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					MUSEUMS & COLLECTIONS                                                                                                                                                                     Colorful and richly ornamented
                                   A good dress is a card of invitation;
                                                                                                                                                                                          craft tools like this spinning wheel,
                                   Fine dress helps to impress…
                                                                                                                                                                                          distaff, and machine for making belts
                                   It is no problem to find evidence
                                                                                                                                                                                          brought a bit of festivity in the routine
                                   supporting this proverb. Clothes can tell
                                                                                                                                                                                          of Siberian peasants
                                   a lot about their master: for example, his
                                   or her level of income, tastes and habits,
                                   education and views…
                                   If our modern dress is so telling, the more
                                   so is traditional costume whose every
                                   detail has been sifted through the ages.
                                   Simple or intricate, folk costume is the
                                   essence of both material and spiritual
                                   life of many generations. Its language,
                                   however, is only understandable
                                   to a historian and ethnographer…
                                   This publication about the costume
                                   of Siberian Old Believers is the first
                                   in the series of articles dedicated
                                   to the ethnographic exhibits of the
                                   Museum of History and Culture of
                                   Peoples Inhabiting Siberia and Russian
                                   Far East with the Institute of Archaeology
                                   and Ethnography, Siberian Branch of the
                                   Russian Academy of Sciences.
                                   The core of the Museum’s rich
                                   ethnographic exhibits is collections made
                                   in compact communities of indigenous
                                   nationalities and Russian settlers on the
                                   initiative of Academician A. P. Okladnikov
                                   in the 1960s—1980s

                        Doctor of History Elena F. FURSOVA is a leading researcher             y the beginning of the 20th century Russian                 they were exiled by Katherine II to a designated area in
                        of the Ethnography Department, Institute of Archaeology and            population of West Siberia varied a lot in terms of         the Southern Altai, where they came to be called “Poles”
                        Ethnography, Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy                    origin and culture.                                         by their former place of residence. Another group of old-
                        of Sciences (SB RAS), Novosibirsk.
                                                                                                  Among the Siberians descending from the first            believers settled in Zabaikalie (Trans-Baikal region) and
                        She has authored and co-authored over 170 papers
                                                                                        settlers of the 17th to the first half of the 19th century         was referred to as Semeiskiye (“Family people”) because
                        The photo shows the author wearing the festive dress of
                                                                                        the most wide-spread ethnographic group were Chaldons,             of their reported way of settling by families (Bolonev,
                        Semeiskiye (Siberian Old Believers), Zabaikalie                 who had no memory of the localities they had come from.            1992).                                                             93
                        (Trans-Baikal region), 1977.                                    Nevertheless, these well-to-do old residents associated              These specific features of ethnic and cultural composition
                                                                                        themselves with the Don Cossacks and Siberia’s first               of Russian Siberians did not fail to influence their material
                                                                                        conqueror Ermak.                                                   culture, which in the 19th and early 20th c. was a unique
                                                                                          Old Believers occupied a special place among Russian             blend, or coexistence, of various Central European regional
                                                                                        Siberians – these included latest settlers of the early 20th c.,   traditions.
                                                                                        mainly coming from the Urals and Volga (Dvoyedany,                   A clear demonstration of this fact is ethnic costume, a true
                                                                                        Kurgany), and old settlers (Kerzhaki, Poliaki, Semeiskiye).        center of people’s artistic taste and their spiritual, religious
                                                                                          The Altai “Poles” (Poliaki) were descendants of Russian          and mental principles. We will support this statement by
                        The artifacts of peasants’ everyday life for the ethnographic
                        exhibit devoted to the Russian population of Siberia were       Old Believers who, in the late 17th and early 18th c.,             the example of folk costume of Siberian Old Believers, the
                        collected by F. F. Bolonev, L. M. Rusakova, E. I. Degracheva-   escaped religious persecution from various areas in Russia         Poliaki and Semeiskiye.
                        Skop, N. P. Zolnikova, and E. F. Fursova                        to lands that at that time made part of Poland. In the 1760s

       An original part of the male costume of Poliaki was ritual      Decorative red cotton braids of Poliaki’s ritual shirts
     (wedding) linen shirt. Their tunic cut became archaic           fulfill a specific artistic task: they bring out the shape and
     as early as in the 19th century. Shirts of this kind were       cut so that the shirt’s abundant ornaments are not perceived
     worn with trousers of the general Russian cut made from         chaotically. What is of interest, however, is when and how
     rectangular or trapezium-shaped cloths, tied round the          these outstanding decorative elements appeared in the
     waist with tasseled woven belts.                                Russian dress.
       The main feature of this shirt is a composition of the rich     It should be noted that by the 19th c. the tradition of
     decorative embroidery on the left side of the front, whose      sewing decorative braids over the seams had been preserved
     elements make up a cross-like figure, as well as two vertical   only for some kinds of Russian women’s clothes (Kouftin,
     red cotton braids sewn along the seams keeping the central      1926). Also, in southern Russian provinces seams of men’s
     and side linens together. The braids were decorated with        festive shirts still used to be decorated with embroidery
     “meanders” (patterns of continuously repeated twisted           and red cotton but on the whole their role in decorative
     spirals), squares embroidered in blue and white thread,         design was modest.
     contrastive to the red cotton. Along the two sides of the         As for the earlier time, the restored shirts of Russian
     braids geometrical ornaments were embroidered, which            aristocracy (16th and early 17th cc.) kept in the Archangel
     organically included the braids into the composition.           cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin and in the State History

                                                                                                                                      Museum have seams decorated with braids and bands,               In the old times, a white tunic with vertical red cotton
                                                                                                                                      though these are much more narrow than the red cotton            braids used to be worn by Western European upper
                                                                                                                                      braids ornamenting the shirts of Siberian old residents          clergy and aristocracy.
                                                                                                                                      (Коshliakova, 1986). Besides, their shirt-fronts had no          On the left is a Saint reliquary. A fragment of a fresco in
                                                                                                                                      rich patterns.                                                   a 3rd- century synagogue. Diggings of the town of Dura-
                                                                                                                                                                                                       Europos (modern Syria). From: (Schlumberger, 1985).
                                                                                                                                        And if we go another century back? Ancient Russian
                                                                                                                                                                                                       On the right is the Mother of God with baby Jesus.
                                                                                                                                      manuscripts such as the 15th-century Radzivill manuscript        A drawing of a fragment of a 4th-century fresco.
                                                                                                                                      contain depictions of clergy from Chernigov wearing              From the book (History of Ancient Rome, 1982)
     A men’s ritual shirt of Poliaki Old                                                                                              ankle-long tunics decorated with contrasting trimmings
     Believers from the Museum of                                                                                                     around the collar, sides of the hem and sleeves. All these
     the Institute of Archaeology and                                                                                                 garments have two vertical braids going from the shoulders       Western Europe (Yastrebitskaya, 1978). The embroidery
     Ethnography SB RAS is dated by the
                                                                                                                                      to the lower hem. The “manuscript” shirts, however,              round the collar was divided in several columns, similarly
     second half of the 19th c. (the town
                                                                                                                                      are considerably longer than the Old Believers’ shirts,          to that of the Old Believers’ shirts. Garments with braids
     of Maloubinka, Glubokovsky region,
     Eastern Kazakhstan oblast, which                                                                                                 have round epaulets and no front embroidery (Rybakov,            can be found on the 2nd- to 4th-century Roman frescos
     historically was part of the Southern                                                                                            1976).                                                           showing Mother of God, on the cult portraits from the
     Altai)                                                                                                                             By the 8th and 9th c., a strong iconographic tradition         Roman province of El Fayum, on the statues and frescos
                                                                                                                                      had been established in the Orthodox Church. As for the          in Parfia, and on samples of Coptic clothes (Kibalova et
                                                                                                                                      costume of Christ and saints, it had to be a white tunic with    al. 1986; History of Ancient Rome, 1982; Schlumberger,
                                                                                                                                      two vertical braids and red and blue meander ornaments.          1985).
94                                                                                                                                    Similar garments can be seen in the Byzantine and, later,           Evidently, it was Roman influence that made these          95
                                                                                                                                      Old Russian icons. It was this costume approved by the           garments spread both in Byzantine and Western Europe.
                                                                                                                                      resolutions of the Byzantine Councils that the Orthodox          Originally, tunics with narrow purple braids had
                                                                                                                                      clergy wore since the 6th c. (Komissarzhevskiy, 1910;            distinguished the noble knight estate - braids of senators’
                                                                                                                                      Kibalova et al., 1986). Supporting this fact are, for example,   tunics were broader. Some time later the tunics became a
                                                                                                                                      depictions on the well-known mosaic in the church of St.         Christian cult attribute.
                                                                                                                                      Vitalius, in Italian Ravenna, which used to be the western          So such is the long story told by two red cotton braids
                                                                                                                                      capital of the Byzantine Empire.                                 from the shirts of Siberian Old Believers. Understandably,
                                                                                                                                        Let us now fix our eyes on the West. We will see that back     the tradition to highlight seams with decorative braids
                                                                                                                                      in annalistic times tunics with vertical braids were common      and to trim collars with cross-like embroidery came to
                                                                                                                                      for clergy garments and clothes of upper aristocracy of          Russia when it adopted the Greek-Byzantine version of

                                                                                                                                                                                  The main piece of the Trans-Baikal
                                                                                                                                                                                  Semeiskiye’s women’s festive
                                                                                                                                                                                  clothes was a typical Russian
                                                                                                                                                                                  pinafore dress

                                                                      The embroidery design on the Siberian Old Believer’s               Straight pinafore dresses with
                                                                      ritual shirt has symbols from both Christianity (a cross)        shoulder straps were characteristic
                                                                      and paganism (overlapping squares meaning fertility).            of central Russia. They spared no
                                                                      Russian museums (in St Petersburg, Omsk, and Barnaul)            fabric to make a dress: the front
                                                                      keep only about ten men’s shirts of Siberian Poliaki dated       part was made from two linens, and
                                                                      the second half of the 19th c.
                                                                                                                                       the back part from four. All in all, it
                                                                                                                                       took six meters of fabric to make a
                                                                                                                                       pinafore dress! The front lower hem
                                                                                                                                       was decorated with braids. Older
                                                                                                                                       and aged women did not use to wear
                                                                                                                                       braids as this was considered sinful
                                                                                                                                       and immodest: after a certain age, this
                                                                                                                                       ornament was unpicked.
                                                                                                                                         Round the waist, pinafore dresses
                                                                                                                                       were tied with a belt woven from
                                                                        The visiting card of a sort of another Old Believers’          purchased Berlin wool, silk, or cotton.
                                                                      ethnographic group – the Semeiskiye from the Trans-Baikal        In the 1970s peasant families still kept
                                                                      region – is the surprisingly smart and colorful women’s          a variety of hand-made woven belts,
                                                                      festive clothes. Their function is underlined by the choice      and elderly women weavers agreed
                                                                      of material (light silk fabrics), a smart shawl, and abundant    readily to demonstrate their skills.
                                                                      decorations: amber bead-necklace, tinsel, and headgear             By tradition, the pinafore dress was
                                                                      embroidered in golden thread.                                    worn under a zapon (an apron), which
     Christianity. These clothes met the aesthetic requirements         The women’s shirts of the Semeiskiye had a cut common          was always made with a bodice. In
     of the feudal world and reflected the well-spread principle      for all the Slavs, with pleated rectangular insets on the        the old time, when pinafore dresses
     of conforming with the image of a “true” Christian both          shoulders and the body consisting of the upper and lower         were long, zapon’s were also long.
     internally and externally. It is not by chance they were         parts (chekhlik and stanushka, respectively). The upper          “My mother used to wear a zapon that
     preserved by Siberians coming from the Chernigov, Briansk,       part was made from expensive purchased fabrics like silk         covered the ichigi (kind of home-made
     and Gomel provinces, which used to be a true “reserve” of        Persian fabric, velvet, or Chinese satin; while the lower        shoes)”, an inhabitant of the town of
     traditional Eastern European culture.                            part was made from cheap fabrics like cotton, printed            Bichura recollected.
96     Testifying to how persevering these traditions have            cotton, or fustian. The shoulder insets of festive shirts were     Maids used to wear one plait whilst
     proved to be is another interesting fact: alongside the          decorated with applications of multi-color fabric braids and     married women wore two plaits
     clear Christian attributes, Old Believers’ shirts carry much     ornamental seams. According to residents of the town of          crossed at the crown and then covered
     more ancient symbols. The front cross-shaped embroidery          Bichura, ancient chakhlatki shirts had sleeves two linens        with a kichka (headgear) whose
     consists of overlapping squares with crooks or without           wide, with cuffs. The stand-up collar was turned down, and       hoof-shaped front part was rigid.
     them, and these are typical pagan elements, normally             the collar was fastened with brooch-links.                       On top of the kichka they put a case
     interpreted as signs of fertility. Confirming this are samples     They used to put on light cotton skirts over the shirts to     embroidered in golden thread, a
     of embroidery found on Poliaki’s shirts, supplemented with       make the hips seem broader; winter skirts were made from         kokoshnik. The back of the hair was
     ears of wheat. Such combination of Christian and pagan           woolen cloth. “It’s more fluffy this way”, the Semeiskiye        covered with a rectangular stripe of
     semantics was typical of the Old Russian costume of the          explained to ethnographers during the expedition of              fabric embroidered with gimp and
     12th and early 13th centuries (Rybakov, 1981).                   1977.                                                            beads. On top of this complicated

                                                                      Treasures from a trunk: a velvet “hindhead” embroidered
                                                                      in beads and silk kokoshnik’s embroidered in golden
                                                                      thread that used to decorate the heads of Semeiskiye
                                                                      fashion mongers. And such embroidered towels served
                                                                      to frame icons in the so-called “red corner” (“best place”)                                                                           In the Old Believers’ homes picturesque craft products
                                                                      opposite the front door                                                                                                               such as these birch bark boxes peacefully coexisted
                                                                                                                                                                                                            with things made industrially (for instance, a samovar
                                                                                                                                                                                                            and coal-heated iron), also decorated according
     headgear they made a turban from a rolled satin shawl,                    oday, an important source of various ethnographic          The Russians brought to Siberia their primordial trades:          to the then fashion
     which was decorated with flower bunches, brooches and                     data is clothes preserved in museums.                      husbandry together with domestic cattle breeding and
     kucheri (drake feathers). According to the story told by                    Thus, exhibits of the Institute of Archaeology           poultry industry. Processing raw materials developed into
     an aged resident of the town of Bolshoi Kunalei, as late as               and Ethnography SB RAS representing costumes               trades: tanning, sheepskin coat making, production of wool
     at the beginning of the last century old people prohibited       of two Old Believers’ branches relocated to the Altai and           and felt boots, weaving, timber trade, etc.
     local fashion-mongers from wearing brooches and pins,            Trans-Baikal region have given us the opportunity to                Products of women’s craft work, weaving, and household
     considering the habit sinful.                                    track the relation between the two groups, the Poliaki and          things were often not just handy–they were real works of
       On holiday they used to put on amber bead-necklaces,           Semeiskiye, as well as their connection to the population           applied and decorative arts. For instance, beliefs related
     which were valued highly and handed down from mothers            of the localities in Belarus and Ukraine they have come             to birds transformed into artistic depictions that proved to
     to daughters. We were shown necklaces purchased in the           from.                                                               be extremely tenacious not only in folklore but also in the
     Russian North that had been kept in the families for five          Traditional costume, however, can not only be found               ornamentation of women’s crafts products and designs
     or seven generations.                                            among museum exhibits. Picturesque clothes of Siberian              for distaffs. Chiseled shapes, excellent proportions, and
       These women’s clothes of the Semeiskiye, descendants           Old Believers have become a sort of benchmark in folk dress         pleasant colorful ornaments created a festive mood in
     of settlers who came from the western territories of the         for folk groups, singers of folk songs, and fans of relics of the   peasants’ homes.
     Russian Empire, have formed as a result of intricate             past – thus leading a new life in urban surroundings.
     interaction of various regional variants of Slav folk dress.
     The typical northern Russian base (the pinafore dress)
     was transformed under the Byelorussian and western
     Russian influence. The latter showed itself in the names           References
     of the clothes’ articles (for example, chekhlik, brooch-link),     Bolonev F. F. Semeiskiye: Historical and Ethnographic
     complicated way of tying shawls in the shape of a crown          Essays.– Ulan-Ude, 1992.
98   (typical of the Slutsk region of Central Byelorus), turned-        Kibalova L., Gerbenova О., Lamarova M. Illustrated
     down stand-up collar, bright and colorful trimmings, which       Encyclopedia of Fashion.–Prague, 1986.
     were not typical of the Russian costume.                           Komissarzhevskiy F. F. Costume.–St Petersburg, 1910.
       As a result, quite an original tradition of festive women’s      Mertsalova М. N. Costumes of Different Times and Peoples.–
     costume came into being, which lasted practically without        Moscow,1993.–V. 1.
     change till the mid-20th century. As late as the 1970s many        Russian Folk Costume.–Leningrad, 1984.
     women still kept in their trunks authentic Semeiskiye              Shvetsova М. V. Poliaks of Zmeinogorsky okrug // Notes of the
     dresses, one of which the author of this article was honored     West Siberian Department of the Russian Geographic Society.
                                                                                                                                          The editors and author are grateful to Candidate of History
     to wear.                                                         1899. Book 26.
                                                                                                                                          I. V. Salnikova, head of the Museum and Source Studies Section
                                                                                                                                          of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography SB RAS, for her
                                                                                                                                          help with preparation of the present publication

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