Monday, January 25, 2010

A Brief History of Mytischi

The first known signs of human habitation around Moscow date from the Stone Age, where the remains of settlements from pre-historic societies have been found. Several of these sites have been found near Mytischi and some are still under excavation today.

Not much is known about the region during the birth of European culture in Greece and, later, Rome, but it is known that the Huns, responsible for turning Roman Europe upside-down during their vast invasions, came through what is today the Ukraine. It can be logical to assume that the inhabints of the Moscow region also had some contact with the Huns.

It is known that by the end of the first millenium AD the region was inhabited by Slavic tribes. Moscow itself was originally built as a kremlin (fortress) so that the local prince, Yuri Dolgoruky, could control the important Moscow River (which joined the Volga further south and allowed important trade with the flourishing Kievan Rus civilization growing in the Ukraine and Southern Russia). Mytischi, in this period, seems to have had little importance.

In 1237 Genghis Khan and the Mongol Horde swept across continent and razed Moscow to the ground in the process. There is a good chance that whatever was around Mytischi was destroyed as the archeological evidence vanishes around this period.

The Mongols set up a Khanate under the rule of the Golden Horde, whereby the local boyars (dukes) would pay an annual tribute and submit to Mongol rule. Moscow was rebuilt but was under the rule of the boyars of Vladimir-Suzdal. In 1304, Ivan the First overthrew the other boyars and became the ruler of the region. He moved the capital from Vladimir-Suzdal to Moscow and increased his tax payments to the Golden Horde. A century later Mytischi came into importance.

Mytischi is situated on the confluence of the Yauza and Klyazma rivers, tributaries of the Moscow River. Because of the vast natural waterways and man-made canals in this part of the world, boats have been able to travel from the White Sea to the Black Sea for centuries. Mytischi became an important juntion in this trade and Ivan 1 and his successors were able to extract duties and tariffs from those who went through the small town. The duty merchants had to pay was called a myt.

In 1380 Dmitri Donskoy defeated the Golden Horde in a major battle and by 1480 Ivan III finally got rid of their rule over the region. He was crowned the first Tsar (and later got the name "Ivan the Terrible" for his incredible bloodlust). With the money collected from taxes and the trade route through Mytischi, Moscow grew to incredible size and became the largest city in Europe by the 16th Century.

In 1610 a Polish-Lithuanian alliance invaded Russia and conquered Moscow, which they then ruled until 1612 when a rebellion led by a prince and a butcher expelled the occupiers from Moscow. Mikhael Romanov was crowned Tsar and the Romanov dynasty began, which would not end until 1918 (only the Japanese Imperial family has had a longer dynasty).

In 1701 Tsar Peter Romanov (Peter the Great) founded St. Petersburg and moved the capital of Russia from Moscow. Mytischi seems to have faded in importance in this period. In 1812 Napolean invaded Russia and captured Moscow and while half of the city burned, Mytischi seems to have been left alone. In fact, merchants from all over Russia camped in Mytischi, hoping to get rich selling their goods to French troops. Napolean only spent six weeks in Moscow, however, and retreated with the onset of winter.

During the 20th Century Mytischi was spared the carnage of the Bolshevik Revolution and the ensuing Civil War as both sides, "Red" and "White", collected taxes from the city. Under Stalin's industrialization programs a power plant and a train factory were set up on Mytischi. Several canals were extended and six massive water reservoirs were dug in a semi-circle around the city. Unlike many of the cities surrounding Moscow during the Soviet Union, Mytischi remained an "open" city and it's population grew from 65,000 in 1912 to 154,000 by 1991.

In the ealry 21st Century the mayor of Mytischi, Alexander Kazakov, undertook a massive beautification program and the main streets, notably Novamytischinsky Prospekt, were widened and the sidewalks cobbled. Trees were planted and parks opened and a massive new arena, Arena Mytischi, was built for the 2007 IIHF World Cup of Hockey. Most of the funding came from competent money management and good governance, although the national government in Moscow chipped in with some financing for the projects. An extension of the Moscow Metro to Mytischi has been on the drawing boards for several years but nobody has given the go-ahead.

Today Mytischi is a growing suburb for upper-middle-class Russians, most of whom work in Moscow and make the hellish commute through Moscow traffic every day. Most of the major rail lines heading east from Moscow pass through Mytischi, and there is a very efficient and well-organized bus system in place. The tap water is cleaner than in surrounding towns (although undrinkable) and Mytischi has one of the lowest crime rates in the Moscow Oblast. In 2006 Mytischi had the fastest growing real estate market in Russia, which lasted until the international financial crisis of 2008 began.

As with the rest of Russia (except for St. Petersburg), very few people speak English in Mytischi but the number of youth who speak the language is growing as international exposure through media, travel opportunities and the economic ability of Mytischi parents to send their kids to expensive language schools grows. Anyone who visits Moscow should take a trip to Mytischi, if only to see what suburban middle-of-the-road Russia looks like.

To get to Mytischi from Moscow, take the orange line north to Medvedkova metro station, at the very end of the line. Turn left as you exit the metro station and take either bus #169 or #199 (45 roubles), which will end their journey in Mytischi. From the Kremlin to Mytischi it takes about 50 minutes of travel.

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