaller and exclusively military...

(fort) was built at Verkhoturye in 1598 and a customs house in 1600 or 1601. Until about 1763, this was the main road into Siberia. All winter sledges would haul goods from Solikamsk to Verkhoturye where they were stockpiled until the spring thaw. Siberian furs collected as yasak
Yasak or yasaq, sometimes iasak, is a Turkic word for "tribute" that was used in Imperial Russia to designate fur tribute exacted from the indigenous peoples of Siberia.- Origin :...

(tribute) passed through Verkhoturye to the Sable Treasury in Moscow. Privately-owned furs leaving Siberia paid a 10% tax unless the merchant could prove that the tax had been paid in Siberia. Goods entering Siberia paid a 4% tax (in addition to the 10% paid when the goods were sold). Goods coming and going were inspected and inventoried to prevent contraband. Guard posts were set up in the region to prevent people from slipping around the custom house.
Around 1600, Turinsk
Turinsk is a town and the administrative center of Turinsky District of Sverdlovsk Oblast, Russia, located on the right bank of the Tura River midway between Verkhoturye and Tyumen, near its confluence with the Yarlynka, northeast of Yekaterinburg...

 was built downriver and a winter ice road was built to connect the two. At some point the Irbit Fair
Irbit fair
The Irbit fair was the second largest fair in Imperial Russia after the Makariev Fair. It was held annually in winter, trading with tea and fur brought along the Siberian trakt from Asia....

 downriver became a major trading place. In 1695, all routes from the Kama basin except Verkhoturye were legally closed. Verkhoturye declined from about 1763 when the Siberian Route
Siberian Route
The Siberian Route , also known as the Moscow Route and Great Route , was a historic route that connected European Russia to Siberia and China. Previously Siberian transport had been mostly by river via Siberian River Routes...

 was built through Yekaterinburg to the south. In the 1770s, the toll for crossing into Siberia was abolished or reduced.

The construction of Verkhoturye began in spring 1598 by the Tsar’s edict. The fortress was erected by people hired from Cherdyn, the streltsy from a small town Lozva and war prisoners taken under the fall of the Kazan Khanate. Already in August 1598 a messenger arrived in Moscow with a «draught» for the Verkhoturye wooden kremlin and ostrog (stockade).
The first fortress or wooden Kremlin was felled on the sheer stone bank of the Tura-river. Here the money, sable and salt treasury, munitions and grain supplies for Siberian towns were kept. The military garrisons were also quar¬tered in this place.
In the 1600s the youngest sons of the Russian nobility, clergy, townspeople, peasants and streltsy formed a settlement next to the kremliaThe new settlement - «posad» -gradually filled the interfluvial area of the Tura-river and its two tributaries. The fortifications of the kremlin and the posad converged. In the second half of the 17th cen¬tury they extended for 640-645 sagenes. The wooden 10-13 sagenes in high towers of ostrog, were linked with wooden walls too, thus making Verkhoturye an impregnable place.

On the Siberian tsar's road, settlements grew and expanded under close attention from the central Moscow state. According to the tsaris edict, 50 coach-men from coastal towns moved to Verkhoturye in 1600. So, the coachmen township, Yamskaya, was formed.
In the middle of the 17th century on the right bank of the Tura-river, opposite the fortress, the Zarechny town¬ship was founded, whose settlers were mainly peasants as well as retired streltsy and gunners.
The frontier position of the town, through which goods went both from Russia to Siberia and China and vice versa, required the establishment of a customs court in Verkhoturye. All the traders and passers-by came in per¬son to customs, showed their documents, paid duties and got trading licenses. By tsar's edict the Customs House of Verkhoturye was granted the exclusive right to subject the property and goods of the Siberian voivodes5 to customs examination and even confiscate them to the treasure.
Gostiny Dvor, already established by 1600, was used as a storehouse for merchant goods; the wholesale trade was carried out here too. In 1б07, alongside Tobolsk and Beryosovy, Verkhoturye was granted the first town seal. This confirmed the important place of Verkhoturye in the customs system of the Moscow state. A sable under a tree was depicted on the seal. Later, letter «B» was added here, referring to the name of the town.
The symbol of the sable revealed the main purpose of Russian expansion in Siberia - furs enriched the state treasury.
The administrative influence of Verkhoturye spread and, as a result, in 1687 an arrow was added to the seal. The arrow reflected the special strategic position of Verkhoturye which lay on the border of European Russia and Siberia.
In 1783 the Tsar approved the coat-of-arms of the dis¬trict town Verkhoturye, of Perm vicegerency (Perm province afterwards). At the top of the heraldic shield there was a governor's coat-of-arms which represented a silver bear in the red field, with a Gospel in a gold set¬ting placed over it. A silver cross above it meant «firstly -wild manners of the inhabitants, secondly - enlightment through the adoption of Christian law». The sable with the arrow and letter «B» were placed in the silver field at the bottom.
Though nominally the voivodes of Verkhoturye were under those of Tobolsk, the special town position on the border between the central Russia and Siberia led to their taking direct orders from Moscow. The Russian nobility and those from high-born families were appointed the voivodes in Verkhoturye. Sometimes among them were those, related to the Bar"s family, such as Miloslavsky Lopukhin, Naryshkin.
The Moscow government in every way possible encouraged local initiative to organise Orthodox monasteries and temples. In 1604 a religious monk Iova the Gothamite received permission to found St. Nickolas Monastery in Verkhoturye - the first Christian cloister in Zauralye.
In 1621 the Protection Nunnery was established in Verkhoturye by the first Siberian archbishop Cyprian.

The first temples in Verkhoturye were badly in need of church-plate and prayer-books. Tsar Boris Godunov sent a set with nine icons, Holy Gates with a Canopy, sacred images, a bell and a Mineia (prayer-book) to the Trinity Cathedral, which was already in existence by 1601.
Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich also granted icons, books and other sacred objects. Precious gifts were given to the monaster of St. Nickolas Church too, such as two Holy Gates with a Canopy, prayer-books, two bells as well as a great number of icons.
The Orthodox population of the Urals and contiguous regions of Russia has long since revered the name of St. Simeon the Holy, who worked wonders in Verkhoturye. According to the legend, a nobleman Simeon left his native land in European Russia and settled in the village
Merkushino in the vicinity of Verkhoturye. He made his living by fishing and sewing fur-coats. Simeon didn't live more than 40 years but his body survived in the ground undeceived for many years. His relics were subjected to examination and in September 12, 1704 moved to St. Nickolas Monastery in Verkhoturye.
The journey from Verkhoturye to the East could be made by land and by the river Tura. The Moscow gov¬ernment placed a shipyard in Verkhoturye to send grain supplies and military equipment to Siberian towns and ostrogs. The big heavy ships for navigation in the Arctic Ocean were built there, as well as small river boats.
As the Tura was not deep enough near the town, the ships from Verkhoturye were half-loaded up to the village Merkushino and only set off further after full shipment. Afterwards, a large shipyard was built in Merkushino itself.

The events of the second half the 18th century i.e. abolition of inland customs in Russia and transfer of Siberian High Road much further south of Verkhoturye, showed how greatly prosperity and devel¬opment depended on its loca¬tion on the main road to Siberia. The town became dis¬connected with the trading routes.
The appearance of a great number of mining territories within the confines of the Verkhoturye district of the 57th century with their special subordination, consider¬ably reduced the administrative influence of Ver¬khoturye.
Life in the town came to a standstill and nothing seemed able to change the fatal turn in Verkhoturye history.
The abolition of serfdom in Russia marked a new epoch. The first changes in Verkhoturye dealt with the elimination of the special Mining Management Board in the Urals and the introduction of local self-government (1860-1870). With the efforts of the latter, a hospital community, schools, a meteorological station, a veterinary surgery and a district treasury were built.
The monastic territory was extended to 11 hectares and its new Cathedral of the Exaltation of the Cross could house 8000 prayers - nearly all die town population. And if in the late 19th century die number of pilgrims attending St.Nickolas Monastery reached 50,000 a year, during World War I the monastery was visited by 90,000 to 120,000 pilgrims.
Before the Revolution of 1917, the population of Verkhoturye consisted mainly of clergy, petty bour¬geoisie, merchants and craftsmen. Strong religious beliefs and firm monarchist outlook conditioned stout resistance to the new power. The Soviets could not accept the religious traditions of, or the fact mat it was a place of pilgrimage. Terror and militant atheism reigned in post-revolutionary Verkhoturye. Monasteries and churches were closed and the relics of St Simeon were taken out to the Nizhny Tagil Museum
After the closing of St. Nickolas Monastery (1926), its territory was given to the penitentiary for juvenile offenders, which, in 1935, passed under the jurisdiction of NKVD and was renamed as a prison camp. By that time the influx of deportees from the European part of the country had increased. In the late 1930s the Chief Board of SevUralLag settled in the forgotten capital of the Urals. The NKVD camps and timber-felling sites were formed in its vicinity which became the basis for further development of local timber-cutting and woodworking -Castries of the Verrkhoturye region.
A settlement for prisoners of war, participating in the construction of Verkhoturye hydro-electric power station( 1948), was set up on the river Mostovaya. In the same year, equipment from Germany was assembled in the building of a former state storehouse. Thus originat¬ed the Verkhoturye skates plant. The resources of wood and electricity favoured the construction of a wood chemical plant, with its first product being manufac¬tured in 1957.
Verkhoturye of the 1960s still kept the rudiments of GULAG. The largest prison camp of the Ministry of Home Affairs of RSFSR and a famous rehabilitation cen¬tre for alcoholics were located here. This period of town history was, in the main, characterized by the prepara¬tion for the 50th anniversary of October Revolution. A district committee of CPSU, a palace of culture, a cin¬ema, a bathhouse, a maternity hospital and a reinforced concrete bridge over the Tura-river were built at that time.
1990 was the turning point in the fate of Verkhoturye: a prison camp was withdrawn from the St. Nickolas monastery and the old Urals cloister restored to life. In 1991, the Protection nunnery was reopened.
Relics of Simeon the Holy were brought back to the St. Nickolas monastery and the Simeon church was restored on the burial place of Simeon the Holy.
In the times of the severe economic crisis, a fantastic decision was made to launch a grandiose programme aimed at reviving of the spiritual capital of the Urals. It was the Governor of the Sverdlovsk Oblast who made a plan of specific restoration and construction works out of an idea.President Yeltsin has made the first contribution for the implementation of this plan.

Other Ural crossings

To the north the three crossing points were the Arctic Ocean
Arctic Ocean
The Arctic Ocean, located in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Arctic north polar region, is the smallest and shallowest of the world's five major oceanic divisions...

, the Usa River
Usa River
Usa River could refer to:* Usa , a small river in Hesse, Germany* Usa River , a river in Belarus* Usa River , a river in Kemerovo Oblast, Russia...

, and the Northern Sosva River
Northern Sosva River
The Severnaya Sosva is a river in Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug, Russia, which drains the northern Ural Mountains into the lower Ob River.-Geography:...

. These all connected the lower Ob River
Ob River
The Ob River , also Obi, is a major river in western Siberia, Russia and is the world's seventh longest river. It is the westernmost of the three great Siberian rivers that flow into the Arctic Ocean .The Gulf of Ob is the world's longest estuary.-Names:The Ob is known to the Khanty people as the...

 to the Pechora River
Pechora River
The Pechora River is a river in northwest Russia which flows north into the Arctic Ocean on the west side of the Ural Mountains. It lies mostly in the Komi Republic but the northernmost part crosses the Nenets Autonomous Okrug. It is 1,809 km long and its basin is 322,000 square kilometers...

 and the export port of Arkhangelsk
Arkhangelsk , formerly known as Archangel in English, is a city and the administrative center of Arkhangelsk Oblast, Russia. It lies on both banks of the Northern Dvina River near its exit into the White Sea in the north of European Russia. The city spreads for over along the banks of the river...

. The routes around Verkhoturye connected Tobolsk
Tobolsk is a town in Tyumen Oblast, Russia, located at the confluence of the Tobol and Irtysh Rivers. It is a historic capital of Siberia. Population: -History:...

 to the Kama River
Kama River
Kama is a major river in Russia, the longest left tributary of the Volga and the largest one in discharge; in fact, it is larger than the Volga before junction....

 tributary of the Volga and on to the Sable Treasury at Moscow. Below Verkhoturye there was an old caravan route which led to the Ufa
-Demographics:Nationally, dominated by Russian , Bashkirs and Tatars . In addition, numerous are Ukrainians , Chuvash , Mari , Belarusians , Mordovians , Armenian , Germans , Jews , Azeris .-Government and administration:Local...

steppe and the Volga River. This became more important as the Volga population increased, but remained minor because it did not lead to either Moscow or Arkhangelsk.

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