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Splendour of Russian Wooden Architecture
February 7, 2007 17:59

Old-Russian wooden architecture is the embodiment of beauty and truth of Russian being. Magnificent wooden ensembles of town fortresses with their blessed churches and belfries, peasant farmsteads with numerous household constructions, huts and barns represent the world of bygone Russia.

In olden days the major building materials were wood and clay, since they were in abundance. According to historians, clay bricks became widespread in Old Rus’ from the mid 10th century; as for wood, it was used for building construction from time immemorial. Wooden architecture became the basis of the peculiar style of Russian ancient architecture, which provided optimal combination of beauty and functionality.

Old masters kept special building technologies high. For many centuries the main, and often the only tool of builders was the axe. The saw tears wood-fibers, thus making them open for water. As for the axe, it crushes fibers and so seals the butt-ends. This is why saws were used only in joinery.

The splendour of old building masterpieces can be well observed in special museums, harbouring those wooden rarities, restored and taken care of.


Museums of Wooden Architecture


Malye Karely (Arkhangelsk Region)

  Referring to the history of Russian wooden architecture, the largest and the most peculiar reserve of folk arts and crafts is the Russian North. In Arkhangelsk Region there are more extant wooden buildings, than anywhere else in Russia. When scattered all around, those monuments were hardly reachable and observable. So, in due course part of them was transferred to one of the most famous architectural sites in the village of Malye Karely, which is nearby Arkhangelsk city.

A number of residential areas have been reconstructed in Malye Korely, with all the buildings grouped geographically, so that to create a smaller model of the whole Russian North.

Altogether the museum exposition includes about a hundred civil, public and church constructions, the earliest of them dating back to the 16-17th cc.




Kizhi (an island in Onezhskoe Lake, Karelia)

  Another wooden architecture ensemble unsurpassed in beauty is located in the vicinity of Kizhi village. The Kizhi Reserve is a unique historic place, having no rivals in the European North of Russia, as far as the concentration of the heritage objects is concerned.

Along with architectural monuments kept intact since the moment of their creation or brought from other regions and restored on the museum territory, the Kizhi museum collection highlights the main aspects of traditional culture of aboriginal peoples of Karelia, such as the Karelians, the Veps, and the Russians.




Kostroma (Kostroma Region)

  The old city of Kostroma provides splendid material for studying the major tendencies in ancient wooden architecture. The city is located in the Middle Volga Region, once extremely rich in timber, which determined the building characteristics.

It should be mentioned that till the end of the 17th century building construction of stone was extremely rare in Kostroma – even houses of the richest noblemen and merchants were made of wood. The house of Marfa, the mother of the Russian tsar Mikhail Romanov, was not an exception.

The ancient wooden churches and other monuments of Kostroma’s old architecture can be seen in the museum of wooden architecture and on the territory of the Kostroma Region.




Suzdal’ (Vladimir Region)

  Suzdal’, an ancient Russian town in the Vladimir Region, is outstandingly rich in architectural monuments. Picturesquely and evenly covering the whole territory of the town, they make up an architectural ensemble of rare beauty and integrity. The style created by ancient architects adds to the charms of this old town, the history of which numbers almost in millenniums.

The museum of wooden architecture is located on the bank of Kamenka River in the outskirts of Suzdal’; it is taking the site of the former Dmitryevsky Monastery, dating back to the 11th century.




Vitoslavitsy (Novgorod Region)

  Vitoslavitsy, one of the most interesting Russian museums of folk wooden architecture, is situated on shore of Myachino Lake, nearby Yuriev Monastery, not far from Veliky Novgorod. The reserve museum is named after the village that used to be located here in the 12-17th cc.


Khokhlovka (Perm Region)

  A quaint wooden museum settlement is located on a high picturesque cape washed from three sides by waters of the Kama Reservoir. The museum representing monuments of wooden architecture of the Perm Region of the 17-early 20th cc. is located nearby Khokhlovka village, 45 km away from the city of Perm.


Vasilyovo Estate (Tver Region)

  Vasilyovo Estate is an architecture and art ensemble of the late 18th – early 19th centuries. The estate is located in the Tver Region, on the bank of River Tvertsa approximately 3 or 4 km upstream northward from Torzhok town. Museum of Wooden Architecture is based in the estate. Masterpieces of Russian wooden architecture of the 18th-early 19th centuries were shifted there from different corners of the Tver Region. The museum exposition numbers about twenty monuments of Russian wooden architecture.



Ulan-Ude Ethnographic Museum (Ulan-Ude

The Ethnographic Museum of Transbaikalia Peoples is situated in Verkhnyaya Beryozovka Settlement, at the distance of 8 km from Ulan-Ude. The open-air museum reserve occupies the area of 37 hectares and presents more than 40 architectural monuments. Over 11 thousand exhibits are kept in the museum collections.


Taltsy Museum (Irkutsk Region)

Taltsy Museum is located 20 kilometers to the north of Lake Baikal on the bank of River Angara and 47 kilometers to the south of Irkutsk. The museum area makes 67 hectares. The museum collection is based on wooden constructions of small towns and the villages of the Irkutsk Region which turned to be in the flooding zone during the construction of the cascade of a hydropower plant on Angara in the second half of the 20th century. Now the museum harbours over 40 monuments of architecture and more than 8000 exhibits telling about the way of life in Siberian villages of the 17-19th centuries.


Ludorvai (Udmurtia)

Ludorvai is a village and an architectural and ethnographic museum estate located in Zavyalovsky District of Udmurtiya.

Village Ludorvai stands 12 km to the southwest of the center of Izhevsk. Its 21 monuments of architecture are spread over the display area of 691 sq.m. The collection of museum funds made 2177 exhibits in 2006.





Vera Ivanova and Mikhail Manykin


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