Abramtsevo: refuge of Slavophiles and cradle of Neo-Russian style
The famous Abramtsevo estate is situated 50 kilometres to the north of Moscow, in a dark forest of spruces, on a bank of the river Voria. It has been mentioned in Russian chronicles since the 18th century. In the 19th century, Abramtsevo became one of the most famous places associated with Russian culture. 90 years ago the estate was given the status of a state historical and literary museum.
An alley of old lime-trees leads to a wide yard and a wooden house. It is a small building with an attic and two porches, nothing grand. But still, the great Russian writer Anton Chekhov wanted the house in his play “The Cherry Orchard” to look exactly like the one in Abramtsevo. Another Russian literary classic, Turgenev, gave a detailed description of the house in his novel “The Noblemen’s Nest”. In an interview for “The Voice of Russia” Anna Kuznetsova from the museum’s staff said:
“It all began in 1843, when the estate was bought by the famous writer Sergey Aksakov. He was delighted with Abramtsevo’s surroundings. Actually, he became a writer here. He spent long hours on the river with a fishing-rod and suddenly had an idea to describe his many years of experience as a fisherman. It was then and there that he wrote his first book about fishing. The book was written in such a beautiful Russian language and with such enthusiasm that even people who had no idea about fishing enjoyed reading the book immensely and sent the writer presents. People representing the flower of Russian culture gathered in Aksakov’s house. Slavophilism as an important trend of Russian philosophy sprang up and developed here. Slavophiles advocated the unique character of Russia and sharply criticized noblemen for not knowing their native language."
"The special aura of Abramtsevo attracted its next owner, industrialist Savva Mamontov. He left a deep trace in Russian industry and Russian culture as well. Mamontov was a man of many talents. He had such a wonderful singing voice that he was even invited to sing in the famous La Scala in Milan, he was also a sculptor. But his main and very rare talent was seeing talent in other people. In Italy Mamontov met graduates of the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts on a scholarship there. He had an idea to invite them to Abramtsevo. This was how the famous community was born, the Abramtsevo, or Mamontov’s circle. Its participants were united by their love of Russian nature, history and art. They were eager to paint Russian and not Italian landscapes.
Many pictures that are now classics of Russian art were painted in Abramtsevo.A carpentry workshop opened there, which started making household items based on the drafts by the Abramtsevo artists. Those items were a tremendous success in the capital city. The pottery workshop in Abramtsevo, where the outstanding artist Mikhail Vrubel worked, created real masterpieces in majolica. The great dramatic talent of the famous Russian bass singer Fyodor Chaliapin reached its peak in the home theatre of the owner of the estate.
All these bustling activities at the turn of the 20th century formed the so-called neo-Russian style in art, music and stage set design. This style became a very unusual trend in Russian art nouveau. Today as well, Abramtsevo is not a quiet dusty museum but a warm living place. The most honourable visitors here are the descendants of its famous owners Mamontov and Aksakov. It means that life goes on.”