The histoty of the city begins with the salt deposits which the locals found in the 13th century on the bank of the Kovda river (it is 2 km off today's city location). As history annals say, the underground salt waters were extracted for the first time in the country's history. A new economic and administrative centre of the volost (small rural district) - the surburb of Usoliye - sprouted up near the salt mines. Later, outside its walls the new surburb of Tot'ma appeared. It was known as a major centre for salt production. Being situated on the major trading route from the Moscow State to Western Europe via the White Sea, the city grew and thrived.

In 1565 Tot'ma became an oprichny city (special administrative élite under the tsar) and focused on salt, furs, flax, bread, wax and tar trade. Goods from southern countries (carpets, spices, wines and precious stones) were also sold in the streets of the city.

In the late 16th century Ivan IV naturalized the Siberian Tartar khanate and the trading route from Moscow to Siberia passed via Tot'ma. It contributed greatly to the city's prosperity.

As St.Petersburg developed and navy routes were laid through the Baltic Sea, the commercial role of Tot'ma gradually diminished. But by the middle of the 18th century trade links of the city extended. The merchants Timofei Myasnikov and Semyon Myasnikov, Alexei Kholodilov, Grigory Panov and Peter Panov were engaged in commerce throughout Siberia and Kamchatka. All in all there were 20 expeditions organized to the New World. In the space of 50 years the merchants brought back 1/5 of all the furs obtained in the New World. As a result of these expeditions some new islands were discovered.

In 1780 Tot'ma became a chief city of the Vologda province. In 1789 the coat of arms of the city was officially approved. It depicted a black fox on the green field, since hunting used to be the main occupation of the residents of the city. This is the only Russian coat of arms depicting an animal native to the USA.

In the 19th century salt deposits were found in the Urals and in the south of the country. Tot'ma salt- works were not able to compete with new salterns and by 1917 they had gone bankrupt.

Houses of baroque and classical period constitute a notable part in the city's architectural legacy. The city abounds with buildings of civic and ecclesiastic use which were designed in the 17th and 18th centuries. Dwelling houses of baroque and classical period design alternate with buildings of religious purpose: the Spaso-Sumorin Monastery complex (end of the 18th century - 1880), the Church of the Assumption (1775, 1800-1808), the Church of the Entry into Jerusalem (1774-1794), the Church of the Nativity of Christ (1745-1748, 1786-1793), the Cathedral of the Epiphany (1863-1872) and the Church of the Trinity (1768-1722, 1780-1788). The Church of the Trinity and the Church of the Nativity of Christ remain active. Their architectural unity remains intact, since the successive architects were faithful to the original plans.

In 1791 there were 19 parish churches in Tot'ma, and 37 altars for 3325 inhabitants. The best churches of the town and most of the altars were devoted to St Nicholas the Miracle Worker who was considered to be a patron of navigators and explorers, and a patron of trade. Several altars were dedicated to St Paraskeva, the Great Martyr who was believed to protect the salt works and some - to one of the most worshipped Russian Orthodox icons - the Virgin of Kazan. The icon of the Virgin of Kazan was considered a defender of Russia's cities.

The churches of Tot'ma merit special attention. Their distinctive traits lie in the elegance of the external décor, novelty, elongated forms and majesty. The churches are brick structures embellished with intricate decorative pattern such as the one shown here. Their décor features an original element that does not occur in any other Russian church - cartouches. The cartouche is a structure or figure, often in the shape of an oval shield or oblong scroll, used as an architectural or graphic ornament or to bear a design or inscription. The names of Egyptian Royalty were contained in an elongated oval called a cartouche. In the 18th century the cartouche was used a great deal in decoration of various kinds of furniture and the interior in France and later in Italy. But in Tot'ma handmade cartouche ornamentation was used to decorate the exterior of churches and temples.

The effect of stateliness and power is produced by the Spaso-Sumorin Monastery founded in the mid-16th century. The Cathedral of the Ascension, the Church of the Transfiguration and abbot cells strike the visitors by the way they fit organically in the surrounding northern landscape. Today the monastery houses an exhibition of distaffs, swingles, handicrafts made of birch bark, pottery, tiles, utensils and furniture. Peter the Great visited Tot'ma on several occasions. There are many legends connected with his name and cherished by the residents.

In 1791 Alexander Andreevich Baranov, a merchant from Kargopol was appointed to manage the Russian-American Company. He chose Ivan Kuskov, a Tot'ma - born navigator to be his right-hand man. Life at the colony under Kuskov revolved around the hunting of sea otter whose pelts were very valuable in the China trade. In 1812 he built a fortress in an area to the North of San Francisco, California (now the National Park of Fort Ross). Fort Ross served as a trading post and a source of agricultural products for Russian America in Alaska. Ivan Kuskov headed the colony till 1821. Alongside with the trade activity he was also engaged in research work.

Ivan A. Kuskov is remembered for discovery of the American lands and establishment of the Russian trade navy on the American territory. The city of Tot'ma has an embankment named after Ivan Kuskov. The house where the famous navigator spent the last years of his life was preserved in its original form up to now. It is one of the earliest timbered houses in Tot'ma (it dates back to the 18th century). As soon as the restoration works had been finished, the year 1990 saw the opening of the Kuskov Memorial Flat.

Among other district cities of the Vologda Province Tot'ma stood out for a developed network of educational institutions (there were 11 educational establishments for 5,000 residents). The residents were engaged in navigation, fishing and blacksmith's works.

Tot'ma is included into the list of the most valuable Russian cities. Here in the North, the continuity of the old cultural traditions has been kept up by close and continuous ties of successive generations.

Теги: Totma
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