‘Russian North’: The Traditions of Ancient Russia Presented in Moscow

NTD Staff
By NTD Staff
February 14, 2019Arts and Cultureshare

The exhibition “Russian North” in Moscow’s State Historical Museum, introduces the culture of a unique region, preserving the life and traditions of Ancient Russia.

The “Russian North” remained free of Tatar-Mongol influence and serfdom which were the lowest social class of the feudal society and developed numerous folk handicrafts that are nearly extinct today.

People living here proudly preserved the culture and dress of Ancient Russia, and their art developed in close connection with the beliefs of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Ancient Russia's bone carvings
Kholmogory is a unique bone carving art that spurred a trade boom during the 18th century. Exhibited in Moscow’s State Historical Museum, the life and traditions of Ancient Russia. (State Historical Museum)

Those were the times before Peter the Great upheaved Russian traditions and medieval social systems with European modernizations stemming from the Enlightenment.

Kholmogory is a unique bone carving art that spurred a trade boom during the 18th century.

An iconic piece, carved from mammoth and walrus tusk with colored engravings, and mounted on wood and velvet, was created in the 1780s and displayed at the exhibition.

Ancient Russia's Kholmogory
Kholmogory is a unique bone carving art that spurred a trade boom during the 18th century. Exhibited in Moscow’s State Historical Museum, the life and traditions of Ancient Russia. (State Historical Museum)

“This icon has an inscription in Latin. It was made for sale specifically for European merchants who came to Arkhangelsk and Kholmogory,” said Lyudmila Savchenkova the curator of the exhibition. “The British and the Germans went there through the Northern routes to trade.”

At the time, the most precious part of a woman’s wardrobe was the wedding crown.

During the 18th century, women wore crowns made with chipped nacre, silk ribbons, and pearls mined in the rivers of the Russian North.

Ancient Russia's wedding crown
During the 18th century, women wore crowns made with chipped nacre, silk ribbons, and pearls mined in the rivers of the Russian North. Exhibited in Moscow’s State Historical Museum, the life and traditions of Ancient Russia. (State Historical Museum)

Now it’s no longer made.

“They Drilled holes, strung, made such amazingly beautiful things,” said Savchenkova. “We must understand that this is from the early 18th century to the 19th century. This painstaking work was done in the daytime and in the evenings with dim candles”

The roofs of their houses were sculpted like a wooden horse.

Ancient Russia's house roofs were sculpted like a wooden horse
The roofs of Russian North’s houses were sculpted like a wooden horse. Exhibited in Moscow’s State Historical Museum, the life and traditions of Ancient Russia. (State Historical Museum)

Inside, the interior was richly decorated with paintings. Furniture was dotted with artwork portraying everyday life from that time.

Famous Russian painters were inspired by this ancient art and created the Neo-Russian style which amazed Europe at the beginning of the 20th century.

Ancient Russia's Decorations on Furniture
The interior was richly decorated with paintings. Furniture was dotted with artwork portraying everyday life from that time. Exhibited in Moscow’s State Historical Museum, the life and traditions of Ancient Russia. (State Historical Museum)

“You can see mica windows, under them three girls sit with the spinning wheels. Girls on gatherings. Here is the carriage which is the famous Russian troika. Everything is surrounded by the famous ancient herbal ornament,” said Savchenkova.

This exhibition runs until mid-May.

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