Hello everyone. This is Irina and in my first blog I wanted to write something really short about how Russian history and culture are linked to Russian gifts. Russian culture and history are gigantic topics so I’m just going to summarize a few noteworthy points for anyone interested is reading this small blog.
Vasiliy Surikov, "Yermak's Conquest of Siberia" 1895. Images are in the public domain.
Russian culture, history, art, and Russian gifts are all inextricably linked. Russian culture has been shaped by more than 1100 years of tumultuous incredible history. In spite of shifting borders and wars against ancient Viking tribes, or continuous fighting with the “Golden Hordes” from the East, & wars against the Tartars, Ottomans, and the Pechengs in the South, the Russian people have remained together as a distinctive and unique people. And with every ancient war, Russia and the Russian people have been continuously exposed to remarkable cultures, new religions and vastly different people. The Russians have won nearly all of their fights over the past 1100 years, and as the saying goes, “to the victor go the spoils.” And all of the Russian leaders (from Vladimir the Blessed, or “Saint Vladimir”, to the modern Russian leaders) have demanded tributes paid to the Russian leadership in exchange for economic cooperation and peaceful political alliances. The cultural exchanges and required tribute payments expanded Russian wealth and land, but these exchanges also dramatically expanded Russian cultural awareness, art, language, religions, architecture and literature. In addition, often foreign governments chose to pay required annual tributes to Russian leaders in the form of ornate gifts. After all, during feudal times it was difficult to pay tributes in gold or precious stones so ornate gifts were often the best option for payment, versus conceding land or territory.
Ilya Repin (Barge Haulers on the Volga), 1873.
So, over the past thousand years, Russian people have progressively developed more sophisticated craftsmanship skills, (painting, gold work, religious iconography, religious architecture and many other areas). Additionally, Russia is made up of hundreds of different peoples, but still the people remained unified by their land, culture and language. What that means today is that we can walk the same streets and visit the same cities of nearly all of the famous Russian folk heroes. The Russian people living in and around the ancient cities of Vladimir, Pskov, Moscow, Saint Petersburg, and many others carry on traditional Russian craft making. The artisans in these cities devote their entire lives to their specific skills, such as miniature lacquer box painting (Fedoskino, Palekh, Kholui, or Mstera) often specializing in only one single style for their entire life or career. Other artisans “tell” famous Russian tales by illustrating the Russian stories on large 7, 10 or 15 piece nesting dolls. You can see many aspects of Russian culture in nearly all of the Russian gifts we feature. Moreover, the gift selections we offer are handpicked and obtained from some of the best modern Russian artists and artisans in Russia’s famous and historic cultural cities and towns.
Thankfully today Russia is well known for its art and culture. As Russia moves out of its soviet tribulation and into the 21st century, Russian art and culture are expanding worldwide. I hope you enjoy this short article and the photos I’ve included! I’ll write again sometime soon.