Russian Revival
The Russian Revival style is the generic term for a number of different movements within Russian architecture
Russian architecture
Russian architecture follows a tradition whose roots were established in the Eastern Slavic state of Kievan Rus'. After the fall of Kiev, Russian architectural history continued in the principalities of Vladimir-Suzdal, Novgorod, the succeeding states of the Tsardom of Russia, the Russian Empire,...

 that arose in second quarter of the 19th century and was an eclectic melding of pre-Peterine
Peter I of Russia
Peter the Great, Peter I or Pyotr Alexeyevich Romanov Dates indicated by the letters "O.S." are Old Style. All other dates in this article are New Style. ruled the Tsardom of Russia and later the Russian Empire from until his death, jointly ruling before 1696 with his half-brother, Ivan V...

 Russian architecture and elements of Byzantine architecture
Byzantine architecture
Byzantine architecture is the architecture of the Byzantine Empire. The empire gradually emerged as a distinct artistic and cultural entity from what is today referred to as the Roman Empire after AD 330, when the Roman Emperor Constantine moved the capital of the Roman Empire east from Rome to...


The Russian Revival style arose within the framework the renewed interest in the national architecture, which evolved in Europe in the 19th century, and it is an interpretation and stylization of the Russian architectural heritage. Sometimes Russian Revival style is often erroneously called Russian or Old-Russian architecture, although the majority of Revival architects did not directly reproduce the old architectural tradition. Being instead a skillful stylization, the Russian Revival style was consecutively combined with other, international styles - from the architectural romanticism
National Romantic Style
The National Romantic style was a Nordic architectural style that was part of the national romantic movement during the late 19th and early 20th century. Designers turned to early Medieval and even prehistoric precedents to construct a style appropriate to the perceived character of a people...

 of first half of the 19th century to the modern
Modern architecture
Modern architecture is generally characterized by simplification of form and creation of ornament from the structure and theme of the building. It is a term applied to an overarching movement, with its exact definition and scope varying widely...


Cultural background

Like the romantic revivals of Western Europe the Russian revival was informed by a scholarly interest in the historic monuments of the nation. This historicism resonated with the popular nationalism and pan-Slavism of the period. The first illustrated account of Russian architecture was the project of Count Anatole Demidov
Anatole Demidov
Count Anatoly Nikolaievich Demidov, 1st Prince of San Donato , was a Russian industrialist, diplomat and arts patron of the Demidov family.-Early life:...

 and French draughtsman André Durand, the record of their 1839 tour of Russia was published in Paris in 1845 as Album du voyage pittoresque et archaéologique en Russie. Durand’s lithographs betray a foreigner’s sensitivity to the seeming alien-ness of Russian architecture displaying some curiously distorted features, and while they are on the whole fairly accurate representations the folios he produced belong to the genre of travel literature rather than historical inquiry. The attempt to discern the chronology and development of Russia’s building begins in earnest with Ivan Snegirev
Ivan Snegirev
Ivan Mikhailovich Snegirev was one of the first Russian ethnographers. He published detailed descriptions of almost every church and monastery in Moscow....

 and A. A Martynov’s Russkaya starina v pamyatnikakh tserkovnago i grazhanskago zodchestva (Moscow, 1851). The state took an interest in this endeavour, sponsoring a series of folios published as Drevnosti rossiiskago gosudavstva (Moscow 1849-53 in 6 volumes) depicting antiquities and decorative works of art. By this time the Moscow Archaeological Society under took research on the subject, formalizing it as a field of study. A series of triennial conferences were instituted from 1869 until 1915, whose reports included studies of the architecture of the Kievian Rus and early Moscow periods. Perhaps the Society’s most significant achievement was the publication of the Kommissii po sokhraneniiu drevnikh pamyatnikov in 6 volumes between 1907 and 1915. Also the St. Petersburg Academy of fine Arts commissioned research from V. V. Suslov in the form of his two multi-volume works Panyatniki drevnyago russkago zodchestva (1895–1901, seven parts) and Pamyatniki drevne-russkago iskusstva (1908–12, 4 parts). With the application of positivist historical principals the chronology of Russian architecture was firmly established by the time of the publication of that definitive 6-volume survey of Russian art Istoriya russkogo isskustva (1909–17), edited by Igor Grabar, the appearance of the final volume was, however, interrupted by the revolution.


The first extant example of Byzantine Revival in Russian architecture, in fact the first example ever built, stands in Potsdam
Potsdam is the capital city of the German federal state of Brandenburg and part of the Berlin/Brandenburg Metropolitan Region. It is situated on the River Havel, southwest of Berlin city centre....

, Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 - a five-domed Church of Alexander Nevsky by Neoclassicist Vasily Stasov
Vasily Stasov
Vasily Petrovich Stasov was a Russian architect.-Biography:Stasov was born in Moscow....

 (builder of neoclassical Trinity Cathedral, St. Petersburg
Trinity Cathedral, St. Petersburg
The Trinity Cathedral , sometimes called the Troitsky Cathedral, in Saint Petersburg, Russia, is a late example of the Empire style, built between 1828 and 1835 to a design by Vasily Stasov...

, father of critic Vladimir Stasov). Next year, in 1827, Stasov completed a larger five-domed Church of the Tithes
Church of the Tithes
The Church of the Tithes or Church of the Dormition of the Virgin was the first stone church in Kiev. It was built by the order of Grand Prince Vladimir the Great between 989 and 996 by Byzantine and local workers to commemorate the Baptism of Kievan Rus' and was originally named the "Church of...

 in Kiev
Kiev or Kyiv is the capital and the largest city of Ukraine, located in the north central part of the country on the Dnieper River. The population as of the 2001 census was 2,611,300. However, higher numbers have been cited in the press....


The Russo-Byzantine idea was carried forward by Konstantin Thon
Konstantin Thon
Konstantin Andreyevich Thon, also spelled Ton was an official architect of Imperial Russia during the reign of Nicholas I. His major works include the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, the Grand Kremlin Palace and the Kremlin Armoury in Moscow....

 with the firm approval by Nicholas I
Nicholas I of Russia
Nicholas I , was the Emperor of Russia from 1825 until 1855, known as one of the most reactionary of the Russian monarchs. On the eve of his death, the Russian Empire reached its historical zenith spanning over 20 million square kilometers...

. Thon's style embodied the idea of continuity between Byzantium and Russia, perfectly matching the ideology of Nicholas I's. Russian-Byzantine architecture is characterised by mixing the composition methods and vaulted arches of Byzantine architecture with ancient Russian exterior ornaments, and were vividly realized in Thon's 'model projects'. In 1838, Nicholas I "pointed out" Thon's book of model designs to all architects; more enforcement followed in 1841 and 1844.

Buildings designed by Thon or based on Thon's designs were: Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, the Grand Kremlin Palace
Grand Kremlin Palace
The Grand Kremlin Palace , also translated Great Kremlin Palace, was built from 1837 to 1849 in Moscow, Russia on the site of the estate of the Grand Princes, which had been established in the 14th century on Borovitsky Hill...

 and the Armoury
Kremlin Armoury
The Kremlin Armory is one of the oldest museums of Moscow, established in 1808 and located in the Moscow Kremlin .The Kremlin Armoury originated as the royal arsenal in 1508. Until the transfer of the court to St Petersburg, the Armoury was in charge of producing, purchasing and storing weapons,...

 in Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

, also cathedrals in Sveaborg, Yelets
Yelets is a city in Lipetsk Oblast, Russia, situated on the Sosna River, which is a tributary of the Don. Population: -History:Yelets is the oldest center of the Central Black Earth Region. It is mentioned in historical documents as far back as 1146, when it belonged to the Princes of Ryazan...

, Tomsk
Tomsk is a city and the administrative center of Tomsk Oblast, Russia, located on the Tom River. One of the oldest towns in Siberia, Tomsk celebrated its 400th anniversary in 2004...

, Rostov-on-Don
-History:The mouth of the Don River has been of great commercial and cultural importance since the ancient times. It was the site of the Greek colony Tanais, of the Genoese fort Tana, and of the Turkish fortress Azak...

 and Krasnoyarsk
Krasnoyarsk is a city and the administrative center of Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russia, located on the Yenisei River. It is the third largest city in Siberia, with the population of 973,891. Krasnoyarsk is an important junction of the Trans-Siberian Railway and one of Russia's largest producers of...


Official enforcement of Byzantine architecture was, in fact, very limited: it applied only to new church construction, and to a lesser extent - to royal palaces. Private and public construction proceeded independently. Thon's own public buildings, like the pseudo-Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 Nikolaevsky Terminal
Moscow Rail Terminal
Moskovsky Rail Terminal , also called Moscow Rail Terminal, with an easily recognizable Neo-Renaissance frontage on Nevsky Prospekt and Uprising Square, is a terminal railway station in Saint Petersburg, Russia...

, lack any Byzantine features. A closer look at churches constructed in Nicholas reign reveals many first-rate neoclassical buildings, like the Elokhovo Cathedral
Elokhovo Cathedral
The Epiphany Cathedral at Yelokhovo, Moscow, is the vicarial church of the Moscow Patriarchs. The surviving building was designed and built by Yevgraph Tyurin in 1837–1845....

 in Moscow (1837–1845) by Yevgraph Tyurin
Yevgraph Tyurin
Yefgraph Dmitrievich Tyurin was a Russian architect and art collector, famous as the builder of Elokhovo Cathedral in Moscow, the main cathedral of Russian Orthodox Church in 1945–2000, and Moscow State University expansion in 1830. Tyurin’s life and work, especially in his later years, was poorly...

. Official Byzantine art was not absolute in Nicholas reign; it is actually scarce in our days, as the Byzantine churches, declared 'worthless' by Bolshevik
The Bolsheviks, originally also Bolshevists , derived from bol'shinstvo, "majority") were a faction of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party which split apart from the Menshevik faction at the Second Party Congress in 1903....

s, were the first to be demolished in the Soviet era.


Another direction taken by the Russian Revival style was a reaction against official Thon art, influenced by romanticism, Slavophilism
Slavophilia was an intellectual movement originating from 19th century that wanted the Russian Empire to be developed upon values and institutions derived from its early history. Slavophiles were especially opposed to the influences of Western Europe in Russia. There were also similar movements in...

 and detailed studies of vernacular architecture. The forerunner of this trend in church design was Alexey Gornostaev
Alexey Gornostaev
Alexey Maksimovich Gornostaev was a Russian architect, notable as a pioneer in Russian Revival, the builder of Valaam Monastery hermitages, Trinity-Sergius Convent in Saint Petersburg and Uspenski Cathedral in Helsinki...

 (in his later years, 1848–1862), notable for reinventing Northern Russian tented roof
Tented roof
A tented roof is a type of roof widely used in 16th and 17th century Russian architecture for churches. It is like a polygonal spire but differs in purpose in that it is typically used to roof the main internal space of a church, rather than an auxiliary structure...

 motif augmented with Romanesque
Romanesque architecture
Romanesque architecture is an architectural style of Medieval Europe characterised by semi-circular arches. There is no consensus for the beginning date of the Romanesque architecture, with proposals ranging from the 6th to the 10th century. It developed in the 12th century into the Gothic style,...

 and Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 vault structure. An early extant example in civil arhitecture is the wooden Pogodinskaya cottage in Devichye Pole
Devichye Pole
Devichye Pole is a historical medical campus, built in 1887-1897 in Khamovniki District of Moscow, Russia, to the master plan of Konstantin Bykovski. It is located between the Garden Ring and Novodevichy Convent...

, Moscow, by Nikolai Nikitin (1856, photo).


Emancipation reform of 1861
Emancipation reform of 1861
The Emancipation Reform of 1861 in Russia was the first and most important of liberal reforms effected during the reign of Alexander II of Russia. The reform, together with a related reform in 1861, amounted to the liquidation of serf dependence previously suffered by peasants of the Russian Empire...

 and subsequent reforms of Alexander II
Alexander II of Russia
Alexander II , also known as Alexander the Liberator was the Emperor of the Russian Empire from 3 March 1855 until his assassination in 1881...

 pushed the liberal elite into exporing the roots of national culture. The first result of these studies in architecture was a birth of "folk" or Pseudo-Russian style, exemplified by 1870s works of Ivan Ropet
Ivan Ropet
Ivan Petrovich Ropet was an architect widely regarded as the originator of the Russian Revival in architecture, which is sometimes called the Ropet Style after him...

 (Terem in Abramtsevo, 1873) and Viktor Hartmann
Viktor Hartmann
Viktor Alexandrovich Hartmann was a Russian architect and painter. He was associated with the Abramtsevo Colony, purchased and preserved beginning in 1870 by Savva Mamontov, and the Russian Revival.-Life:Victor-Edouard Hartmann was born in St...

Savva Mamontov
Savva Ivanovich Mamontov was a famous Russian industrialist, merchant, entrepreneur, and patron of the arts.-Biography:He was a son of the wealthy merchant and industrialist Ivan Feodorovich Mamontov and Maria Tikhonovna . In 1841 the family moved to Moscow. From 1852 he studied in St...

 printing house, 1872). These artists, in alliance with Narodnik
Narodniks was the name for Russian socially conscious members of the middle class in the 1860s and 1870s. Their ideas and actions were known as Narodnichestvo which can be translated as "Peopleism", though is more commonly rendered "populism"...

 movement, idealized the peasant life and created their own vision of "vernacular" architecture. Another factor was the rejection of western eclectics that dominated civil construction of 1850s-1860s, a reaction against "decadent West", pioneered by influential critic Vladimir Stasov.

Ivan Zabelin, a theorist of the movement, declared that "Russian Khoromy, grown naturally from peasants' log cabins, retained the spirit of beautiful disorder... Beauty of a building is not in its proportions, but on the contrary, in the difference and independence of its parts" ("русские хоромы, выросшие органически из крестьянских клетей, естественно, сохраняли в своем составе облик красивого беспорядка... По понятиям древности первая красота здания заключалась не в соответствии частей, а напротив в их своеобразии, их разновидности и самостоятельности"). As a result, "ropetovschina", as Ropet's foes branded his style, concentrated on hoarding together vivid but not matching pieces of vernacular architecture, notably high-pitched roofs, barrel roofs and wood tracery. Wood was the preferred material, since many fantasies could not be physically built in masonry
Masonry is the building of structures from individual units laid in and bound together by mortar; the term masonry can also refer to the units themselves. The common materials of masonry construction are brick, stone, marble, granite, travertine, limestone; concrete block, glass block, stucco, and...

. This was good and bad for "ropetovschina". Bad, because wooden structures, especially those unconventionally shaped, were not scalable and had a very short life span. Very few survive to date. Good, because speed of construction and unorthodox looks were a perfect match for exhibition pavilions, coronation stands and similar short-term projects. The trend continued into 20th century (Fyodor Schechtel
Fyodor Schechtel
Fyodor Osipovich Schechtel was a Russian architect, graphic artist and stage designer, the most influential and prolific master of Russian Art Nouveau and late Russian Revival....

, 1901 draft) and 1920s (Ilya Golosov
Ilya Golosov
Ilya Alexandrovich Golosov was a Russian Soviet architect. A leader of Constructivism in 1925-1931, Ilya Golosov later developed his own style of early stalinist architecture known as postconstructivism...

, 1923 draft).

For a short time in 1880s, a less radical version of Pseudo-Russian style, based on copying 17th century brick architecture, almost succeeded as the new official art. These buildings were built, as a rule, from the brick or whitestone, with the application of modern construction technology they began to be abundantly decorated in the traditions of Russian popular architecture. The characteristic architectural elements of this time, such as "pot-bellied" columns, low arched ceilings, narrow window-loop holes, tented roof
Tented roof
A tented roof is a type of roof widely used in 16th and 17th century Russian architecture for churches. It is like a polygonal spire but differs in purpose in that it is typically used to roof the main internal space of a church, rather than an auxiliary structure...

s, frescoes with floral designs, use of multicolored tiles and massive forging, are manifest both in the external and in the internal decoration of these structures. A typical example is the Historical Museum
State Historical Museum
The State Historical Museum of Russia is a museum of Russian history wedged between Red Square and Manege Square in Moscow. Its exhibitions range from relics of the prehistoric tribes inhabiting present-day Russia, through priceless artworks acquired by members of the Romanov dynasty...

 (1875–81, architect Vladimir Sherwood
Vladimir Osipovich Sherwood
Vladimir Osipovich Sherwood was a Russian architect who worked in Moscow. He was an Eclectics and Russian Revival practitioner, author of the State Historical Museum in Moscow. He was the son of Joseph Sherwood, an English engineer hired to build canals in Russia; the father died when Vladimir...

) which completed the ensemble of Red Square in Moscow.


At the turn of the centuries, the Russian Orthodox Church
Russian Orthodox Church
The Russian Orthodox Church or, alternatively, the Moscow Patriarchate The ROC is often said to be the largest of the Eastern Orthodox churches in the world; including all the autocephalous churches under its umbrella, its adherents number over 150 million worldwide—about half of the 300 million...

 experienced a new trend; construction of unusually large cathedrals in working-class suburbs of big cities. Some, like Dorogomilovo Ascension Cathedral (1898–1910), rated for 10,000 worshippers, were launched in quiet country outskirts that increased in population by the time of completion. Christian theorists explain the choice of such remote locations with the desire to extend the reach of Church to working class, and only working class, in the time when wealthier classes stepped away from it. Byzantine architecture was a natural choice for these projects. It was a clear statement of national roots, against the modern Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

an heresies. It was also much cheaper than grand Neoclassical
Neoclassicism is the name given to Western movements in the decorative and visual arts, literature, theatre, music, and architecture that draw inspiration from the "classical" art and culture of Ancient Greece or Ancient Rome...

 cathedrals, both in initial costs and subsequent maintenance. The largest examples of this type were all comlpeted after the Russian revolution of 1905
Russian Revolution of 1905
The 1905 Russian Revolution was a wave of mass political and social unrest that spread through vast areas of the Russian Empire. Some of it was directed against the government, while some was undirected. It included worker strikes, peasant unrest, and military mutinies...

  • Dorogomilovo Cathedral, Moscow, 1898–1910
  • Our Lady of Iberia Cathedral in Nikolo-Perervinsky Monastery
    Nikolo-Perervinsky Monastery
    Nikolo-Perervinsky Monastery is the southernmost historical monastery of Moscow. It is dedicated to Saint Nicholas the Miracle-Worker....

     Cathedral, Pererva (now Moscow) 1904-1908
  • Kronstadt
    Kronstadt , also spelled Kronshtadt, Cronstadt |crown]]" and Stadt for "city"); is a municipal town in Kronshtadtsky District of the federal city of St. Petersburg, Russia, located on Kotlin Island, west of Saint Petersburg proper near the head of the Gulf of Finland. Population: It is also...

     Naval Cathedral, 1908–1913


  • Rogozhskoye Cemetery
    Rogozhskoye Cemetery
    Rogozhskoe cemetery in Moscow, Russia, is the spiritual and administrative center of the largest Old Believers denomination, called the Russian Orthodox Old-Rite Church. Historically, the name cemetery was applied to the whole Old Believer community, with living quarters, cathedral, almshouses,...

     belltower by Fyodor Gornostaev
    Fyodor Gornostaev
    Fyodor Fyodorovich Gornostaev was a Russian architect and preservationist, notable for his folk interpretation of Russian Revival and restoration of landmark buildings in Suzdal, Kursk and Moscow Kremlin....

    , 1908–1913
  • Balakovo
    -Twin towns/sister cities:Balakovo is twinned with: Pabianice, Poland Trnava, Slovakia Scranton, Pennsylvania, United States Baku, Azerbaijan-References:...

     church by Fyodor Schechtel
    Fyodor Schechtel
    Fyodor Osipovich Schechtel was a Russian architect, graphic artist and stage designer, the most influential and prolific master of Russian Art Nouveau and late Russian Revival....

    , 1909–1912
  • St.Nicholas church by Belorusskaya Zastava in Moscow, 1914–1921
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