The great photographer Sergei Prokudin-Gorskii took this photo sometime between his journey through the Russian Federation between 1905-1915. Pictured, is the entry way to a covered gallery in the Rostov kremlin. In my opinion, kremlins are some of the most beautiful buildings in Russia, and I think that this picture demonstrates that beauty. Now, if you don’t know what a kremlin is, or understand the significance of a kremlin, good news! I’m going to explain, because I don’t think that one can truly understand the social and economic implications of this without first understanding what a kremlin is (but don’t worry, I won’t get too deep into it, because that it not what this blog is about!).
A kremlin, or кремль, is basically a fortress within a city – and there are currently twenty of them still remaining in Russia today. The most famous of all of the kremlins is the one located in the heart of Moscow, which is where the President conducts political business. In medieval cases (like this Rostov kremlin), kremlins contained cathedrals, palaces, governmental offices, and munition stores; they were usually strategically located along a river, and were separated from the city by walls, moats, towers, ramparts, and battlements. Kremlins have a rich history, and they’re very beautiful as well!
Now that we’ve discussed what kremlins are, let’s take a deeper look at the photo above. This kremlin’s name is Court of the Metropolitan, and it was built in the 1670s and 1680s by Metropolitan Jonah Sysoevich. The metropolitanate was eventually transferred from Rostov to Yaroslavl in 1787, and the kremlin was basically abandoned and left to decay. What I think is interesting, is that during the 18th century Rostov’s status began to decline, and it was eventually demoted as both a regional and religious centre – which goes hand in hand with the events of this kremlin’s metropolitanate moving. It is almost as if the kremlin is symbolic of what was going on with the people and the area.
The 19th century, however, is much brighter. During the 19th century, Rostov was a very important trade centre, and its market was the third largest in Russia. The soil was very fertile, so it was possible to grow vegetables – and those vegetables supplied Moscow and St. Petersburg. Rostov was also the centre for trade in raw materials, namely the textile industries of Ivanovo, Kostroma, Vladimir, and Yaroslavl. The incredible part of this, is that the local merchants actually gathered their funds to maintain the decayed kremlin.
The kremlin opened back as a museum in 1883, called the White Chamber, as a museum of church antiquities. Two years later, Tsar Nicholas, heir to the throne, became the museum’s official patron. What I think is beautiful about this photo, is that it contains so much history in such a small snapshot. When you think about it, the merchants did not have to use their money to try to keep the kremlin maintained. There are so many different ways that money could have been used: it could have been saved, used to buy food and clothes, used to work on their homes, or so many other things.
I think that this says a lot about both the social and economic status at that time. Socially, the people were willing to come together – it was not a time of strife. Which says a lot because one would assume that the merchants would do whatever they could to make the most money (which is even something that could be true today). These people wanted to do good for something that mattered to them. Economically, Rostov went from lost status to booming; the trade and agriculture opportunities there were phenomenal. I think that there is also a parallel here between social and economic status and the kremlin itself – they followed the same pattern. As status was lost in Rostov, the kremlin decayed, as the industries in Rostov boomed, the kremlin blossomed.
What I think is so cool about this photo, is that it gives us one beautiful snapshot in time. It leaves the viewer wondering if the walls could talk, what would they say. It is a feature that has been around for centuries, I’m sure it has stories it has so many stories it could tell.
До следующего раза, (Until next time,)