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Selitrennoye Ancient Settlement
March 14, 2015 00:20


The Selitrennoye (“Nitric”) ancient settlement representing the remnants of the medieval capital of the Golden Horde that are now hidden under the ground is called an open-air museum.

However, a tourist coming here in the “off-season” can see nothing at all, except for the hills above Akhtuba. Archaeologists work in summer, and in winter the excavations are covered with sand in fear of looters.

So the first thing to be said about this great monument is as follows: if you want to see the outlines of streets of the settlement built in the middle of XIII century by Batu Khan, you need to come to Selitrennoye in summer and agree all things in advance. The capital of the Horde is most often referred to as Sarai-Batu, which means the Palace of Batu. The official name is Sarai-al-Maqrus, the Palace blessed by God. The name Old Sarai refers to the popular belief that the city was chronologically the first capital of the Golden Horde.

Later it moved to a new city - New Sarai. Today historians doubt both this version and chronology. The earliest archaeological findings on the Selitrennoye ancient settlement were discovered already in the XIV century. Perhaps the city was actually founded by Batu Khan as a typical yurt city of nomads, then it was built up with brick and wooden buildings, and it reached prosperity in half a century, already under the reign of Uzbek Khan.

According to another hypothesis, Sarai-al-Maqrus was exactly New Sarai built during Uzbek’s reign, and Old Sarai was situated in the area of the Krasnoyarskoe ancient settlement, or somewhere else in the lower reach of Volga, lower than the Selitrennoye settlement. When it got washed off by high waves of the Caspian Sea, the new capital was moved to the place that the water did not reach. Anyway, Sarai-Batu stood in the heart of the huge state of the Mongols, at the crossing of roads from Europe to India and from China to Europe. Descriptions of contemporaries and researches of archaeologists create an image of a civilized, multiethnic and multifaith city with the area of 36 square kilometers and nearly one hundred thousand inhabitants.

The faith tolerance of Horde is supported by the fact that in 1261 Sarai became the centre of Sarai Orthodox episcopate, and later of Catholic episcopate. The city, of course, had the Khan’s palace, city estates of emirs and crafts quarters, a mosque and churches of other denominations, bathes and a market, numerous necropoleis, s sewerage and a water supply system of a special design. The logical question how a city could disappear if not without a trace, then from the face of the Earth, has an answer.

Sarai-Batu gradually decayed together with the Mongol Empire, and then was officially dismantled. It is believed that under the reign Ivan the Terrible - and on his instructions – the Astrakhan Kremlin was built of bricks from Sarai. And local residents dismantled the abandoned Tatar capital to get building material without any decrees.

Read more about Sarai-Batu... 

Read more about Astrakhan Region... 







Author: Anna Dorozhkina

Tags: Selitrennoye Golden Horde Sarai-Batu Astrakhan Region  

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