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Smithcraft Tradition in Russia
November 28, 2013 13:51


 Blacksmithing became the most ancient folk craft in Russia. Smiths forged instruments of labor, tools (iron ploughshares, scythes, sickles, knifes, saws, locks, etc.) and armament (swords, sabers, arrowheads, chain armors, and helmets).

Goldsmithery and silversmithery, i.e. jewelry made a separate branch of the craft. The craftsmen made skillful pieces of jewelry: bronze amulets, pendants, clasps, earrings and necklaces. Jewelry was made in granulation technique: a pattern of metal drops and thin wire was soldered onto metal surface and the intervals between them were filled with multi-colored enamel. Thus they created high-value and typically Russian jewelry of filigree enamel. The jeweler technique of Russian handicraftsmen was sophisticated, and their works were in great demand in lots of countries around the world.
The first records of the use of metal wares in this country date back to the 12th century BC. This is the period that archeological finds representing various metal products - tools, household items, and weapons – date to. Smiths of that time acted as metallurgists — they smelted iron ore in primitive clay furnaces into metal, which was then exposed to further processing.

From the Kievan Rus' and till Peter I smithcraft was developing rather slowly in Russia. The real breakthrough in forging and industrial metal production fell on the 17th century — the time of numerous battles and construction of St. Petersburg. The military challenges demanded the most advanced technologies. At that particular time numerous steel and weapon factories were built around Tula. Russian smiths mastered new technologies, gradually shifting from forging to molding and stamping. The Demidovs dynasty was a bright representative of metallurgical and smith crafts of that time.
But everything new is well-forgotten old, as they say. Decorative ironwork maintained ground. Custom-engraved weapons, metal fencings, forged railings, weathercocks, highly artistic metal banisters, entrance roof overhangs, and many other things still tell about the skills of Russian smiths of that time.

In the epoch of imperial Russia practically in every settlement there was a local smith. Even poor remote villages had their own smiths. From early morning one could see smoke from chimney of a smithy kiln, and some time later hear rhythmical hammering on the anvil.

However, after the Bolsheviks seized the power, blacksmithing finally started retreating in the face of batch production of various factories and plants.

But even the fires of a revolutionary distemper of 1917 failed to destroy the memory of ancient blacksmithing in Russia. Forged gates and fencings, and metal decorations of Russian churches endured all fires and remained intact till nowadays. Now all these metal antiques are used in reconstruction and restoration of churches.

Unfortunately, some technologies and secrets of art forging have been lost or forgotten. Only thanks to the enthusiasm and devotion of hereditary masters the traditions of smithcraft are gradually being revived in Russia.

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Author: Vera Ivanova

Tags: Smithcraft Russian Folk Crafts Russian Traditions   

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