The history of Verkhoturye


On the Siberian tsar’s road, settlements grew and expanded under close attention from the central Moscow state. According to the tsaris edict, 50 coachmen 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 township 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 person 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.


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