In The Beginning Was The Word
Meteorite Boguslavka fall
, October 18, 1916. Primorsky region. Drawing by a witness.
В се же лето бысть Всеволоду ловы деющю звериныя за Вышегородом, заметавшим тенета и кличанам кликнувшим, спаде превелик змий от небес, ужасошася вси людье. В се же время земля стукну, яко мнози слышаша ...
Text of the Lavrentyi Tale of Years (Old Slavonic), 1091.
meteorite fall is a brief, spectacular, mysterious and unexpected phenomenon. It brings terror and reverence to the uneducated. Thus all historical records contain descriptions of meteorite falls. The oldest known record is a Chinese manuscript dating to 654 BC. Other records were written by Greek, Roman and medieval historians. People indeed believed that stones falling from the heavens were holy and they often became objects of religious worship. Meteorite iron was used for making tools and it may be that the first iron used by human beings had a cosmic origin. In Russian historical records, the oldest mention of a meteorite fall was in 1091. The text from the Lavrentiev record mentioned above is a good example of a short but very detailed description of meteorite fall. The history of Russian meteoritics may be traced from this record.
Later reports of bolides and aerial stones falling are found many times in historical records. These records often speak of huge black clouds and of fiery dragons appearing in the sky. It may be that meteorite falls were the source of old Russian legends and fairy tales about dragons.
Another unexpected consequence of meteorite falls is their apparent influence on society's morale. In the historical records, meteorite falls were considered bad omens.
"By fear of such awful stories we will learn to do good and to keep God's commandments and then we will be blessed"
- lamented the scribe as he entered a meteorite fall in Great Novgorod into the Tale of Years.
Watchtowers were raised over the places where meteorites fell. Meteorites were put into church and monastery walls.
Historical manuscripts tell of large meteorite falls. The greatest among them were meteorite falls in Great Ustyug (1290), Great Novgorod (1421) and near the village of New Ergy (1662). These events have begun to attract research.
One study noted that the Great Ustyug fall (estimated July 3, 1290, new style) and the Tunguska event (June 30, 1908) may be linked events and could result from bombardment of the Earth by a group of cosmic bodies lying on the same Earth-crossing trajectory. The dates of Tunguska and the Great Ustyug fall are close, and the Great Ustyug fall lies on a projection of the trajectory of the Tunguska body. Like Tunguska, the Great Ustyug shower was travelling away from the Sun at the time of impact. Both falls had similar consequences: forest fires and knocked-over trees.
Searches for some of these recorded falls - so far unsuccessful - have been made both at the sites of the falls and in monasteries. As of this writing, no meteorite whose fall was recorded in the ancient Russian records has yet been found.
On June 25, 1290, old style (approx. July 3, new style) a terrifying event occurred:
From an Old Slavonic record by Righteous Prokopiy from Great Ustyug, XVI:
"Бысть же о полудни найде внезапу над град Устюг облак темен и бысть яко нощ темная... И посем явишася и восташа со все четыре страны тучи великие, из них же исхождаше молния огненная безпристани, и грому убо многу и страшну бывшу над градом Устюгом, яко же не слышати, что друг с другом глаголати... Бывшу же долгому от святаго Прокопия и от всего народа к Богу и к Пречистой Богородице прилежному с рыданием молению, пременися воздух и тучи страшнии с блистаниями и громами отъидоша на пустынная места, отстоящая от града за двадесять поприщ и тамо одождивше камение велие разженное, попалища многие лесы и дебри, тем же многим и безчисленным камением ови древеса из корени избиша, а иные в полы поломиша, и от человек и скотов никого же убиша заступлением Пресвятыя Богородицы и молитвами святаго Прокопия".
Житие праведного Прокопия Устюжского, XVI в.
This is a modern reproduction of the icon of The Righteous Prokopiy, who prayed for the deliverance of Great Ustyug from destruction by a cloud of falling stones.
The original icon was painted in 1669 and is now kept in the Regional Museum of Great Ustyug. In the center of the icon of The Righteous Prokopiy is shown praying to the Icon of The Holy Virgin. The seals around the icon's edges show the main events of Righteous Prokopiy's life and his magic force. The third and fourth seals show the cloud of stones covering Great Ustyug rocks falling onto the town.
A black stone was laid as the cornerstone of the Church of The Righteous Prokopiy. According to tradition, this was a rock that fell from the cloud of stones.
It is said that the Righteous Prokopiy liked to sit on this stone and think. Unfortunately, the cornerstone is not a meteorite, but a boulder of diabase brought by a glacier from the North during the last Ace Age. The picture was made in 1998.
Folk memory has passed on the place and time of the "stone cloud" that fell on Great Ustyug. A wooden tower and later a stone church were built where a meteorite fell near the village of Olbovo. For several centuries, religious people have visited the place where the stone cloud fell. By a decree of the Holy Synod of September 7, 1860, people from Great Ustyug were permitted once each year, "on June 25 to carry the Cross from Church of the Assumption" to the tower near Olbovo, where "in 1290, the stone cloud fell upon the city", according to the Tale of Years. Olbovo village has now disappeared. Only a few ruins survive from the tower and the church. But a clear path still leads through a wild forest, showing that people have not forgotten these holy places. Stones lie all about, but all of them have terrestrial origin.
Great Novgorod. St. Sofia Church.
St. Sofiya Church is the most ancient surviving stone building in northwest Russia. Its walls were already standing at the time of several meteorite falls mentioned in old historical records.
Novgorod's first Old Slavonic record, from 1212, states:
"В лето 6722, месяца февраля в первый день, в неделю сыропустную, гром бысть по заутрении, и вся слышаша, и потом тогда же змеи видеша летящь"
Novgorod's Tale, from 1212 (Old Slavonic record).
Знамение страшно зело (лето 6929). Тоиже весны Маия в 19 день в праздник Всех Святых в Великом Новгороде в полунощи бысть трус велий. На воздусе взыде туча с полудне темна силно зело з громом страшным и с молниями блистающими, якож и прозрети немочно бе, и чающим человеком сожженным быти от огня онаго. И пришедъ ста над градом, и изменися туча от дожденосия на огненное видение....И бысть дождь мног и град велий, и каменье являшесь изо облака спадшее на землю.... Устрашимся убо таковыя повести страшныя слышаще, и научимся добро творити и заповеди Господня хранити да благо нам будет.
Nikonov's Tale, from 1421 (Old Slavonic).