August 7 in Russian history

1560: Anastasia Zaharyina-Koshkina, wife of Ivan IV the Terrible, died. She became his wife after one of the first beauty contests in the history. Her family had a funny tradition that every new generation had one of three last names, Koshkin, Zaharyin or Yuryev, so her name may be given as Anastasia Yuryeva, too. Chroniclers praise her virtues and say that her kindness moderated the hot temper of Ivan. An English ambassador, Jerome Gorsey (or was he Gorsay?), wrote: "The queen was so wise, virtuous and influential that everyone honoured, loved and was afraid of her... The great prince was young and irascible but she governed him with an amazing gentleness and wit. When the kind queen Anastasia died, she was canonized and she is still worshipped in their churches." Actually, he was not yet named Terrible while she was still alive. They had six children, but only two of them survived. Earlier, it was believed that her health had been damaged by the frequent births which led to her death in such a young age (she was about 25 or 26 when she died). Recently, though, her body was identified and after some investigation a huge concentration of mercury was found in her hair, so, she was, most probably, poisoned, like Ivan's mother, Elena Glinskaya. The murder must have been organized by the aristocrats, who were annoyed by the marriage of the czar and a relatively low female. In 1553, some of them even refused to pledge the allegiance to the son of Ivan, Dimitri, saying that "we will not serve the Zaharyins." It seems that Ivan has learned at last who killed his wife and this became the first reason for the repressions against the boyars and the first step to the name of "the Terrible".

1803: Ships Nadezhda and Neva leave Kronstadt. Thi was the beginning of the first Russian circumnavigational expedition led by captain Ivan Fyodorovich Kruzenshtern. He was the commander of Nadezhda. Neva was led by Yuri Fyodorovich Lisyansky. I have recently finished reading the diary of the journey, written by Kruzenshtern, and it was a fascinating reading. He does not simply describe the lands and weather conditions, but also makes extremely interesting observations and generalizations. I thought about writing a separate article about my impressions of this book and I will, probably, do so. The expedition left Russia and sailed to Denmark, Britain, Canary islands, island of Santa Catarina in Brasil, Hawaii. There the ships departed. Nadezhda went to Petropavlovsk on Kamchatka and Neva sailed to Alaska. From Petropavlovsk, Nadezhda went to Japan where the Russian ambassador Nikolay Rezanov attempted to obtain the permission for Russian merchant ships to visit Japan. The diplomatic efforts were not successful and they went back to Kamchatka after some exploration of the southern Sakhalin. They left the cargo and gifts from the Japanese emperor in Petropavlovsk and returned to Sakhalin to finish the exploration of its northern half. Here, Kruzenshtern made a serious error when he decided that Sakhalin was a peninsula. He entered the Gulf of Amur and found that the depths were so small and the water was so fresh that he concluded that there must be an isthmus somewhere in front of them. The opinion was also supported by other explorers, like de la Perouse and captain Broughton. After the last visit to Petropavlovsk, Kruzenshtern left to Macao, China, where they met Neva who came from Alaska with a large cargo of furs. Having sold the cargo with a good profit and proved that the trade in Macao can be extremely efficient for the Russian colonies in the Pacific, they took the course back to St.Petersburg. They doubled the cape of Good Hope and went north. They visited St.Helena and Azores on their way. Between the Azores and Britain Nadezhda and Neva split again. Since the war with Napoleon had already started, Kruzenshtern turned northwards and doubled the Orkneys, while Lisyansky went straight through the English Channel. Both ships came safely to St.Petersburg on August 19, 1806.

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