Monday, 1 May 2017

Travels around the Baltic:The Russian Museum of Ethnology in St Petersburg

St Petersburg

We visited St Petersburg in 2014 and I was astounded by the wonderful collection of textiles and woven bands in the Russian Museum of Ethnography.  I wrote an article about the museum which appeared in the Journal for Weavers, Spinners and Dyers in    I had long wanted to go back to look at the collection in greater detail, so I arranged to meet a curator with a particular interest in the Finno-Ugric peoples.   I spent a day in the museum asking questions and being shown around the displays.  it was a wonderful opportunity for me to learn more about the costumes and traditions.

The Russian Museum of Ethnography houses an astonishing collection of textiles and artefacts and is is one of the largest of its kind

On the day of my visit I was surrounded by many parties of school children in the museum.  The museum has a dedicated resource and activity area where children were painting and there were resources for many crafts including pottery.  One group was painting. In the end room a group of young children  were dancing and learning songs and obviously having a great time.

A school party learning about different cultures.
This activity area for school children had its own set of display cabinets.

Embroidered towels.
This embroidery had been created by Lidia Vershinina, one of the guides in the museum.  She was dressed in costume and showed me the belt that she had woven herself. 

Lidia Vershinina

Here it is.
close up of belt woven by Lidia Vershinina

Lithuanian Belts

Lithuanian woven band

I was able to ask about a display that I had seen on my previous visit. I liked the white flower pattern on a dark navy background and I had woven a copy of the belt - minus the lettering.  This navy and white belt was used for as a mourning band.

There were many woven bands on display either on models with complete costumes or selections of different bands. 
Selection of bands from different regions.
I was particularly interested in the Sami collection from the Kola Peninsular.  This will have to be left to a future blog.The museum is large and I cannot do justice to the range of costumes and textiles but here are some more images. 

Tula province

This costume is from the Tula province which is about 120 miles south of Moscow.  The belt is a simple 0 and X design but in striking black and red. This makes it stand out against the white skirt. The costume is  from the mid 19th century.

Close up of Tula belt pattern

Here is another costume from South Russia with an elaborate border on the lower edge of the skirt. 

close up of the skirt border


Here is a skirt from Belarus with a bright belt in pink and yellow. I love the chunky tassels. The skirt material was also very interesting. It has an attractive damask like design. 


This costume is from the Ukraine where it borders Poland. Sash belts are very dramatic for both men and women.

Here is a close up of the sash belt worn by the woman. This is woven in  warp faced plain weave. I think that colours are lovely.

Sash belt in warp faced plain weave woven in wool.

Nizhny Novgorod

This lovely costume is from Nizhny Novrogod.

Here is a close up of the belt she is wearing. There are 15 pattern threads for this belt. 

Close up of belt pattern.


The museum has a small but very well stocked book kiosk. I bought a few books and was delighted to find a book on band weaving. It is in Russian but the patterns are clear. 

Published in 2015 ISBN 978-5-904036-37-9

Here is a sample page from the book so you can see the quality of the patterns.

I also bought a book about the European Slavs which is in English.

Published in 2008 ISBN 978-5-9501-0143-4
This book is very interesting as it has old photographs as well as modern photographs of the costumes in the museum.  

I had a wonderful day in the museum.  It is so full of interesting textiles beautifully displayed. 

Tassel making

I find the numerous ways of making decorative tassels fascinating.  I bought a lovely booklet from this Etsy site. It is downloaded as a PDF file. It is called How to make complete tassels.   by Elena Shevtsova. The instructions are for one type of an elaborate tassel. 

Her woven belts look lovely so her shop is great to browse as well. 

Susan J Foulkes    May 2017

1 comment:

  1. What happy memories this post brings back! I found this museum by accident last year when in St Petersburg on holiday - and was blown away by it's quality. On the day I was there the halls were full of art students making fabulous watercolours of the costumes, and I spent hours taking photographs and making notes and sketches. My poor husband was very patient...
    best wishes - and thanks for such a super post.
    p.s not at all jealous of a behind the scenes trip, not at all, ever...


All comments are moderated before being posted. There will be a slight delay before your message appears.