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The Museum of Wooden Architecture and Peasant Life (the Museum, for short) spread out on the right, high bank of the Kamenka River. In old times, its location was occupied by St. Dmitry's Monastery founded in the 11th century by a monk of the Kievo-Pecherskaya Lavra, Yefrem. The ensemble of this open-air museum consists of 18th and 19th century wooden buildings brought here from various places of Vladimir Region.
The Museum was conceived by V. M. Anisimov, an employee at a restoration workshop, in 1960s. It was decided to place the Museum on the bank of the Kamenka River, at the outskirts of Suzdal, at the location of St. Dmitry's Monastery (which has not been preserved until our times), one of the oldest in Suzdal. Before the 1917 Russian Revolution, two churches stood here: St. Dmitry's Church (1773) with a bell-tower constructed in 1812 and the "warm" St. George's Church (1751).
Preserved wooden buildings (churches, living log houses, household buildings) were brought here from various villages of Suzdal District. The abandoned lands on the high bank of the Kamenka River were again full of artefacts.
This is a kind of village that accumulates everything that has preserved from the 18th and 19th centuries until our times, has not been destroyed by fires, and has not been dismantled for firewood or broken during hard times. The streets of the village are made up of houses and other buildings brought from various places of Vladimir Region, while the whole village is dominated by high domes of wooden churches and vanes of windmills.
The Museum started from the Church of the Transfiguration (1756) brought from Kozlyatiyevo village, Kolchugino District. Later, the Church of the Resurrection (1776) was added; this church featured a bell-tower brought from Potakino village, Kameshkovo District. This way an ensemble, typical of Suzdal, was formed: two churches (a summer church and a winter church) and a bell-tower. The churches were constructed of pine, without using iron nails. Their domes were covered with silvery aspen shakes (lemech, in Russian). A sole tool used by peasants was the axe. Axes were used not only for cutting trees, but also for the most intricate and fine carving. As an old saying goes: "Even a clock can be repaired by a peasant with an axe."
Currently, an exhibition, The Interiors of the Late 18th-Century Rural Villages, is hosted by the Church of the Resurrection. Nineteenth-century dwelling houses introduce us to the life of various Russian peasant classes after the 1861 reforms that abolished serfdom. The log house of a middle class peasant of Ilkino village, Melenki District, may serve as a model of Central Russia's peasant house. This is a solid house with a semi-basement ground floor (podklet) and a plank gable roof. Its facade is decorated with ancient woodcarving. The house has a layout, typical of the 19th century: a heated room (izba) — a mudroom (seni) — an unheated room (klet). There is a large Russian oven in the heated room. It served for heating the house, cooking, as a bed and even as a bath. Benches (lavki), which were the main pieces of furniture in the peasant house, stretched along the walls. During the day and in the evening, people used to sit on the benches, women weaving and spinning in the light of rushlights, while at night it was possible to sleep on them. Children used to sleep on bed-benches (polati). There are icons hanging in the right, front corner. This corner was called "red corner" or "beautiful corner"; it was a place for the master and honoured guests. There is also a large table that seated all the family. The unheated room was used as an additional room in summer time. The two rooms are connected by the mudroom. In the courtyard, under the roof, agricultural equipment of various kinds was kept.
Radical changes in the economy and mode of the peasant life were reflected in architecture and interior decorations, as is demonstrated by the two-storey house from Log village, which was built later, in the mid-19th century. Having the same layout, the two houses are very different. The facade of the latter house is already decorated with an urban-style cornice. In the house, there is a bed, a closet for dishes, a bright lamp instead of the rushlights and a sewing machine; all this gives an impression of prosperity and well-being. The ground floor is equipped with three weaving looms.
A picture of the peasant life is completed by household structures: windmills (from Moshok village, Sudogda District), a barn for drying hay and a 19th-century well operated by a large wheel that has to be turned with legs (from Koltsovo village, Selivanovo District). Inside one of the windmills, the 19th-century interior has been restored. The monuments of the Museum enriched the skyline of the town and, figuratively speaking, helped to restore lost pages of the rich architectural chronicle. Folk craft festivals, organised by the Museum, have already become a tradition. Many masters take part in these festivals where one may observe with one's own eyes woodcarving, wood painting and production of clay toys and where one may try mowing grass or weaving.
Every summer the Museum becomes a place for all kinds of celebrations and festivals. In June, one may visit the Celebration of the Trinity collocated with the Craft Festival.
The Cucumber Celebration, which is held in July when cucumbers are ripe, is one of the most famous and peculiar. A sacristan of the Cathedral of the Nativity and the first town's historian, Anany Fyodorov, wrote about this vegetable, wide-spread in the Suzdal area, "In the city of Suzdal, the onion, garlic and especially cucumber are in abundance, thanks to the kindness of the soil and pleasantness of the air." The best regional traditional-music bands perform at the Cucumber Celebration. During the celebration, one may play various games, buy peculiar souvenirs, or taste cucumber (and other) dishes.
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