At the juncture of River Barguzin with Lake Baikal the village of Ust-Barguzin is situated. It had long been “the capital” of the eastern coast fishermen and the place where there was a fish factory producing canned fish. But the twists and turns of economy in the 90s of the XXth century brought the local fish industry to naught. At present in Ust-Barguzin there is the office of the Zabaikalsk National Park that was founded in 1986. The activity of this nature conservation organization is so important for the places we speak about.
For the first time River Barguzin was mentioned in Russian documents in 1675 by N. Spafary. He wrote: “River Barguzin is great, to get to the Barguzin stockade town takes 5 days, and 50 Yenisei soldiers live there. Flat-bottomed boats with stock from Yeniseisk and trades people come there from overseas. Stock of goods is brought to Daury for soldiers and trade. From Barguzin people get to Telenbinsk and Nerchinsk by land on camels and horses over high mountains, rocks, forests and swamps; and they get there with great difficulty, because it is the only road there”. According to S.A. Gurulev’s calculations in the Barguzin basin there are 2544 rivers with the total length of 11,047 km. People say that more than 330 rivers, brooks and streams fall into the lake, and now you can see how conventional this stereotype is. To be more precise it’s better to say that several thousand water arteries and capillaries of the Eastern Siberia carry their waters to Lake Baikal.
We have two more interesting ethnic reasons why we should turn to the Baikal in the direction of ancient town Barguzin. The first one is it is worth to examine some peculiarities of Jews’ life there. And first of all it concerns their participation in gold-mining. In the 19th century one of the first Jewish gold-miners of Barguzin having small business first turned into the owner of tens of mines in the Baikalsk region. He was not only an outstanding businessman, an initiator of new technologies in gold-mining, but also a well-known Maecenas respected by people of the Barguzin valley. When Abraham Novomeisky died at the beginning of the 20th century peasants from the village Nesterikha where the Maecenas had built a school for local children, took his body from the sledge and carried it on their shoulders for 7 km all the way to Barguzin. Besides the Novomeisky family, among the Jewish families of Barguzin were such bright personalities as Jacob Freezer, Miney Butlitsky, Isai Dubnikov, Abraham Zhidovetsky, Solomon Rabinowitch who managed to become gold-mining monopolists in Siberia (290, p. 143 – 144). There is an unofficial hypothesis that a part of the gold reserve of the Jews from Barguzin was taken out of the country on camels during the Civil War, and it became a contribution in establishment of Israel.
The other reason to mention the village of Barguzin in the book is connected with history of literature. There is evidence that A.S. Pushkin knew about the peculiarities of Lake Baikal not only from documentary sources and literary works, but also from the impressions of his friends –the Decembrists. The book about the Buryat enlightener S. Khamnaev written by N. Damdinov comprises such a description: “When in to Barguzin-town on business Sakhar Khamnaev always met the Kukhelbeckers. Wilhelm Karlovich, a tall, skinny, awkward man attracted him with his childish vulnerability. The first summer of his staying here he was especially impressed by the local nature. Once, on a hot day, when they were sitting next to the house, in a shadow, the poet drew a piece of paper from his pocket:
– I am writing a letter to Pushkin, – he said and began to read. – The town of Barguzin is located 50 versts from Lake Baikal. It sprang up on the right bank of River Barguzin. On the northern side the town is protected against strong winter winds by the high wall of the Barguzin Range. To the east from Barguzin there are steppes; to the west you can see dense forests. The southern part of the town opens on the Barguzin River. A beautiful vista opens before you from that place.
To commemorate the day of the Lyceum, where he studied with Pushkin, Kukhelbecker wrote the poem called "October 9, 1836”. Here are some lines from it:
The flow of times is full of life. Their dark great wave
Poured again on the bank of our life
The Holy day, which I in plenty
Triumphed over in a circle of my friends...
Long ago ... The Guardian of Europe – The Gray Urals,
And the Yenisei, and steppes, and the Baikal
Are now between us. On the wings of sorrow
I rush to you from the dark with love.
Wilhelm's brother, Michael, who conducted a large educational work in Pribaikalie, devoted to the region his popular book “A Brief Essay about the Zabaikalsk Krai” where he wrote a lot about the Sacred Sea. Barguzin being just a district centre in the late 80s – early 90s of the twentieth century became the center of a world-wide sensation: there were people who insisted that in the cemetery near M. Kukhelbecker’s grave there is the grave of the famous Hungarian poet Shandor Petephy. It had been known as a grave of an unknown “Petrovich”. They also said that Shandor Petephy did not die in the battle of Shegeshvar, but was taken to Siberia and lived incognita in Barguzin. In Hungary and the Soviet Union a special committee was established to examine credibility of this fact. But excavations carried out at the cemetery, genetic examination of the bone remnants in the authoritative world centers as well as analysis of historical documents showed that the suggested hypotheses are not well-grounded.
Maksimikha is a village situated at the river and cape of the same name. Legends say it is the place where the well-known explorer Maxim Perfiliev lived for a while and got married to a Buryat or Evenki woman. When he died the widow got the name of Maksimikha, then this name stuck to the river and village. The name might be connected as with the explorer himself so with but his offspring who have been to Lake Baikal. Thus, in Irkutsk Oblast there is the village of Maksimovschina that is believed to be founded by Perfiliev’s sons.
A.M. Stanilovsky visited Maksimikha in 1905 and saw several houses of migrants from Kabansk and Bolshaya Kudara there. And in 1901 there was only one court there – the court of the postal station.
A.D. Karnyshev "The Many Faces of Multilingual and Mysterious Baikal"© BSU Publishing House, 2011
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