History

Merchants of old Tashkent

6/2019

     The accession of Turkestan to the Russian Empire in the second half of the XIX century bred a special character of the “Old Turkestani”, whose bearers were devoted to the idea of progress and enlightenment, people of different nationalities and religions, who ensured the rapid development of the country due to their entrepreneurship. The history of business entrepreneurship in our region is not well known today. Let us recall some of the businessmen of old Turkestan and, undoubtedly, of old Tashkent, thanks to whose entrepreneurship the first productions were opened and developed here.
     The organizers of the Tashkent branch of Pervushin’s firm are among the very first businessmen who invested significant amount of personal funds in the development of industry and trade in the territory of modern Uzbekistan. The history of the city preserved the name of Pervushin’s Company as a street (“Pervushka” colloquially) near the Salar canal in Mirabad district of Tashkent.
     In 1866, a young Moscow merchant Ivan Ivanovich Pervushin, having received a general power of attorney from his father to conduct business in Turkestan, began setting up manufactory shops in Tashkent, launched here modern at the time silk-weaving and tobacco factories, built the first winery, which first began the industrial development of grapes of the region and the production of domestic varieties of wine. To provide the factories with raw materials, the Pervushins’ firm grew its own tobacco, grape and cotton plantations in the vicinity of Tashkent (now it is the territory of modern residential neighborhoods). Ivan Pervushin also organized the purchase of large quantities of bread in Russia for Turkestan and provided regular caravan communication Orenburg-Tashkent. During the first year of existence the Tashkent firm “I. A. Pervushin’s Sons” already invested in the development of trade and industry of our land a huge amount of money for those times – more than one million gold rubles. The trust in Pervushins’ trading house was so great that in the early years of the Turkestan region, when there were no banks and postal and telegraph institutions, this firm performed credit and banking operations with the funds of private individuals.
     Ivan Pervushin also has the honor to be called the first sponsor of exploration of mineral deposits of Uzbekistan. The company was not stopped by the serious difficulties associated with the delivery of heavy mining machines and tools from Russia in camel bags. Industrial mining of lead and coal was organized in the mountains of Turkestan. Expanding its business, the company took part in international trade, establishing close ties with Kashgar, Bukhara and Kokand Khanates. The profit allowed the Pervushins to invest in construction of public buildings in Tashkent. The historic building of the military hospital in Mirabad district of Tashkent on Aulie Street – the oldest medical institution not only in the city but also in the country — has survived to this day. And the current Orthodox Assumption Cathedral in Tashkent dates back to the hospital house Church of St. Panteleimon, which was also built at the expense of the Pervushins’ firm.
     Among other businessmen of that time, a huge contribution to the development of both the city and the entire Turkestan region was made by the German Heinrich Wilhelmovich Durschmidt, whose firm was founded in Tashkent in 1883. Heinrich Durschmidt came to Turkestan with a small amount of money and, having a meager initial capital, began a mass purchase from local residents and processing of important raw materials for the sausage and medical-surgical industry – the livestock intestines. It is no secret that without this important natural material it is impossible to produce high-quality sausages or, say, a special suture catgut used in surgical operations, and strings for some musical instruments. It should be emphasized that this raw material was simply thrown away by locals, so a successful entrepreneur, without infringing anyone’s interests, literally found a “gold mine” in the Turkestan market.
     By the first decade of the twentieth century the Tashkent firm “H. W. Durschmidt” rolled its activities so successfully that it had its own processing plants in all more or less significant points of Turkestan, as well as in Bukhara Emirate, the Khiva Khanate, the Caucasus, in European part of Russia and Siberia. Most of the raw materials carefully processed by the company were exported abroad, and the owner of the company became one of the most respected businessmen of Tashkent. The financial success of Heinrich Durschmidt can be judged by the fact that for a quarter of century of work, the annual production of the company has increased quantitatively by 20 times and was estimated in 1909 in the amount of 2 million gold rubles.
     The company “H. W. Durshmidt”, in addition to recycling its main product, successfully engaged in the export of various raw materials of animal origin from the Turkestan region, primarily astrakhan, wool, horse skins, sheepskin and lambskin, as well as alfalfa seeds. So, in 1894, the company’s specialists achieved a high degree of purification of alfalfa seeds from weeds, completely eliminated the dodder, which increased the significance of export of seeds of Turkestan alfalfa. In the early twentieth century export of alfalfa seeds from Turkestan amounted to 4 thousand tons per year, and the purchase price of this product because of the increased quality has increased 4 times. Since 1904, Heinrich Durschmidt opened additional commission offices in Tashkent, Samarkand and Kokand for import of various goods of foreign enterprises, of which he was a commission agent. Trade activity of the Tashkent merchant was repeatedly marked by awards at prestigious industrial exhibitions in Tashkent (1886), in Moscow (1891), in Nizhny Novgorod (1896). Heinrich Durschmidt himself earned the status of “Hereditary Honorary Citizen”, and in 1906 he received the title of “Commerce Advisor” and was awarded both the Russian orders (St. Stanislaus and St. Anna) and the order of the Bukhara Gold Star.
     H. Durschmidt lived on the former Lakhtinskaya Street (now it is Mahatma Gandhi Street). At that time, this quiet suburb of the new part of Tashkent was known for the fact that it was adjacent to the vast magnificent cottage of the Syrdarya Military Governor, which later became the Telman Park. And the house of H. Durschmidt remained in Tashkent almost the entire twentieth century. Tashkent musicians remember the house especially well, because those solid one-story buildings of typical architecture of Turkestan modernity housed the music school named after Khamza. Even now graduates of the school remember with gratitude the vivifying coolness created by the huge spreading trees in hot Tashkent summer planted once by the honorable Commerce Adviser in his yard.
     Another “Old Turkestani” Hieronymus Ivanovich Krause was born in Lithuania. He had to make his way in life very early, when he enrolled as an apprentice in the Moscow pharmacy F. A. Kilchevsky. From the first steps in his professional career H. Krause began a deep theoretical and practical study of botany. The young pupil of the chemist was elected the full member of Imperial Society of Fans of Natural Science, Anthropology and Ethnography in January 1869 for his serious scientific works and publications. In the same year, after graduating from Moscow University, the young chemist went to work as a full-time chemist in the well-known Russian firm of M. Khludov, who at that time through his employees and agents was searching for oil in Central Asia, and was sent to the Fergana Valley to discover the oil field Maylisay (Fergana Valley). Fergana region was not yet part of Turkestan Governorate General, but belonged to the independent Kokand Khanate, hostile to the Russian Empire. The brave botanist was captured by the Kokand people, and was released only thanks to the direct intervention of the all-powerful “half padishah”, the Turkestan Governor-General K. P. von Kaufman. Hieronymus Krause became one of his closest collaborators. Having moved from Moscow to Tashkent, the young man showed the ability of an entrepreneur, opening the first oil-mill in Tashkent. The first business success then allowed H. Krause to switch to setting up the first pharmacy in Tashkent, which he managed for six years (1874-1880). It is difficult to overestimate the importance of this fact for the city, where previously there were no such medical institutions. The popularity of H. Krause pharmacy was huge, especially among the population of the old part of Tashkent. In 1880 the chief pharmacist of Tashkent left the state service and started his own business. On the central street of the new city, on the Cathedral (later – Kaufman) Avenue, he opened the first private pharmacy. Now this place is known among the citizens and guests of the capital as pedestrian zone Sayilgokh, and only old photos have preserved for us the appearance of the most popular or, as it is still fondly called by residents, “Cathedral” pharmacy in Tashkent. It is important to emphasize that the pharmacy of H. Krause released medicines to poor visitors from among both the European and Muslim population free of charge. Thanks to the years-long works of H. Krause, a variety of medicinal products of plant origin were introduced, tested and became popular, including: some medicines of local doctors — tabibs, proven by centuries of practice.
     H. Krause’s activities were not limited only to pharmacist duties, although they took a lot of time. The owner of the first private pharmacy in Tashkent became the founder of the famous Turkestan Society of Agriculture. This association of scientists-botanists, breeders, agronomists and simply fans of gardening successfully solved numerous specific tasks facing economy of the region: creation of highly productive cotton growing, selection of new varieties of cultural plants, industrial preservation of fruits and vegetables, greening of the cities with use of the new acclimatized trees and bushes. The Society published a special scientific journal in Tashkent in the pre-revolutionary years, and had among other things, its own museum, located in a one-story building near the square, approximately between the two towers of modern chimes.
     The Turkestan Society of Agriculture promoted its achievements at the so-called Turkestan exhibitions, which were regularly held in Tashkent since 1878. At first, only local industrial establishments, artisans and craftsmen took part in them. However, by the end of the XIX century at Turkestan exhibitions one could see the products of many major enterprises of the Russian Empire and foreign countries. These events were important for development of Tashkent, and H. Krause earned himself a strong reputation as a talented organizer of these exhibitions, so he was invariably elected head of the exhibition committees. Many times, interesting exhibits provided by H. Krause himself received high awards at Turkestan exhibitions. However, in 1909, in the midst of preparations for another grand exhibition in Tashkent dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the Turkestan Society of Agriculture, the “Indispensable Hieronymus Ivanovich”, as he was called, suddenly died. But the exhibition took place, occupying the territory of the current Amir Temur Square and the entire City Garden, which later became the Park named after Gorkiy. To accommodate tens of thousands of exhibits of the twenty-one thematic section of the anniversary exhibition, a team of builders built more than a hundred original exhibition pavilions throughout the Square and the City Garden. From that time until the end of the twentieth century the wooden shop “Flowers” resembling an open-work carved toy remained at the Square. By the way, it was built in 1909 for the exposition of the most popular in pre-revolutionary Turkestan firm “I. A. Pervushin’s Sons”. It was decided to keep this pavilion, and other exposition constructions were dismantled after the exhibition.
     The anniversary Turkestan exhibition of 1909 was a triumphant success. For the first two weeks of its operation the number of visitors reached more than 100 thousand people. Needless to say, it was also a tribute to a remarkable public figure and scientist of pre-revolutionary Turkestan, of old Tashkent. A special pavilion was built in memory of H. Krause. The first issue of the newspaper “Bulletin of the Exhibition” published a lengthy article about him.
We introduced to you only a few bright lives of “Old Turkestanis”. It was thanks to such businessmen, and there were many more of them, that old Tashkent was transformed in a short time, entering the twentieth century as the largest economic and cultural center of Central Asia.
 
 
Boris Golender,
Researcher at the S. Esenin Museum

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