There are places on Earth that possess unique inexplicable powers. They have always attracted people and have had a positive impact on their lives and destinies. Such power spots are often described as God-chosen ones. There are quite a few of them in Russia.
We would like to take you on a journey to a small city of Tobolsk, which is aptly referred to as the gem of Siberia. Tobolsk is located some 70 miles from the city of Tyumen, the capital of the vast Tyumen region, whose oil and gas deposits are known the world over. However, it's not the natural resources that make Tobolsk famous but rather its history which is still filled with unsolved mysteries and riddles and its influence on the destinies of the entire Russian state.
The high hill on which Tobolsk stands has always drawn the attention of ancient tribes and peoples. They regarded it as a sacred place. Legend has it that long ago the biggest fragment of a power crystal that had flown to Earth from Sirius landed here. It allegedly continues to run the activities of people and supply the energy flow of the entire Eurasian continent. A number of scientists tend to support this theory and to a certain extent it has been validated by subsequent events.
True, the place is remarkably beautiful and rich in natural resources. At the foot of the hill the turbulent waters of two great Siberian rivers the Tobol and the Irtysh come together. They are surrounded by fertile lands and virginal forests, among them cedar groves. The forests teem with all kinds of wildlife, including the famous Siberian sable.
More than five centuries ago nobody could imagine the enormous deposits of gas and oil buried there. No one even knew back then what gas and oil were all about. Nevertheless, the place was still called the crown of Siberia.
In the middle of the 16th century this area was ruled by the Tatar khan Kuchum. It was there that he founded the capital of his khanate Esker. Legend has it that the Khan's golden palace was built underground. It housed countless riches, plundered from local tribes inhabiting boundless Siberian expanses. Kuchum had practically no rivals or enemies. Even in Russia proper few people knew about the existence of Siberia, let alone outside its boundaries.
Kuchum had for many years been the only ruler of the vast Siberian region. It lasted until the fall of 1582 when the Russian Cossack chieftain Yermak came to those parts with his squad of 800 people. He defeated Kuchum's army which outnumbered his squad by far, and conquered his capital.
According to another legend, a few years prior to Yermak's campaign, the Tatars had had visions foretelling their imminent downfall. That's exactly what happened. But no one knows where the Khan's enormous treasure went. His underground palace was never found. For many centuries treasure hunters have been trying to find its exact location. They are trying still, employing the latest technologies, but to no avail.
Shortly after the battle between Yermak and Kuchum the Russian fort town of Tobolsk was founded near the battlefield. Yermak's campaign and the founding of Tobolsk proved to be of enormous significance for Russia. They marked the beginning of the colonization of Siberia and of Russia becoming a great empire.
Tobolsk situated along the main water trade routes of Siberia, began to grow rapidly. It was surrounded with impregnable walls and
fortifications. At the same time Orthodox Russian churches and cathedrals were being built in the city. The so-called Mutiny bell was put on one of its belfries. It was shipped there from Uglich, a city that lies many miles away, in the center of Russia. In 1591, yet in Uglich, its tolling announced the mysterious death of an heir to the Russian throne which caused a mutiny that was quickly suppressed. And the mutinous bell was cast down from the belfry, lashed and convoyed to Tobolsk. So, that bell may be considered the first political prisoner in Russia exiled to Siberia.
Gradually Tobolsk turned into a truly impregnable Kremlin or fortress, the first and still the only one on the vast Siberian territory. In the following 150 years the wooden fort-city was almost completely destroyed on six occasions. But every time it rose from ashes.
By the turn of the 18th century Tobolsk had become the capital of Siberia and its administrative, cultural, and spiritual center. It stood on the main trade route from Russia to China, India and the Middle Asia, known as The Great Silk Way.
From Tobolsk Russian explorers would start on their expeditions to study the expanses of Siberia and the coastline of the Arctic and the Pacific oceans. The famous expedition of Vitus Bering to explore the coastline of North America was organized in Tobolsk.
It was from there that caravans loaded with silver and precious furs, mainly the famous sable, were sent to Russia. It's been estimated that their sales revenue made up one third of Russia's state budget.
Thanks to that fact the then governor of Siberia Prince Matvei Gagarin managed to talk Russian Tsar Peter the Great into building in Tobolsk a Kremlin, or a fortress, of white stone. It was to become the symbol of Russia's and Siberia's might. At that time masonry was allowed only in Moscow and St.Petersburg.
The construction of the new Kremlin was assigned to a native of Tobolsk, a renowned scientist and architect Semyon Remizov. His project was crowned with success. The fortress he designed proved a true gem not only for Siberia but for all of Russia. The churches, cathedrals and other buildings he designed are stunningly beautiful and today, as before, they take your breath away.
Unlike other provincial cities of Russia, Tobolsk has produced quite a few talented and extraordinary people. Among them are eminent authors, composers, artists and scientists. One of them is Dmitry Mendeleev who compiled the internationally accepted standard of a periodic table of chemical elements. Some people explain such level of genius by the influence of that very fragment of the power crystal from Sirius that landed where Tobolsk is now, as legend has it.
Since the end of the 19th century Tobolsk and its only Kremlin in Siberia have been going through hard times. The main trade routes that used to run through the city were moving away from it. Moreover, as soon as gas and oil were discovered in the area, larger cities that were more important sprang up in Siberia.
Tobolsk was turning into a provincial town which only spiritually remained a “bright and holy city”. Its Kremlin was the residence of the Tobolsk and Siberia archbishops and bishops. The last of them shortly before the 1917 Bolshevik revolution was bishop Hermogen. He was an extraordinary person, whose name is connected to the whole range of mysterious events and inexplicable coincidences.
It all began when Hermogen spoke resolutely against the notorious Grigory Rasputin, highly favored by Tsar Nicholas II. Rasputin was born in the village of Pokrovskoye, not far from Tobolsk. Little did Hermogen know that a few years later he would meet his death near that village.
Right after the revolution bishop Hermogen began consistently criticizing the Bolsheviks’ policy. He said it would lead Russia to a collapse and a catastrophe. The authorities could not forgive that. The Red Army soldiers broke into his residence in the Tobolsk Kremlin, ransacked and turned the house upside down, but did not find the bishop. They thought he might have escaped through one of the numerous old tunnels under the Kremlin.
However, shortly after that Hermogen was arrested and ruthlessly tortured. Then with a heavy boulder on his neck he was thrown overboard into the Tobol River. All that took place next to the village of Pokrovskoye, the birth place of Grigory Rasputin. Nevertheless, more mysteries followed. A few weeks later Hermogen's body, untouched by decay, with the boulder on the neck, miraculously surfaced and was washed ashore. Local peasants buried it nearby.
The Bolsheviks had likewise no mercy for the unique churches and cathedrals of the Tobolsk Kremlin. All of them were plundered and closed. Eye-witnesses said that many of those who had taken part in robbing the churches were punished by God. Thus, the attempt to pull down the cross from one of the local churches, failed. The cross only tipped, while the soldier who had tied the rope around it, was badly injured.
According to some sources, shortly before the Bolsheviks came to Tobolsk, the clergy of the local churches managed to hide the bulk of
the church treasures in the same secret catacombs where later bishop Hermogen found shelter.
Tobolsk happened to be closely connected with the fate of the last Russian Tsar Nicholas II. In 1891 Nicholas, yet an heir to the throne, visited the city and its Kremlin. He was enraptured by the sight which led him to extend his official patronage to Tobolsk. How could the future Russian Emperor even imagine that the city he was the patron of would become the last refuge for him and his family?
The former Emperor Nicholas II and his family were convoyed to Tobolsk in August 1917. By another mysterious coincidence, at the head of the convoy was said to be the same officer who a year earlier had been responsible for the burial of Grigory Rasputin, killed by conspirators. The Tsar's family remained in Tobolsk under arrest until April 1918.
By the middle of last century Siberia had been associated with concentration camps and places of exile. Tobolsk had a prison too. It was one of the strictest. Not only criminals were kept there but political inmates too. Eye witnesses say that hardly a day passed there without tortures and executions. The prison was overcrowded, and to make room for the newcomers hundreds of old-timers were shot dead every day.
At present all that is left of the prison are its walls. The building is being reconstructed to be turned into a museum and archive. There's an idea of an unusual project to restore part of the cells and hand them over to lovers of the extreme. You can buy a ticket if you want and enjoy a prison atmosphere for a couple of days. I wonder if the project is realized after all, that is if there would be any volunteers…
In the course of our story we have mentioned the catacombs of Tobolsk. At present everyone is sure they do exist. Some of them have already been discovered and examined. But most of them are yet to be found. Among them is a legendary 12-mile-long tunnel running from the Kremlin along the bed of the Irtysh River. This mystery is still bothering both the archeologists and their eternal rivals — the treasure hunters.
Both of them continue looking for the infinite treasure of the last Siberian khan Kuchum, the buried treasure of the Cossack chieftain Yermak, and the church relics buried just before the Bolsheviks took over. So far the result has been modest — old coins, fragments of old ceramic utensils, arrow heads and some other artifacts. The land of Tobolsk is unwilling to reveal the secrets entrusted to it by the people.
As for the city it has been rapidly reviving in recent years. The stunningly beautiful Kremlin of white stone has been practically rebuilt. Over 200 years ago a Siberian magazine wrote: “If you want to see something really beautiful come to Tobolsk.”
These words remain true. As for the city's numerous mysteries, they only add to the somewhat mysterious aura that surrounds it.