Slavic Architecture is usually synonymous with traditional Russian Architecture, and while most historic architecture in Russia is Slavic, other countries have some form of Slavic architecture as well. Slavic countries belong to the Indo- European stretch, and since Russia occupies a very large land mass in this band between Asia and Europe a lot of the Slavic architecture resonates within its borders

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Artist’s Interpretation of Old Slavic temples_©SlaviaBlog

Slavic Culture and History.

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Wooden Altars for the gods_©arki via vk.com
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Outdoor prayer spaces with stone carved altars_©arki via vk.com

According to the world population review, the Slavs or Slavic people are people that originate from – Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia called the West Slavs, Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine usually referred to as the east Slavs with the most dominant land mass, Croatia, Bosnia, and Herzegovina, Serbia, Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Slovenia which are the South Slavs.

Slavic culture is deep-rooted in myths, legends, and stories. Slavic religion or Slavic paganism is the worship of various deities personifying nature parallels one could find with Greek, Roman Nordic cultures, and even Hinduism. This deep-rooted history is reflected in Slavic architecture – in their intricate use of sculptures, art forms, and geometry all reflecting back into tradition. 

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Tradtional Bells and wooden structures_©arki via vk.com

Slavic Architecture.

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Vernacular Slavic Architecture_©arki via vk.com

Slavic architecture initially originated centuries back in smaller settlements and towns across the Slavia regions. They had very distinct and prominent features. Most of these structures were made from wood- because of proximity, workability, and insulation qualities that kept these structures warm in the cold harsh winters as most of the Slavia providences were in the northern hemispheres. The use of wood was also extended to their cultural and religious practices by sculpting wooden statues – mainly of the Slavic god Perun, and personification of other natural forces as deities and creatures – like dragons, bears, fishes, etc.  

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Wood Statues_©arki via vk.com
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Wood Statues_©arki via vk.com
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Dragon Wood Statues_©arki via vk.com

Most of the religious practices took in indoor and outdoor gathering spaces with stone hearths to keep them warm, and designated wooden alters. While most of the interiors are pretty basic and utilitarian without any ornamentation the external façade usually has very intricately carved-out spires and decorated wooden window frames with precisely beautiful geometrical patterns. While the pattern in old Slavic architecture was usually monochrome with wooden textures, Slavic architecture then elevated these geometric patterns with color and in the present day is more detailed with various colors and experimenting with other materials moving away from wood with the help of the latest technology, taking traditional Slavic architecture into the future. 

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Wood Statues_©arki via vk.com
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Traditional Slavic Temple_©imgur.com

As Slavic Architecture moved into the 19th century, many buildings began to use brick. A lot of museums and public buildings had the famous iconic – red brick facades we associate with Russian / Slavic architecture. The Slavic architecture did still keep in tradition with the slopped roof elements and detailed window frames. The detailing in Slavic architecture also uses floral ornamentation – this can be seen in wall motifs, paintings, and various details. This element can be taken back in time from traditional Slavic architecture, which used nature and its personifications in their designs. Another distinct feature of the windows in Slavic architecture is how narrow they are. It has a very straight, longitudinal, and ridged geometric pattern except on the top edge- where it begins to arch.

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Brick Facdes- St Paul and Peter Cathdral _©imgur.com
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Traditional Facades a Slavic house_©imgur.com
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Traditional arches a Slavic house_©imgur.com

Arches are another feature of Slavic architecture. There’s always some form of arches in Slavic architecture from windows to doors, ceilings, and roofs even after Slavic architecture moved away from Slavic religion and towards Christianity and integrated Byzantine form of architecture (like most European districts were influenced by that time period ) into its design, it still kept its traditional Slavic architectural features – arches, window ornamentations, narrow windows, arched ceilings, decorated facades, and Slavic architecture’s iconic Terem roofs, recognizable even today. 

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The Europe House (Shastin’s House), Irkutsk_©imgur.com
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Decorated window frames_©vk.com
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Decorated window frames and wooden statues_©vk.com

The Terem roof is a triangle rooftop with very small angles between both parts of the roof. There’s usually one larger roof part of the main roof, which has additional smaller towers with smaller triangle-like roofs that heighten the main roof and add a distinct decorative style mostly prominent in Slavic architecture. Culturally the Terem roofs were often used in literature and folklore in fairytales and legends where it was explained as a small castle structure generally made from wood where prominent families or noblemen and ladies lived. It was annotated with large windows, curved doors, multiple high stories, and a carved exterior that symbolizes a luxurious building in the center of a forest of trees and snow. It was the bridge between fanciful stories and realistic Slavic architecture.

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Bath house©vk.com
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Bath house©vk.com

ver time, however, the Terem roofs went out of style opting for the more Byzantine-esque style of architecture over the Slavic style of architecture. In the Middle Ages, this Slavic architecture feature was made for noble women to separate from the men as time passed by, integrating more modern outlooks of a growing country played a factor in the downfall of these roofs as well. From houses, it was seen only in palaces in the 16th and 17th centuries, mostly with the Romanov dynasty tsar. However, it did move away from wooden walls and facades to a stronger masonry-built structure in these centuries. In the 19th century, the terem roofs made a huge comeback. Slavic architecture or Russian style architecture was a huge hype back in the 19th century and affluent families in Russia and Europe were contracting these styles of buildings in masonry instead of wood in traditional Slavic architecture. 

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House of Moskvin, Tomsk_©Imgur.com
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Red village, Slavic House_©Imgur.comRed
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Traditional Slavic Settlement_©vk.com
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Stroganov Church, Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Nizhny Novgorod_©Imgur.comRed

Throughout history, good architecture fluctuates in and out of style. Time tells how functions and aesthetics work with design and the impact it has on civilizations and culture – not only where it originated but where it spread. Slavic architecture is one of the few styles that have withstood the changes in society and has been recognizable for its iconic architecture. Slavic architecture has survived the test of time.  

Church of Transfiguration, Kizhi Island, Karelia_©imgur.com

Citations:

Culture Trip (2022). 8 Interesting Features Unique to Russian Architecture. [online].  Available at:  https://theculturetrip.com/europe/russia/articles/8-interesting-features-unique-to-russian-architecture/  [Accessed date: 25 October 2022].

Russia Beyond (2020). The terem: A Russian fairytale house that was like a prison for women. [online].  Available at:  https://www.rbth.com/history/332986-terem-russian-house [Accessed date: 25 October 2022].

World population revie (2022). Slavic countries 2022. [online].  Available at: https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/slavic-countries  

[Accessed date: 26 October 2022].

Author

Jaya is a whimsical old soul. She’s passionate about architecture journalism - an amalgamation of the two things she loves most - designing and writing. She loves all forms of art, literature and mythologies from any corner of the world and from any period in time- the older the better.

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