18 октября 2021

Word and deed of Semyon Duvan

Word and deed of Semyon Duvan

A town governor of Yevpatoriya Semyon Duvan was born 150 years ago. Being a man, who came from a rich and influential Karaite family, he is rightly considered as one of the most successful leaders of the local government in Crimea. Thanks to his initiative and insistence, Yevpatoriya was developing rapidly and it turned from a backwater town into a famous resort for several years.

12 facts of Duvan

Sima Ezrovich Duvan (April 1, 1870 in Yevpatoriya — February 5, 1957 in France) is an entrepreneur. He was a social activist. He held the position of a city mayor in 1906-1910 and in 1915-1917. He headed the zemstvo county government in 1911-1915. Duvan represented the interests of Yevpatoriya at the Taurian Provincial Zemstvo Assembly.

1. Son of the Karaite nation

Duvan is a Karaite by ethnicity and representative of the ancient Crimean ethnic group that consists of the Turkic-speaking adherents of Karaism, which is a religious doctrine based on the Old Testament. The Biblical name and patronymic name Sima Ezrovich given to him at birth were changed to Semyon Sergeyevich by Duvan, as it was more comprehensible to people in everyday communication. The word “duvan” in the Karaite language means “ruler”. Ancestors of Sima Ezrovich entirely justified their surname, they were influential and well-respected people. His great-grandfather Solomon Bobovich was a merchant and elected city head of Yevpatoriya several times. The father, who was a honored hereditary citizen of Yevpatoriya and second guild merchant, was an example for Semyon Duvan. Ezra Duvan was a public deputy of the county zemstvo assembly almost for 40 years and he was constantly elected to the City Duma.


2. Prudent owner

Duvan was a major landowner: several thousand hectares of lands in the outskirts of Yevpatoriya belonged to him. There was a farm, which specialized in raising sheep and horses, in the Duvanovka husbandry. Duvan received silver and gold medals at agricultural exhibitions. The money he earned, Semyon Sergeyevich invested in real estate. He built a revenue house in the center of Yevpatoriya near the cathedral: apartments in that house were let on rent and the owner with his family lived in the wing. The villa “Carmen” and country house “Dream”, which hosted vacationers, were located on the seaside.


3. Became a deputy at the age of 25

Duvan was 25, when he was first elected deputy of the City Duma. Soon, he could obtain financing in Saint Petersburg for beautification of Yevpatoriya. The town received 300 thousand roubles, which were spent on “covering two thirds of streets with splendid granite pavements”. Afterward, Duvan solved the water supply issue. The Duma paid hydro-geological surveys and drilling of boreholes at his insistence.


4. Formed the urban space

The first Duvan’s merit at the position of the city head was territorial problem solving. Yevpatoriya got a large plot of the state-owned land for a giveaway price. Hereinafter, the important facilities were built on that territory. Contemporaries noticed the striking changes: “This town is a miniature replica of well-furnished European cities. It had fabulously grown on the desolate state-owned wasteland between the “aging” town and vacation houses”. As a token of gratitude, deputies of the Duma unanimously decided to name a “square, wherein a theatre will be built, and street, which runs from the square to the see” after Duvan. In his answering speech, the city head stressed: “I’ll try to bear the name given to the street with dignity and I’ll do all my best that town, which did the high honor to me, will never have to get remorse for that”.

5. Built the theatre and library

The construction of the building of the theatre introduced Yevpatoriya to the level of fashionable resorts. The head of the town found necessary financial means in the budget and raised the donation of private individuals. The theatre became the largest cultural institution in the South of Russia. The teams of the best theaters such as the Moscow Opera Theater and the Alexandrinskiy Theater, performed on its stage. Taking care of the public education and enlightenment, Duvan built a library building on his own funds, bought required literature and donated a part of the personal book collection. Currently, the books with the stamp “From Duvan’s library” forms its golden fund.


6. Hosted Nicholas II in Yevpatoriya

Thanks to Duvan, top figures of the Russian Empire were well-informed about resort capacities of Yevpatoriya. In 1915, the Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna personally addressed Semyon Sergeyevich: “I know about your activity and ask you to handle my business. I ask you to be a supervisor of the seacoast health center for wounded warriors, which I have established in Yevpatoriya”. In 1916, Nicholas II together with his family visited Yevpatoriya. In his welcoming speech, the city head told: “Today, I’ve experienced such the unlimited happiness, which my grandfather felt in 1825, who also was a city head and who welcomed the Emperor Alexander the Blessed on behalf of the population”. Nicholas, Alexandra and tsesarevich Alexei visited the Cathedral of St. Nicholas, Juma-Jami Mosque and Karaite kenassas. The monarch presented the awards to recovering warriors at the health center named after Alexandra Fyodorovna and took a walk around Duvanovskaya Street. The August persons spent the second half of the day resting at the vacation house of Duvan called “Dream”.


7. Under his rule, Yevpatoriya was acknowledged to be an all-Russian health resort

A “memorable note” telling about the activity of Duvan was developed at the chancellery of the emperor. The following information was mentioned there: “He absolutely transformed Yevpatoriya through the new planning, building bridges, arranging street lightning and organizing tram service, improving sanitary conditions of the town, beautification of beaches, vacation houses and developing a resort in general, constructing of the city theater, square and city library, as well as via creating an absolutely new and very beautiful well-furnished part of the town. He had built a number of schools of excellence, hospitals, agronomic points and demonstration fields. He worked a lot and productively in the area of land utilization, he himself ran an exemplary husbandry. Duvan organized telephone communications throughout the Yevpatoriya Uyezd”. In 1915, Yevpatoriya was acknowledged to be the resort district of the national importance at the All-Russian Congress on Improvement of Healing Localities.


8. Was a beloved “dictator”

Duvan had a lot of ill-wishers. They accused the city head for dictatorship implying that he “turned the public self-government into his personal self-administration”. However, everybody agreed that Yevpatoriya developed rapidly due to sagacity, energy and insistence of the head of Yevpatoriya. A journalist noticed: “Duvan is a man of a large force, who suits Moscow more than small Yevpatoriya”.

9. Didn’t recognize the Red Authorities

The political situation in the country had totally changed in the country by 1917. Duvan realized that he with new authorities wasn’t on the same way. Having referred to the failing health, he resigned duties of the city head and deputy. Soon, Duvan together with his wife and five children left Russia.


10. Saved Karaites from annihilation during the World War II

In the end of the ’30s, when it was obvious that the policy of Hitler’s Germany was acquiring signs of anti-Semitism, Duvan took measures to protect his nation. He succeeded in obtaining the official clarification that Karaite ethnic group doesn’t belong to Jewish people neither in religion nor in race. Thereafter, the Karaites were saved from physical elimination during the World War II.


11. Buried not in Yevpatoriya despite his wish

In his bequest, Semyon Duvan asked to transfer his ashes from France to Yevpatoriya at the earliest opportunity and bury his remains at the Karaite Cemetery near his father. However, his will wasn’t destined to be executed. The grave of Semyon Duvan wasn’t preserved: his descendants were lack of funds, thus they couldn’t renew their lease of the cemetery plot and Duvan’s remains were transferred to the common columbarium.

12. Memory is preserved

Duvan’s deeds were kept silent during all the Soviet period. Justness was only begun restoring at the beginning of the 90’s of the last century. Historians and scientists Vadim and Maria the Kutaisovs returned the name of Duvan from oblivion, told the community about his multi-sided activity for the good Yevpatoriya. The historical name was returned to Duvanovskaya Street. Memorial tablets were placed in the facades of the former revenue house of Duvan, city theater and there is a memorial sign in the Duvanovskiy square, the historical inscription on the library was restored. The monument to Semyon Duvan was raised in the center of the town.

Text: Kirill Belozerov