Estetika Ltd. is a leading supplier of Russian and neo-Russian-style architectural
elements. Our products are based on traditional design motifs found in dwellings
throughout the Russian countryside. Estetika Ltd. ornaments come in a range of
modern materials and can be fit to any structure at any scale, transforming everything
from an unfinished apartment to a glass-clad skyscraper into an expression of proud,
modern, quintessentially Russian architecture.
A PEOPLE'S AESTHETIC
The "Russian style" stretches back to time immemorial, but it emerged as a coherent
creative movement only with the emancipation of Russia's serfs in 1861. The granting of
citizenship to millions of peasants triggered an explosion in folk-themed literature and in
art, among the painters of the Itinerant movement. Architects responded through the
establishment of a "Russian style."
“The old gentry style of the country manor house with columns and porticos, borrowed
from the West, is now a thing of the past,” explained the wife of artist Vasily Polenov.
“They no longer seek models for their constructions among the estate buildings of the
aristocracy, but take them now from the peasants’ village.”
INFUSED WITH SACRED SYMBOLISM
For "Russian style" architects, the izba or traditional Russian log cabin became a source
of inspiration, with prototypes for ornamentation taken from the embroidered towels of
the peasantry, adjusted and then implemented through the craft of woodcarving. In
ancient times, this beauty had had a sacred function, a talismanic quality, protecting the
house from the forces of evil. Late nineteenth century architects applied it as decoration.
They wove the ornamental motifs of the log cabin into the fabric of major public
buildings, such as the Historical Museum and Upper Shopping Arcades (the GUM
shopping centre) on Red Square, thus turning them into national symbols.
MELDING ANCIENT WITH MODERN
Opinion was not united about what best symbolized "Russian style", however. Critics
accused the most elaborate buildings of evoking paternalism and took the rich beauty of
elaborately turned balusters, bulging columns and suspended drop ornaments as mere
decoration. “Patriotism in art is a good thing. I have no further word to say on the
matter,” wrote the young Anton Chekhov, “except one of scorn: snap off the cockerels,
and it’s no longer Russian style.”
Artists seeking a genuine, organic Russianness found inspiration in the Russian north –
there beyond the reach of the Tatar Yoke and serfdom, where schismatics had fled, and
where the traditions of deepest antiquity were preserved untouched. The artist Viktor asnetsov built a modest little church in Abramtsevo in 1883, on the model of
Novgorod’s Church of the Saviour at Nereditsa. It differed from its "Russian style"
contemporaries sharply: instead of a profusion of detail, Vasnetsov created an
architecture of simplicity, compactness, and picturesque asymmetry. It announced the
establishment of the "neo-Russian style" – a national-romantic version of art nouveau.
CONVEYING ARTISANAL QUALITY
Once established, "neo-Russian style" became a powerful tool for communicating a
modern Russian aesthetic capable of distinguishing itself among the architectures of the
world. At World Fairs in Paris and Glasgow, the neo-Russian style represented the
country and offered a persuasive defense of traditional craftsmanship in a context of
giddy industrialization. “The best native Vladimir carpenters adopted the techniques of
purely northern architecture, joining timbers by cutting them “into a paw,” “into a
darkness,” or “into a corner” [the English dovetail, half-blind dovetail and half lap joints,
respectively], and all the main parts of the buildings were constructed virtually without
The cult of the artisan also remained a defining feature of the "Russian style" throughout
the 20th century, opposing the industrial and conventional styles, and being regularly
brought to life in such masterpieces of naïve architecture as the blacksmith Kirillov’s
house in Kunara.
In the early 20th century, the "Russian" and "neo-Russian" styles began to merge and
dissolve in the building of dachas, staking out the private and unofficial zones of the
country house as their particular territory. The Soviet state ignored this theme, save
when riding the wave of post-war patriotism, which saw the building of Moscow’s seven
skyscrapers, whose tiered silhouettes evoke Russian ecclesiastical architecture.
Today, against the backdrop of globalization, recognizable national architectures are
ever harder to find. As Russia continues to define itself as a culture simultaneously
modern and traditional, the Russian and neo-Russian styles are more important than
ever. They provide a rich catalog of motifs drawn from the recesses of the Russian
architectural imagination. Over time, they have established themselves as the most
organic expression of our aesthetics: strong, beautiful, eternally Russian.