Saryn on the kichka: how the Volga pirates ushkuiniki operated

Saryn on the kichka: how the Volga pirates ushkuiniki operated

Categories: History | Society

We used to consider piracy as a purely maritime trade. But the dashing guys robbed ships on the rivers without remorse. On the Volga, they were called ushkuiniki, vatazhniki or simply robbers. Merchants and ordinary travelers were no less terrified of these people than corsairs and filibusters. All the Russian tsars fought with the ushkuiniks, and none particularly succeeded in this matter. But the people of the Volga "gentlemen of fortune" composed legends and sang songs.

Saryn on the kichka: how the Volga pirates ushkuiniki operated

The first meetings with the Volga robbers have been known since the 11th century. Around the same time, ushkuiniki from Veliky Novgorod appeared near Nizhny Novgorod. The neighborhood of a large commercial city, standing at the confluence of the Volga and the Oka, was an ideal place for dashing affairs. The nimble boats of the ushkui robbers appeared suddenly and swiftly dissected merchant caravans into parts.

Saryn on the kichka: how the Volga pirates ushkuiniki operated

The cry of the ushkuiniks "saryn on the kichka" caused everyone horror and the merchants did not resist. It meant ordering the crew of a merchant ship to gather in the front of the ship and not interfere with the looting of cargo. The word "saryn" was a humiliating nickname for sailors, and "kichka" was called the bow of a boat or longboat.

Prince Dmitry Ivanovich of Moscow spent a lot of time and effort on pacifying the pirates. Later, for the victory over the Tatars in the Battle of Kulikovo, he received a prefix to the name of Donskoy. But as for the ushkuiniks, the prince's successes in this matter were more than modest. Unable to cope with the robbers by force, the prince tried to negotiate. He appealed to the Novgorod Veche with a request to calm the likhodeev. To this he was answered with mockery:

Saryn on the kichka: how the Volga pirates ushkuiniki operated

Soon the Novgorodians began to walk along the Volga no longer in gangs, but as a whole army. Now they were getting not only merchant caravans, but also entire cities. In 1371 Yaroslavl and Kostroma suffered from their attack, and in 1375 Nizhny Novgorod itself. History has preserved the names of the atamans who burned and plundered Nizhny Novgorod — Prokofy and Smolyanin. They weren't the only ones. The last time the city was robbed and burned by pirates was in 1409.

By the way, ushkuiniki later found a common language with Dmitry Donskoy. They fought under him in the Battle of Kulikovo. After that, the Prince of Moscow turned a blind eye to the leprosy of the ushkuiniks on the Volga for a long time. Once, when the Novgorodians particularly offended him, Donskoy went to war with them. But it ended before it started. The inhabitants of Novgorod the Great simply bought off the prince with money. Surely there was a considerable part of the honestly looted in this amount.

Tsar Peter I took up ushkuinikov seriously . The conversation with the captured robbers was short — they were hung by the rib on a hook and lowered on rafts to the lower reaches of the Volga. But the tactics of intimidation with these dashing guys did not work. Ushkuiniki themselves could frighten anyone. And it was not easy for the tsarev people to distinguish an ushkuinik from a simple fisherman.

Saryn on the kichka: how the Volga pirates ushkuiniki operated

The tsar was not a stupid man and found a way out. He raised the status of boatmen and made them responsible for the cargo. With this decision, he killed another hare. Everyone knew well that the boatmen themselves often brought ushkuiniks to the caravans. Now that they were responsible for the safety of the goods, it was unprofitable to cooperate with the pirates.

Emperor Paul I sent a regiment of 500 Ural Cossacks to the Volga, who guarded both banks. In the summer of 1797, a decree by the Admiralty also introduced patrols on the river itself. In Kazan, nine light high-speed vessels were built for this purpose, each of which had one cannon on the bow.

The boats were proudly called "guardcoats", like the ships of the French Coast Guard. It is known about the effectiveness of patrolling that not a single robber's lair has been discovered in two years. Alexander I allowed any weapon to be taken on guardcoats, as long as there was a sense. By the time of his reign, the number of vagabonds on the banks of the Volga reached 200 thousand. Many of these people were just ushkuinichestvo.

The merchants themselves were not a blunder. At the end of the 18th century, many merchants, going to the Nizhny Novgorod fair, armed their carriages to the teeth. Some ships even had cannons. But this did not stop the ushkuiniks and attacks were recorded regularly. Zhiguli were considered the most dangerous part of the route. They say that the name of this place is directly related to river robbery.

Saryn on the kichka: how the Volga pirates ushkuiniki operated

Approaching a dangerous place, merchants tried to appease the team with drinks and gifts. They themselves fervently prayed that there would be no unpleasant meetings. If the ushkuiniki attacked the ship, then after the command "saryn to the kichka", the owner of the cargo was taken from the total mass. He was stripped and groomed with burning brooms, finding out where he hides the most valuable. Burning with brooms allegedly gave rise to the toponym Zhiguli.

Saryn on the kichka: how the Volga pirates ushkuiniki operated

Now, admiring the beauty of the Zhiguli Mountains, it is difficult to imagine what passions were boiling in these places just a couple of centuries ago. What to do, idyllic places often hide terrible secrets.

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