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Astrakhan Indians: wealth and foreign land

Sometimes it seems that we know about almost all the peoples who lived on the territory of Russia. However, reading historical literature, you can immediately understand your delusion. What do you know about the Astrakhan Indians, for example? Yes, those same Indians from Indiawho, by the will of fate, once founded a community in Astrakhan.

What did the Astrakhan Indians look like and where did they come from?

According to the description of eyewitnesses, the Astrakhan Indians were mostly tall people, lean in build, with black hair, small eyes and lips, as well as white teeth.

An elderly merchant from India
Image: An elderly merchant from India

By nature, they were mostly calm and reasonable. Their courtesy, caution, a certain importance and preference for solitude are noted.

Many historians claim that the Astrakhan Indians arrived in Russia from the western regions of India. Also, most sources are of the opinion that their arrival can be attributed to the beginning of the 17th century, although someone calls the second half of the 16th century.

The constant number of merchants from India in the city did not exceed a hundred. But undoubtedly they left their mark on the history of the city, its appearance and even the formation of a new ethnic group. But about ethnicity a little further.

By the way, the street where the courtyard of the Indians in Astrakhan was located was previously simply called Indian Street. Merchants from a distant country came to trade constantly and were held in high esteem by the authorities. No wonder Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich gave the royal order to protect the Indians from all kinds of oppression.

The language, as noted, was somewhat similar to Mongolian, so the Kalmyks who were in Astrakhan easily learned it and could speak it when communicating with the Indians.

What did the Astrakhan Indians do. Where, how and what did they live on

The vast majority of Astrakhan Indians were engaged in trade. They equipped caravans to their homeland, as well as to Persia (modern Iran), the Bukhara Khanate and some other countries. From there they brought various fabrics, jewelry, jewelry, as well as spices, wines and precious metals.

Camel caravan leaves for goods
Image: Camel caravan leaves for goods

Their trading activities were not limited to Astrakhan. Large cities of Russia did not remain without their attention. In addition, their caravans never left empty for distant lands. They bought what was in demand in the East.

Russian Indians lived in gostiny yards built for them. Professor and ethnographer Georgi Johann Gottlieb described these courtyards as interconnected small stone buildings of the same type around the square, the doors of which looked into the courtyard. I.G. Georgi writes that this trading yard was built at the expense of the royal treasury.

Despite their wealth, the Astrakhan Indians did not aspire to any ostentatious luxury. Their stone shops had no windows and at the same time were their home. Indians loved cleanliness. Therefore, their houses-shops were always clean and tidy.

The first screen from the book by G.I. Gottlieb Description of all the peoples living in the Russian state
Image: The first screen from the book by G.I. Gottlieb Description of all the peoples living in the Russian state

A modest ascetic setting is a description of a typical trader's or merchant's home. A wide, low platform, similar to a bench, was everything for them. On it they slept, ate, wrote, just sat and rested. The atmosphere was complemented by a small metal oven for cooking. And all this despite the high prosperity and even the wealth of the members of the Indian community.

Why Astrakhan Indians didn't have wives and how they relaxed and rested

Without a doubt, the Astrakhan Indians adhered to Hinduism and, apparently, some rather orthodox trend. This is probably why eyewitnesses noted that they did not eat meat, poultry or fish at all, and also did not drink alcohol. The main favorite food for them was pilaf.

The second screen from the book of G.I. Gottlieb Description of all the peoples living in the Russian state
Image: The second screen from the book by G.I. Gottlieb Description of all the peoples living in the Russian state

Most of the Astrakhan Indians really did not have wives. It is noted that their religion, customs and family traditions in india they were not allowed to be separated from their wives for a long time. And since they often went on long and dangerous journeys, they were mostly unmarried.

Indian woman in national dress drinking tea
Image: Indian woman in national dress drinking tea

The Indians rested as modestly as they lived. After dinner, they loved to sleep, but were indifferent to entertainment. Loved to smoke hookah and play checkers. Sometimes they played national instruments or came to see the dances of the Astrakhan Tatars, with whom they subsequently had very close relations.

Indeed, most of them did not have wives, but at home .. And here, on Russian soil, some found themselves a “second half”. Thus, a specific ethnic group was formed, which was called the Agrizhan Tatars.

What happened to the Astrakhan Indians and where are they now

The life history of the Indian community in Astrakhan is not simple and complicated. However, it is clear that the change in the socio-political situation in the world eventually brought to naught the possibility of traditional free trade. And as a result, in the first half of the 20th century, the Indian community in Astrakhan simply ceased to exist...

Ирина Залесская

Author on the site "TRAVEL GUIDE" Expert in the field of modern design. Madly loves to travel, loves to visit new places, learn new facts and takes details seriously.

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