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Kyahtinsky district

Source:  Tourist Buryatia. - 2009. - . 63-74.

The district is to the south of Buriatia, on the heels crossed with mountain chainsand border line withy Mongolia. The chains cross deep river valleys of Selenga and Chikoi rivers with their streams. The distance from Ulan-Ude to Kyahta is 235 kilometers.

Kyahtinsky district is very popular for its historical, cultural and archeological monuments which are interesting not only for specialists.

Among them one of the most magnificent objects from the epoch of the first in central Asia state Hunnu is the group of cemeteries in the llm hole. It is situated in 23 kilometers from the town Kyahta on the road Kyahta— Ulan-Ude. There are about 320 cemeteries of different layers of Huns community. There are the tombs of people from high circles, the unique objects of life and art are found there which are kept in collections and are exhibited in the museum of Kyahta. A first church of bud-dists was built on the Shore of Chikoi River on the territory of the district not far from Miruchi village; its name is Miruchinsky dazan.

The town itself represents an interest for the tourists. Its name comes from buriat language, buriat name for the grass "hiag". The border office was founded in 1728 by Russian ambassador Sawa Lukich Vladislavich— Raguzinsky, who arrived in this region for the treaty with China concerning the border. At first Kazaks built Troickayachurch which later grew in to the town Troickoslavsk. Trade town Kyahta was founded in a year after the signing of Russian Chinese treaty about the border and trade relations.

Chinese trade town Maimachen appeared in front of it, city Altan-Bulak now days. Kyahta became known as Russian gold gates, the great tea road passed through.

Because of trade development which lead to the creation of rich group of salespeople in Kyahta, lots of buildings, made of stone as well as the churches were built in the town, the decoration and the architecture were rich and magnificent. Troicki cathedral named after life— giving Troica with the towers of St. Maria and St People Peter and Pavel was built with the help of rich sales people in 1812-1817 in the style of Russian classism. It was the largest church building in Zabaikalie for along time. It was about 30 meters high; the bell house was about 377 meters high with eight bells. Tower clock was placed there looking on both east and west.

The church and the bell house were decorated by golden crosses with chains and crowns. The church is famous for the fact that popular icon of St. Mother, woman who helps people in sin and disease was there since 1854; it had the power of healing. Many people came to its face in order to ask her to cure their diseases. In 1997 it was given to Russian Orthodox Church.

The cathedral dedicated to the second birth of Jesus with two worm buildings of Kazanskaja St. Mother and St. Nicolay who treated people with different diseases was founded in 1830. It was planned by Moscow architect Gregory Gerasimov. Italian masters were invited in order to build the cathedral. The church was built on the money of rich giving.

They say that rich and magnificent inner sight of the church is the most attractive in Siberia. It was called "music which sounded in the stone"

Uspenskaya church made of wood was built in 1727 not far from the cemetery of the town.

Uspenskaya church made of stone was built nearby in 1884. It is the monument of Russian cult architecture of the second part of 19 century. The church has only one top, formed as a cross.

The main architectural elements of its towers are massive pilasters and strict horizon lines of decoration around the building.

The church from the floor to the top is 10, 24 meters, the diameter of the top is 8,30 meters, the floor of the church is 33 meters, today it is the only active church in the city.

The evidence of trade development in Kyahta are the buildings of Gastinie riadi, the building of them was started in 1835 and finished in 1842. in 1865 the treasure office gave Gostiniy dvor to salespeople in Kiahta, it had to monitor the repairs and the state of the building. Rich people in Kyahta gave money for special purposes about 8-10 thousands — this money were tacken during the transportation of tea from Kyahta.

One of the first stone houses with only one floor with mezonin not far from it — the house of salesman Lushnicov he met Decembrists in his house

N.A. and M.A. Bestuzevi, K.R Torson, I.I. Gorbachevsky, I.I. Pushin, S.R Trubeckoi and S.G. Volkonsky with families, M.K. Ushnevskaye. In 70es -90 esof the last centuries, the visitors of Lushnikovwere famous travelers and scientists of central Asia: N.M. Przevalsky, G.N. and A. V. Potanini, D.A. Klemenc, P.K. Kozlov, V. A. Obruchev, American traveler Dg. Kennan and many others. The house should be restored, and then the museum of outstanding people in Kyahta should find its place.

The house of A.D. Starcev is also well-known. In 1894 Starcev offered his house for the exhibition of the museum collection which belonged to Russian geographic community.

The building of scientific museum in Kyahta the oldest in Buriatia is very popular today, unique and interesting objects can be found there as well it is very interesting for the visitors.

Now days Kyahta becomes one of the centers of cultural tourism of our republic, the spheres of entertainment and rest are developing in the region. Tourists can stay in small hotels. On Russian-Mongolian borderthere is an international way used by tourists coming to Russia or back. They can also use train. All the formalities are taken into account in Naushki, in 29 kilometers from Kyahta.


It is popular for unique mud in 30 kilometers from Kyahta on the shore of the lake Kiran and the river Chikoi in a beautiful pine forest. The lake is not deep with warm water and lots of water plants. The traveler P.S. Pallas

described it in literature in his work "The traveling in different areas of Russia in 1773-88".

The people from Kyahta often relaxed and had special treatment there; in the neighboring village Ust-Kuran they had their dachas. Special mud treatment works there from May to October. There lots of diseases can be treated: the diseases of legs, arthritis, problems with muscles, neurotic system, with skin, and many others, the mud is very good for skin and can be used in cosmetics (tel.: +7(30142) 45-5-19, 45-5-38).


Kyakhta museum of regional studies is one of the oldest museums in Siberia. It was founded in 1890. The museum, built in the end of the XIX century, is located in one of the most beautiful buildings of the city. In its rooms you can see exhibits of unique collections that were gathered by the members of the local affiliation of geographic society: by teachers, doctors, merchants, scientists.

Among all the collections a significant place is occupied by the archeological collection: the objects of Huns history and culture (these people lived two thousand years ago). Bronze waist strips, the only in the world bronze stamp and "Chikoi rider" will arouse your admiration.

In the rooms of Nature section you will get acquainted with its amazing creatures: elegant butterflies, mountain eagles, good-natured nerpa. (Baikal seal). You will be enchanted by the world of corals, and you won't pass the master of taiga — brown bear indifferently.

In the room of geographic discoveries you will see evidences of great Central-Asian expeditions, which traversed Kyakhta.

While visiting the museum, you can get acquainted with the history of the city and get to know about many famous people who visited our city. Celebrated watercolors and sideika-bestuzhevka are the unique monuments to the man whose name was Ulan-Naran. In such a way the Buryats called Decembrist Nikolay Bestuzhev.

The museum stores the relics of Orthodox and Buddhist cult: the photographs of Orthodox temples and datsans, icons and tanka, the clothes of a priest and the masks of the miracle play Tsam.

Artistic works of Buryat, Mongolian, Chinese and Japanese masters will enchant you with their diversity and elegance. China vases and earthenware toys, varnished boxes and bowl of partition enamel, carved chess and a dancing old man, — all this is represented in the hall of the museum.

Remarkable book collection of the museum includes unique editions of XVIII-XIX centuries.

For years of its existence the museum has become known far beyond the borders of the republic. Come to Khyakhta and visit the museum. It is always glad to see guests (tel.: +7(30142) 9-23-33).



Count Sawa Raguzinskiy (Vladislavich) at the head of the Russian Embassy signed the Burin treaty with China on establishing the border between Russia and China near Kyakhta on August 20,1727. Itwas the result of negotiations that had started in Beijing and continued on the border. Kyakhta treaty was signed on October 21, 1727. It determined political and trading relations between the two countries. Apart from establishing the border in the Kyakhta neighborhood, the document said a lot about commercial problems.

Tea has become one of the most important trade objects. The geography of the "Great Tea Road" was very extensive and at that time it enveloped large territories of China, Mongolia, Russia, and later — of other countries. The itineraries of the "Tea Road" were going through more than 150 cities and towns of the three countries. The "Road" consisted of many land roads, portages, waterways by rivers and seas. The length of the way by land from Moscow to Beijing, according to some data, was 8332 versts (1 verst = 3500 ft.), according to the other 8339 versts (9723 km), without including the branch Irkutsk Alaska.

Due to its 200-year history of existence the "Tea Road" left rich historical and cultural heritage on the territory of China, Mongolia, Russia, and later — on the territory of other countries. Written sources of that time speak about trade relations between these countries in a bright way, they also describe the way of life and the culture of people in the trade towns and villages the "Tea Road" was coming through. Nowadays some parts of the "Tea Road" has turned into railways and motorways, others are deserted and covered with wild grass.

The region of Baikal had the land roads across the Khamar-Daban mountain range (Udunginskiy, Ivanovskiy, Khamar-Dabanskiy, Igumnovskiy high roads, Krugobaikalskiy road), as well as the waterways by Baikal and Selenga. The parts of historic and cultural heritage of the "Tea Road" that lasted out are the unique resource.

The tourist route "Tea Road" going from the city of Ulan-Ude to the city of Kyakhta is interesting from the point of view of the "Tea Road" parts and historical and cultural objects the "Tea Road" was going through.

One of such objects is Lake Gusinoe, which origin was described by the Decembrist N. A. Bestuzhev. "About 80 or 90 years ago", wrote Bestuzhev in his essay "Gusinoe Lake" in 1852, "there was a valley at the place where now one can see the lake. In the middle of it there was a joss house, also there were small lakes on the both sides of the road. Bit by bit, unnoticeably, the lakes were becoming bigger, but nobody was surprised, because the same thing happened during the rainy days, and, moreover, the lakes were circled with swamps. Finally, water began to overflow the well, then to approach the joss house and to flow upon the road, so the joss house that had become an island, had to be moved 4 versts form this place. But the water came there as well..."

Along with continuous rise of the water another thing happened: the Temnik river, which was flowing to the Selenga, broke its left bank, turned to the lake and began to flow into it so that in the south-western corner of the lake the Khuduk river opened and flew into the Selenga. In this way the lake was formed from the valley, and the long hill, which was home to the state winter cabin for camels, turned into an island that Russians began to call Oseryodysh (from Rus. "seredina" — the middle). Little by little the island was covered by willow bushes and became a shelter for all water fowl: geese, clucks, cormorants, gulls, and others, what gave the lake its name  Galoota, Galoon Noor (Buryat), or Gusinoe Lake. Geese were so very numerous here that at the beginning of the XIX century about 33 kilograms of geese feathers was gathered here for writing.

At that time the lake was more than 30 versts (about 32 km) long and about 15 versts (16 km) wide. But then without any evident reason the water in the lake began to go down, the Khuduk stopped to flow out of the lake but the Temnik turned to the Selenga again, leaving its arm Tsagan-Gol (Bur. "tsagan" — "white, pure", "gol" "river") which flows into Gusinoe lake. In such a way, it had been going down until 1850. In 1862, when the water in the lake rose because of the great inflow of water from the Temnik river, the island Oseryodysh and one more small island on the lake disappeared under the water and never appeared again. As a rule, inflows and outflows of water in Gusinoe lake was a frequent thing, which was described by many, including N. A. Bestuzhev, by the fact that supposedly Gusinoe lake is joined with Baikal under the ground, and the water level of Baikal influences the water level in the lake. In any case, it is evident that Gusinoe Lake is nourished with the underground springs both warm and cold.

"Sometimes you feel considerable temperature change in the water within several steps," N. A. Bestuzhev wrote. "Here it is warm, but one step from this place it is cold as usual, and sometimes colder than usual. Along the shore of Gusinoe lake almost everywhere the ground is covered with white spots of salt that comes from under the ground and is called "goozheer" by trie Buryats. The Buryats put goozheer in "brick" tea, and they find this kind of tea is tastier than with usual salt. The goozheer is also put into the feed for the cattle. The cattle love this kind of "seasoning" which helps it grow fast." N. A. Bestuzhev also noted the fact that "sparse weed (mostly wheat grass, feather grass, wormwood) is very nutritious for the cattle that constantly licks and eats the soil covered with goozheer. It makes the cattle grow very fat and famous all over Zabaikalie."

Tamchinskiy (Gusinoozyorskiy) datsan showed its beauty before the travelers on the southwestern shore of Baikal. Traveler V. Ptitsyn describes Tsogchen-dugan of Tamchinskiy datsan of the time in the following way: "A great white three-storied building of Chinese architecture is towering above the stone desert. It is decorated on the top with the symbolic figure of two golden, shining on the sun deer with the wheel between them. In the monotonous background of the desert sparsely covered with small Buryat yurts the building of the datsan extraordinarily stands out seeming so exquisite and making an impression of the cathedral."

The emergence of the Buddhist religious center by Gusinoe lake was natural: temples often were built in the most respected by the local people places and according to the requirements of the Buddhist traditions. It was obligatory to have a water body, hills, a forest or a grove by the temple.

The history of Tamchinskiy datsan begins from 1741, when lama Akhalday who had come from Mongolia and gained great popularity among the local population built a joss house, which in fact was a big yurt, near the lake.

According to the data summed up by N. Kirilov, the first wooden temple appeared near Gusinoe Lake in 1750. Two smaller temples were built nearby in 1758, one more — in 1759, two more in 1765. However, according to the archival documents, the year of the monastery foundation is 1758.

Academician P. S. Pallas who visited the monastery in 1772, noted very modest appointments of the main temple. More than 80 lamas were living in the small houses and yurts near the datsan. By 1790, asl. Seevers informed, there were all in all 9 temples. He notices that the temples "are built in the Tibetan fashion".

In the period between 1790 and 1820 the existing relatively small building of the main temple was changed to the bigger one. It was probably connected with the new leading position of Tamchinsk datsan, which was subordinated by all the rest Buryat monasteries.

The way from Gusinoe Lake was hard for coachmen to go because of the dangerous and trying obstacle — pass Ubienny. (Rus. "ubienny" killed) During XVII -XIX centuries the Cossacs and the Manchurian bandits fought here, the Mongols often attacked trade caravans with tea. This is the reason why the pass was called Ubienny.

Petty bandits who cut from the cartload a parcel of tea were called "teacutters". (Rus. "chaerez") The coachmen took axes with them for defense, but the main means of defense was the flail — a faceted small weight of about two pounds fastened with the help of the chain to a hard safe stick. Hitting a bandit on the head, a coachman could break his skull; spinning a flail around oneself, a coachman could leave the bandit far from himself.

Coachmen rarely used guns.

The next on the way is village Novoselenginsk. Novoselenginsk is located on the left bank of the Selenga, earlier on the right bank village Selenginsk was situated. Here is how it was described in XVIII century in the "Guide Book of Waterways and Roads of Siberia...": "There are 2 thousand people of both genders in the city; two churches: stone Spasskiy Cathedral and wooden Bogoroditskaya; one shopping arcade, stone, with 20 stores; one military hospital; one military orphanage, which was moved to the city of Krasnoyarsk in 1823; one artillery storage room and 250 resident houses."

However, Selenginsk became "famous" later, in the time of mass political repressions to Siberia. At that time Decembrists — brothers M. A. Bestuzhev and N. A Bestuzhev and K. P. Torson were exiled to live in this remote small town. Theirfamilies also came here. These people were greatly respected by the local population, they were the first who started research in the spheres of metrology, geography, ethnography of the region and performed many other things. Now there is a museum of the Decembrists in the village of Novoselenginsk.

The history of Selenginsk is in many ways heroic and sad. Back in 1665 Russian soldiers built a wooden church on the right bank of the Selenga. The church had served for many years as a bastion in the eastern outskirts of the Russian State. Its walls at the end of the XVII century saw blood-shedding fights between a handful of Cossacs and numerous hordes of Manchurian and Mongolian feudal lords.

Seen clearly from the top of the mountain range, the city looked more like a big village sinking in quick sand. Only the church and the shopping arcade were built from stone and were standing out strikingly in the background of many old, black from time and the sun wooden huts. However, three or four large estates caught one's eye — they belonged to the merchants the Startsevs, the Lushnikovs and others.

The biggest suburb (posad) of Selenginsk was the Lower village located on the left bank of the river. However, it was called differently: some people called it Posadskaya village, others — Lower village, the third Lower Tannery because in the neighboring valleys there were two more small settlements up the Selenga with small home-grown tanning factories. The founder of the village in the Posad valley was merchant Voroshilov.

The name of the rock is connected with the activity of the English missionary Robert Yull in Selenginsk. London Spiritual Evangelist Society sent their missionaries here to convert to their faith nomadic peoples of Siberia (1822-1840). The expedition of the English missionaries      ended unsuccessfully. One of the daughters of the family, out of despair, threw herself into the deep waters of the Selenga, later died two more daughters. The three graves and the austere obelisk are left in Selenginsk.  From Selenginsk trade caravans went to Kyakhta. On the      way to Ust-Kyakhta the coachmen could see an interesting object — a Buddhist temple called Bultumurskiy. It  was founded in 1757. Its difference from other datsans was that the Cossacs founded it (Cossacs' datsan). Not far from the monastery buildings there was a Cossac     village (stanitsa) Kharyasta (about 8 km from the datsan). The datsan complex was one of the largest and it included 18 dugans along with the main temple. The complex had a statue of Buddha Maidare. When restoring the dugans the builders find many objects of Cossacs      culture (cavalry swords, lances). The local population of Duben and Erdem villages, the Traditional Buddhist Sangha, and a 92-year-old citizen of Erdem village who in 1935-1936 had studied here, are taking part in the restoration of the datsan complex . The senior citizen     had been one of the last novices before the datsan was  broken down. At that time he was 6 or 7 years old. He remembers the arrangement of all the dugans of the complex in detail and he helps a lot in the restoration of the datsan.                                                                  

From Bultumurskiy datsan it was not a long way for the "tea" carts to Ust-Kyakhta. In Ust-Kyakhta the caravans were loaded on plank rafts and rafted by the river. In the place called Surpa (Siberian Office of River Steam H Navigation) the goods were loaded and rafted to Baikal and then to any city all over Russia.                               

Here in Ust-Kyakhta, where two roads merged, one — commercial and the otherstate, one could see state caravans as well. After that the way went toward the frontier trade city Kyakhta. The city was called "the Russian   capital of tea", "the golden gate of Russia", "Moscow in   the East". In the period of the lively trade in Kyakhta the merchants of all the large cities of Siberia and Central Russia were tied with it.                                              



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