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Ermak Timofeevich (1532-1585) - the famous Cossack chieftain. Today, the memory of Yermak lives not only in historical literature, but also in the numerous names of cities, villages, streets and squares.

That's just the activity of this character unfolded so long ago that since then it has been overgrown with numerous myths and legends. The rumor about the exploits of Ermak passed from generation to generation, acquiring new details.

Ermak conquered Siberia. The story goes that in the fall of 1582, a detachment of Cossacks under the command of Yermak set off on a campaign against the Siberian Khanate. The path went through the Ural Mountains. On November 5, the army of Khan Kuchum, which was several times superior to the Cossacks, was defeated. Yermak entered the capital of the khanate, Kashlyk (Isker). This place was located 17 kilometers from modern Tobolsk. And then the Cossacks, on behalf of their king, imposed a tribute on the neighboring tribes. In the summer of the following year, an embassy was sent to Moscow, which reported to Ivan the Terrible that his people, led by ataman Yermak Timofeev, had taken the Siberian kingdom and "many foreign-speaking people were brought under the tsar's power." But in fact, the campaign of 1582-1585 cannot be called the conquest of Siberia. The Cossacks could not get past the Irtysh, and the entire military campaign, in general, remained with Kuchum. And in the summer of 1585, the khan's soldiers killed Yermak at night, who was returning with his detachment from another sortie to the enemy's borders. After that, less than a hundred Cossacks remained. They decided that they could no longer hold out in Siberia and went back to the Urals. And Kuchum regained both his capital and the previously lost lands. Nevertheless, his power was already undermined. Moscow began to send detachments to Siberia, which gradually crushed the Khanate. Already half a century after the death of Yermak, the pioneer Ivan Moskvitin saw the waters of the Pacific Ocean.

Ermak was a noble native of the Nogai Horde. It turns out that the story of Ermak, the conqueror of Siberia, was popular not only in Russia. In Turkic legends, the ataman came from the Nogai horde and even had a certain status, albeit not as high as that of the prince. But the love affair with the princess infuriated her brother. Then Ermak had to flee and go to the Volga region. There he became a Cossack. Relatively recently, in 1996, a fantastic version appeared in the journal Science and Religion that Yermak was actually called Er-Mar Temuchin. And he was, like the Siberian Khan Kuchum, a descendant of Genghis Khan. And Yermak went to Siberia to conquer the throne he was entitled to by right of birth. But no source confirms this version. In Russian annals nothing is said at all about the eastern origin of Ermak. But several places of his probable birth are indicated. Some legends say that the ataman was born on the banks of the Chusovaya River, according to others - he was a Pomor.

Ermak is the real name of the chieftain. As it is not known exactly the place of birth of Ermak, so his real name remains a mystery. It can be a colloquial version of the Russian Ermalai. The historian Gilyarovsky called him Yermil Timofeevich. There is a version that the name was derived from Herman or Eremey. In one chronicle, the Christian name of the ataman is indicated as Vasily, and Ermak is considered a nickname. The Irkutsk historian Sutormin believes that the ataman's name was Vasily Timofeevich Alenin. Perhaps the nickname came from the Cossack word "armak", which means a common cauldron. The surname of the ataman is also unknown. In those days, not many had it at all. And they called the ataman at that time either Ermak Timofeev or Yermolai Timofeevich Tokmak. The version about the Türkic origin of the name is based on the word "Irmak" meaning "a rapidly gushing spring", or Tatar "Irmak" (to cut, cut).

Ermak with his detachment went to the conquest of Siberia for the king. In one historical song, the Cossacks even directly declare that they want to conquer the Siberian kingdom for the "white king." In fact, it was far from so obvious. The decision to act on behalf of the tsar was made after the first successes of the Cossacks at their general meeting. It can be assumed that initially the army was hired by the Ural salt miners, the Stroganovs, who wanted to strike back at Khan Kuchum. Painfully, he annoyed with his forays into the Russian lands. Tsar Ivan the Terrible himself was initially even against such initiative in matters of foreign policy. His governor Vasily Pelepelitsyn, who sat in Cherdyn, the main fortress of the Perm Territory, even wrote a denunciation against the Stroganovs. The industrialists did not help the defense of the fortress from the Siberians, but they sent an expedition far beyond the Urals. And the complaint turned out to be effective. In November 1582, the tsar ordered the Stroganovs to return Ermak and his comrades from the campaign, threatening him with disgrace. True, when the letter was just being written, the Cossacks were already in the conquered capital of the Khanate.

Yermak was a robber of the Persian embassy, ​​and fled for the Urals for fear of execution. Folklore often endows characters with idealized traits. So Yermak seems to be a kind of noble robber, an analogue of Robin Hood. The Emperor forgives him his former sins for his courage and service to the Fatherland. The chronicles preserved the story of how Yermak and his comrades robbed the Persian ambassadors sailing along the Volga. The Cossacks took them for merchants. But after the capture, the mistake became clear. The ambassadors were released, but the king still ordered to catch and execute the criminals. Then Yermak and his retinue decided to go to Siberia. In this story, no nobility of the Cossacks is visible. And the big question is - was it there at all? A similar scandalous incident really happened, but it happened the next year after the death of the chieftain. And his comrades-in-arms, Nikita Pan, Savva Boldyrya and Ivan Koltso, a year before the start of the campaign, were marked by an attack on the embassy of the Nogai Horde. At that time, Russia was waging a military campaign in the west and did not need a conflict in the east. Ivan the Terrible could well have ordered the capture and punishment of the unreasonable Cossacks, who by their actions undermined the country's foreign policy. So it was they who could be delighted with the long march.

Ermak's military cunning helped the tsar to take Kazan in 1552. Once again, the myth originates in historical songs. Ermak asks the tsar to give him the opportunity to take Kazan, promising to do it in three hours. But later storytellers attributed this participation in the famous victory of Ivan the Terrible ataman Ermak. It was said that he advised the tsar to dig under the enemy's fortifications and blow up the walls. And Yermak himself and his comrades entered the city under the guise of mercenaries. In Kazan, the Cossacks captured the cannons and opened the gates to the Russian army. The legend sounds beautiful, but not a single written source mentions Yermak as a participant in that campaign. And it's even less worth talking about his decisive contribution.

With Ermak, five thousand people went on his campaign against the Siberian Khanate. This figure appeared thanks to the Tobolsk historian Semyon Remezov, who lived in the 17th-18th centuries and tried to compile a chronicle for his "History of Siberian". However, the data were gleaned from local legends, which are not always reliable. The Cossacks themselves in Moscow reported to the Tsar that there were 540 people in the detachment. It was this figure that was included in the report in the Ambassadorial Prikaz. In the archives of the Stroganovs, there was a mention of the strengthening of Ermak's detachment by another three hundred people. But there are doubts about this. The historian Skrynnikov, who studies the period of Muscovite Rus, believes that the salt producers desperately lacked the strength to fight the raids. They could hardly have sent more than fifty people with the Cossacks. It is this figure that appears with this specialist.

Ermak brought Christianity to Siberia. This myth is stated in the "Synodic of Ermakov Cossacks". With this text from the 17th century Siberian pioneers were commemorated in the church. It was mentioned that the ataman and his comrades decided to set out on a difficult and dangerous campaign, wishing, among other things, to convert the local pagans and Muslims to the Orthodox faith. And their godless and unholy temples the Cossacks wanted to destroy. The synodikon was compiled in 1621-1622 by the first archbishop of Tobolsk, Cyprian. Then the city was an important outpost of Russia in Siberia. And it was important for the priests to present the Cossacks as martyrs for the faith. This gave the church additional authority in the region. In fact, the Cossacks were interested in the subordination of the Siberians to the Russian Tsar. They were not interested in matters of faith and did not promote it. Even when the Cossacks took an oath of allegiance from the new tributaries, they demanded to kiss not the cross, but the saber, as their own customs demanded. And Yermak himself did not shy away from pagan rituals. The Kungur Chronicle indicates that the ataman turned to a Siberian shaman for predictions.

Ermak had his own double. In the summer of 1581, the Russian army attacked the Polish city of Mogilev. The commandant in his memoirs about those events also mentioned the ataman Ermak Timofeevich. But since in some chronicles the beginning of the campaign dates back to September 7090 from the creation of the world (1581 according to modern chronology), some historians have stated that there were two historical persons with the same name and patronymic. After all, Ermak could not be in two places at the same time. However, the already mentioned historian Ruslan Skrynnikov proved that the campaign to Siberia began a year later, in 1582. This means that the ataman could well have waited for the conclusion of an armistice with Lithuania and already left the west for the Urals in search of new opportunities to enrich himself.

Ermak fought with supernatural power. In the Urals, there are legends that speak of several demons-shishig who served Ermak. And the chieftain exhibited demons where he lacked troops. True, in legends the ataman is called a useful magician, since he used his power over evil spirits for good needs. But it is customary in folklore to explain the military skill of commanders not by talents, but by magic. It seemed incredible to the people that it was possible to defeat the superior forces of the enemy. So there were stories about devils who helped Yermak. But about his contemporary, Ataman Mikhail Cherkashin, they said that he was spellbound by bullets and knew how to speak cannons himself. But this did not save the brave man from death during the defense of Pskov.

For his exploits, Ermak received from the tsar the title of Prince of Siberia. Such a rumor first appeared in folk tales, from there it migrated to the chronicles of the 17th century, and then it appeared in modern encyclopedias. But in the archives of the Ambassadorial Prikaz there are no documents on this topic. And Ivan the Terrible would hardly have bestowed such a loud title on a simple ataman of free Cossacks, who went to Siberia, moreover, on his own whim. And even more so, such an unreliable person did not deserve full power in the region.

The tsar's armor destroyed Yermak. Armor appeared in the same legends. Allegedly, the king not only bestowed the ataman the title, but also sent him a fur coat from his shoulder, and chain mail trimmed with gold. It is believed that these armor were worn by the chieftain in his last battle. And when Yermak rushed to the Irtysh, trying to get to the boat, heavy armor dragged him to the bottom. But Skrynnikov studied the documents from the archive of the Ambassador Prikaz. The Tsar awarded the Cossacks in full accordance with the existing practice and in accordance with the category. Ordinary soldiers received money and cloth, and their chieftain Ermak and commanders received gold coins. About some fur coats from the royal shoulder or precious armor, nothing is known.

Ermak's body was found by the enemies. It turned out to be miraculous. This myth came from the Remezov Chronicle. Legends say that the remains of Ermak were caught from the Irtysh by a Tatar fisherman. The soldiers of the Siberian Khan gathered to look at the body of the famous ataman. They drove arrows into the corpse, and blood flowed from there, as if from a living. The warriors were surprised that the body of their enemy had not decomposed for several weeks. It turned out that it could also heal wounds. Then the pagans began to worship Ermak as their deity and buried him with honors and sacrifices. In fact, this is another unconfirmed legend. What became of Yermak's body is still unknown, his grave remained not found.

Ermak served as the Stroganovs. Ivan the Terrible himself believed that the Cossack campaign was the initiative of the industrialists, whom Yermak served. Several centuries later, this legend was picked up by the descendants of the Stroganovs, wishing to get their portion of glory. However, it should be understood that the industrialists knew perfectly well who was opposing them. It is difficult to count on success, sending several hundred Cossacks against an army of several thousand heads. Such a balance of forces did not promise success. Shortly before Yermak's campaign, the Stroganov estates were threatened by the Tatars of Tsarevich Alei. But the Cossacks were able to repulse the enemy, first at the Chusovy towns, and then completely defeat the enemy at Salt Kamskaya. It was then that Yermak began to think about a trip to Siberia. And when it became clear that Alei was stuck near Cherdyn, the capture of the defenseless Kashlyk seemed a promising measure. But the help of the Stroganovs in the campaign was not decisive. And for some reason they did not give "their" Ermak a large number of people, limiting themselves to a few dozen. The conquest of Siberia was a continuation of the spontaneous movement of the development of new lands.

Ermak's campaign was the first Russian military campaign to Siberia. This patriotic myth shows that Yermak and his comrades ended up in some unknown and wild country. In fact, he is far from the first who entered Siberia from the west with his army. The first information about the raids of Russian squads dates back to 1384. Then the Novgorodians went to Pechora, and from there through the Urals to the Ob. But information about that raid remained extremely fragmentary. It is not known how many soldiers were in the detachment, who commanded it, and what goals were pursued. After Novgorod passed under the rule of the Moscow princes, the new governors became interested in the Urals and Siberia. If before the Russians were interested in trade, now there are political motives. Moscow wanted to annex new lands and force new citizens to pay tribute. So, in 1465, the voivode Vasily Skryta visited Ugra, where he imposed a quitrent on the local population. And in 1472 the governor Fyodor the Pestry captured Perm as a result of a major campaign. There the city of Cherdyn appeared - a Russian outpost in the local lands. In 1483, the princes Fyodor Kurbsky and Ivan Saltykov-Travkin defeated the army of the Pelym principality and marched up the Ob to the confluence with the Irtysh. From there, the governors got to the mouth of the Tobol and returned home. And in 1499 an army of princes Kurbsky and Ushaty of 4 thousand people passed through the Subpolar Urals up to the mouth of Sosva. More than 6.5 thousand miles were overcome, 40 towns, 58 local princes and heroes were captured. And the inhabitants of these lands were forced to pay tribute. So the northern part of the Eastern Urals was conquered by the Russians 80 years before Ermak.

Ermak subjugated the Siberian Khanate to Russia. Ermak simply could not subjugate the khanate, since since 1555 it was formally and so it was a vassal of the Moscow tsar. At one time, Khan Ediger asked for help from Ivan the Terrible and promised to pay tribute for this. At that time, the Bukhara Khan Kuchum made a successful campaign against the Irtysh, reaching almost the capital of the Siberian Khanate. The defeat forced Ediger to seek allies. For this role, Ivan the Terrible was chosen, who shortly before that had conquered the mighty Kazan. The Khan recognized himself as a vassal of Moscow, pledging to pay tribute in the form of three thousand sables every year. But this was not enough for the king.He arrested the ambassadors, and declared himself the ruler of the entire Siberian land. Boyar's son Dmitry Nepeitsyn was appointed tribute collector. And the royal envoy even reached the khan's capital Isker, trying to count the number of new subjects. However, the local residents donated not 3 thousand skins, and not 10 thousand, as the king wanted, but only 700. The khan himself swore allegiance to the king. Ivan the Terrible had no choice but to reduce the tribute. But he refused to provide military assistance to Ediger. Khan died in 1563 and all this time they knew about the vassal nature of Siberia both in Central Asia and in Europe. After the death of Ediger, the question of heritage arose, and the representative of the influential Bukhara, Kuchum, became the new khan. As a result, the Khanate did not formally refuse a tribute to Moscow. The new ruler promised the Russian ambassador to collect tribute, but the matter did not go beyond words. Kuchum even began to send mocking letters to Moscow. And according to the political norms of that time, the Siberian Khanate should have been recognized as a de facto vassal of Bukhara. Attempts to deploy troops in the lands of the Stroganovs resembled a police operation against the rebels. In such a situation, Yermak's campaign was a pure initiative of the Cossacks themselves. There was no need to annex Siberia - the tsar considered it his own anyway. The Cossacks obviously just wanted to plunder more. And after the capture of the capital with offerings, they tried to appease the king and earn the forgiveness of their sins. Today it seems a paradox that the ruler accepts the loot from his vassals as a gift, and even rewards the robbers. But then it was considered normal.

The trip to the east of Yermak gave a start to Russian settlement. This myth appeared among domestic patriots. It was Yermak who gave the go-ahead to the resettlement of Russians from the Middle Volga basin to the Urals and Siberia. But this resettlement started about a hundred years before the campaign. Under Ermak, people simply fled from the king's guardsmen to the outskirts of the country, including to the East. There was no fundamental difference between the Tsar's guardsmen and Ermak. But the former plundered the provinces at the behest of the king, and the latter at their own initiative. Both those and those mercilessly exterminated the population, regardless of nationality.

Ermak's campaign marked the beginning of the voluntary annexation of Siberia. It is often said that Yermak's campaign to Siberia was a continuation of the popular movement. The first settlers were free people, which affected the fate of the region. However, Yermak forced the conquered peoples to pay tribute to the king. Many chronicle documents have been preserved to prove this. For example, in Aremzyamskaya volost, the Cossacks of the best hunters were hung upside down and shot. The rest were forced to swear oath with sabers still bloody. An evil fate awaited the capital of the khanate. The scale of the plundering of Siberia is amazing. In 1595, 20 thousand martens, 40 thousand sables, 330 thousand squirrels were sent to Europe. Ermak himself perceived the peoples of Siberia as "filthy busurman" who needed to be deprived of wealth. Naturally, no one wanted to voluntarily part with the acquired property.

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