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17Th century. The golden age of mediaeval russia

The beginning of the century in Russia witnessed what is known as the Time of Troubles. The occupation of Moscow by the Polish army, the intervention of the Swedes, the Cossack uprisings and the many spurious claimants to the Russian throne did little to promote the flowering of architecture. Yet architectural traditions were so strong, that they revived as soon as the interregnum ceased and the house of Romanov came to the throne in 1613. The architecture of the 17th century is extremely interesting and, a most important point, relatively well preserved. There are solid squat palaces and mansions with highly decorative window surrounds in which boyars and merchants lived (Suzdal, Rostov and Yaroslavl) and numerous stone and brick churches, such as the "miracle" church of the Assumption in Uglich or Suzdal's many churches of the 17th and 18th century, and particularly Yaroslavl's magnificent 17th-century red-brick churches with their friezes, window surrounds, glittering tiles and remarkable frescoes.

18Th – 19th century. New town-planning ideas

The early 18th century was a complicated time for Russian architecture. After eight centuries of belonging to the culture of the Orthodox East, Russia now turned to the West. After Peter the Great's return from Western Europe the "europisation" of the whole Russian state became official policy. The emperor wanted to alter everything straightaway through legislation. True, his reforms affected the capital most of all. Northeast Russia and the towns of the Golden Ring continued to follow the old traditions for quite a long time In Suzdal or Uglich, for example, they went on building the same sort of churches as in the 17th century, and there were also few changes in secular building or in the layout of settlements This was the case in the reigns of empresses Anne and Elixabeth, i.e., the middle of the 18th century.

The second half of the century saw some major changes in the Russian provinces, however, far more than during the Petrine reforms. The face of Russia changed radically during the reign of Catherine the Great, the age of the Russian Enlightenment, which began in the 1760s. Almost all the towns, roads and rural areas acquired a new aspect. Projects were drawn up prescribing new town plans for more than three hundred towns, including those of the Golden Ring. The new regular plan consisted of a symmetrical network of streets and squares. After being approved by the Empress herself, they acquired the force of law and were put into effect. In the Golden Ring towns we can still find these trading rows, mansions, governor's palaces, theatres and even army barracks decorated with columns, friezes, cornices and reliefs in classical style. Together these buildings often formed impressive ensembles, the finest of which is probably the centre of Kostroma. Eleven streets radiate from the semicircular square surrounded by stately buildings, and a broad avenue runs up to the square from the Volga embankment passing through the trading rows This ensemble was planned in the 18th century, but completed in the first quarter of the 19th in the period when classicism was in fashion in Northeast Russia This was when classicism became the main architectural style in Russia Stately homes decorated with porticoes and annexes appeared in the countryside. There was a great interest in English country houses and landscape parks Country life was modelled on the "English manner" All these tendencies interwove in a most interesting way in Russia.

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