Nicholas Roerich Estate Museum in Izvara
Nicholas Roerich
Estate Museum
in Izvara


Subterranean Dwellers

From distances one might take these openings for eyries, because all which belongs to the subterranean peoples is concealed. Sometimes the Holy City is submerged, as in the folk-lore of Netherlands and Switzerland. And there is folk-lore that coincides with actual discoveries in the lakes and along the sea coasts. In Siberia, in Russia, Lithuania and Poland, you find many legends and fairy tales about giants who lived at times in these countries but afterwards, disliking the new customs, disappeared. In these legends, one may recognize the specific foundations of the ancient clans. The giants are brothers. Very often the sisters of the giants live on the other shores of the lakes or the other side of the mountains. Very often they do not like to move from the site but some special event drives them from their patrimonial dwelling. Birds and animals are always near these giants; as witnesses they follow them and announce their departure.

Among the stories of submerged cities, the story of Kerjenetz city in the Nijni Novgorod section possesses a superb beauty. This legend has such an influence on the people that even now, once yearly, numerous religious folk gather in holy procession around the lake, where the holy city was submerged. It is touching to see how vital are the legends, vital as the bon-fires and torches of the procession itself, which resounds with holy songs about the city. Afterward, in complete silence, around the bonfires these people await and listen for the festal bells of the invisible churches.

This procession recalls the sacred festival on the Manas-arowar Lake in the Himalayas. The Russian legend of Kerjenetz is attributed to the time of the Tartar yoke. It is related that when the victorious Mongol hordes approached, the ancient Russian city of Kerjenetz was unable to defend itself. Then all the holy people of this city came to the temple and prayed for salvation. Before the very eyes of the merciless conquerors, the city solemnly sank into the lake, which thenceforth was regarded as sacred. Although the legend speaks of the time of the Tartar yoke, you can distinguish that the essential bases of the legend is far more ancient and you can distinguish the traces of the typical effects of migration. This legend not only gave rise to many variants but even inspired many modern composers and artists. Every one may remember the beautiful opera of Rimsky-Korsakoff, “The City of Kitege.”

The endless Kurgans of the southern steppes retain around them numerous stories about the appearance of the unknown warrior, nobody knows from whence. The Carpathian Mountains in Hungary have many similar stories of unknown tribes, giant-warriors and mysterious cities. If, without prejudice, you patiently point out on your map all the legends and stories of this nature you will be astonished at the result. When you collect all the fairy-tales of lost and subterranean tribes, will you not have before you a full map of the great migrations? An old Catholic missionary casually tells us that the site of Lhassa was sometimes called Gotha. In the Trans-Himalayas, at heights of fifteen thousand and sixteen thousand feet, we found several groups of menhirs. Of these menhirs in Tibet, nobody knows. Once after an entire day’s trip through the barren hills and rocks of the Trans-Himalayas, we saw, at a distance, some black tents prepared for our camp. At the same time, we noticed, not far from the same direction, those long stones which are so meaningful for every archaeologist. Even from afar, could be distinguished the peculiar design of their construction.

“What kind of stones are these on the slopes?” we asked our Tibetan guide.

“Oh,” he replied, “they are Doring—long stones; this is an ancient sacred place. It is very useful to put grease on the heads of the stones. Then the deities of this place help the travelers.”

“Who laid these stones together?”

“Nobody knows. But this district from ancient times has been called Doring—long stones. The people say that unknown people passed here long ago.”

Across the relief of the Trans-Himalayas we saw distinctly the long rows of vertical stones. These alleys finished with a circle with three high stones in the center. The direction of the entire figure was from west to east. After encamping, we hurriedly proceeded to the site. And with the full evidence before us we realized that here was a typical menhir, such as gave its glory to the stone field of Carnac. On the surrounding slopes, no objects were found. Not far from the menhir was a trace of a small river, temporarily dried. No excavation was permitted because of the stupid prejudice of the Tibetans who invented the story that Buddha forbade the touching of the soil. But no excavation was needed to recognize the typical Druidic construction so carefully transported from the shores of the ocean… “The strongest have passed this way and found the most suitable sites.”

During the next four days we found four other groups of menhirs. Some of them had the same rather long alleys of stone; others consisted only of several long stones encircled by smaller stones. When we approached the high passes before the Brahmaputra, these constructions ceased. In connection with these old sanctuaries, we found several tombs, a square outlined by huge stones. Again a complete repetition of those in the Altai and Caucasus was revealed. Before me, from the same spot, is a characteristic fibula—the two-headed eagle. The same design is known to us from the graves of the northern Caucasus. Before me are Tibetan swords, exactly like those in the Gothic tombs. The women of the same district wear the head-dress, like the head-dress of the Slavonic peoples, the so-called Kofoshni^. As you travel through the heights of Tibet with their unbearable cold and hurricanes; as you mark these savage Tibetans in decayed furs, devouring raw meat, you are deeply astonished when out of the fur hat peers apparendy the face of a Spaniard, a Hungarian or southern Frenchman. Admittedly, they are somewhat distorted of feature, but they have no relation with the Mongolian or Chinese type. You can relate them only to Europeans. One may also imagine that the best and most courageous people have departed somewhere and now you have before you only the poor degenerate remnants.

Looking on the merciless glaciers of the Trans-Hima-layas, on this sterile soil, on barren rocks, where even animals are scarce, where even eagles are seen but rarely, you may conceive how people were impelled onward, and how, from the high mountains, they reached the expanses of the future deserts. But their spirits were unsatisfied. They longed for the mountains. Thus did the Altai Mountains give them the temporary illusion of a longed-for happiness. But the glaciers of the Altai were too close to them; only now are they beginning to recede, for scientists have estimated the recession of the glaciers to be about twenty-five feet during the last thirty years. Some new and more fertile dwelling site for the courageous travelers was to be found in the Northern Caucasus and in the Crimea. Once again, the mountains permitted them breathing space. But they no longer had to combat the glaciers. The long journey was rewarded. Why, then, not to try still further? The Carpathian Mountains were also inviting; so to the very shores of the ocean came the pilgrims. And they remembered all the sacred signs of their long journey. For this reason, we appreciated so much the menhirs and Stone Henge of Bretagne and the British Isles. We cannot give statements of finality because each finality is a conclusion, and conclusions mean death. In broad decisions, in broad expectations and search, we are happy to add more pearls to the string of searching.

When I was asked, “Why do you so rejoice over these menhirs?” I answered, “Because my map of fairy-tales was verified. When in one’s hand you hold one end of an enchanted cord at Carnac, is it not a joy to find its beginning in the Trans-Himalayas?”

Somebody may argue, that perhaps the builders of the menhirs came into the Trans-Himalayas from somewhere, and that the Trans-Himalayas may thus have been their stopping place, but not their original abode. Of course, it may perhaps have been thus. Hence, the less-defined conclusions we build, and the less we expect, the better for the future.

“But are you sure that the people, about whom you are talking, are the so-called Goths?”

“It is immaterial to me, what they are called, whether they were forefathers of the Goths or their grandchildren. Were these deep links with Celts or Alans or Scythian tribes? These scrupulous calculations will have to be undertaken by some one else. But I rejoice at the fact, that on the heights of the Trans-Himalayas I have seen the embodiment of Carnac. I do not insist upon nomenclatures, because before my very eyes the superficial nomenclatures have changed so often, and often a so-called fact was easily juggled about for periods of approximately a thousand years. I shall not forget my amazement when, on excavating a kurgan which at the time had been definitely established as characteristic of a period not later than the Tenth Century, I found in the hands of the skeleton, a coin of the Fourteenth Century. Such are the fluctuations!”

The folk determine these problems much more simply: for them all which has disappeared, has departed underground.

When we are asking our centenarian grandfather about the covered wagon of his youth, we shall certainly hear many things in a fantastic manner. But there will always be some truths revealed. When we ask the people about their forefathers, they are still able to tell us, they may still sing to us some song of a great. truth.

Old Tibetan legends since very ancient times have drawn attention to the menhirs and Dolmens of unknown origin. The memory of the Tibetan people thus records these Great Travelers:

“From far-away India there departed two princes and they turned their path northwards. On the way, one of the princes died and his brother honored his memory by erecting over him a resplendent abode of huge stones. And he himself continued his long way into the unknown lands.”

Thus the memory of the people knows!

Museum Address: 188414, Izvara Village, Volosovo District, Leningrad Region, Russia.
Phones: +7-813-73-73-273 (group tours); Phone/Fax +7-813-73-73-298 (general)
Museum Director: Cherkasova Olga Anatolievna E-mail: