Libmonster ID: BY-404
Author(s) of the publication: Valery PERKHAVKO

by Valery PERKHAVKO, Cand. Sc. (Hist.), Deputy Editor-in-Chief, Teaching History at School journal

In the first half of the 17th century, after expulsion of the Polish and Swedish invaders, the uplift of culture characterized by development of secular, temporal, democratic elements in all its spheres and weakening of connection with the Church began in Russia together with prosperity of mechanical arts and trade. It was not so much landed gentry (who at that time did not have enough funds and time since they had to serve in the army) that made an important contribution to this process as rich representatives of the merchant class. The attitude of these people who firmly stood on the earth was reflected in creative work of national architects, painters, writers: inceptive interest in human being, his everyday demands and social realm defined strengthening of realistic motives in art.

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The highest category of merchants the forming of which in our country dates back to the 16th century were guests. Usually the czar granted such a rank to those who rendered services to the state: sales of state goods abroad, purchase of goods, raw materials, products for the needs of authorities, organization of coinage, customs and public service, management of czar's factories, trades, etc. The number of members of the privileged stratum was small. For example, only 21 people attended Zemsky Council in 1598. Unlike other tradespeople (merchants, craftsmen who lived in towns and possads - settlements of town kind), they were free from a number of duties, often had estates though they were not entitled to purchase peasants. At the same time they were charged with a great deal of burdensome duties: they collected taxes from population, made special contributions to treasury, etc. The guest sotnia, the second by gentility category of entrepreneurs of which prosperous members of possad communities and peasants by state and monastery origin formed part, served as the main "source" of replenishment of this particular corporation.

People belonging to merchants' beau-monde differed from their less successful brothers by a way of life: they used to be at gala dinners at patriarch's, maintained close connections with the boyars, departmental bureaucracy. However, the main thing is that socializing with foreign colleagues who arrived in our country and going outside it, they knew international state of the market, political situation, customs and, at least minimally languages of other peoples. Therefore, naturally, their range of interests was much wider and ideas about outward things were more various than the ones of small merchants, craftsmen who never left their hearth and home.

One of the most characteristic features of national culture of the 17th century was mass erection of stony mansions, including against orders of well-to-do merchants who strove not to fall behind the feudal elite in luxury. Their high and spacious mansions, undoubtedly, looked majestic against the background of wooden buildings which prevailed in towns then. For example, here is an impression that the house of Grigory Nikitnikov made on archdeacon Pavel of Aleppo who came from Syria: "In Moscow we saw a luxurious dwelling of this merchant which is broader than the chambers of ministers. He built a wonderful church the like of which we didn't see even at the czar's premises."

He talked of the masterpiece of the Old Russian architecture-the most beautiful five-domed temple of the Life-giving Trinity in Nikitniki (1631 - 1634) which is well-preserved up to date. It was constructed of brick, decorated in a workmanlike manner with polychromatic glazed tiles and white-stone carving in whose peculiarities one can feel an experienced hand of the experts who decorated the czar's Tower

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Palace in the Moscow Kremlin (1635 - 1636). A hip roof bell tower was included in the church asymmetric composition for the first time in the practice of capital religious architecture. The podklet was traditionally used for storing goods, while the south side-altar of Nikita-Voin (soldier) became the Nikitnikovs' family table-tomb. By the middle of the 1650s, already after death of the head of family, his grandchildren finished internal decoration of the building; something was completed by his grandson on the daughter's side Ivan Bulgakov, the only successor of the family business in the 1660s-1670s.

The most known icon-painters of that time, including losiph Vladimirov, Yakov Kazanets, Gavriil Kondratiyev, Simon Ushakov (whose stone mansion is located nearby) painted icons for the temple. Among them there are wonderful samples of the Old Russian baroque: the Trinity, the Annunciation with Acathistus, where people, plants, massifs, sea waves, buildings, clouds got fanciful ornamental shapes, while folds of drapery, ear-locks are shown with bizarre curls. The faces of the consecrators in the second tier of the iconostasis to whom Ushakov, ready to break with the traditional manner of painting, tried to give round plastic forms, living human features, deeply contrast with these icons.

The famous painter made one of his more outstanding works "Planting the Tree of the Russian State" for the Trinity church in Nikitniki. The icon shows Ivan I Kalita (1325 - 1340), who put together the Russian lands, and the first Moscow metropolitan Petr (1308 - 1326), who water and guard a magnificent tree burdened with rich fruit presenting grand princes and other outstanding men of the country. Another peculiarity of this church is the fact that the painters who painted the walls, for the first time in Russia, appealed in their creative search to engravings from the Piscator Bible*, which was issued then, having remade them in compliance with their own aims. One can also see the Nikitnikovs' group portrait on one of the frescos.

In the middle of the 17th century, by order of the czar's clerk Averky Kirillov, a merchant by origin, a house and temple of St. Nicholas the Miracle-Worker (1656 - 1657) were built of jumbo brick on the Moskva River embankment which is now called Bersenevskaya. They are there until now. Here is an impression which a new house and its owner made in 1665 on the Dutch embassy member Nicholaas Vitsen: "A large and magnificent stony hall with the upper part made of wood. In the yard he has his own church and bell tower, richly decorated, a nice yard and garden. Furniture in the house is as good, there are German ornamented windows (stained-

* Nicolas Johannes Piscator (Claus Vischer) is a Dutch publisher and engraver who issued the "Face Bible" in 1650 with incisive engravings after pictures of the Dutch painters. - Ed.

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glass windows)..., beautiful chairs and tables, pictures, carpets, cupboards, silver goods, etc. He entertained us to different beverages, as well as cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, nuts and transparent apples. All this was served on beautiful carved silver, very clean. There was no lack of carved cups and stoups. All his servants were dressed in uniforms, which wasn't customary even with the czar. He entertained us very kindly, spoke about the comet, which had appeared recently; the Russian talk about this wrongly. He showed us a fortune-telling book translated into Russian as if there were true forecasts in it and asked my opinion about this". In a word, not only well-to-do but also well-educated for his time, cultured man received the foreign visitor.

The distinguished provincial merchants didn't lag behind the metropolitan ones. Several notable mansions were built in Pskov*, the most famous of which is Pogankiny Palaty (chambers) which were erected in the 1620s-1630s. These very constructions (many of them are preserved up to date) defined the nature of civil architecture of a town at that time: the first two floors, as a rule, were stony, the third one-wooden, and an indispensable "gay hall"-the main chamber to receive guests.

Often rich possad mansions were divided into male and female sides with two separate inner entrance halls and had a Г-shape, and usually there was a "red" (beautiful) porch in the corner. By the end of the 17th century less complicated planning was spread. For example, Korobov's smartly decorated two-floor mansion in Kaluga (now the Regional Museum of Local Lore, History and Economy is located there), there are similar mansions in the town of Gorokhovets near Vladimir and in Cheboksary. "Noble people and richest merchants live in stony mansions which they started to build thirty years ago", wrote Croatian scientist and thinker Yuri Krizhanich (about 1618 - 1683), who was in our country at that time.

Practically, historians have no information about a merchant way of life at their disposal. Therefore, the will of Gavrila Fetiyev who conducted large merchandise transactions in Vologda** and far outside it is of great value. According to the last will and testament of the noble guest who died in 1683, 12 silver stoups and 4 wall candlesticks which had served him were given to boyar Golitsyn, while "a silver salt-cellar, parrot and canary" - to guest Voronin. In the local museum there is a portrait of the merchant painted in oil on canvas-maybe, it is the earliest pictorial portrait of a representative of the Russian merchant class.

The richest merchants built stony religious constructions not only in their estates. In Moscow as early as the beginning

See: V. Darkevich, "Pskov Castle", Science in Russia, No. 5, 1996. - Ed.

** See: V. Darkevich, "In the Heart of the Russian North", Science in Russia, No. 4, 1998. - Ed.

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of the 17th century by order of Foma Bulgakov the Resurrection of Christ temple was built in craft and trade possad Kitay-gorod, and the Nicholas Big Cross church, one of the best monuments of Moscow baroque, was built in the 1680s with the funds of the Filatyevs, natives of Arkhangelsk. This new for its time architectural trend organically combined the Russian and Ukrainian building techniques, features of the West-European order system*. Moreover, it was noted for exceptional splendour. Elegant white-stone carved platbands, door portals, numerous crests beautifully matched the red background of walls and gilt domes. And the magnificent seven-tiered iconostasis of the church which now decorates the refectory of Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Monastery in Sergiyev Possad town near Moscow shows carvers' masterly craft.

Churches in Nizhni Novgorod**, Kostroma, Veliky Ustyug and other cities were built with merchants' funds. It is interesting that many of them often reminded of the Moscow Kremlin constructions. However, the best architects did not copy but arranged their main forms and decorations in different ways, creating original compositions full of a bizarre and living play.

The possad architecture of Yaroslavl*** of the 17th century, noted for peculiar democratism upon which, undoubtedly, the influence of customers-merchants told, deserves a separate story. For instance, the Prophet Elias church was erected with the funds of brothers Vonifaty and loanniky Skrypin in 1650. It became a table-tomb of this rich family and wonderful cultural monument for offspring. Fifteen masters, including Gury Nikitin and Sila Savin, participated in painting of its walls (1680 - 1681); their painting is remarkable for luxuriant imagination, decorative colors and interest in realities of life. It was the end of the 17th century that became a turning point for the fine arts to outward things and their beauty. Thus, the scene "Life of Prophet Eliseus" demonstrates summer field works: well-dressed people of athletic build in Russian shirts reap rich crop and sheave. Nearby there is the "Labor of Ancestors": herds are tended in luxuriant flowering valleys and mountains, and the "Epiphany of the Angel to Agar" shows us green meadows and playing boys. Moreover, among the plots of frescos there are the ones which are very rare for that time: terrestrial globe, meridians and equator; in addition, the influence of the engravings from the above-mentioned Piscator's Bible are noticeable.

In the Russian culture development in the period under consideration many things relate to natives of pomor

* Order system is a structure and decorative finishing of supporting and portate parts of post-and-beam structure. - Ed.

** See: V. Darkevich, "At the Junction of Great Rivers", Science in Russia, No. 2, 1998. - Ed.

*** See: V. Darkevich, "Glorious Yaroslavl Town", Science in Russia, No. 2, 1998. - Ed.

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(coast-dweller) peasants who were known from the 16th century, the largest merchants and manufacturers Stroganovs who built a lot of stony religious and secular constructions. Apparently, at the end of the 16th-beginning of the 17th century the so-called Stroganov artistic school was formed-Prokopy Chirin, Istoma, Nikifor and Nazary Savin, Yemelyan Moskvitin - out of the painters who took shelter in their estates at the time of destruction of Moscow-Polish-Swedish intervention. As it developed, the icons of these icon-painters got exclusive filigree work. Thanks to unusual accuracy of the details painted in gold, there appeared masterpieces which now occupy honorable places in the State Tretyakov Gallery.

New trends in the cultural development of the country couldn't help being reflected in the literature of the 17th century. The appearance of works of moral nature which formed an image of a virtuous merchant was a response to time requirement. Nameless writers condemned greediness and covetousness which were often typical of the merchants. The keynote "Keep honor from your youth" addressed to successors of father's business sounds both in the translated "Story about a Merchant" and original "Story about Sawa Grudtsyn" which is not free from the West-European influence either. The latter, which evidently appeared in the possad milieu, describes the adventures of a good-for-nothing merchant's son who broke covenants of the elders and was punished for this. It reached us in 80 manuscript copies of the 17th-18th centuries, which points to its wide popularity. The "Story about Karp Sutulov" praises the character of a smart and adventurous tradeswoman who succeeded not only in keeping marital fidelity and honor but also in getting "profit" from her admirers whom she made fools: her husband's "friends"-a rich guest, priest and archbishop.

It's worth mentioning that at that time some merchants already had good collections of handwritten and printed books, including rather rare ones of the 16th century. Say, the catalogue of the home library of Yaroslavl merchant Yegor Lytkin included the "Small Travel Book" issued in 1522 in Vilno (now it is Vilnius, Lithuania) by Belarussian publisher and enlightener Francisco Skorina. The "Lithuanian Apostle", "Lithuanian Psalter" issued by his printing-office were in the library of Anika Stroganov (1495 - 1570), a founder of the mentioned Stroganovs' family. By the way, the activity of this family's representatives with relation to collection of books was noticeably distinguished against the general background: even in the first half of the 17th century their catalogues listed up to 2,000 works of theological, historical and cognitive content. They even formed a travelling library of 20 - 25 volumes - a companion in endless business trips. Moreover, they made a lot of book contributions to churches.

It is notable that 75 families of merchants purchased production of Moscow Print Yard in the 1630s-1650s (according to the materials of the Department of Book Publishing, Scribe and Customs Record Keeping). There were a lot of

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merchants among the Old Believers* who collected and handed over books, icons from generation to generation.

In the 17th century permanent bookselling was spread in Russia, which we have, without doubt, the merchants to thank for. Among them, however, there were many semiliterate people. But there were also customers of handwritten works, authors of interesting business diaries, experts on foreign languages. For example, Vtorko Leontyev from Kholmogory (Arkhangelsk Province) smartly translated from the Dutch, Koshkin from Novgorod even drew up a phrase-book of Swedish, and guests who carried out diplomatic missions abroad often described their travels. Among such literary texts there are the "Going of Merchant Fedot Kotov to Persia" (1623 - 1624), "Life and Going of Kazan Dweller Vassily Yakovlev Gagara to Jerusalem and Egypt" (1634 - 1637). Kotov narrated about what he had seen on his way, Oriental towns and customs, Georgian, Persian and Turkish calculation, Armenian alphabet the information about which could come in handy for his fellow tradesmen. Yakovlev made not a business trip but pilgrimage to Palestine, Egypt, Sinai via Georgia and narrated about Nile crocodiles, Egyptian pyramids, natural resources of remote regions, the Caucasian Mountains, Georgian towns Titlis (Tbilisi) and Mtskheta.

The possad milieu put forward many remarkable people. For example, the scientist, enlightener and poet Silvestr (Simeon) Medvedev (1641 - 1691), the most probable author of the first Russian bibliographic work "The Table of Contents of Books, Who Compiled Them?", a follower of Belaaissian and Russian public and church figures writer Simeon Polotsky (1629 - 1690), came from it. As an economist and publicist, supporter of the merchants' interests, development of industry and trade, Ivan Pososhkov (1652 - 1726) mentioned later in the "Book about Poverty and Wealth" (1724, issued in 1842), "theczardom is extended by the army but adorned by the merchants".

Undoubtedly, in the 17th century the connection of the Russian culture with religion was strong. It took at least two more centuries to separate these areas of human beings' spiritual life, where new elements were deeply intertwined with the old, patriarchal ones, but the latter could no longer stop the course of history.

* See the article "Small Island of the Ancient Russia" in this issue of journal. - Ed.


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Valery PERKHAVKO, "THE CZARDOM: ENLARGED BY THE HOST, BY MERCHANTS ADORNED" // Minsk: Belarusian Electronic Library (BIBLIOTEKA.BY). Updated: 20.10.2018. URL: (date of access: 18.07.2024).

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