«Cultural heritage

Cultural heritage

The national park was given its name not without reason. Its territory lies within the boundaries of the Meshchera lowland, the so called Vladimir, or Eastern Meshchera.

The word «Meshchera» has several aspects. On the one part, it is a geographical expression to designate the Meshchera lowland that is in-between rivers of Oka and Klyazma. On the other part, «Meshchera» means the Finno-Ugrian tribe that lived in the neighborhood of Muroma and Mordva in the first millennium A.D. in the middle reaches of Oka.

The very first references to Meshchera are in the work of the Roman chronographer Cornelius Tacitus named «Germany» (Year of 98 A.D.). Tacitus wrote of Finnes in the neighborhood of Wends (Slavs) that from the earliest times lived in the midnight Europe «without having neither homes, nor horses, nor weapons, eating grass, wearing animal skins, taking cover under woven tree branches».

«The Primary Chronicle» counts peoples that paid tributes to the Ancient Rus, and the Nikon Chronicle adds Meshchera to those tribes that were tributaries. These tribes and many other ones maintained active economic relations with the Slavs, there was cultural and social assimilation that was taking place peacefully.

The main activities of Meshchera were hunting, fishing and forest bee-keeping.

The term «Meshchera» is translated by Tacitus as «forest people». Among the Finnes «metsa» means a forest or depths of the forest, «mesi» means honey, honey-dew; in the Mordva dialect «mesht» means a bee.

In such a way, Meshchera are a tribe of forest people, hunters, forest bee-keepers and fishermen who had small households and plots of land, few live-stocks, who could weave and make bronze decorations.

In the 13th century Meshchera were referred to in The Explanatory Palea and other Russian chronicles.

Archeologically, existence of Meshchera was confirmed by findings in Egor'evskiy rayon, Moscow region (findings since 1870 that dated back to the 11th and 12th centuries), in subsoil burial grounds close to Sudogda.

In course of time Meshchera became Slavicized and dissolved among Mordva and Tatars. But some part of this folk managed to maintain its identity.

By the 17th century the Meshchera language unfortunately disappeared, and at the turn of XX century it was already impossible to distinguish Russians from Meshcheriaks.