On June 22, 1927, the heroes of the novel "12 chairs" Ostap Bender and Ippolit Matveyevich Vorobyaninov visited the city of Vasyuki, where the "Great Combinator" gave a lecture on the topic "Fruitful Opening Idea" and held a chess game session with local amateurs. During this session, it turned out that the class of Ostap Bender's play clearly does not correspond to the grandmaster's. As a result, they had to flee, taking with them the money of the trusting Vasyukins. A lecture ticket cost 20 kopecks, participation in a chess match was estimated at fifty kopecks. Does the city of Vasyuki really exist? Or is it just a fiction of the sairik writers Ilya Ilf and Yevgeny Petrov?
In modern Russia there are two villages with the name Vasyuki, and both of them are located in the Smolensk region, therefore, they cannot claim the title of a potential center of interplanetary "chess thought", since the treasure hunters of Madame Petukhova arrived in Vasyuki along the Volga. In addition, in the guidebook that Bender read when he arrived in the city, it was indicated that the population of Vasyukov was 8, 000 people. The town is, of course, small, but far from a village.
Several cities of the Volga region competed for the right to call themselves the prototype of the city of Vasyuki. After all, it was a great chance to attract tourists here. Not every city, even in the dreams of Ostap Bender, could become the new capital of the country and the place where the first interplanetary chess tournament in the history of mankind was to take place!
Many researchers believed that Vasyuki was a typical collective image of a small town located on the banks of the Volga. Local historians of the city of Kozmodemyansk in the Republic of Mari El were much more serious about this issue. It is the only city between Cheboksary and Nizhny Novgorod. Namely, it was along this route that Bender and Vorobyaninov went along the Volga on the Scriabin steamer. Even the population was the same; at the turn of the twenties and thirties, there were about 8, 000 inhabitants in Kozmodemyansk.
Since 1995, Kozmodemyansk has regularly hosted Benderiada, a humorous festival named after Ostap Bender. The event attracts many participants, and the city itself was even given the status of a historical settlement. However, already in 2010 Kozmodemyansk was excluded from the list of historical cities.
The city of Vasilsursk in the neighboring Nizhny Novgorod region had no less weighty arguments. Chess tournaments called "New Vasyuki" are held here. True, they are not interplanetary, but interregional, but a start has been made. Besides, in 1925 the journalist of the newspaper "Gudok" Ilya Ilf visited Vasilsursk. He arrived in the city on the ship "Herzen", where the circulation of the winning peasant loan took place. Everything is like in the novel "12 chairs".
But it turned out that the clue can be found if you carefully read the comments of the authors to their work. And there it was directly indicated that the guidebook that Ostap read was a completely real publication and was called like this: "The Volga region. Nature, everyday life, economy, culture. A guide to the Volka, Oka, Kama, Vyatka and Belaya. 1926". Ilf and Petrov did not invent anything on their own, but literally used the description of the city of Vetluga.
At present, Vetluga, like Vasilsursk, is part of the Nizhny Novgorod region, and Vetluga received the status of a city during the reign of Empress Catherine II, in 1778. Here, however, one clarification needs to be made: Vetluga is located on the river of the same name, and not on the Volga. But, Vetluga is a tributary of the great Russian river.
Vetluga was not renamed to New Moscow, and the largest chess tournaments are not held here, but the history of the city is very interesting even without it. There is a legend that the inhabitants of the village of Verkhneye Voskresenskoye, as Vetluga was formerly called, sent delegates to the Empress herself so that she would assign the status of a city to their settlement. And in gratitude they promised Catherine to dance "Russian".
In Vetluga were born: the famous Russian philosopher Vasily Rozanov, the opera singer Nikolai Lavrov, the chief designer of the VAZ Vladimir Soloviev. In his works, the writer Vladimir Korolenko mentioned Vetluga, in 1944-1945. Here Mikhail Pugovkin, a great Soviet actor, served in his military service. Cadet Pugovkin took an active part in the amateur performances of the local tank school.
The 1926 guidebook indicated that in Vasyuki, in addition to general educational institutions, there is also a forestry technical school. The forest school in Vetluga was actually founded in 1918, and in the next it received the status of a technical school. Vetluzhye has always been famous for its vast forests, and the technical school is among the best in its profile. Before the revolution, the life of almost the entire local population was associated with forests, which occupied 80% of the county's territory.