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The journey beyond three seas of Afanasij Nikitin in A.D. 1466-1472 : establishment of text, translation and commentary Belkov, Gregory


The text established for this translation is based primarily on the Troickij copy. Interpolated variant readings are drawn from the full text of the Undol'skij copy and from variant readings of the Archive copy and the Ètterov copy. In the spring of 1466 a certain merchant of Tver, Afanasij Nikitin, set sail down the Volga with two ships, accompanied by the ambassador of Shīrwānshāh. At Astrakhan the Tartar Khan Kasim captured and plundered both ships. Empty handed, they crossed the first sea - the Caspian sea, to Derbent. Nikitin and the other Russians then went to the horde of Shirwanshah to ask for funds to go to Rus' . When they were refused, they parted on their various ways. Nikitin, with courage and enterprise, set out to travel through strange and foreign lands. In May of 1469 he sailed from Ormuz to India in a "tava" carrying horses. "And here is the Indian country. The people all go about naked, their heads are uncovered and- their breasts are bare...." In Junnar Asad-Khan took Nikitin's stallion and threatened to keep it and to take a thousand pieces of gold on the forefiet of his head if he did not accept Islam. Fortunately a dignitary from Khorasan arrived and interceded on behalf of the Russian traveller. The merchant of Tver then enumerates the commerce of India. He adds that the Moslem convey their goods by sea and pay no tariff "but for us the tariff is high and there are many pirates on the sea." In Bidar, Nikitin describes the "pleasure ride" of the young sultan Muhammad III, Bahmani and his. entourage. The Russian traveller notes that the nobles are foreigners, men of Khorasan, Arabia and Chagatai. They live in luxury while the common people live in poverty. When the Hindus found that he was a Christian and not a Moslem they took Nikitin to their Idol house at Srisaila. He was the only European, of whom there is a record, to see Srisaila while it was still in full splendor. In Gulbarga the traveller described in detail, with considerable exaggerations, the preparation of the campaign by Muhammad III and Malik-ut-Tujjar against Vijayanagar. Nikitin had set out on a trading mission to Persia, but, through misfortune, spent six years travelling through Persia and India. Now the way to Rus' was blocked by revolts in Persia. Three months before Easter, 1472 he sailed from Dabhol to Ormuz but was driven to the shores of Ethiopia. Finally he reached Ormuz. After crossing Persia he was delayed while Hasan-beg was invading the Ottoman Empire. In Trebizond the Turkish "pasha" gave him much trouble for he had come from the horde of Hasan-beg. He set sail across the third sea - the Black Sea but contrary winds drove him back to the shores of Asia Minor three times before he finally reached Kaffa in November 1472.

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