[From Russkii Arkhiv, Vol. 53, 1915, Book 1, pgs. 276-301.]


Regarding the Release of Russian Captives from Khiva.

(From the archive of the Orenburg Academic Archival Commission.)

Contributed by Father Nikolai Modestov. 


Letter of the Moscow Governor-General, Prince D.V. Golitsyn, to the Orenburg Military Governor, V.A. Perovskii.

My Kind Sir,
        Vasilii Alekseevich,

I begin with an apology that due to my varied duties I have been slow in thanking Your Excellency for Your welcome news of 21 September, which gave me soul-felt pleasure in that Your hopes and plans regarding the liberation of a large number of Russian slaves, grieving in Khiva over their lost mother country, have now taken their desired turn, and that the Khan, after gathering our captives, is sending them to Orenburg with the Bukhara caravans.

After this I remain in the pleasant hope that Your Excellency’s other goal of changing our relationship with Khiva will be crowned with similar success. Your patriotic readiness, Your constant care for the territory entrusted to You, and the Tsar’s very trust in You, of course, will make the Khan sensible of the might of the Russian Emperor.

If free time from Your work allows, could Your Excellency give me many details on the number of Russian captives being returned from Khiva, and could it be hoped that this place might no longer be a market for the sale of our unfortunate countrymen?

With feelings of soul-felt respect and true affection I have the honor to be,

Your Excellency’s
Most Humble Servant
Prince Dmitrii Golitsyn

26 November 1837

(Archive of the Orenburg Academic Archival Commission, frontier section [Orenburgskaya Uchennaya Arkhivnaya Kommisiya, otdel pogranichnyi] correspondence from 10 November 1837, page 73/1.)

(Note: In 1837 there were returned from Khiva 25 Russian captives, in 1839—80 persons, and in 1840—over 500 persons. F.N.M.)



Statements of Russian Captives Returned from Khiva in 1837.

1) Vasilii Il’in son of Matei, 67 years old, peasant of landowner Sergei Vasil’evich Sheremetov, Gorbatov District of Nizhnii-Novgorod Province, of the Greco-Russian Orthodox faith, never in trouble with legal authorities nor sentenced to punishment.

I was taken captive on 15 August 1834, on the Caspian Sea about 40 miles from the Astrakhan black ("chernei," i.e. the shore – F.N.M.), where I was on the fishing boat of peasant Anton Gonyaev, son of Petr, who had the same master as I. With him were also three workers: Luk’yan Thomin (also belonging to my master), Yakov, and Mikhail. These last two were also peasants, but I do not remember of what master or what were their surnames. Our captors were six Khivans and thirteen Turkmens. After seizing us, they sank the boat and carried us to the south of Mangishlak where we put in to shore. They took us to native villages located about five miles from the sea. In these villages there were Russian captives who had been taken before us, and some more were brought in afterwards. About 80 persons in all were gathered here, and after a week our captors and others of their comrades conveyed us by road to Khiva. They sold their captives to Khivans who came out to meet them. Only Yakov and I were brought to the town of Khiva itself. I do not know the names of my captors.

In Khiva, Yakov and I spent three days for sale in the bazaar, and finally a Khivan, Kurban Niyaz-Bai Klychbaev bought me for 25 gold coins. He lived in a small place called Anbar, to where he brought me. Yakov remained behind, unsold, and I do not know who got him.

I lived with the Khivan who bought me up to the time I was freed by the emissary Kabylbai, who ransomed me from my owner by paying 26 gold Khivan coins from the money that the Khan gave to him.

2) Ivan Petrov Ryazanov, I am 30 years old, a peasant of landowner Prince Vasilii Vasil’evich Dolgorukov, from Nizhnii-Somovsk District, Penza Province, of the Greco-Russian Orthodox faith, I do not know how to read or write, I have never been brought before a court of law nor punished.

Four years ago (the spring of 1833), I was with my master, the Astrakhan townsman Ivan Timotheevich Golubev, and three comrades—also peasants of Penza Province—Vasilii Medvedev, Ignatii, and Klim, whose last names I do not know. We were fishing on the Caspian Sea when we were overtaken by about seventy Trukhmens, of whom I remember one called Millyak. They fell on us and with a shot from a musket wounded me in the right arm, where I still have the scar. They bound us and took us to the Tyuk-Karagan hills. After living in the hills for about two months, where we pastured herds of livestock, I ran away, hoping to find refuge at the Novo-Aleksandrovskoe fortification, which at that time was being built (at Kizil’-Tash [red rock] on Kuidak Bay – F.N.M.), but I had not reached it after walking for two days, and was again seized by Kirgiz nomads and once more taken into the hills. From here I was soon sold to Khiva and given to the Khan. My former master Golubev was sold for an unknown sum to a nephew of the Khan, Yusuf-Bek. Of my comrades, Vasilii was given to the Khan along with myself. Ignatii along with Golubev was with Yusuf-Bek, but I do not know anything about Klim after we were taken out of the hills. During my four-year captivity I was engaged in hard labor such as moving earth, plowing, and clearing yards. In September of this year (1837), I was freed by the Khan’s official, Khodzhibai, and taken away to the travelers’ courtyard (in the caravan-sarai). I stayed there two weeks under guard with six of my comrades who were in the Khan’s service at that time and freed along with myself. Then I was given over to the emissary Kabylev, who had me delivered by caravan here (to Orenburg).

We were kept under guard so that other Russian captives would not find out that we were being sent to Russia and send letters or oral messages with us. This is also why we were taken away at nighttime.

3) Konstantin Provov Bubnov, 50 years old, an Astrakhan townsman, never brought before a judge and never punished, of the Greco-Russian Orthodox faith, able to read and write.

I was taken captive on 12 September 1830 from the Caspian Sea where I was fishing in water 50 feet deep, a day and a half’s sail out of Gur’ev, along with Astrakhan townsman Ivan Silat’ev (who died in captivity in 1834) and our fishermen: Astrakhan townsmen—1) Arkhip Grigor’ev, 2) Aleksei Grigor’ev Korobov, and 3) Ivan Grigor’ev Bulgynin; 4) Saratov townsman Aleksei Grigor’ev Maslov; and manorial peasants—5) Sergei Alekseev, 6) Mikhail Mikhev, 7) Yegor Stepanov, and 8) Terentii Yegorov.

Our captors were sixty Kirgiz (I do not know of what tribe) who fell on us at night in three boats, and they killed Terentii Yegorov while we were defending ourselves. After seizing us, the raiders drove our boat onto a sandbar, set it on fire, and threw our cargo into the sea—2300 caught sevryuga sturgeon and 110 poods [3960 pounds] of prepared caviar, and 3 poods 10 funta [117 pounds] of fish-glue, as well as our fishing gear. They took our food supplies with them and brought us to their villages on the Turkmen kryazh (mainland, never inundated by water – F.N.M.) and then we were divided up. I was given to a Kirgiz named Amambai, who kept me for 42 days, then took me to the town of Gurlyan and sold me to the Khivan Tyulebai for 40 Khivan chervontsy [10-rouble pieces] and 5 khalat robes. My comrades stayed with the Kirgiz, and of them I afterwards saw one—Arkhip Grigor’ev in the town of Kadi after he had been sold to a Khivan whose name I do not know. Regarding Aleksei Grigor’ev Maslov and Mikhail Mikhnev I heard that they ran away to Bukhara and live there with the Khan. Of the rest I have no information. I lived with the Khivan Tyulebai all this past time, and now before the Khivan caravan left for here (Orenburg) I was bought from him by the emissary Kabylbai for 25 chervontsy in Khivan coinage and brought directly to the caravan. This was forming near Tashauz in the steppe, and the next day we set off on the march. At my leaving, the Khivan Tyulebai took my receipts for money owed me by several Khivans, totaling 31 chervontsy.

4) Vasilii Ivanov, son of Fedor, I suppose I must be 120 years old, I do not have track of my actual age. I am a peasant of Colonel Vasilii Ivanovich Burenin of the Ural Cossack Host, of the Greco-Russian Old-Believers’ faith, never brought before a court of law, and I can read and write.

I was taken prisoner by Kirgiz 15 years ago, 3 days before Easter when I was on the Yanbulatovka Stream, opposite the Genvartsevsk advance post ("forpost," which is what forward cossack settlements were called, being a kind of military fortification – F.N.M.), with a herd of horses belonging to the cossacks and my master. This herd was also all driven off by the raiders.

As a captive, by the tenth day I was brought to a region far from the frontier line, where there were only two Kirgiz kibitka tents belonging to my captors, and this is where I lived. Soon after there was also brought here a cossack officer captured by the Kirgiz—Ivan Vasil’evich Podurov of the Orenburg Cossack Host. After two months this officer was sent away somewhere, and after that I was sold for 104 sheep to a Khivan trading among the Kirgiz, Dos-Tazik.

Dos-Tazik brought me to the town of Gurlyan, where I then lived the whole time. Seven years ago I went blind and out of pity was ransomed from Dos-Tazik for three gold coins by an Astrakhan captive, Kuz’ma Glebov Shmelev. For the rest of the time I then lived with Shmelev.

Subsequently—I suppose with the Khan’s permission—Shmelev, on leaving for Russia with the emissary Kabylbai, took me with him and in that way I arrived here (in Orenburg).

This Shmelev is here now.

(Archive of the Orenburg Academic Archival Commission, frontier section, records from 10 November 1837, pages 52-53.)


5) Koz’ma Glebov Shmelev, 53 years old, peasant of Graf Dmitrii Aleksandrovich Zubov, resident in Astrakhan Province, Chernyi-Yar District, the village called Pody, of the Greco-Russian Orthodox faith, never brought before a court and never punished, unable to read or write.

I do not remember in what year I was taken captive. I only know that it was 36 years ago in the spring, from the Caspian Sea where I was catching fish as a hired hand. My master was the Astrakhan townsman Yefim Pavlov. Besides me, with him were two other workers: 1) Ivan, and 2) Grigorii, whose last names and status I do not know. Our captors were Kirgiz of the Cherkess tribe, 90 men under the leadership of the batyr’ (Kirgiz bandit warrior – F.N.M.) Sengirbai Karagzhishtov. They fell on us at night very close to a government vessel on which were twelve sailors who were apparently all sleeping. (Note: A government boat was sent out on the Caspian Sea to protect fisherman, but as we see, it did not always achieve its purposes – F.N.M.) After we were seized we were taken to shore, but during this time our master Pavlov jumped into the water and since it was shallow he was able to reach the aforesaid vessel and escape capture. We three were split up. I ended up with the above-mentioned batyr’ Sengirbai, and I do not know where the others went. After staying with him for a month, I was sold for 25 sheep to Myat-Nazar Apan, a Khivan who had come to the native villages to trade. This Khivan brought me to the town of Urganych’ and sold me for 55 gold Khivan coins to another Khivan named Muminbai Latifov. I lived as a slave with this Khivan for 19 years, and then I bought my freedom by paying 75 gold coins. Since that time I have been free, living in Gurlyan and engaged in making and selling chests and boxes. I am married to Davleta, daughter of captive Antrop Andreev Plotnikov (who is also freed now). She was born in Khiva and is not baptized, and with her I have a three-year old daughter and a one-year old son.

Now, before the caravan’s departure from Khiva to Russia, people from the Khivan emissary Kabylbai came to me and took myself, my father-in-law the above-mentioned Plotnikov, and the peasant of Colonel Burenin—Vasilii Ivanov, for whom I provided due to their advanced age. We were all taken and put in the caravan, which was already on the road. My wife and children were left behind. Even though I asked the emissaries that they be taken with me, they did not do anything about this.

In Khiva I had seen my two comrades who had been captured along with me. They had had various masters, and eventually both died there.

(Archive of the Orenburg Academic Archival Commission, frontier section, records from 10 November 1837, pages 59-60.)


6) Koz’ma Ivanov Sosev, 33 years old, sailor of the 45th Naval Équipage, entered His Imperial Majesty’s service on 16 April 1825, peasant of landowner Ivan Agarev, Saratov Province, Petrovsk District, village of Traskin, of the Greco-Russian Orthodox faith, never punished or tried in court.

I was taken prisoner in June of 1836 on the Caspian Sea, where I was with Lieutenant Gusev, twelve sailors, a quartermaster, and a cannoneer, to protect fishermen. I was taken by Kirgiz of the Adai (Adaevskii) clan, many in number, and during our capture a sailor, Vasilii Polunin, was killed.

In captivity we were all divided up, and I was allotted to a Kirgiz whose name I do not know. He soon sold me along with another Russian captive, Petr Sokolov (a peasant of Prince Yusupov), to the Turkmen Khudainazar, whose patronymic I do not know. This Turkmen brought us to Khiva, where my comrade was sold to someone, while I was given as a present to the Khan, with whom I stayed right up to my being sent with the caravan to Russia. This happened as follows. One day, when I was one of twelve men in a work party, Divan-Begi Bek-Niyaz rode up to us and ordered six of us, namely 1) me, 2) Ivan Petrov, 3) Ivan Timofeev, 4) Vasilii Ignat’ev, 5) Nikifor Borisov, and 6) his son Grigorii, to be taken to the caravan sarai, where were kept for 14 days. Here on the following day was also brought another captive, Il’ya Thedorov. While we were at the caravan sarai none of the captives were allowed near us so that other Russian prisoners would not find out we were being sent to Russia and try to send letters or oral messages with us. For this reason, on the night of the fifteenth day we were taken out and delivered to the caravan, with which we stayed for eight days before its departure. No money or anything was taken from me, except for my small set of belongings that was left at the Khan’s house.

(Archive of the Orenburg Academic Archival Commission, frontier section, records from 10 November 1837, pages 44-45.)


7) Vasilii Astaf’ev Koptyagin, 82 years of age, cossack of the Orenburg Cossack Host, Chebarkul’skaya Settlement, in Chelyabinsk District (Orenburg Province – F.N.M.); never brought before a court or punished, of the Greco-Russian Orthodox faith. In what year I entered His Imperial Majesty’s service—I do not know. I only remember that is was the same year in which I was taken captive. I cannot read nor write.

I was taken captive 55 years ago in the fall (in what month and on what day—I do not know), from Orlovskii’s force on the Orenburg Line, where I was for summer line service on the watchtower [mayak], when I was about two miles from this force. (Note: "Mayaki" are what cossacks used to call the watchtowers which were usually made of three or four posts with a platform and a long pole wrapped with straw, set aflame when danger threatened. But as we see, they did not always fulfill this purpose – F.N.M.) Along with me there were taken captive Cossack Aleksei Maksimov of my own settlement, a garrison soldier whose name I do not know, and five Bashkirs.

Our captors were Kirgiz of the Serkechev clan, as I recall, some 300 men under the leadership of batyr’ Alibai, but I do not know any of their names. On the day after taking us across the border [i.e. beyond the Orenburg Line – F.N.M.], they let the Bashkirs go after relieving them of their horses and clothing, while the soldier—haven been taken ill—died. On the third day the Kirgiz separated me from Maksimov, and I came to the share of the above-mentioned batyr’ Alibai. To whom went Maksimov—I do not know, and since that time I have never seen nor heard of him. Alibai took me to Gurlyan, a town under Khiva’s control, and there sold me to the Khivan Irnagar-bai for 50 chervontsy. I stayed with him for 30 years. Upon his death, his son sold me in Gurlyan for another 50 chervontsy to the Khivan Seit-Niyaz, with whom I have lived up to now. When the Khivan emissary Kabylbai was getting ready to go to Russia, a Khivan named Kuibak bought me from Seit-Niyaz for 1 1/2 chervontsy and delivered me to Kabylbai as he was on the road leaving Khiva. I heard that Kuibak initiated this sale because he has two brothers held here in Orenburg, whose names I do not know, for whom he had to turn over to Kabylbai a Russian captive in his possession—a young manorial [Gospodskii] peasant named Andrei Mikhailov, but he was going to keep that person for himself. Thus it was that the above-named emissary Kabylbai brought me along with others here to Orenburg.

(Archive of the Orenburg Academic Archival Commission, frontier section, records from 10 November 1837, pages 45-47.)


8) Yakov Matveev Sokolovskii, [in Polish, Jakob Sokolowski, son of Mateusz – M.C.] 60 years old, a Pole who ran away from Russia to the town of Kovno in Poland (I do not know in what year, but it would now [1837] be 35 years ago), but due to not having a passport I was sent away to Orenburg Province and settled in the Orsk fortress. Of the Roman-Catholic faith, never brought before a court, not able to read or write.

After living in the Orsk fortress for about two months, I was captured by Kirgiz while bathing in the Ural River and carried to the Khivan subject town of Gurlyan. I do not know the names of my Kirgiz captors. In Gurlyan I was sold to a rich man named Surman-Katagan (probably a Khivan) for 40 gold coins. After a time this Surman-Katagan died and I fell to his children Yadryat and Madryan. Twelve years ago, however, I ransomed myself from them by paying 40 gold coins, and I lived as a freedman. There I had a Khivan wife named Zhiola, with whom I had two daughters: Koikula and Davlyuta. Then some Khivans took me and brought me to the emissary Kabylbai, by whom I was brought here along with other captives. My wife and daughters remained behind.

Note by the clerk taking this deposition: This captive is sick, speaks very poorly, and therefore could not give any more details than these.

(Note: For a complete list of Russian captives returned from Khiva in 1837, see Russkii Arkhiv, 1915, No. 1, pages 31-33 – F.N.M.)

(Archive of the Orenburg Academic Archival Commission, frontier section, records from 10 November 1837, pages 58-59.)



Statements of Russian Captives Returned from Khiva in 1839.

1) My name is Vasilii Gromov, son of Boris, 42 years old, of the Greco-Russian Orthodox faith, a homesteader [odnodvorets] of Tambov Province and the town of Shatsk, living near that town in the Streletskaya Settlement, unable to read or write.

I was taken captive in March of this year (1839) from the Caspian Sea near the Seal Islands [Tyulen’ikh ostrova], where I was a hired fisherman for the Astrakhan townsman Ivan Zhidkov. We were on two kusovaya boats, and captured were the aforesaid Zhidkov and seven other workers, namely: 1) Filat Denisov, 2) Vasilii Saluv’yanskii, 3) Vasilii Mikhailov, 4) Dmitrii Gromov, 5) Aleksei, 6) Ivan—I do not know the last names of these two, and 7) Ivan Athanas’ev, a retired soldier. I do not know the social status of the rest. Of these persons, Denisov, Saluv’yanskii, and Mikhailov arrived here with me while the others remained in Khiva. Although we were not sleeping when the raiders, numbering about 50, attacked us at night, we did not put up resistance because as they approached us we thought they were fishermen. I do not know the name of a single one of our captors, only that they were Kirgiz and Turkmens. After capturing us, the bandits took us ashore at Tyuk-Karagansk Bay to their nomad encampment, where we were divided up. I fell to a Kirgiz who soon sold me to a Khivan whose name I do not know. This Khivan along with his companions, of whom there were many there [in the encampment-F.N.M.], probably to buy captives, took me and 29 other Russians seized on the sea to Khiva, where the Khan took us all for himself. After 12 days, he sent us to a small place called Tashauz, where we stayed for 40 days, spending a week harvesting grain belonging to Divan-Begi Bek-Niyaz, but then not doing anything. About 45 days ago, though, more Russian captives (51 persons) were brought to us in Tashauz, and all of us together, in the company of two Khivans—Ishbai and Seit—and the Kirgiz chieftain Niyaz, set off for Russia.

Before leaving, they gave the 32 of us, captured this spring, each a cotton robe [khalat], a pair of boots, a pair of shirts with pants, and a pood [36 pounds] of flour ground into groats. On the journey to Russia the Khivans treated us very well. We rode for 32 days on camels which were given out one for every two of us. What places we traveled through, I do not know. The pasturing was rather good. During this journey it only rained once.

When we were captured, my personal belongings were stolen: a sheepskin coat [tulup] valued at 14 roubles, a camel-hair caftan at 17 roubles, a pair of boots at 9 roubles, two pairs of shirts with pants at 10 roubles, and a cap at 60 kopecks.

I do not know anything more than this and I heard nothing about the Khivan khan’s actions or intentions, as I was not free to move about. I report this truthfully, and as I cannot write I have allowed someone else to sign my name.

(Note: According to Mel’nikov-Pecherskii, a "kusovaya" boat is a large fishing boat that goes to sea early in the morning – F.N.M.)

(Archive of the Orenburg Academic Archival Commission, frontier section, records from 12 August 1839, pages 27-28.)


2) My name is Filat Denisov, son of Mitrofan, 26 years of age, of the Greco-Russian Orthodox faith, a peasant of Gräfin Golovkina, dwelling in Moscow Province, Kolomna District, in the village of Severskoe, unable to read or write.

In regard to my captivity and release, I refer to captive Vasilii Gromov (see the preceding deposition – F.N.M.), with whom I agree completely, since we were taken captive together. I do add that when I was captured these things were stolen by the robbers: a sheepskin coat worth 18 roubles, a half-length fur coat [polushubok] at 17 roubles, a pair of boots at 6 roubles, and three shirts and four pants at 12 roubles. As I cannot write, I entrust someone else to sign my name.

(Archive of the Orenburg Academic Archival Commission, frontier section, records from 12 August 1839, pages 28-29.)


3) My name is Aleksandr Skvorets, son of Login, 48 years old, of the Greco-Russian Orthodox faith, unable to read or write, a worker under the Iletsk Salt Administration, before my captivity dwelling in the Iletskaya Zashchita fort.

In 1821, I was sent from the Iletskaya Zashchita fort (in Orenburg Province – F.N.M.) by an official named Gavril Ivanovich (I have forgotten his last name) to the government mill on the Chernaya Stream near the Chesnokovskii detachment of troops, to saw timber along with one comrade of the same administration—Ivan Semenchuk. We had not gone two miles toward the mill when six Kirgiz, not known to us, fell upon us and took us prisoner. After our capture, they allotted us among themselves. I was acquired by a Kirgiz whose name I do not know, who took me straight to the Khivan town of Gurlyan without stopping at any of the native villages. There he sold me in the bazaar to Divan-Begii Bek-Niyaz for 65 gold coins, and this person took me to the city of Khiva where I remained with him the whole time, engaged in labor. In all that time, I attempted once to escape, but I was recaptured and severely punished. I never saw my comrade in Khiva, but only met him here (in Orenburg – F.N.M.). He told me he ran away from the Kirgiz a month after being captured.

In the beginning of June of this year (1839), my master Bek-Niyaz ordered me to go to Tashauz, and when I arrived there I saw the captives brought there along with myself, and with whom after a time I was sent to Russia. My further experiences on the journey to Russia were the same as for these captives. Rumor reached Khiva regarding the coming of Russian troops, but the Khivan khan, so I heard, did not believe them, placing his trust in God and in that the Russian tsars would never take up arms against the Khivan Khanate, and so he did not take any decisive measures. When we were leaving for Russia, Divan-Begii Bek-Niyaz told the Khivan, Ishbai, in the presence of all the captives, that when he reached Orenburg he was to ask the Orenburg Military governor (Vasilii Alekseevich Perovskii – F.N.M.) in the name of the Khan to release at least 20 of the Khivan merchants detained here, and that a Russian official be sent to Khiva for the rest of the captives. Then the Khan would supposedly not only give up old captives, but even the children they had sired. There are now about 1000 Russian captives in Khiva. Of these I know six who lived with my master Bek-Niyaz, namely: Ivan Yegorov, Yakov and Grigorii Shchukin, Aleksandr, Thedot (last names unknown to me), captured on the Caspian Sea, and a soldier deserter named Ivan, whose last name I also do not know. Bek-Niyaz’s middle brother [srednii brat], Babazhan, had three persons: Ivan, Thedot, and Nikolai, of unknown last names, and his younger brother, Arniyaz, had two: the townsman Yakov from Astrakhan Province and the manorial peasant Vasilii, of unknown last name. Belonging to the Khan himself I know the captive Vasilii Lavrent’ev, who takes care of cannons, and according to what I heard, ran away some 30 years ago from some master in St. Petersburg. In the Khivan Khan’s last raid on Persian possessions, this Vasilii Lavrent’ev was given a knife by the Khan along with elevation to Makhryam status. Whether the Khivan Khan can muster many troops—I really do not know, but I suppose that some 30,000 warriors could be summoned by him. The Turkmens and Karakalpaks are loyal to the Khan for the time being. Rumor has it that they await only the coming of Russian troops and then would all want to come under the protection of the SOVEREIGN EMPEROR. Right now, though, they are wary of the Khan. It is apparent that the Khivans are not disposed to begin a war with Russia. They would rather have the Khan return his Russian captives, and have asked him several times to do this. This was suggested to the Khan some two years ago by his brother Inak. But when the Khan did not agree, Inak rode away to the town of Azarist, which he governs, and said that when he hears of the approach of Russian troops, he will meet them on the road halfway and join them to march against the Khan. Since that time Inak has treated the Khan not as a brother, but as an enemy.

More than this I do not know, and I add that when I was captured the raiders robbed me of: a caftan of yellow cloth - worth 15 roubles; boots – 8 roubles; shirt with a pair of drawers – 9 roubles; and 50 roubles in cash. What I have said is truthful and I allow another hand to sign my name to that effect.

4) My name is Petr Litvinov, son of Ivan, 38 years old, of the Greco-Russian Orthodox faith, never punished or brought before a court, a serving cossack of the Orenburg Host, living in the Ostrovskaya settlement of the Orenburg Line, not able to read or write.

In September of 1832, I along with cossacks from my settlement—Pavel and Ivan Zaitsev and Dmitrii Vasil’ev—rode to the Prechistenskaya fort to sell melons. Not having reached the place called Studentsy, we stopped around evening time on the river of that same name to feed the horses. At that time twelve Kirgiz fell upon us—of what clan or group, or what were their names, I do not know. We resisted them, but had to yield to their superior strength, and they took us captive. Then, having crossed the Ural River, we were divided up: I fell to a Kirgiz whose name I do not know, and who sold me five days later to another Kirgiz whose clan, group, and name I also do not know. This Kirgiz soon brought me to Khiva and sold me in the bazaar to the Khivan Khodzhash-Makhryam for 49 gold coins.

The aforesaid Khodzhash-Makhryam sent me to his farm some 20 miles from Khiva, where I stayed to do work. Only last year before Easter did he let me go after I gave him 65 gold coins, and I received a letter of release with the Khan’s seal, which I herewith present. Until departing for Russia, I was free and stayed at the above farm. With me at that place under Khodzhash-Makhryam there lived a captive soldier, Nikita Balabanov, who has now arrived here (in Orenburg) along with the rest. I never ran away from my master and was never punished.

About two months ago there came to us at the farm a servant of our master, whose name I do not know. He took both of us to his home and told us that by the will of the Khan we were to be released to our fatherland. He then took us to the Khan’s house where there were gathered 48 captives like us, along with the two Khivans Ishbai and Seit and a Kirgiz convoy driver named Niyaz. With them we were sent to Tashauz, and from there, after being joined by 32 persons captured in the spring of this year, we were sent to Russia. The journey was as described by the other captives, but I add that those Russian prisoners who had bought their freedom and lived in Khiva were for unknown reasons not allowed to return to their country. In exactly the same way, upon my obtaining my freedom from Khodzhash-Makhryam I was forbidden to go anywhere outside Khiva.

In the Khivan lands, this year’s (1839) harvest of grain and grass is rather good, but not as good as in previous years. Near the city of Khiva itself the grass is mostly eaten up by a worm. In the Khivan lands grass does not grow by itself as it does with us in Russia; they sow it in the spring.

I know nothing more than what I have indicated, as I was always on the farm and had no chance to hear or see anything. However, I have told everything truthfully and allow my name to be signed by another’s hand.

(Archive of the Orenburg Academic Archival Commission, frontier section, records from 12 August 1839, pages 156-60.)


5) My name is Nikita Balabanov, son of Petr, 65 years old, of the Greco-Russian Orthodox faith, unable to read or write.

In 1810, as a state-owned serf in Yaroslav Province, Myshikinsk District, Monarevaya village, I was taken as a recruit under standard sequential procedure, and in September I entered service in the Separate Caucasus Corps as a private in the 3rd Grenadier Light Artillery Company. Later, I do not remember which year, I was retitled a bombardier.

In 1827, during the war with Persia, the company in which I was in was operating near the town of Erivan, where I was, too. One day, I with six comrades was sent to cut grass at a stream which we called Stony Creek. Here we spent about ten days, and then as the next day was breaking about 500 Persians fell upon us. One of us was killed as we resisted and six were taken prisoner. They also drove off about 35 artillery horses which we were grazing there, and captured two artillerymen who were herding them, so we were eight prisoners in all.

The captured artillerymen by name were: 1) Andrei Nazarov, 2) Thedor Timotheev, 3) Demid Luk’yanov, 4) Makar Kozlov, 5) Kondratii Selifontov, and 6) Yakov Trifonov, of whom the last two died while in Khiva, while the first four are alive and serving the Khan’s cannons. I do not know the names of the last two artillerymen, but they are also alive and with the Khan’s cannons.

After being captured, we were sent into Persia and then sold to Turkmens. These passed us from hand to hand, and finally in the spring we were driven to Khiva and sold to various masters: I was bought by Khodzhash-Makhryam for 35 gold coins. I do not know who by name bought the others, but all of them soon came to the Khan and were assigned to the guns. I myself did not declare any desire to be with the guns although this was offered to me, because it would be hard to get out of that duty and back to Russia.

I lived with Khodzhash-Makhryam on the farm some 20 miles from Khiva, and during this whole time I worked there with the Orenburg-Host cossack Petr Litvinov, with whose account of further events I fully agree. I have told everything truthfully and entrust this to be signed in another’s handwriting.

(Archive of the Orenburg Academic Archival Commission, frontier section, records from August 1839, pages 60-61.)


6) My name is Stepan Sidorov, son of Yekim, 39 years old, of the Greco-Russian Orthodox faith, I can read and write, I am a state peasant from Saratov Province, Tsaritsyn District, Pogromensk volost’, village of Charleno-Raznaya, and dwelling in the town of Astrakhan, where I left a wife and one son.

I was taken captive in May of 1836 from the Caspian Sea where I was engaged in fishing, being hired by the townsman Thedor Voronov to work on a kusovaya fishing boat. There were four of us: myself, another state peasant from my village—Matvei Shulepov (he was killed by the raiders as we were being captured and thrown into the sea), state peasant Tit from Kharkov Province, whose last name I do not know, and Petr, son of Filipp (I don’t know who he was or from what province). Our captors were about 40 Turkmens on two kusovaya boats (I do not know any of their names). They fell upon us in the evening from two sides so that we were unable to get away, and we started shooting at them but they came closer. They fired several muskets and killed one of us, Matvei Shulepov. After seizing us, they took us with them and put us ashore at Arkhiereisk Kaltuk. Here they divided us among themselves. Petr Filippov and I fell to the Turkmen Atanazar, with whom I stayed for two months. During this time my comrade Petr ran away from our master and—so I heard—made it to Astrakhan. Atanazar took me away to Khiva and sold me to the Khivan Veispazachi Maryam for 45 gold Khivan coins to become part of his household. In Khiva I saw my other comrade, Tit, who still now remains with the Khivan Avezbai, who also has Semen Vasil’ev from Krasnyi-Yar in Astrakhan Province. My owner turned me over to a master craftsman to learn how to make carts, and I stayed there until being sent to Russia. Before I actually left, my master, on orders from the Khan, had given me to Divan-Begii Bekniyaz, and he sent me and 30 other Russian captives to Tashauz, from where in 9 days we were sent here—to Orenburg. On the journey they gave me only a pood [36 pounds] of flour and another pood of groats; of clothing I was given nothing. In regard to the route taken, it was as stated by the comrades who were taken out along with me. I only add that when I left for here, my master, the Khivan Veis-Maryam, kept my karamana wood [lesa karamana] (for making carts), worth 90 roubles. According to the Khivans themselves, there are some 900 captives still remaining in Khiva. This year (1839), about 200 persons were brought out, including about 50 who belonged to the Khan himself. Several Russians who bought their freedom from their owners live at liberty and asked the Khan that they be allowed to go to Russia, for a payment of money if required, but he did not allow this. I heard from Russian captives that this spring the Khan recruited Turkmens to send to the Caspian Sea to seize Russians. The Turkmens would be allowed to keep any goods or property, but persons would be turned over to the Khan. When I was with the Turkmens in their camps, I noticed two Tatars, a father and son whose names I do not know, who I heard were Astrakhan Tatars. The grain and hay harvest this year in Khiva was good. Wheat was being sold at one rouble a pood. Persian emissaries came to Khiva demanding the release of all Persian captives, but I do not know if the Khan agreed to this. When the Persian emissaries went back, it was said that the Khivan Khan was sending his own emissaries to Persia. Last year when the Khivan Khan sent troops to Persia he asked the Khan of Bukhara for help, but was refused. A week before we left for Russia a Kirgiz (whose name and clan I do not know) brought a Russian to the Khivan Seit, who had then joined us. The Kirgiz had brought the Russian as payment of a debt he owed, although if the Russian was going to be sent to Russia, the Kirgiz would pay Seit money. This Russian was left behind and is now in Khiva in Seit’s house. (For this misdeed by the Khivan emissary Seit, V. A. Perovskii held him in Orenburg – F.N.M.) When I was captured I was robbed of (besides my boat with supplies, belonging to my master, Voronov, of what actual value I do not know) my personal possessions: sheepskin coat [tulup], boots, short fur coat [polushubok], three pairs of shirts with pants, two muskets, piece of felt [koshma], hat, and ax, worth 85 roubles in all.

I know no more, and hereby affix my signature.

(Archive of the Orenburg Academic Archival Commission, frontier section, records from 12 August 1839, pages 171-73.)


7) My name is Nikon Likhanovskii, son of Filipp, 52 years old, of the Greco-Russian Orthodox faith, private in the 20th Division’s 39th Jäger Regiment, unable to read or write.

In August of 1827, I was in a column under the command of General Krosovskii in Georgia near the Echmiadzin Monastery, where during a Persian attack on our force I was taken prisoner (along with 230 others). They took me to Teheran, where I lived for about two months and then was sold by a Persian official (whose name I do not know) to a Turkmen (also unknown to me) for 60 Khivan chervontsy. This one then resold me to the Khivan Kushbegii Madrasa, father of the current Kushbegii Atamrat, with whom I lived in slavery up to the moment I was freed. At the order of the Khan, I was at that time taken from Atamrat and sent to Russia with the other captives who have come here. On the road we were all given a pood of flour each and a pood of groats. I was not given any clothing, though. We passed through the steppe for 32 days. The Khivans and Kirgiz conveying us did not harass us during the journey. I did hear that the Khivan Khan issued them money to buy all of us clothing, but they only gave some to 32 persons. Of Russian captives in Khiva I know certain peasants: Vasilii Mikhailov of Syzran District, Matvei of Orenburg District, Andrei of Vyaznikovsk District in Vladimir Province, and Sailor Yefim. I do not know the last names.

In Khiva, Russian captives were treated terribly. After Khivans were detained in Russia, Russian wares in Khiva sold at higher prices than before. The grain harvest this year is average.

More than this I do not know, since I did not live in the city of Khiva itself, but over three miles from it in the pastures.

Upon my capture I did not have any personal belongings stolen. I affirm that what I have stated is correct, and entrust another hand to affix my signature.

(Archive of the Orenburg Academic Archival Commission, frontier section, records from 12 August 1839, pages 173-75.)


8) My name is Savelii Chaplygin, son of Konstantin, 62 years old, of the Greco-Russian Orthodox faith, I cannot read or write, I am a peasant of Prince Yusupov, and resident in Astrakhan Province, Krasnyi-Yar District, village of Dzhambaiskoe.

I was taken captive about fifteen years ago in the springtime (but in which exact year, I do not remember), from the Caspian Sea where we were fishing from a kusovaya boat. Besides me, two other workers were taken: the first was Gavrila, of unknown last name, an Astrakhan townsman, and the second was Yegor Sokolov, a peasant of Prince Yusupov. My capture entailed a loss of 2050 paper roubles, namely: kusovaya boat with all gear, worth 2000 roubles, and clothing worth 50 roubles.

Our captors were Turkmens. There were 25 of them. They took us to the Turkmen mountain range and divided us among themselves. I know none of them by name. Soon after, five of my captors took me to the town of Khiva and sold me to a Khivan named Khodzhash-Makhryam for 60 gold Khivan coins. I then lived with him right up to when I was released, engaged in working the land for crops. This summer, on the Khan’s orders, five more of the persons held by Khodzhash-Makhryam were taken from him and released to Russia along with other captives. (For a complete list of Russian captives returned from Khiva in 1839, see Russkii Arkhiv, 1915, No. 1, pages 36-41 – F.N.M.) Those were Petr Litvinov—an Orenburg cossack, Nikita Balabanov—a soldier of the field artillery, Aleksei Mikhailov—a recently baptized Tatar, Vasilii Savin—a manorial peasant, and Ivan Luk’yanov—a Black-Sea cossack. I agree with their accounts of how we came to Russia. After our release, there were still ten captives left with Khodzhash-Makhryam (nine men and one woman), whose names I do not actually know, since in general none of the captives in Khiva went by their actual names. (My italics – F.N.M.)

More than this I do not know, since I was almost all the time working the fields. Having set forth all this truthfully, I entrust my signature to another’s handwriting.

(Archive of the Orenburg Academic Archival Commission, frontier section, records from 12 August 1839, pages 105-106.)



Letter of Orenburg Military Governor V. A. Perovskii to the Minister of Finance, Ye. F. Kankrin.


My Dear Sir,
Graf Yegor Frantsevich.

The sending of our captives (80 persons) out of Khiva and their arrival in Orenburg last month (i.e. August of 1839 – F.N.M.) has provided the chance to acquire positive information on the trade situation there at the present time. This information, when considered along with the accompanying data, leads to conclusions which I have the honor to present for Your Excellency’s consideration in the hope that You, my dear Sir, will not deem them unworthy of Your attention, which is always alert to improving our trade with Central Asia.

Your Excellency knows the reasons that compelled the Government to detain Khivan merchants in Russia. This measure had the direct result of pushing prices for Russian goods in Khiva to extremely high levels, as can be seen from the table below, which was compiled in October of 1837 by a Bukharan emissary to Khiva.

Prices in Orenburg.


Prices in Khiva.



Kungur leather [yuft’], 10 hides. 120 130 270
Arzamas leather, 10 hides. 140 155 300
Alum [kvastsy], pood [36 lbs.]. 8 12 40
Mercury [rtut’], pood. 200 240 606
Cinnabar [kinovar’], pood. 140 155 600
Cochineal [koshenil’], pood. 460 500 675
Chintz [sitets], 50 arshins [37 1/2 yds.]. 30 35 40
Sugar, fine grain [melyusa], pood. 45 50 68
Mitkal’ cotton material, 50 arshins. 18 22 30
Calico [kolenkora], 20 pieces each of 16 arshins [12 yds.] 200 240 300
Pig iron in kettles [chugun v kotlakh], 16 poods. 72 112 150
Iron bars [zhelezo polosovoe], pood. 4 9 15
Steel, pood. 7 12 20
Colored cloth, half [sukna tsvetnago polovina]. 125 150 210
Cotton [khlopchataya bumaga], pood. 24 12 6

These prices have not only held steady up to now [i.e. to September 1839 – F.N.M.], but in many cases have even increased. For example, leather and iron bars have risen despite the fact that the inhabitants of Novo-Urgench (the most active manufacturing town of the Khivan Khanate) entered into active relations with Bukhara using waterborne transport on the Amu to the town of Chardzhu, and that at the Khan’s insistence all Bukharan caravans are forced to stop at Khiva at both ends of a journey in order to take Khivan products on commission and distribute part of the wares imported from Russia.

In the meantime, the severance of direct ties with Khiva, so disadvantageous for the Khivans, not only did not harm our trade, but even seems to have helped expand it.

According to information provided by the customs houses, there were exported:






Roubles K. Roubles K. Roubles K. Roubles K. Roubles K.
To Bukhara. . . . Goods 793,152 60 1,051,985 45 1,384,738 10 1,383,133 69 1,167,423 70
Money 60,135 -- 10,000 -- 194,590 -- 142,086 -- 496,122 --
To Khiva . . . . . 68,493 55 97,876 10 57,248 20




Total 921,782 15 1,159,861 55 1,636,576 30 1,525,220 19 1,663,545 80




Roubles K. Roubles K. Roubles K.
Thus, the Bukharans have increased their imports over the 1835 level by . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 517,342 65 463,234 74 601,560 35
The total sum of imported goods in 1835 were less than in the following years by . . . . . . . . 292,124 75 233,272 14 17,562 15
The grand total of imports in 1835 was less than the grand sums sent out for the following years by . . . . . 476,704 75 366,481 10 513,684 25


[Note: the last row in this table is incorrect. The numbers should be: 476,714.75, 365,358.64, 503,684.25. M.C.]

This result, apparently, leads to the conclusion that Khiva, not being a significant point for the sale of our products, but located at the intersection of all roads from Central Asia to Russia, and at the key point for waterborne communications with Bukhara and Balkh—along the Amu, and with Tashkend and Kokan—along the Syr, deserves special attention as a cornerstone for Russia’s commercial enterprises in Central Asia.

There is no doubt regarding the significance of the profit yielded by the Central Asian trade. The following example may serve as evidence of this:

Chintz sells at the Nizhnii-Novgorod fair for 48 to 50 kopecks per arshin [28 inches], carriage to Orenburg costs 1/2 kopeck, export tax is levied at 1/2 kopeck, delivery to Bukhara takes about 3 kopecks, so the total expenses per arshin are 5 kopecks [sic]. However, it is sold there for 61 to 71 kopecks per arshin or 32 roubles per piece [shtuk] (from 45 to 52 arshins). Therefor the profit from one arshin is 10 kopecks or 20 per cent.

In a similar calculation, nankeen [nanka] yields about 30%.
Calico – 18%.
Cotton kerchiefs – 33%.
Red pocket handkerchiefs – 37%.
Scarlet cloth – 46%, and other colors – 41%.
Tinsel brocade [parcha mishurnaya] – 18%.
Leather – 29%.
Wax – 44%.
Rusk – 44%.
Iron bars [zhelezo prutkovoe] – 6%.
Iron kettles – 7 1/2%.
Brass – 2%.
Tin – 15%.
Mercury – 42%.
Dark-blue vitriol [sinii kuporos, i.e. copper sulfate] – 75%.
"Punch-outs" [vyboika, of unknown meaning – M.C.] – 5%.

Profits from the Central Asian trade:

Spun Magarshab cotton [pryadennaya Magarshab bumaga] sells in Bukhara for 24 chervontsy per batman, i.e. 48 roubles per pood; Khiva imposes a tax of 1 rouble 20 kopecks a pood, carriage to Orenburg is 5 roubles, tax in Orenburg is 4 roubles, carriage to Nizhnii-Novgorod is 2 roubles, for a total cost per pood of 12 roubles 20 kopecks. Retail price is about 80 roubles. Thus, there is 33% profit per pood. (Note: a "batman" in Khiva and Bukhara is equal to eight of our poods [Melnikov-Percherskii], while a chervonets goes there at the given time for 16 roubles, as evidenced in this document – F.N.M.)

By these calculations, spun Mionkal’ cotton has a profit of 56%.

Spun Bukharan and Khivan cotton – 53%, in flocks [v khlopakh] – 15%. In round figures, our goods yield 24% and the Asian goods 33%. It follows that a single round of trade (i.e. shipping out and bringing in) yields 65 roubles on 100.

The only undecided question that remains is how much can this trade grow and whether it is fated to always remain insignificant due to its small sphere of activity.

It must be recognized that our current information about Central Asia is still insufficient, but one should take into account:

1) The size of the market, encompassing western China, Tashkend, Kokan, Badakshan, Balkh, Bokhara, and at least the transit trade with Afghanistan and Lahore [Avgan i Lagar].

2) Manufacturing activity already in existence in the region. Caravans travel each year from Kuldzha to Kashemir in 20 days; to Kashgar (through Khutan and Yarkent-Aksau) in 30 days; from Kashgar to Kokan in 23 days; from Kokan to Turkestan (through Tashkend) in 13 days; to Bokhara in 21 days; from Bokhara, as well as from Kashgar, to Afghanistan, Samarkand, Tashkend, Turkestan, Balkh, Shervased, and Feizabad. In addition, there is separate traffic between each of these individual towns.

3) The possibility, though as yet still remote, of increasing this trade by improving waterways along the Syr and Amu.

4) The existing demand in Central Asia for some of our products and the possibility that we may deliver all goods there more cheaply than other European countries.

5) The advantage in obtaining certain goods from there, such as: cotton, silk, tea, indigo dyes [kubovaya kraska], indigo [indigo], saffron, pepper, tsytsvarnye seeds, rhubarb, turquoise, lapis-lazuli, shawls, etc.

6) The continuous increase in our trade with Bokhara under the most unfavorable conditions of enmity with the Khivans and turmoil in Afghanistan.

7) Finally, the attempts by the English, experienced in trade matters, to penetrate here through India and Persia. Since 1830, small quantities of their wares have already appeared in Kuldzha and Chinese Chardzhu, and in much larger quantities in Bokhara from Benares. They are sold unbelievably cheaply, e.g. a piece of muslin 27 arshins [21 yards] long costing about 50 roubles in Russia is sold for 9 silver roubles, a piece of calico 16 arshins long [12 yards 16 inches] (25 roubles by our prices) – for 3 silver roubles, double-sided chintz 12 arshins long [9 yards 12 inches] – for 12 roubles, which, it appears, clearly reveals the intent to undercut our trade even at the cost of a temporary loss for themselves.

All these reasons give the right to expect that also by its volume, trade with Central Asia may deliver significant profit, but in order that this may be to Russia’s advantage, I venture to suppose that we must, so to speak, go to the Asiatics, not waiting for them to shed their age-old lethargy. It would appear that a necessary condition for this activity will be the opening of direct relations with Chardzhu and Kashgar in the eastern half of Central Asia, and in the western half—security of the route to the main market for the places there, Bokhara, by acquiring positive influence with Khiva and an increase in boat traffic on the Caspian.

With the deepest respect and affection, I have the honor to be, etc.

19 September 1839. No. 178.

(Archive of the Orenburg Academic Archival Commission, frontier section, records from 12 August 1839, pages 183-186.)



Message of Orenburg Military Governor V. A. Perovskii to the Astrakhan Military Governor.

Of the 80 Russian persons who had been held in slavery by the Khivans and were brought here last August, 23 identified themselves in the questionnaires collected by the Orenburg Frontier Commission [Orenburgskaya Pogranichnaya Kommissiya] as residents of Astrakhan Province, and these persons are therefore sent by the Commission to your provincial administration with the exception of 9 men who must remain here for individual reasons.

I have the honor to report this to Your Excellency, as well as the conclusion of the Frontier Commission that the manorial peasants in this number delivered from captivity are entitled to be freed from serf status in accordance with Article 705 of Volume IX of the Compilation of Laws. I request, my Dear Sir, that you do not neglect to honor me by letting me know of the measures that will be taken in regard to the aforesaid 23 persons delivered from captivity. For Your review I include a nominal list with social status and place of residence indicated, as well as which of them have already been sent away and which are still here.
(Note: The exact same message was sent by V. A. Perovskii to the governors of all other provinces which were the original homes of Russian captives returned from Khiva. – F.N.M.)



Report of Orenburg Military Governor V. A. Perovskii to "The Honorable Gentleman Managing the Minister of Internal Affairs."

This past August, 80 persons were delivered to Orenburg by the Khivan Khan. These were Russians held captive in Khiva, and of them, 69 identified themselves under questioning by the Orenburg Frontier Commission as belonging to the social class of serfs paying the poll tax, and 11 as being military. Therefore the Frontier Commission has sent the former, except for a few persons remaining with the Commission for the collection of certain information, to the authorities of those provinces of which they have declared themselves to be residents, while the latter have been sent to the military authorities.

I have communicated this to the chiefs of the provinces, as well as informed them of the Frontier Commission’s conclusion that manorial peasants among the persons returned from captivity are entitled to release from serf status in accordance with Article 705 of Volume IX of the Compilation of Laws, and I consider it my duty to inform Your Excellency of this.

21 September 1839.

(Archive of the Orenburg Academic Archival Commission, frontier section, records from 12 August 1839, page 198.)



Letter of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Graf Nesselrode, to Orenburg Military Governor V.A. Perovskii.

My Dear Sir,
Vasilii Alekseevich.

I had to honor to receive and then speedily bring to the SOVEREIGN EMPEROR’S attention Your Excellency’s message of 21 August in which You announce the return of 80 Russian captives (Note: Cf. Russkii Arkhiv, 1915, No. 1, pages 34-35 – F.N.M.) by the Khivans, and which was accompanied by an Official Statement from the Khivan Khan.

Now in reply to this I have the duty to inform You, Dear Sir, that the measures initiated by You consequent to the Khan’s sending of captives and Emissaries with his Official Statement have merited HIS IMPERIAL MAJESTY’S HIGHEST approval.

Please be assured of my complete respect and affection.

Gr. Nesselrode.

St. Petersburg.
29 September 1839, No. 2533.

(Archive of the Orenburg Academic Archival Commission, frontier section, records from 12 August 1839, page 199.)


Translated by Mark Conrad, 2000.