Discover Tyumen

Tyumen merchantry: from Tyumen to New York or who pioneered the cultural interaction between America and Siberia in the early 20th century.

In my article I tell about one amazing and upstanding person who did a lot for the development of our city, was an example of Siberian generosity and strong character.

Stepan Ivanovich Kolokolnikov came from an old family of artisans and merchants known from the end of the 17th century, a philanthropist, during his lifetime he was awarded the title of honorary citizen of the city of Tyumen, a deputy of the State Duma of the first convocation from the Tobolsk guberniya.

Stepan Ivanovich Kolokolnikov (1867-1925)

In 1887 he graduated from the Moscow Practical Academy of Commercial Sciences, where he studied commerce and three languages (English, German, and French). In 1895, Kolokolnikov came into his father's business “Merchant House of I.P. Kolokolnikov." It is known that the Kolokolnikovs were the elite of the Siberian merchantry and had a monopoly on tea trade at the Irbit Fair, and the feasibility of the Merchant House extended far beyond Russia.

The development of public education in Tyumen at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries is also a merit of a philanthropist. On his donations, the buildings of the girls' gymnasium and the Zatyumensky public school were built. At that time, 180 students studied at the school for free. Poor students were given clothes. At the expense of the merchant, the building of the Commercial School was built later on.

Stepan Ivanovich also donated money to fire victims, immigrants, poor citizens. His wife, Maria Nikolaevna, supported her husband in everything and opened a literacy school where she taught children from poor families, provided them with textbooks, clothes, shoes for free, gave gifts on such big holidays as Christmas and Easter. In 1911, the Tyumen City Duma elected S.I. Kolokolnikov as an honorary citizen of the city of Tyumen and requested the submission of his wife M.N. Kolokolnikova to the Highest Award.

Tyumen in the early 20th century. Tsarskaya Street, now the Respubliki Street

With the advent of the October Revolution of 1917, the Bolsheviks overlaid Kolokolnikov’s Merchant House with two million indemnities. It is known that in 1918-1919 the Kolokolnikov’s house hosted the Committee for Assisting the Wounded and Sick Warriors of the White Army.

The Time of Troubles of the civil war determined a new stage of emigration from the country, known as “white” emigration. In the fall of 1919, the Kolokolnikov family emigrated to New York.

From January 1, 1892 to November 12, 1954, the main point on arrival in New York for immigrants was Ellis Island, located next to Liberty Island, which houses the Statue of Liberty. It can be assumed that the Kolokolnikov family arrived in America by this route.

Immigrants arriving at Ellis Island
Family of immigrants from the Russian Empire upon arrival in the USA. Photo: Global Look Press/Scherl

The materials of the International Conference “Russian America” (Irkutsk, August 8–12, 2007) shed light on the life of the Kolokolnikov family in the United States. From archival documents obtained from American funds, it became known that Maria Nikolaevna Kolokolnikova worked in the New York Public Library. Stepan Ivanovich is also mentioned in a notebook called “American Commonwealth”, a project of the Siberian Chartered Corporation. In the documents the dates of his life are given as 1867-1925.

In American society M.N. Kolokolnikova was known as a “cultural and educated lady”, was familiar with the Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninov, and was friendly with the artist’s family of Nicholas Konstantinovich Roerich. She also had a warm relationship with Z.G. Rosdick, Russian pianist who headed the Roerich Museum in New York. Zinaida Grigorievna often mentions “Madame Kolokolnikova” in her diaries 1922 - 1929.

It could be proposed that M.N. Kolokolnikova worked in the art gallery of N.K. Roerich and was part of the Siberian group of friends of the Roerich Museum. The main mission of this community was to initiate the cultural interaction between America and Siberia.

Bowery, New York, the early 20th century. Photo: mashable.com

Cart with bananas, New York, the early 20th century. Photo: mashable.com

Russian version of the article.

Elena Ustiugova

Bachelor of Human Resources Administration, Grant MacEwan University, Alberta, Canada

International Officer, Industrial University of Tyumen

Tutor of additional education, Albion Language School

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