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Journey into the past: 30 photographs of Russian peasant artisans at work
Journey into the past: 30 photographs of Russian peasant artisans at work
Russian peasants at work

The fates of all peasant families in Russia were very similar. For many years they lived in the same village and did the same job, and they worked hard and hard. The family craft has usually been passed down from generation to generation. In our review of 30 photographs taken at the beginning of the 20th century, which show Russian rural artisans at work.

Weaving bast shoes

Weaving bast shoes

Back in the early 20th century, Russia was often called "bast shoes", emphasizing backwardness and primitivism. Back then, bast shoes were indeed the traditional footwear of the poorest strata of the population. They were woven from different materials, and depending on this, bast shoes were called oak, broom, birch bark or elm. The softest and most durable bast shoes were considered to be linden bast.

The whole Russian village wore bast shoes all year round, except, perhaps, the Cossack regions and Siberia. Even during the Civil War, most of the Red Army wore bast shoes, and the supply of soldiers with bast shoes was entrusted to the extraordinary commission CHEKVALAP.

Shoe repair

Shoemaker. Photo of 1903-1905

For a long time, boots remained a luxury even for wealthy peasants. Even those who had them wore them only on holidays. “For a man, boots are the most seductive item … No other part of a man’s costume enjoys such sympathy as a boot,” wrote DN Mamin-Sibiryak.

At the Nizhny Novgorod fair in 1838, a pair of good bast bast shoes was sold for 3 kopecks, and for the roughest peasant boots you had to pay 5-6 rubles. For a peasant, this was a lot of money. To collect this amount, it was necessary to sell a quarter of rye (about 200 kg).

Making wooden spoons

Making wooden spoons

In the old days, Russian peasants used exclusively wooden dishes. Spoons were especially popular. They were produced both in large manufactories at monasteries (for example, in Sergiev Posad and in Kirillo-Belozersky), and in small households. For many families, subsidiary woodworking trades were the main source of income.

Spoonman with students And more spoonfuls

Painted spoons were especially popular. The glitter of gold and cinnabar was probably associated with regal luxury. But such spoons were used only on holiday. And on weekdays they were content with unpainted spoons. However, they were also very popular goods in the markets. They were delivered to the market in special baskets, which were emptied by buyers in just a few hours.

Weaving baskets for spoons Market wagon train loaded with spoons in baskets

At the beginning of the last century, about 100 million spoons were produced in Semenovsky district alone per year. Lozhkarny products were produced by thousands of peasant handicraftsmen, each of whom had a special specialization: carvers, dyers, lachils (those who varnished dishes).

The demand for spoons has always been high

Toy making

A family making wooden toys

Wooden toys in Russia were called "nursery rhymes", which have their roots in the 9th century. The most popular motifs for toys were soldiers, cows, horses, deer, rams and birds. Russian craftsmen began to make the matryoshka, considered today one of the symbols of Russia, only at the end of the 19th century. Its prototype was the Japanese toy Fukuruma. True, the Russian wooden toy was given a special shape and dressed in a sundress.

Making toys from clay

Making felt boots

Not everyone could afford felt boots at the beginning of the last century, because they were not cheap. They were inherited and worn by seniority.There were not many craftsmen who made felt boots, and the secrets of this craft were passed down from generation to generation. In various regions of Russia, felt boots had their own name: in Siberia they were called “pims”, in the Tver province - “valenoks”, and in Nizhny Novgorod - “combed”.

Workshop for making felt boots

Flax processing

At the beginning of the last century, a special place was occupied by the processing of raw flaxseed. Indeed, at that time, clothes were very often sewn from homespun linen.

Peasant girls with flax

First, the flax stalks had to be pulled out of the ground and tied into sheaves. This usually happened in August. After that, flax was dried until mid-October.

Flax had to be soaked in water

Then it was threshed in threshing floors to collect seeds for the next year, and dried again, this time in special ovens.

And then they beat the flax

The next step - flax was crumpled in special machines, ruffled and combed with special combs. The result is a soft, clean, silky gray fiber.

Needlewomen with ready-made flax

Threads were made from fiber. They could be separated in vats with ash and boiling water, or dyed with the help of plant materials in different colors. At the last stage, the threads were dried in the sun or over the stove at home, hanging on poles. Now everything is ready to start weaving.

Weavers at work


Both girls and women knew how to embroider in Russia. This type of folk art was considered one of the most popular. Towels, tablecloths, bedspreads, wedding and festive clothes, church and royal vestments were decorated with embroidery.

Women embroidering

For their work, embroiderers used a variety of motives, usually natural, endowing them with a special meaning. So, the circle and the rhombus symbolized the sun, and the hooked cross was a wish for good and mutual understanding.

And the girls embroider

Weaving lace

Historians note that no other country has had such a variety of laces as in Russia. For many years, the basis of lace production in Russia was free peasant labor in the estates of landowners. And after the abolition of serfdom, this skill began to decline.

A girl-lacemaker at work

A new impetus for lace production was the founding by the empress in 1883 of the Mariinsky Practical School of Lace Makers. The students of this school even invented a special kind of lace. At the beginning of the 20th century, lace was a way of earning money for peasants, and for the state it was a constant export item.

Instead of school - weaving lace


Girl with a spinning wheel

Weaving in Russia has been one of the foundations of the industry since ancient times. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the production of fabrics in Russia was one of the leading industries along with the meat and dairy industry.

Weaver at work

At the same time, hand weaving did not lose its relevance. This was usually a family affair. There was no woman in the village who could not weave.

The weaver and her work

Linen or wool canvases were woven using a weaving mill, which was kept unassembled. Before starting the production of fabric, the mill was brought into the hut, assembled in detail, and work began.

Printing on fabric


At the beginning of the 20th century in Russia, they were also engaged in weaving belts, both for their own needs and for sale.

Weaving belts

Fishing was popular


and basket weaving.

Family weaving baskets

There were fabric dyeing masters, joiners and potters.

Dyeing fabric in a huge barrel Carpentry workshop Potter at work

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