Tobol'sk Kremlin, Merchants' Court (Gostinnyi Dvor), (1703-05), South View, Tobol'sk, Russia


This photograph of the Merchants' Court (Gostinnyi dvor) in Tobol’sk, was taken in 1999 by Dr. William Brumfield, American photographer and historian of Russian architecture, as part of the "Meeting of Frontiers" project at the Library of Congress. Tobol'sk was founded in 1587 at the confluence of the Tobol and Irtysh rivers. Peter the Great attached much significance to the development of Tobol'sk as a base for Russian expansion in Siberia. In 1708, he designated Tobol’sk as the administrative center for the Province of Siberia, which extended from the Urals to the Pacific. In 1700, Peter initiated construction, on the crest of the Upper Town, of the Tobol'sk Kremlin, which came to include the Gostinyi dvor, a trading center built in 1703-08 by Semion Remezov. Quadrilateral in form, with corner towers in a medieval style, this ensemble was intended to bring order to Siberian commerce. The two-story complex had a customs office and 67 shop stalls that opened onto the inner court for greater security. Local merchants, however, preferred the Lower Town, with its ready access to the population and to the Irtysh. Remezov's structure was adapted to other uses, including a prison and archives. Despite these changes, the original brick form still stands like a medieval mirage.

Last updated: January 11, 2016