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Originally appearing in Volume V19, Page 389 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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NERCHINSK, a town of Eastern Siberia, in the government of Transbaikalia, 183 in. by rail E. of Chita, on the left bank of the Nercha, 21 M. above its confluence with the Shilka. Pop. (1897) 6713. It is.badly built of wood, and its lower parts frequently suffer from inundations. It has a small museum. The inhabitants support themselves mainly by agriculture, tobacco-growing and cattle-breeding; a few merchants trade in furs and cattle, in brick-tea from China, and manufactured wares from Russia. The fort of Nerchinsk dates from 1654, and the town was founded in 1658 by Pashkov, who in that year opened direct communication between the Russian settlements in Transbaikalia and those on the Amur which had been founded by Cossacks and fur-traders coming from the Yakutsk region. In 1689 was signed between Russia and China the treaty of Nerchinsk, which stopped for two centuries the farther advance of the Russians into the basin of the Amur. After that Nerchinsk became the chief centre for the trade with China. The opening of the western route through Mongolia, by Urga, and the establishment of a custom-house at Kiakhta in 1728 diverted this trade into a new channel. But Nerchinsk acquired fresh importance from the influx of immigrants, mostly exiles, into eastern Transbaikalia, the discovery of rich mines and the arrival of great numbers of convicts, and ultimately it became the chief town of Transoaikalia. In 1812 it was transferred from the banks of the Shilka to its present site, on account of the floods. Since the foundation, in her own person. Ordinarily the consort of Nergal is Laz. of May. He had some thought of going to India as a missionary, but was dissuaded by his friends who saw that there was abundant work to be done in Rome, and that he was the man to do it. Accordingly he settled down, with some companions, at the hospital of San Girolamo della Carita, and while there tentatively began, in 1556, the institute with which his name is more especially connected, that of the Oratory. The scheme at first was no more than a series of evening meetings in a hall (the Oratory), at which there were prayers, hymns, readings from Scripture, from the fathers, and from the Martyrology, followed by a lecture, or by discussion of some religious question proposed for consideration. The musical selections (settings of scenes from sacred history) were called oratorios. The scheme was developed, and the members of the society undertook various kinds of mission work throughout Rome, notably the preaching of sermons in different churches every evening, a wholly novel agency at that time. In 1564 the Florentines requested him to leave San Girolamo, and to take the oversight of their church in Rome, San Giovanni dei Fiorentini, then newly built. He was at first reluctant, but by consent of Pius IV. he accepted, while retaining the charge of San Girolamo, where the exercises of the Oratory were kept up. At this time the new society included amongst its members Caesar Baronius, the ecclesiastical historian, Francesco Maria Tarugi, afterwards archbishop of Avignon, and Paravicini, all three subsequently cardinals, and also Gallonius, author of a well-known work on the Sufferings of the Martyrs, Ancina, Bordoni, and other men of ability and distinction. The Florentines, however, built in 1574 a large oratory or mission-room for the society contiguous to San Giovanni, in order to save them the fatigue of the daily journey to and from San Girolamo, and to provide a more convenient place of assembly, and the headquarters were transferred thither. As the community grew, and its mission work extended, the need of having a church entirely its own, and not subject to other claims, as were San Girolamo. and San Giovanni, made itself felt, and the offer of the small parish church of Santa Maria in Vallicella, conveniently situated in the middle of Rome, was made and accepted. The building, however, as not large enough for their purpose, was pulled down, and a splendid church erected on the site. It was immediately after taking possession of their new quarters that Neri formally organized, under permission of a bull dated July 15, 1595, a community of secular priests, entitled the Congregation of the Oratory. The new church was consecrated early in 1577, and the clergy of the new society at once resigned the charge of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini; but Neri himself did not migrate from San Girolamo till 1583, and then only in virtue of an injunction of the pope that he, as the superior, should reside at the chief house of his congregation. He was at first elected for a term of three years (as is usual in modern societies), but in 1587 was nominated superior for life. He was, however, entirely free from personal ambition, and had no desire to be general over a number of dependent houses, so that he desired that all congregations formed on his model outside Rome should be autonomous, governing themselves, and without endeavouring to retain control over any new colonies they might themselves send out—a regulation afterwards formally confirmed by a brief of Gregory XV. in 1622. Much as he mingled with society, and with persons of importance in church and state, his single interference in political matters was in 1593, when his persuasions induced the pope, Clement VIII., to withdraw the excommunication and anathema of Henry IV. of France, and the refusal to receive his ambassador, even though the king had formally abjured Calvinism. Neri saw that the pope's attitude was more than likely to drive Henry to a relapse, and probably to rekindle the civil war in France, and directed Baronius, then the pope's confessor, to refuse him absolution, and to resign his office of confessor, unless he would withdraw the anathema. Clement yielded at once, though the whole college of cardinals had supported his policy; and Henry, who did not learn the facts till several years afterwards, testified. lively gratitude for the Nergal was pictured as a lion and on boundary-stone monuments his symbol is a mace surmounted by the head of a lion. As in the case of Ninib, Nergal appears to have absorbed a number of minor solar deities, which accounts for the various names or designations under which he appears, such as Lugalgira, Sharrapu (" the burner," perhaps a mere epithet), Ira, Gibil (though this name more properly belongs to Nusku, q.v.) and Sibitti. A certain confusion exists in cuneiform literature between Ninib and Nergal, perhaps due to the traces of two different conceptions regarding these two solar deities. Nergal is called the " raging king," the " furious one," and the like, and by a play upon his name—separated into three elements Ne-urugal " lord of the great dwelling "—his position at the head of the nether-world pantheon is indicated. In the astral-theological system he is the planet Mars, while in ecclesiastical art the great lion-headed colossi serving as guardians to the temples and palaces seem to be a symbol of Nergal, just as the bull-headed colossi are probably intended to typify Ninib. The name of his chief temple at Kutha was E-shid-lam, from which the god receives the designation of Shidlamtaea, " the one that rises up from Shidlam." The cult of Nergal does not appear to have been as widespread as that of Ninib. He is frequently invoked in hymns and in votive and other inscriptions of Babylonian and Assyrian rulers, but we do not learn of many temples to him outside of Kutha. Sennacherib speaks of one at Tarbisu to the north of Nineveh, but it is significant that although Nebuchadrezzar II. (6o6–586 B.c.), the great temple-builder of the neo-Babylonian monarchy, alludes to his operations at E-shid-lam in Kutha, he makes no mention of a sanctuary to Nergal in Babylon. Local associations with his original seat—Kutha—and the conception formed of him as a god of the dead acted in making him feared rather than actively worshipped. (M. JA.)
End of Article: NERCHINSK

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