Articles about Kobrin: As a part of the Russian Empire

On a change of centuries

At the beginning of this century Kobrin of century Kobrin was one of eight district cities of the Grodno province, an administrative center of the extensive county stretching from Zhabinki in the West to Ivanov in the east. On the area of 4620 quarter of versts 957 settlements were located. 185 thousand people, from them 170 thousand peasants owning 185 thousand tithes of the earth lived in the county together with the city. At the same time 238 thousand the best farmland fell to the share of 900 noblemen-landowners — in the majority of Poles —.

Lack of land, downtroddenness, poor half-starved existence, the total hopelessness compelled more enterprising young peasants in search of the better lot to leave native places, to come out to the foreign land. So, only in one 1906 from Kobrin district 1498 people emigrated to the USA. It was facilitated by the fact that then there was no need for any visas. So considerable emigration from one county is very indicative if to consider that from all province 3995 souls left that year. Probably, this process in no small measure concerned also the city in which in one decade considerable decline in population was noted: if according to the first All-Russian population census (we will use its materials further) in 1897 10365 people lived in Kobrin, then in 1907 the number of citizens was reduced to 8754.

The total area of the lands entering city line reached 8 sq. versts. The part it was busy with households, the rest was made by the land grounds belonging both to the city, and two hundred families of petty bourgeoises farmers. In total in the city there were 850 houses, including several tens brick, built mainly in the central part. The vast majority of the population lived in one-family wooden houses. On the suburban streets occupied mainly by radical petty bourgeoises, carriers of several tens surnames, houses were stocky, close, built on a monotonous sample, with low ceilings and small windows. Both the human housing, and various economic constructions on the periphery were in most cases covered with straw, is more rare gonty. As indispensable accessory of a city landscape served ten windmills which are freely waving wings far from human housing.

And still in comparison to others district Kobrin in something considerably won zakholustyam of that time. First of all, in it the advantageous geographical position of the city played a role. Since 1846 the through movement on the highway crossing the downtown Moscow Warsaw connecting directly the center of Russia with the West opened. This important highway with its branch — the Pinsky path — was the brisk thoroughfare along which on certain intervals the rank of well-planned post stations was placed. The building of one of the former stations at the end of Sovetskaya Street prior to the beginning of the 70th years was occupied by district hospital.

In the last quarter of the XIX century Vlodavskoye (Kovelskoye) Highway was built. At the beginning of the 70th on the northern suburb of Kobrin district the Moscow and Warsaw railroad with the nearest Tevli's station from the city lay. And still a decade when the construction of the first stage of the Libavo-Romensky railroad ended, later Kobrin was directly connected to the all-Russian railway system. During the navigation period on Mukhavtsa on the West by the city long chains of rafts were overtaken. And, at last, important influence on creation of the raised tone of city life had the fact that in Kobrin constantly there were two infantry regiments — Tamansky and Pyatigorsk for which barracks except a military camp were built on the Brest, Suvorov, Station streets.

During that time Kobrin was considered as quite considerable shopping and craft center within which sphere of influence the extensive territory stretching far away from own county fell. In the city and the county 25 annual fairs bringing a lot of revival and business vanity in sleepy existence of the population were held. In general, occupation by trade provided with means of livelihood very considerable part of citizens. However, among local shopkeepers there was no rich merchant of the first guild and as the second was registered only five. But the number of the redeemed certificates was rather impressive: the second category — the 120, third — 525.

As citadel of the trade world long since served one-storeyed malls in the central part of the Market square. They repeatedly burned down completely and were quickly restored. The abundance of tile roofs was characteristic feature of building in the center that was evident to observant Konstantin Paustovsky who in a rank of the military hospital attendant visited Kobrin in the summer of 1915. The first floors of the two-storey buildings framing the area along with shops were occupied under hairdressing salons, photos, shoe and sartorial workshops.

It is thought, to the reader it will be rather interesting to look at some parties of life of that time of kobrinets through a prism of figures of the mentioned earlier All-Russian census of 1897.

So, at the end of 19 century among citizens there was less than a half gramoteev — 4355 souls whereas 6560 people were completely illiterate. At universities 22 students, and in gymnasiums and real schools — 129 were trained. And receiving secondary education was available to children only of well-founded families because in Kobrin there was no high school. The youth which is eager to receive the school-leaving certificate had to go for 8 years to Brest, Pinsk and other cities. On the place education of younger generation was assigned to three-cool city school in which receipt required the preliminary termination of initial school. The staff of city school consisted of six teachers among whom first place was occupied by orthodox priests and the Catholic priest. The certificate on the termination of city school granted the right to the first rank in public service. Besides, in the city there were two initial, so-called parish schools — man's and female. And in the last three teaching units were distributed thus: only teacher, religious teacher (priest) and singing teacher. In the county the total of schools of different departments made 105 with 4213 pupils. The culture in the city was extended by one paid public library and two bookstores.

By itself, the authorities did not bypass other forms of spiritual needs of a wide people at large for which satisfaction in the city there were three orthodox churches (in the county more than 60), a Catholic church, the Jewish synagogue and tens of Jewish houses of worship in Kobrin, Antopole, Divin, Gorodtsa, Drogichin, Ivanov, Zhabinke.

Now we will pass to cursory examination with occupations of citizens. Officialdom, i.e. serving in administration, court and police, was a little — only 85 people. Means of livelihood of the unearned layer of the population consisting of 209 families were the "income and real estate" which are not specified in more detail. And here unqualified, so-called "subsidiary", working on terminology of census there were 439 people, from them 283 female servants, i.e. housemaids. 655 people were engaged in construction, woodworking and repair work. On 24 microscopic "factories and plants" 125 workers worked. Representatives of 141 families processed flax and various other production of agriculture. Izvozny trade fed 141 kobrinets. Railroad workers there were about 40 people whereas post officials, apart from mail carriers, there was only 16. Two printing houses served 15 workers. In traktirny and hotel business 42 persons appeared. For some reason census allocated the state monopoly, so-called drinkable trade in which 34 "sidelets" were active in special category. The meticulous statistics did not ignore and 75 prisoners who were contained in local prison, in passing did not forget about 8 prostitutes.

As for medical care of the population, it was extremely not enough, it besides concentrated only in the city in which 8 doctors practiced, 2 veterinarians, 2 dentists and 1 midwife, and in a number of places there were infirmaries.

And one more funny thing: on the county the statistics counted 445 "plants" with 443 workers. It appears, "plant" was behind the impressive word the simple wind-driven generator … If mainly brisk, resourceful shopkeepers yes handicraftsmen lived in the center, then peripheral streets — Potter's (Proletarian), Nikolsky (Communistic), Garden (October), Factory (Red Army), Podrechye (Embankment) — were almost entirely populated with phlegmatic petty bourgeoises farmers. Their life proceeded slowly, on since ancient times to the established canons. As the defining milestones for the next field works served not so much calendar dates, how many diligent observed church holidays. So, from Yury to Mikhayl it was necessary early in the morning and late at night on all city to walk to herds of cows who were held it is universal all layers of citizens. At farmers along with horses by draft force oxen quite often served. If in the spring of the street were plentifully covered with traces of the manure which is taken out on fields, then in the summer and in the fall hay, grain, potatoes in the opposite direction arrived. Processed in the old manner, the earth hardly rewarded a hard work poor harvests. Prevailed to a malozemelya — from 0,5 to 5-7 tithes on economy. The threshing which was conducted manually wooden tsepa, quite often dragged on till spring, following the rule which is so distributed among petty bourgeoises — "will be in time". Up to World War I in petty-bourgeois houses spinning wheels and weaver's camps were not a rarity. In life the homespun cloth used for tailoring of linen was still used. Well and, needless to say, each family ate own pastries bread which was made for a week and more.

In a word, severe, primitive life of this category of citizens the little differed from rural though it was often possible to hear pride and naive self-praise: "We are in every possible way meshchana". More versatile "meshchanchuk", having graduated district, and subsequently from city school, broke off with century tenor of life, joining ranks of kontorshchik and telegraph operators by mail and the railroad. Many were not content with it, and looked for happiness in next "Kingdom the Polish" where at transfer on public service the imperial authorities avoided locals and therefore ours "грамотеям" did not make work to settle to favorable positions, doing career in the chosen field subsequently.

On a change of centuries the sensational novelty especially was stamped on the memory of kobrinets: at the initiative of the district police officer Mr. Lukin of that time the southern sleeve of the small river of Kobrinki which branched off from the main course at Zamkovaya square was filled up. Thus, the island in the delta of Kobrinki on whom, according to the legend, in an extreme antiquity there was a pioneer settlement which gave rise to Kobrin disappeared completely. In this regard behind uselessness also the wooden bridge on Bobruyskaya Street where nowadays the House of pioneers was destroyed. On the filled-up site along a brick cathedral fencing the young square which soon became the favourite vacation spot of citizens was landed. At that time this square, along with the planted trees and shrubs church churchyards, became one of the few green oases in the downtown which is completely deprived of trees. Now it can seem improbable, however then at petty-bourgeois houses seldom it was possible to see fruit trees.
Closing of an exclusive warehouse at the end of Brestskaya (Sovetskoy) Street which houses were transferred under the school town was a noticeable event in life of the city of that time. In one of them No. 1 SSh is located now. This complex originally intended for storage and purification of alcohol raw which the state bought from the landowners making it on the spirtzavodika. For this purpose under these houses there were cellars.

Also the fact that at the very end of XIX and the beginning of the 20th century at the mayor N. O. Yarotsevich the intensive zamashchivaniye of streets by a cobble-stone, besides not only in the center, but also on suburban streets was made deserves a specific mention. There were also first sidewalks from concrete plates. Zamashchivany of the city was favored by the fact that local fields were generously covered with fragments of the Scandinavian glacier which once reached here. In this regard Kobrin favourably differed from the neighboring cities, even the next Brest, and on improvement took the second place in the province after Grodno.

On one of cards of the beginning of the century with Kobrin's types which several series were released by owners of local bookstores the sensational technical novelty is imprinted. Opposite to Shidlovsky's drugstore (now No. 17) for lighting of the square there was a streetlight with a gazokalilny torch which for ignition fell by means of the lever. Such lamps was acquired a little. As usual street lighting served undersized, weak-sighted kerosene lamps which at the beginning of twilight were lit by the duty firefighters carrying for this purpose small ladders.

And in conclusion it is necessary to mention that during the considered period laying of the second railway line on the Libavo-Romensky railroad connecting Baltic with Ukraine lying through our city was made. In this regard near the being available railway bridge through Mukhavets the second which was blown up in World War I was constructed and further it was not restored.

A. Martynov