Ancient mounds (to the right), located along the road.
Excavations of the embankment near Zalakhtovye village.
The first inhabitants of the contemporary Tyoply Bay coast of Chudskoye Ozero (Lake) appeared in the second half of the first millennium A.D. They cleared woods and lands for plowing, and built the roads existing even today. Along one of them, near Zalakhtovye village, there is an ancient necropolis which has been studied for many years by an expedition conducted by the RAS Institute of History of Material Culture. Natalia Khvoshchinskaya, Cand. Sc. (History), is presenting a story about the expedition results in the Vestnik RAN (Bulletin of the Russian Academy of Sciences) magazine.
In an ancient cemetery among embankments of various forms and sizes, the oblong sandy walls that gave the name to the archeological culture of long mounds stand out. The geographic range of its carriers in the 5th-10th centuries spread from the southwest coast of Pskov Lake up to the headwaters of the Chagodoshcha river (today the Vologda Region).
In such burial grounds the dead were buried according to the cremation ritual. The custom to construct such burials, as evidenced by the reliable facts, originated in the Pskov-Novgorod region. And in the 10th-11th centuries practically all peoples of the forest area of Europe, including Slavs, were buried according to the inhumation ritual-burial of the deceased in their terrestrial "shell". Besides, old mounds were used as new burial places, therefore, people of the ancient Russian tribe felt themselves as direct descendants of those who had passed away earlier.
In Zalakhtovye the situation proved to be different-development of the culture of long mounds was interrupted. Apparently, the settlement had been abandoned, and in the 1 Oth-11 th centuries the economically developed region was populated with people not connected with the previous culture in any way. Its funeral structures comprised wood-and-earthen "small houses of the deceased", sometimes surmonated by columns or idols, and were lighted fires there in memorable days.
We should note that the newcomers also discarded the cremation and proceeded to inter dead bodies. But in both cases they supplied the deceased with all "necessary things" for the future life: festal clothes, food, work instruments, household objects and so forth. It is interesting to note that they would spoil them: vessels were broken, weapons were bent and broken, etc., which was typical of many peoples of the Iron Age Europe. In their opinion, the other world was opposed to the living one, consequently, both the deceased and the broken things would acquire the virtual appearance there.
The material culture of the new inhabitants of Zalakhtovye is characterized by brightness and originality. Various bronze items found in burials, fragments of fabrics, embroidered with metal pieces, weapons and work instruments present a striking contrast with usual ancient Russian monuments in this territory and belong to the Baltic-Finnish type. Some items are analogous to those of the Scandinavian nations of the early 2nd millennium.
The tradition to decorate clothes with bronze ornaments-spirals and ringlets-was widespread in tribes of the Baltic pool. However, patterns, ways of fastening metal elements in Zalakhtovye were different from what we find, for example, among their neighbors-Latgals. Threading fine spirals on a thick woolen cord, they created various geometrical figures often of a rather intricate pattern, which then were attached to the fabric with wire ringlets.
Archeologically recorded burial remains according to the cremation rite of the 11th century.
The closest analogues of local appliques, hairpins, bracelets, rings, grivnas we managed to find in the Finnish tribes-Ests and Daugava Livs. Moreover, material culture of the local and Estonian monuments, located on the opposite bank of the Chudskoye Ozero (Lake), is completely identical-both by the type of ornaments and by the makeup of tools. And the name "Zalakhtovye" itself with its Finnish root "lahta" (bay) and the prefix "за" (beyond) proves that once the place was inhabited by Finns, and Russians adopted this place name from them.
The settlement under consideration was large enough. Its residents were engaged in agriculture, fishing and hunting for water fowl. In the second half of the 11th century ancient Russian villages started to appear around this place, and undoubtedly the Finnish community had to contact them. In intermarriages, it was replenished with natives of these settlements, which is confirmed by single burial places of women in Slavic clothes.
By the way, the Ests still had been keeping their independence in the 11th-12th centuries, when relations between them and Novgorod became rather strained, as it tried to impose tribute on them annually, and opened hostilities. The Ests responded with a counterstrike-they burnt Yuryev, Russian fortress, and moved on to Pskov. The armed confrontation lasted throughout the 12th century. And that makes the existence of the Finnish community on the eastern coast of Chudskoye Ozero all the more remarkable: life there was dull without any peculiar shocks. Obviously, it was a rather quiet place without conflicts, and the population regularly paid tribute to Novgorod tiuns (officials).
It must be pointed out that Zalakhtovye was not the only Estonian village in this area-a similar complex of items has been found near the city of Gdova. Archeological findings also tell us about the movement of the population observed there in various historical periods. Thus, the western bank of Chudskoye Ozero was in turns inhabited by Estonian and Russian fishing settlements, and on the eastern bank you still can find remains of the Finnish household buildings made of boulders. And in the early 2nd millennium, the items of local Russian craftsmen primarily differed from those made in the central areas of the Novgorod land by Estonian ornament elements, which, probably, attracted Slav women.
Undoubtedly, the Finnish population contributed to the culture of northwestern areas of the ancient Russian state. The Zalakhtovye people preserved their originality just for two centuries. Under the influence of the ancient Russian environment, they gradually assimilated and accepted the Christian rite of burials.
N. Khvoshchinskaya, "Ancient Ests in the West of the Novgorod Land", Vestnik RAN, Vol. 76, No. 4, 2006