It isn’t necessary to have a time machine to travel back in time and walk through the picturesque streets of the capital of the Golden Horde — the city of Sarai Batu. The decorators of “Horde” movie by Andrey Proshkin did their best and recreated the medieval settlement to the last detail.
If you drive on the highway from Akhtubinsk to Astrakhan, after the locality under the name of Kharabali will appear “Saray-Batu” pointer. An uninformed traveler’ll think that this is next roadside stand and will sweep past, but we know what’s hidden behind this sandy turn.
We drive several dozens of kilometers off-road and Sarai Batu movie-city lay before us on the mountain. The place for scenery construction wasn’t chosen by chance, about a hundred kilometers from here the real capital of the Golden Horde was located a few centuries ago.
The capital of the Horde was founded by Genghis Khan’s grandson — Batu Khan in the early 1250s. Initially, it was an ordinary settlement of nomads, and afterwards the whole city arised. Sarai Batu stretched along the left bank of the Akhtuba river for 10-15 km, and its area was about 35 square km. About 75 thousand people lived in the ancient capital.
In 1261, Sarai Batu became the center of the newly-formed Sarai diocese of the Russian Church, and in 1315 — of the Catholic bishopric. At the same time, during the rule of Uzbek Khan, the capital of The Golden Horde was moved to Noviy Saray. The city fell into disrepair shortly afterwards and its buildings were demolished for the purpose of construction of other settlements.
After a short excursion into the history, let’s move forward in these latter days. Picture hadn’t been shot long, from about mid-June to early December 2010. More than a thousand costumes were made for the actors, and one of the key roles was played by Andrey Panin, who was made up beyond recognition. Saray Batu isn’t the only movie-city that was built for the filming of the picture, in the Vladimir region were recreated the scenery of ancient Moscow of the XIV century.
Recreated clay city just breaks out of reality and creates the impression of something alien. Not only Asian motifs can be viewed in the scenery, but also African. A main role played the imagination of decorators who decided not to copy, but think up something of their own.
Decorator Sergey Fevralev did a lot with his own hands, refusing factory solutions. It’s no wonder that after filming completion the authority of the Astrakhan region ordered to organize a tourist object on this location.
Maybe the filmmakers treat suchlike things as a job, shot the necessary episodes and went on. Actors filmed in several pictures at once during a year. The conveyor, not otherwise. But for the locals, the movie-city turns from empty boxes and clay into a cult object and “bait” for tourists who can bring to the region some money.
I christened the Saray-Batu movie-city neglected for a reason. No, the object is guarded and a fee is charged for its visit. But, I thought that the scenery requires a serious restoration, at present the movie-city is slowly fading.
Gray wood from old age, holes in houses, nodding walls, rotten logs… No matter what, an unforgettable impression remains from a visit of the Sarai Batu movie-city because even on the photos nobody’ll guess that they were made in the Astrakhan region.