BAKHCHI-SARAI (Turk. for “garden-palace”), a town of Russia, in the government of Taurida, situated in a narrow gorge in the Crimea, 20 m. by rail S.S.W. of Simferopol. From the close of the 15th century down to 1783 it was the residence of the Tatar khans of the Crimea; and its streets wear a decidedly oriental look. The principal building, the palace, or Khan-sarai, was originally erected in 1519 by Abdul-Sahal-Ghirai, destroyed in 1736, and restored at Potemkin’s command for the reception of Catherine II. Attached to it is a mausoleum, which contains the tombs of many of the khans. There are in the place no fewer then thirty-six mosques. The population consists for the most part of Tatars. Bakhchi-sarai manufactures morocco, sheepskin cloaks, agricultural implements, sabres and cutlery. Pop. (1897) 12,955. Two and a half miles to the east is Chufut-Kaleh (or Jews’ city), formerly the chief seat of the Karaite Jews of the Crimea, situated on lofty and almost inaccessible cliffs; it is now deserted except by the rabbi. Between Bakhchi-sarai and Chufut-kaleh is the Uspenskiy monastery, clinging like a swallow’s nest to the face of the cliffs, and the scene of a great pilgrimage on the 15th (29th) of August every year.

Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition, Volume 3, Part 1, Slice 2

“The Bakhchisaray palace of the khans, constructed 1533-1551, was destroyed by fire in 1735 and rebuilt in 1738. It was altered in 1787 for the visit of Catherine II, at which time the Fountain of Tears was moved from a garden terrace to the inner courtyard of the palace. The palace was modified again in 1837 for Tsar Nicholas I; used as a hospital during the Crimean War; and further renovated in 1900. Today the complex is a museum.”

The Fountain of Tears
Stephanie De Montalk

“More purely eastern was the little town of Bakhchisaray, with its fountains, mosques and poplar trees. He spent the night here, dining at a coffee house, the evening enlivened by the sound of music and fountains; a Tatar galloped by on a horse, its hooves striking sparks in the darkness. The next day he climbed the minaret of the Khan’s palace for a better view, noting the monastery, with its stairs and balconies and cells splayed across the beetling rock face of Chufut-Kale, and the six octagonal mausoleums, with their marble cornices. He makes no actual mention of Pushkin’s poem “The Fountain of Bakhchisaray”, with its legend of the grieving Sultan and his Polish princess, but refers to the tomb of ‘the Georgian’, the murdering wife who features so so passionately in Pushkin’s story.
At various moments in his journey, Griboyedov was accompanied by the nineteen-year-old poet Andrei Muravyov, one of the many members of the Muravyov clan. They had first met in Kiev, where they were staying at the same inn. Muravyov who had been warned that Griboyedov was difficult with strangers, engineered their meeting by pretending that he had had a nightmare, and rushing out of his room screaming. Griboyedov, who had a room on the same floor, came out calm him down. Later, Muravyov had joined him on his ascent of Chatyr-Dag. “We stood together in the clouds,” wrote Muravyov. “…An involuntary ecstasy seized me. I was carried out of myself; he understood me, and our intimacy was born.” They met up again at Bakhchisaray, where they climbed the crags of Chufut-Kale by moonlight. Inspired by the romantic setting, Muravyov pured out his poetic ambitions and recited two of his poems. Griboyedov encouraged him, saying “For God’s sake create; do not translate”. When Muravyov explained his intention of writing a poem on Vladimir, Kiev’s first great ruler, Griboyedov confided his own idea of writting a tragedy based on the same subject. The tragedy never materialised, but Muravyov’s collection of Crimean poems entitled Tavrida (Tabriz) were published in 1827. They attractd no great interest, but for Muravyov a dream had been realised. “In 1825″, he wrote in his memoir of the tour, “my dearest wish was accomplished, I saw the Crimea and became a poet”.”

Diplomacy and Murder in Tehran
Laurence Kelly

“Like Mickiewicz, Murav’ev visited Crimea in the momentous year 1825, shortly before the ill-fated Decembrist conspracy against the tsar reached is denouement. In a memoir written at the time, Murav’ev notes, “Finally, in August of 1825 I fulfilled my burning desire: I saw Crimea and I became a poet, like a painter who upon seeing a painting of Raphael exlaimed, “I am a painter!”. A portion of Murav’ev’s Crimean journey took place in the company of Aleksandr Griboedov, who was already the celebrated author of Woe from Wit. Griboedove’s correspondence from Crimea laments the tiresome company of the admirers of his talent. With the latter in mind, he records that, “if you are on your way to visit famous ashes and stones, you are better off to leave the living behind”.”

Between East and West:
Polish and Russian nineteenth-century travel to the Orient

Izabela Kalinowska

“I reached Bakhchisaray which was on the way to Simferopol. I spent three hours there. Its population was 14,000. The language spoke there was Tatar. It was said that in previous times there had been a Tatar Khan who had governorship over the neighboring cities, and the Tatar name Bagcheh Saray had been given by the Tatars. Bakhchisaray was the storehouse for all the fruit in Russia. From there fruit was carried to various other places. The streets were paved with stone, and the roads were smooth so that the carts could carry goods easily. There were numerous churches in the city
and good bath houses. The post office was in very good order. At a regular hour post carts started off to carry the mail.”

An Iranian in 19th Century Europe
The Travel Diaries of Haj Sayyah

Haj Sayyah, translated & introduced
by Mehrbanoo Nasser Deyhim,
foreword by Peter Avery

Haj Sayyah (1836-1924)
catches wanderlust and decides to travel. He sets off west
and returns eighteen years later. His wanderings take him throughout all of Europe,
America. he is the first Iranian to become an American citizen and the Orient. Later he
becomes a major player in the Constitutional Revolution. These diaries recount his
European adventures.

“On a lepidopterological expedition in late summer Nabokov visited Chufut-Kale and Bakhchisaray, the ancient residence of the Tatar khans in central Crimea whose fountain provides the title for two famous Pushkin poems. There, as he stood in the cool hall of the khans’ garden palace, with swallows darting in and out, he watched the little fountain trickling from a rusty pipe into dimples of marble, and thought nothing had changed since Pushkin visited a century ago.”

Vladimir Nabokov: The Russian Years
Brian Boyd

“At Bakhchisaray, “we could believe ourselves veritably transported to a town in Turkey or Persia, with the only difference that we had the leisure to examine everything without having to fear any of those humiliations to which Christians are forced to submit in the Orient.”In the Crimea Eastern Europe became an illusionary Orient where Europeans held power, especially the power to observe and examine. They penetrated even into the harems of the palace, and did not stop at that: “The subject Moslems could refuse us nothing: so we entered the mosque during prayers.” After such a display of courtesy, the visitors from enlightened civilization were naturally offended by the sight of whirling dervishes, “one of those spectacles that saddens human reason.” Ségur created for himself an Oriental fantasy more to his taste, and remembered it in detail when he wrote his memoirs:
“I remembered that lying down upon my divan, overwhelmed by the extreme heat, enjoying however with delight the murmur of the water, the cool of the shade, and the perfume of the flowers, I abandoned myself to Oriental indolence, dreaming and vegetating as true pasha; all at once I saw before me a little old man in a long robe, with a white beard, wearing on his bald head a red skullcap. His aspect, his humble attitude, his Asiatic slute, rendered my illusion complete, and I could believe for some moments that I was a veritable Moslem prince, whose aga or bostangi came to take his sacred orders.Since this slave spoke the Frankish language a little, that is to say, bad Italian, I learned from him that he was once the gardener of the khan Shahin-Girei. I took him for my guide.”

Inventing Eastern Europe
The Map of Civilization on the Mind of the Enlightenment

Larry Wolff

Drawing from an engraving.
First half of XVII century.

“Catherine desired to survey the lineaments of her new possessions, and in the first half of 1787 she journeyed from St.Petersburg to Crimea in a procession that deserves to be counted abomn the grandest displays of sovereign majesty in the age of enlightened despotism. Louis-Philippe, comte de Ségur, the French ambassador to the Russian court, accompanied the empress on her journey and left a famous account in his memoirs. Ségur was acquainted with all the personages of note in his day. He had knows Washington, Kosciuszko, and Lafayette (his nephew) whe he served as and officer with the Continental Army; he had corresponded with Frederick the Great and Joseph II; he had been attached to the courts of Louis XV and XVI. But his time with “Cleopatra of the North,” as he called her, was quite unlike anything he had witnessed before. “Nothing less resembles ordinary travelling, than the journeys of a court,” Segur wrote. “Travelling alone, one sees men, countries, customs, establishments such as they really are; but in accompanying a monarch, the traveller finds every thing prepared, disguised, coloured for purposes of display; and in the words and actions of men under such circumstances he scarcely discovers more sincerity than in manifestoes of politicians”

The survey of the southern lands ended in Crimea. Catherine briefly visited the khan’s former palace at Bakhchisaray and made provision for its renovation. (It was because of Catherine’s decision to preseve the palace rather than raze it, as had often happened in conquered lands, that it remains a tourist attraction even today.) Some of the procession’s dignity was lost in negotiating the narrow streets around the palace, where confused Tatar residents and shopkeepers looked on in amazement.”

The Black Sea: a history
Charles King
Oxford University Press, 2005

Louis Philippe, comte de Ségur
(10 December 1753 – 27 August 1830)
was a French diplomat and historian.

The Grave of Countess Potocka
by Adam Mickiewicz.
From Sonnets from the Crimea
Translated by Edna Worthley Underwood

In Spring of love and life, My Polish Rose,
You faded and forgot the joy of youth;
Bright butterfly, it brushed you, then left ruth
Of bitter memory that stings and glows.
O Stars! that seek a path my northland knows,
How dare you now on Poland shine forsooth,
When she who loved you and lent you her youth
Sleeps where beneath the wind the long grass blows?

Alone, My Polish Rose, I die, like you.
Beside your grave a while pray let me rest
With other wanderers at some grief’s behest.
The tongue of Poland by your grave rings true.
High-hearted, now a young boy past it goes,
Of you it is he sings, My Polish Rose.

“”The Grave of the Countess Potocka” has the Pilgrim pause over the alleged grave of Maria Potocka. In his notes, Mickiewicz points out a local legend that gained a new lease on life thanks to Pushkin’s “Fountain of Bkhchisaray”. According to the legend, Potocka was a prisoner of the harem. The Pilgrim relates his situation to the predicament of the captive Polish woman. She died confined to the harem, pining for her native land, and he, too, will meet his end in loneliness.”

Between East and West:
Polish and Russian nineteenth-century travel to the Orient

Izabela Kalinowska

The Bakhchisarai Khan Palace.
Carlo Bossoli (Davesco 1815 – Turin 1884)

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