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HISTORY OF KURSK KORENSKAYA FAIR

The Kursk Korenskaya Fair is a vivid example of Russian cultural and historical identity, consisting of two conceptual parallels: spiritual and economic. Rooted in the legendary past, a chronicle of the fair begins with the discovery of The Wonderworking Kursk Root Icon of Our Lady of the Sign. According to the legend, the Icon was found on 8 September 1295 not far from Kursk that was burnt by the Tatars. A hunter discovered the Icon lying face down in the roots of an old elm tree and when he raised it up, the water sprang out of the ground. At this exactly place a small wooden chapel was built.

In 1616, after many ordeals, the shrine was returned by Tsar Mikhail Fyodorovich to the Kursk land, where, according to his order, a monastery called "The Korennaya Pustyn" was established on the site of the former chapel. Pilgrims began to visit these places more and more often, and local authorities noticed that the monastery is situated at the intersection of trade routes – therefore since that time the place has been rightfully considered as the "The Southern Trading Gateway to Russia". If we talk about the scale of the Kursk Korenskaya Fair, it was the third most important event in the economic history of the country after Nizhny Novgorod (The Makaryevskaya Fair) and the Urals (The Irbitskaya Fair) fairs. The fair, after a long break, returned to the town of Svoboda that has never been just a settlement in the usual sense of this word. Then it was the seventy hectares of land full of commercial premises or so-called trade rates. Rich merchants, after receiving a special permission, acquired their own trading houses – shops with store-rooms, residential premises and refectories. From May to September, this area, with all the specific pilgrimage and trade infrastructure, revived. The culmination of the event, of course, was a religious procession of the Icon "The Sign". The Icon was carried to the central square of the Korennaya Pustyn, where, in the time of Catherine II, the so-called fair-house was built according to a project of Giacomo Quarenghi, a famous Italian architect. However, this building could barely be called just a house. One painting reproduction shows that it was built in the form of rings with convenient galleries just like the Colosseum. According to the legend, when Catherine II visited the regions of Southern Russia with her grandchildren, Alexander and Nicholas, merchants from Kursk asked her to issue an official decree on the Kursk Korenskaya Fair. The Empress sent a courier in Kursk with the Rescript "On the Establishment of the Fair", and also ordered to build permanent constructions instead of temporary ones. Catherine II did not allocate money from the Treasury for reconstruction of the fair, suggested the merchants taking loans in banks.

The reproduction mentioned above also shows how the shadows from the houses gently fall on the main square... It's evening ... It's 8 o'clock in the afternoon and the religious procession comes to People's Assembly of the Korennaya Pustyn. According to eyewitnesses, the square became so crowded that it was impossible for people to make the sign of the cross. There was a platform where Archiereus waited for the Icon that was decorated with snow-white flowers. Nowadays it is the site where the electromechanical plant is situated. Ilya Repin even painted his famous "Religious Procession in Kursk Province", where he showed the moment when people go to the monastery, accompanying the shrine. The Icon blessed all the gathered people and was carried to market rows. Having tried the "spiritual food", the people proceeded to "daily bread" when the trade began. The market rows were always full of: "Red caviar, black caviar, overseas eggplant caviar" ... the pearl rows were filled with diamonds and gold adornments ... the stalls were filled with furs and overseas silks, velvet, tweed, and good domestic cloth ... English and German optics ... There operated 58 luxury hotels for wealthy guests. Of course, the concept of respectability of that time was different from the modern one, but the comfort of the guests was guaranteed. The rooms had cold and hot water, soft bed linen and the floor was covered with freshly mowed grass. Some restaurants even offered performances of prima donnas from Italy and gypsy ensembles. The fair paradoxically played not only spiritual and economical role in the region, but also cultural and informational roles. People, who did not have any modern means of communication, could only get necessary information about social life during balls and other public events. If people couldn't attend such events, they literally "seemed to be ill" – there was nothing to talk about with them. Therefore, during the fair, special attention was paid to every detail, because it was necessary to appear there in all your beauty. The so-called "Panskie market rows" were attended by all social estates. Young women (merchants’ wives as well as peasant girls) with chaperons walked there wearing various dresses. In the middle of the 19th century the Kursk Korenskaya Fair gained the status of international and mostly wholesale. Literally the entire social life of the province, including the governor's office, moved here in the time of the fair. The significance of the fair for Central Russia can be judged by its trade turnover – in the second half of the 19th century it amounted to 7 million rubles and exceeded the total turnover of all other fairs of the region. From early spring people improved the appearance of the town trying to finish before the ninth Friday after Easter. But at the end of the 19th century, the fair began to fade because of a number of economic, political circumstances and geographic features. ... The idea of a new Korenskaya Fair occurred only at the beginning of the 21st century. The revival was encouraged by Alexander Mikhailov – the Governor of Kursk Region, Yuvenaly – the Metropolitan of Kursk and Rylsk, and Vyacheslav Klykov – the President of the International Foundation for Slavic Writing and Culture. A significant contribution to the development of the fair was made by the Chairman of the first organizing committee Nikolay Ovcharov. The first Korenskaya Fair was held on 23 September 2001 as well as the celebration of the Day of Kursk and was attended by 36 enterprises including 10 from other regions. In 2001, the Kursk Korenskaya Fair started its second life, and every year it welcomes an increasing number of participants from many regions of Russia, CIS and far abroad countries. In 2016, the number of official representatives of these countries amounted to approximately 700 people, including 250 people from Ukraine, 150 from the Republic of Belarus, and 80 from far abroad countries.

The objectives of the Kursk Korenskaya Fair are: to fully satisfy the interests of its participants and guests; to enliven and strengthen partnerships; to become traditional and desirable place for multilateral business meetings and negotiations.

Special Gratitude to Galina Fyodorovna Ermolina, the Director of the "Korennaya Pustyn" Historical and Cultural Center, for the help in preparing of this information.

Перевод на английский язык был осуществлен ФГБОУ ВПО "Курский государственный университет". За помощь в подготовке англоязычных материалов благодарим лично Проректора по научно-исследовательской работе и международным связям, доцента Логинова Сергея Павловича