Nizhniy Novgorod Fair is the phenomenon which is rightfully identified as a national treasure. Its history dates back to more than 4 centuries ago.
Nizhniy Novgorod Fair was located close to Moscow and midway on the main Russian waterway Volga river. That is why it played the essential role of a swap point for Europe and Asia. It was the place for realization of goods produced in the utmost regions of the world, but the main bargains were settled with the East (China, Persia and Central Asia); for this reason the Fair was described as a “key to the Asian trade”.
Nizhny Novgorod Fair was the largest both in goods turnover and the size of its territory. The Fair’s exceptional value in Russian economy was due to the summary of the annual national economy performance, as it was the last of the other nationwide fairs (from July 15 to September 10). Prices for the key products (tea, textiles, metal, fish, salt, bread, fur, etc.) were set there.
The international recognition of Nizhny Novgorod Fair and its great importance for Russian economic development explain why Nizhny Novgorod was the only non-capital city chosen for holding the XVI All-Russia Industrial and Art Exhibition in 1896. It was considered one of the most groundbreaking exhibitions of XIX century and the most ambitious expo in the history of Russia.
Layout views of Nizhniy Novgorod Fair at various times:
The beginning of regular large-scale trading in Middle Volga region dates back to the old times. In the middle of the XIII century it was hold at Arsk Field close to Kazan. In 1524, due to the fact that the Tatars depredated Russian merchants, the Russian tzar Vasily Ioannovich forbade them to visit Kazan and relocated the Russian Fair to Vasilsursk.
The place selection was a failure, because Vasilsursk served as a basepoint of warfare against Kazan. The Fair was transferred to St. Makary’s abode. By virtue of its advantageous location – midway on the Volga – the Fair made a great progress.
In 1816 the massive fire destroyed the shopping arcade and all its provisional booths. After the fire, the government adopted a decision of transferring the Fair to Nizhny Novgorod. From that moment the construction of the legendary Nizhny Novgorod Fair had been started. The workers ditched a swamp, built a sewerage and soughs. The Fair’s sewerage was the first ever made not only in Russia, but in the whole Europe.
Nizhny Novgorod Fair’s construction is associated with the names of the Moscow Manege architects Agustin Betancourt and Auguste Montferrand. Betancourt directed the building of the fair complex, and Montferrand participated in the construction of Spassky Cathedral. Later Montferrand repeated this design on a greater scale when building St. Isaac's Cathedral in Saint Petersburg.
The Fair Complex includes two cathedrals: Spassky, built as per the design of Auguste Montferrand (St. Isaac's Cathedral’s constructor), and Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, built by Kilevein. Moreover, there are three chapels, Makaryev (once a year during the fair, it serves as the location of the wonder-working icon of venerable Macarius of the Yellow Water Lake and the Unzha, the Miracle Worker), Pechersky, and the Chapel of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, as well as Armenian Gregorian Church and the Mosque.
|The Main Fair House of Nizhny Novgorod Fair|
One building stands out against the others – the Main House, built in 1890 as per the design of K. Treimann, A. von Hohen and A. Trambitsky. The Governor's apartment, his secretariat, the Fair’s office, the committee, the State Bank office were located there during the trading. The engineering constructions had been designed at a state-of-the-art level. Three quarters of the shopping arcade were surrounded by bypass channel: it was up to 100 m wide, and over 1,5 km long. This unique hydraulic structure, named Betancourt channel, was connected with Meschera Lake and 20 km long Pyra channel to deliver additional water.
The architects created the system of bridges with the most remarkable pontoon bridge across Oka river. It was over 1,5 km long – the longest bridge in Russia of the time. Therefore Nizhny Novgorod Fair’s hydraulic system could be compared only with the similar structures of the imperial residencies in Tsarskoye Selo and Peterhof.
Some parts of the Fair were lit electrically; the first electric railway was paved in 1896.
Fair’s navigation was simple and convenient. Year by year, up to 1917, new buildings were added, but the general concept remained unchanged. The development of Russian Exchange with all the essential offices and brokers was closely related to the Fair’s activity.
In 1896, the year of Nicholas II coronation, the Fair was the key place for Russian social and political life: the All-Russia industrial and art exhibition took place in Nizhny Novgorod. For the first time such an epic event was hold in a non-capital city. Nizhny Novgorod merchants, concerning about “Russian heavy purse” status, brilliantly organized the exhibition in their hometown.
The First World War became an obstruction to the national Fair development. However, it was not closed immediately. The fair trade distress was accompanied and worsen by the destruction of the Fair’s premises. Refugees and military units used to be located on its territory at wartime.
At the beginning of Soviet period, Nizhny Novgorod Fair still kept a kind of sovereignty, but on January 17, 1918 Nizhny Novgorod Soviet of Deputies resolved to integrate the Fair’s territory into municipal facilities, to render all the property under the city council supervision, to eliminate the merchants council and the committee. The Fair was headed by commissars.
Since the spring of 1922, Nizhny Novgorod Fair became a garrison for numerous military units of the developing Red Army.
In 1929 Nizhny Novgorod Fair was closed. For a long time, the Main Fair House served as Detsky Mir toyshop.
In February, 1990 a new idea about restoring the tradition of fair holding in Nizhny Novgorod started up. The first Prologue exhibition fair was hold in May at the ancient fairgrounds. It supposed to be an ad hoc event, and nobody could imagine that this project might really become a prologue of Nizhny Novgorod Fair recent history.
Nizhny Novgorod Fair’s history on the photos by M.P. Dmitriev:
|Siberian wharf depots. M.Dmitriev. Nizhny Novgorod Fair, XIX-XX.
“The Fair is a tremendous nationwide market. There you can annually and rather accurately estimate the purchasing power of the whole Russian population, from Moscow to the periphery of Siberia and Central Asia, where Russian products are exchanged for Japanese, American, and British ones. The purchasing power in Russia is determined annually from the cereals crop. The merchants, when setting the prices, consider potential profit and loss, and forecast the output volume for the next year, according to the demand and supply at the Fair at the end of the current agricultural year”
(The Agendum, 1916)
|The Old Spassky Cathedral. M.Dmitriev. Nizhny Novgorod Fair, ХIХ-ХХ.
It was built in 1822 as per the design of A. Montferrand and was restored by R.Y. Kilevein.
“...this avenue (from the Main Fair House) leads to the cathedral built as per the design of Montferrand, the famous constructor of Saint Petersburg Isaac’s Cathedral. In front of the cathedral there was a square with a fountain playing in the middle of it, in the same way as in the Main Square; on the right and left sides of the square there were Chinese rows, at that time beautifully painted with festive colors and decorated with spired turrets and Chinese style roofs with alabastrine statues of Chinese men and women sitting on its folded corners...”
(A.P. Melnikov “The Outline of Nizhny Novgorod Fair everyday history, 1817-1917.“)
|Nizhny Novgorod. M.Dmitriev, ХIХ-ХХ.
“The main waterways of the province are the Volga and its confluent Oka, as well as Sura and Vetluga”.
(Nizhny Novgorod province statistical information, 1903. Nizhny Novgorod governor’s office. Extracted from Nizhny Novgorod Record Office)
|Nizhny Novgorod. The pontoon bridge view. M.Dmitriev, ХIХ-ХХ.
“In the summertime, the Fair is connected to the city with a pontoon bridge, which is raised at 2 o’clock at night to let the floatage by, and lowered between 5 and 6 o’clock in the morning. That bridge consists of 26 pontoons, and it’s extended by a pile bridge across the creek, so the whole bridge is 383 fathoms long and 7-8 fathoms wide.”
(A.P.Melnikov “The Memorial Book of Nizhny Novgorod Province as of 1890.”)
|Siberian street. M.Dmitriev. Nizhny Novgorod, ХIХ-ХХ
The three grand arches were mounted on the way of the Emperor visiting the XVI All-Russia Industrial and Art Exhibition in 1896. The first one was located on the way to the Fair at Moscow Station. It was designed in the style of the XVII century architecture, with loopholes and two turrets capped by gilded spires.
|The chapel of Gorodets Feodor monastery. M.Dmitriev. Nizhny Novgorod. ХIХ-ХХ
“The subtle church of Alexander Nevsky, built in the 1870th by the architect L.V. Dal, is located at Moscow highway near the Fair and not far from the railway station. It is famous for an ancient carved wooden rood, lent for the fair time from Pureh village of Balakhna district. According to the legend, it was built by St. Savvaty of Solovki."
(The Memorial Book of 1896).
|Circus building in the period of flood.. M.Dmitriev. Nizhny Novgorod. ХIХ-ХХ
“Nizhny Novgorod Fair, located between Oka and Volga rivers, nowadays looks like a city with its own specific authority. It is vivid and busy during the trading period, and lifeless for 9 months, when its numerous buildings with shops, boutiques and storages are emptied and tightly nailed up. In spring the Fair is flooded by the Volga and the Oka, so the citizens use boats just like in Venice.”
(The Agendum, 1916)
|Nizhny Novgorod Fair. The Main Fair House. M.Dmitriev. ХIХ-ХХ
The Main Fair House was built in 1890 as per the design of K. Treimann, A. von Hohen and A. Trambitsky.
“The Main House, opened in 1890, stands out against common buildings. The Governor's apartment, his secretariat, the Fair’s office, the committee, the State Bank offices were located there during the trading. A large retail shopping arcade, the best of other Fair's arcades is located on the ground floor.”
(The Agendum, 1916)
|Alexander Nevsky Cathedral view. M.Dmitriev. Nizhny Novgorod Fair. ХIХ-ХХ
“The subtle church of Alexander Nevsky, built in the 1870th by the architect L.V. Dal under the supervision of R.Y. Kilevein, is located at Moscow highway near the Fair and not far from the railway station. This cathedral was constructed in memory of the Emperor Alexander II visiting to the Fair in 1858, and consecrated in 1881 in the presence of the lying-in-state Emperor Alexander III.”
(The Memorial Book of Nizhny Novgorod Province as of 1889)
|Maxim Petrovich Dmitriev (1858-1948)
Maxim Petrovich Dmitriev is a well-known photographer.
The Childhood of M. Dmitriev was spent in Ryazan province. At 14 years old Maxim worked in Moscow. He was employed at the best photo studio by the big-name photographer M.P. Nastyukov.
In the summer of 1874, Dmitriev visited Nizhny Novgorod for the first time. At that moment he was working at Nastyukov’s studio in the territory of Nizhny Novgorod Fair.
In February 1886 he set up New Photography studio at Osypnaya street. In 1892 the photographer won a variety of prises: a minor gold medal in the category of professional photographers at Moscow photography exhibition; a gold medal at International Photography Exhibition in Paris; and in the end of the year – a grand prix and a honorary diploma at the exhibitions of Saint Gilet and Brussels.
In 1894 Dmitriev began to realize his long-held dream: to capture the Volga, city and town views, historical sites and landmarks. M. P. Dmitriev created various subject collections: Volgian Old-Believers, peasants, barge haulers, workers, village markets and fairs.
In the end of the XIX century, the Main Fair House replaced three office blocks built in 1818-1822. According to Betancourt’s plan it became an administrative center of the Fair complex.
The building was constructed in record-breaking time: the foundation was laid on June 22, 1889, and on June 15, 1890 the Main House was opened for the public.
After the fire, the Main Fair House was rebuilt as per the design of the architects K. Treimann, A. von Hohen and A. Trambitsky in neo-russian style. The building was of colossal size, and joined the ranks of the largest Russian shopping arcades.
|The Main Fair House of Nizhny Novgorod Fair|
75 bazaars, 48 small shops and 5 kiosks were located on the ground floor, the Fair’s office and committee, State Bank office, post office, telegraph office, and restaurant – on the first floor.
The central part of the first floor was dedicated for public meetings. The meeting hall was named the Armorial Hall, due to the fact that the balustrade of its balcony was decorated with the coats of arms of Russian provinces.
The Armorial Hall, receiving highly placed visitors in the past and nowadays, is justly regarded as the best flourish of the Main Fair House.
|The Armorial Hall in the Main Fair House of Nizhny Novgorod Fair|
The Hall’s decoration is preserved pristine since the completion of the Main Fair House construction.
Today it is one of the best auditoriums of Nizhny Novgorod, and a traditional place for holding world-class events, such as conferences of Russian and foreign politicians and philanthropists.