peaks diadem

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It was on the headdress - the kokoshniki, the kikas, povyoniki, the crowns and the diadems - that the most thought was bestowed. The headdress was of greatest importance because by tradition a married woman had to hide her hair from strangers´ eyes. The long plaits of a Russian woman were her pride; the greatest treasure of a Russian maiden was a single, long plait intertwined with ribbons down her back. So important was the Russian plait that it figures over and over again in song and tale; an old wedding song begins “The young man with the black curls sits at the table and asks: Fair Russian plait, it is true that you are really mine at last?” Married women wore a closed cap and maidens a flowered scarf kerchief or a hoop or diadem leaving the top of her head open. The change of hairdo and headdress at a Russian wedding was accompanied by special ritual and lamentations. The single plait was carefully rebraided by the bride´s female relatives and close friends into two braids.

Kokoshniki varied from region to region in a whole variety of picturesque and poetic shapes. They were peaked like diadems or round and high like crowns; sometimes they were crescent-shaped. Each town had its own style and by her kokoshnik one could tell exactly where a maiden came from. The kokoshniki of the north were heavily embroidered with gold and silver threads and river pearls, with a mother-of-pearl network which fell low over the brow. In the central regions, the kokoshniki were high, in Nizhny Novgorod, round, in the form of a crescent. Sometimes long veil of muslin or gauze were attached to them. The headdresses were made of silk in bright colours, in red and rapsberry-coloured velvet, in cloth of gold that was ornamented with pearls, decorative glass, mirrors and foil. In the south, they were peaked with a pearl net descending over the forehead. In Ryazan and Tambov strange-looking kokoshniki with little horns were called “magpies” and had long tails of goose down or many coloured feathers. In the Ukraine, maidens wore crowns of flowers with bright, flowing ribbons. Beautiful and rich, gracefully framing the face and emphasizing soft eyes, these headdresses were in a very real way the crowning glory of Russian women.

Suzanne Massie: Land of the Firebird