GORODETS (Ćīšīäåö in Russian) is a town in
Region of the Nizny Novgorod of Central Russia. It is located
on the left bank of the Volga River in 53 km north of Nizny
Novgorod. Population: 34,000.
Gorodets was founded in the 1170s as a large
fortress on the Volga River. It was a starting point for numerous
campaigns of Vladimir-Suzdal against Volga-Bulgaria. In 1216,
George II of Vladimir was dethroned by his brother and exiled
here. In 1239, the town was burnt to the ground by Batu Han's
army. Folk tradition identifies Gorodets with Little Kitezh,
a legendary town destroyed by the Mongols.
In 1263, Alexander Nevsky, one of the greatest
Russian Military Leader, died in Gorodets on his way back
to Novgorod from the Golden Horde. His son made the town his
chief residence. A famous medieval icon-painter, Prohor, was
born there. In the mid-14th century, the town was overshadowed
by the neighbouring Nizny Novgorod but continued as the third
largest town of Nizhegorod Principality until 1408, when it
was razed it to the ground.
For two following centuries the town was known
as Gorodets Pustoy (i.e., "Gorodets the Empty").
Some chronicles state that its entire population moved slightly
downstream and resettled at Salt-on-Gorodets. By the 19th
century, Gorodets was revived as a prosperous village settled
by Old Belivers merchants and reputed for its decorative gifts
and souvenirs, and also handicrafts such as wood carving and
painting. The artistic heritage of Gorodets never ceases to
amaze people with its splendor and diversity of crafts.
Russian Souvenir Products from Gorodets
Painting on the wood from Gorodets is a famous folk craft
in Russia with one hundred and half year’s history, alive
developing phenomenon of our modern national culture strongly
connected both with the past and the present life of the people.
It started developing in the second half of
the XIXth century in the villages near the town of Gorodets.
Spinning wheels baskets and boxes for the storage of yarn,
children’s chairs and some utensils were decorated whith the
Gorodets spinning wheels were especially popular. A lot of
them was sold at the Nighegorodskaya fair and spread all over
The Gorodets painting peculiarity is that it often has the
plot. The craftsmen loved painting town people, horsemen,
scenes of drinking tea in rich interiors decorated with columns
and clocks, with high windows beautiful curtains and magnificent
stair-cases. The painting technique used in Gorodets was not
complicated. A few rough brush strokes were enough to slap
color blotches on the wood; later those stains were worked
into flowers and figures. When both the ornamental pattern
and the central scene had been completed, they were toned
up with white colour and the whole thing given a skincoat
of drying oil. Nowadays there is only enterprise producing
art products with the traditional painting - “Gorodetskaya
rospis”. Today the "Gorodets rospis " factory puts
out over 30 kinds of artistic items, with new articles added
regularly: ornamental dishes and panels, kitchen sets, furniture
sets and lots of other handsome Russian gifts and souvenirs.
Also the town was known for excellent carpenters and wood
carvers, as it was surrounded by forests which provided cheap
timber. Everything was made of wood there - ships, kitchenware,
spoons, children toys and tools. Carving is the other famous
craft of the town of Gorodets. Since XIV century the Gorodets
artists decorate hundreds river boats with fretwork of relief
vegetation ornament, Sirin-birds, lions and mermaids. XIX
century was the time of astounding growth in carving art.
Many generations of carvers worked on artistic fretwork. Little
by little the fretwork inculcated in peasants life. Different
decorations were practically on every house. Designing modern
goods Gorodets artists use traditional ways of blind fretwork,
three-edged cutting, contour. Plastic subject of spinning,
spice-cake fretwork - are found in their works very often.
Gorodets spinning wheel had her own peculiarity. For decorating
spinning wheel artists used peculiar technique v incrustation,
that was not usual for folk art. Having just two shades of
wood and simple tools folk skilled craftsmen turned spinning
wheel into picture - a decorative panel. Gorodets carvers
keep and develop the folk art ably, carrying out unique author-s
works. Here you can see familiar to us rich curly boughs,
snow leopards, amulets, Sirin-birds, rosette from age-old
images of nizhegorodsky plastic art. We can-t leave Gorodets
toy without any attention. Bright painted horses, horsemen,
ladies, cavaliers continue the folk toy tradition.
The wooden toys produced in Gorodets remarkable
for their bright colors and festive look were very popular
in Russia. The most popular kind of toy was horses fixed on
little planks between the shafts of a buggy, or a troika pulling
a carriage. Another kind of toys was unusual species of dolls
with a flat front and a threedimentional rear. The variety
of types were endless: children, village maidens with cats,
courting couples and townspeople decked out in their Sunday
best. Toymakers used the most primitive implements in work
- the axe with which they split blocks of wood into smaller
chunks, and the knife, later they started using a few simple
chisels. To paint the toys the used distemper and aniline
dyes; occasionally the process was simplified by dipping the
toy in a pot of paint.
Gorodets craftsmen were also known as excellent
makers of children chairs, brightly painted and without a
single nail in them. Wooden toys were the cheapest article
manufactured by peasants and they were always made in large