russian shawls

Oh, you know, just sitting around in my shawl with all my khokhloma and matryoshki to keep me company on the wooden steps.

As you do.

(My biggest peeve with modern Russian faux folk photography is when they throw everything and the kitchen sink into the shot. Take away the entirely unnecessary props, and it would be a sweet old-fashioned photo of a girl sitting on the steps of her izba or dacha. Here, we have… a girl possibly selling off her belongings for souvenirs.)

Still a pretty photo though.

10

Russian Printed Shawls 

Galina Akimowna Makarovskaya

Sovetskaya Rossiya, Moscow 1986, 181 pages

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From the Collections of the Zagorsk Historical and Art Museum Reserve and the Moscow Shawl-Manufacturing Association, in the Town of Pavlovsky Posad, Moscow Region the history of Russian shawls / kerchiefs from the early 19th century to the 1980’s

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The famous scene from Lev Tolstoy´s War and Peace: Natasha Rostova dancing to an old Russian melody played by her uncle

Natasha’s dance is … an encounter between two entirely different worlds: the European culture of the upper classes and the Russian culture of the peasantery. The war of 1812 was the first moment when the two moved together in a national formation … The complex interaction between these two worlds had a crucial influence on the consciousness and on all the arts in the nineteenth century … but … Russia was too complex, too socially divided, too politically diverse, too ill-defined geographically, and perhaps too big, for a single culture to be passed off as the national heritage. … There was no “authentic” Russian peasant dance of the sort imagined by Tolstoy and, like the melody to which Natasha dances, most of Russia’s “folk” songs had in fact come from the towns. Other elements of the village culture Tolstoy pictured may have come to Russia from the Asiatic steppe - elements that had been imported by the Mongol horsemen who ruled Russia from the thirteenth century to the fifteenth century and then mostly settled down in Russia as tradesmen, pastoralists and agriculturalists. Natasha’s shawl was almost certainly a Persian one; and, although Russian peasant shawls were coming into fashion after 1812, their ornamental motifs were probably derived from oriental shawls. The balalaika was descended from the dombra, a similar guitar of Central Asian origin … which came to Russia in the sixteenth century. The Russian peasant dance tradition was itself derived from oriental forms, in the view of some folklorists in the nineteenth century. The Russians danced in lines or circles rather than in pairs, and the rhytmic movements were performed by the hands and shoulders as well as by the feet, with great importance being placed in female dancing on subtle doll-like gestures and the stillness of the head. Nothing could have been more different from the waltz Natasha danced with Prince Andrei at her first ball, and to mimic all these movements must have felt as strange to her as it no doubt appeared to her peasant audience. But if there is no ancient Russian culture to be excavated from this village scene, if much of any culture is imported from abroad, then there is a sense in which Natasha’s dance is an emblem of the view … [that] there is no quintessential national culture, only mythic images of it.

Orlando Figes: Introduction to Natasha’s Dance - A Cultural History of Russia