Timofei Bakulin

Timofei  Bakulin
Дмитрий Тесленко
Врач-нейрохирург. Медицинский стаж: 17 лет (11 лет по специальности). Приоритетные направления практической и научной работы — заболевания гипофиза, нейроонкология.

For already more than 70 years, the skeleton of the tallest man in Russia has been kept in a glass cupboard at a Moscow clinic. His name was Timofei Antonovich Bakulin, born in the village of Ternovoe, Ostrogozhsky district, Voronezh province. The giant reached 2 meters 40 centimeters high, and weighed 13 pounds (208 kg).

He was exceptionally strong, could easily, for fun, raise the corner of a log barn and shove his battered hat under it. Then lifted the corner once more and worn a pancake-like hat again on Timosha’s big curly head.

He always was in an excellent mood. Rarely healthy. Perfectly shaped. He would even be beautiful if not for a brown tan, a slightly protruding lower jaw (a sign of acromegaly — expert com.) and a cloud of some kind of secret sadness in his big blue eyes. He often smiled in surprise with the gentleness of a giant, throwing back his head, showing wonderful young teeth. And the pleasant smell came from him. It was mixed with rye wind of the steppe, the smell of tar, hard-forged boots, with the mint flavor of snuff tobacco: Tymosha did not smoke, but snuffed.

The rector of the village church, Father Peter, when baptizing children, often after prayers added: “Let the boy grow up as kind, strong and healthy as our Timosha”.

The priest was one of the first in the Ternovoe who appreciated the heroic abilities of the young man, when he once at Svyatki effortlessly grabbed a three-pound barrel with ice and threw it on the roof of the barn. Timosha did not know what to do with the power bestowed on him by God, and Father Peter advised him to join some kind of wandering circus: it would be interesting for people to look at him, and get some kind of earnings.

Everything was fine with Timosha until ten years. Then suddenly, almost in front of his eyes, he began to increase in height and in shoulders. The father’s short fur coat became cramped, the boots didn’t fit anymore. By the age of sixteen, Timosha’s growth had gone so far that he began to enter the house almost on all fours. He could have neither straightened himself in the room, nor lie on the bed. In addition, unfortunately, the brutal appetite woke up – Timosha could easily eat a pot of shchi. While this pot his mother cooked for the whole populous family.

He began to show his character. One day, his father did not want to take Timosha to Ostrogozhsk at the fair: it would be hard for their horse to drag them. “Oh, so!..” – Timosha stifled his temper and, clutching at the tail of the cart, pulled it back along with the horse. The dad had nothing to do but walk back.

When Timosha turned eighteen, their family moved to Ostrogozhsk. They settled on Avdeevskaya Street, opposite the millwork factory (nowadays Osvobozhdeniya Street). The factory workers were stopping at the Bakulin’s yard, trying to see the giant Timosha through the fence, to hear his thunderous bass that made glass scaredly tinkled. The neighboring boys gave no peas to Timosha. They hardly wanted to look at his face, and once they craned their necks sharply, their hats fell down on the ground. Sometimes the guys were begging a giant to throw them through the high fence of the city garden, where entrance was by tickets only in the evening, and Timosha gave up, warning them from getting under the feet of the dancers.

Once, a tent circus toured in that garden. And Timosha recalled the former advice of a Ternovsky priest to get acquainted with the circus actors, who can do the most unusual things before the public. “What can you do?” Asked the director Timosha. “I can, for example,” he answered ingenuously, “to throw you under your very circus dome and catch you back safe and sound.”

Since then, Timosha’s new life began. He performed in a troupe with huge boas, hanging them on as rings. At one stroke of the hammer,  smashed a multi-plow-stone. He fought with a three-arshin-long bear, which looked like a teddy bear in mighty Timosha’s hands. In a word, he did what nobody could do.

His joint work with the acrobat Polina, who was one meter tall, gave a special charm to the performances of the giant. She did with Timosha everything she wanted: jumped over his shoulders a squirrel, used his outstretched arms as a horizontal bar, whose span reached almost four meters. For the beauty of the play, Timosha threw Polina high, caught her, threw again, and the circus broke into applause.

That stormy time was associated with a significant event in the life of Timosha – he married the circus maid – beautiful Marusia. On this occasion, the groom had to choose a wedding ring. But the circus performer could fit none on his giant finger. So then a familiar jeweler came to help to Timosha, and made a “ring” with a size of a Nikolay’s silver ruble.

After the tent circus, Timofey Antonovich performed in large circuses. Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odesa, and Tiflis met him with their concert halls sold out. Shocked with his giant prowess, the mountaineers presented him with a specially tailored Circassian suite with a papakha, and he made a tour in Europe, Asia, and North America wearing this ceremonial dress. Newspapers then enthusiastically wrote that Gulliver named Timosha was worthy of Great Russia. It was these fabulous warriors who once protected Europe from the invasion of the Tatar-Mongols.

Of course, Timofei Antonovich always remembered about his native Ostrogozhsk. Timosha was greeted as a star, as a man who had become a legend in his lifetime. He invited all his friends and folks to a specially ordered restaurant, told about Paris, London, New York he had seen, and there was no end to the toasts. Eyewitnesses of those feasts stated that Timosha the giant could calmly drink a whole quarter of vodka (3 liters!) during the evening and pour forty-degree vodka with two dozen bottles of cold beer.

The city restaurant always had reserved for Timofei Antonovich a specially-made oak table and a chair with thick legs, which could withstand such an extraordinary person. Next to Timosha the giant sit his bayan-player Izotov and the circus ticket-taker Sukhinin. Shoemaker Sukhanov, who was well known in the city, sometimes sat down next to the giant. He was very appreciated by Timosha for what he, like no one else, could make his boots, which were no different from fashionable Petersburg ones, except, of course, their non-standard size – 54!

During revolution, in the years of the Civil War, of course, Timosha put the circus on the back seat. He earned some money by doing the most unenviable work. Old-timers of the railway junction Liski remembered as Bakulin was unloading the wagons for ten, shouldering an unliftable load. But he especially struck Liski at a communist clean-up day in 1923, having manually transferred a dozen multi-wheeled wheelsets of freight cars to a nearby railway line.

The memory of the giant, the glorious Russian bogatyr, is adequately kept today by I.N. Kramskoy Ostrogozhsky historical and art museum. There are letters, memories of Bakulin’s spouse Maria Platonovna, their children – Larissa, Tatiana and Vladimir, friends and admirers collected.

Timofei Antonovich died quite unexpectedly – in 1936. All his life he didn’t even have a head cold – that’s why he gave no attention to a disease under the popular name “jaundice”. Timofey Antonovich was referred to Botkin Infectious Diseases Hospital in Moscow. However, the medicine could not deal with this jaundice. The giant was 42 years old…

The scientific committee decided to preserve for posterity the skeleton of the tallest, most powerful man in Russia. And it was done.

However, Bakulin’s wife Maria Platonovna could not understand this decision. She managed to see Comrade Kalinin, an All-Union headmaster, and he told her confidentially that “we must accept this fact”. Science, they say, is necessary for the people. The facts in this science are the same as experiences in public life.

Employees of the Ostrogozhsky local history museum devoted a whole section to the Russian bogatyr, the giant Bakulin. Behind the glass, one can see his photos, the very wedding ring of unprecedented size, almost a half-meter-long shoe tree the shoemaker Fedor Sakhnov used to make the boots for the giant …

Adapted from


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