Salty Okruglaya

Tatiana Literaty, "Stary Zamok"  3 July 2012 09:26  35315822 016305
Salty Okruglaya

One of the oldest villages of Transcarpathia was founded by Hungarian salt miners who fled from the Turks.

Tyachiv village of Okruglaya is called a morning diamond. It stretches in a picturesque mountainous area 15 kilometers away from the district center. It is well known for its ancient history, but primarily for the fact that in the local church of St. Felix there is still the oldest agency in the district, which was set back in 1800.

Salt is almost on the surface here

This village can hardly be called a tourist place: a once well-known local medical complex "Black Water" does not longer attract many tourists, the ancient salt mines have not survived – only wonderful mountains with rounded "caps" still keep calling some travelers.

In general, the history of the village dates back to the XVII century. It is now considered one of the oldest settlements of Tyachiv district, and therefore one of the least studied and described ones. The first settlers of Okruglaya were salt miners, because salt beds here were located almost on the surface, which greatly simplified access to it. Local folk used to mine and boil salt for further commercial realization. According to the legend, once upon a time, apples from a free town of Tyachev and salt from the village of Kerikgedya (it was considered the best among European alchemists) were served for dinner for the Hungarian King.

The name ‘Kerikged’ is translated from the Hungarian language as “a round mountain”. It is considered to be the first name of the village, but it, most probably, appeared due to the fact that the area was and is surrounded from all sides by high mountains with rounded tops. A picturesque location, according to the documents, was populated by the Hungarians – these people came from Debrecen and they hid here from the attacks and harassment of Turkish soldiers.

The mines were closed, the entrance – disguised

The basic population was formed during the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which explains its various ethnicity. At this time there was the expansion of salt mines. Experts of Solotvino mines opened commercial production of salt in Kerikgedi. In 1773, on the so-called "Stefanik’s Mine" the project was launched, and in 1792 they continued at the "Franz’s Mine". After the discovery of two mines the villagers of Shandrova in Khust district began to come to work here. In addition, the settlement occurred at the expense of politically unreliable citizens of the Austro-Hungarian Empire: the government sent to the salt mines people, sentenced to forced labor and disloyal to the empire.

Salt mines lasted until 1856, when for some unknown reasons commercial production in them was stopped. A part of salt miners went to work at Solotvino mines, leaving their families in the village, and the rest worked on the newly discovered logging area. The village owned 120 hectares of land, on which wives of salt miners worked. There were no landlords in Kerikgedi therefore, among its people there were no servants. Since 1840 an elementary school operated in the village, which had opened with the assistance of the Solotvino salt mines management. Only one teacher worked there.

Now even the entrance to the Kerikgedi mines is difficult to find. It must have been buried over time, although old people said that some of the mines were specifically disguised. In order not to lose a source of salt after the closure of production, the villagers dug a 14-meter well, from which they took the brine - salt water. They dried it, in such a way obtaining the salt, and transported it to the neighboring markets of Maramorosh, where they sold it, or exchanged for food or clothes. Gradually, since salt became cheaper and more accessible, the well, too, became useless and disappeared. Now near the place there is a muddy and freshened lake that once, they say, too, was salty.

One of the oldest monuments of Okruglaya, as already mentioned, is the Roman Catholic Church, built in 1725 in the close to Roman style. Interestingly, the majority of the rural churches of that time were built of wood, while the masters of Okruglaya were already using stone. Wide thick walls, semicircular arches, a massive ceiling and small windows, more like medieval fortresses loopholes – that is how the church has been preserved till nowadays.

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