Falconry, the ancient entertainment, remains popular until present day. Kolomenskoye Museum Reserve is one of the places in Russia promoting the knowledge about falconry.
Humans and birds of prey have been hunting together for over 4,000 years. One cannot say when exactly it emerged: historians have only a few artefacts, the oldest of which date back to the 13th–6th centuries BC, while in the 5th century BC a Greek physician and historian Ctesias of Cnidus first wrote about the Indian tradition of hunting with eagles.
Historians believe that Prince Oleg built the first mews in Kyiv, and this type of hunting came from the southern nomadic tribes. Many princes loved and practiced falconry, and hunting birds were mentioned in the most ancient legal acts and literary works. The frescoes of Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv also depict falconry. Establishing diplomatic relations with other countries, from the 14th century, Moscow rulers endowed birds of prey with the status of diplomatic gifts and at the same time added paragraphs concerning the supply of birds in international treaties.
The second tsar of the Romanov dynasty, Alexey Mikhailovich, had a real passion for falconry. Notes on hunting birds make up a significant part of the documents of this period. The tsar himself probably wrote special regulations for falconers and the description of the ceremony of falconers promotion. In fact, this document is the only attempt in Russian history to regulate falconry.
The falcon mews in Kolomenskoye was first mentioned on July 11, 1650 in the tsar’s letter to pantler Matyushkin. In fact, during the reign of Alexey Mikhailovich, a new complex of palace buildings was erected in the ancient patrimony of Moscow princes. At present, it belongs to the Ensemble of Kolomenskoye, the cultural heritage monument of federal significance. The complex included a large wooden palace, which has not survived, but has been reconstructed. Contemporaries referred to it as the eighth wonder of the world. Staying in Kolomenskoye, the tsar hunted in flood meadows on the opposite bank of the Moscow River.
Dismantled under Peter the Great, the falcon mews in Kolomenskoye has been restored today.
The falcon mews of Kolomenskoye Museum Reserve, opened in the 2000s, includes the Falconer’s House (a reconstruction of a 19th-century peasant house) and an aviary. On November 16, 2021, a new museum exposition opened at the falcon mews. It is a reconstruction of the falconer’s room of the time of Tsar Alexey Mikhailovich with the 17th century interior, perches for birds, and a cabinet with falcon ammunition. There is also a film telling about the history of falconry and its role in the history of humankind, as well as stove tiles of the 18th–19th centuries depicting birds of prey and reproductions of works by animal painter Vadim Gorbatov.
The falcon mews has saker falcons, northern goshawks, buzzards, and an eagle owl. Birds of prey are an indispensable part of the museum activities. To promote the knowledge about falconry and its role in Russian history, the museum regularly conducts excursions as well as art programs, demonstrating flying birds of prey.
The museum reserve celebrates professional holidays every year– the day of Tryphon the Falconer (February 14) and World Falconry Day (November 16). The connection of the holy martyr Tryphon with falconry can be traced in the legend of Tryphon Patrikeev, the falconer of Ivan the Terrible, who lost the tsar’s falcon, but was saved by his patron saint.
The revival of falconry in Russia began in the middle of the twentieth century. A new stage in its history is associated with the conservation and breeding of rare species of birds of prey, many of which are listed in the Red Book. Another factor is the promotion of using birds of prey as a biorepellent, which is used today by ornithological centers. Currently, in Russia, there are several associations of bird hunting.
The centuries-old partnership between man and falcon is unique, and this is why in 2010 UNESCO included falconry in the list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The professional community of Russian falconers has been working for many years to recognize this type of hunting as an intangible cultural heritage of the Russian Federation, and on March 25, 2022, falconry was included in the intangible cultural heritage of the Republic of Tatarstan.
Darya Melnichenko, “Architectural and ethnographic complex” of Kolomenskoye Museum Reserve
Sergey Yartsev, department “The Falcon Mews of Kolomenskoye”