Common Earth, Common History
In 2014, the historic Izborsk museum, a beautiful 14th century stone castle located in Russia along the border of Estonia, received a US State Department Peer to Peer grant. The goal of this grant was to partner the Russian museum with an American museum to learn best practices and create projects that were beneficial to both institutions. Izborsk and Fort Ross were seen as good partners: both are small, rural historic open air museums with highly engaged community support, and both Fort Ross and Izborsk celebrated an anniversary in 2012. But while Fort Ross commemorated its bicentennial, Izborsk — one of the most ancient Russian towns —celebrated the 1150th anniversary of its being mentioned in Russian chronicles!
Despite thriving during vastly different eras and on different continents, the development of historic towns often have much in common, such as access to means of transportation, and abundant local resources such as water, wood, or stone. As a point of intersection, we decided to look more closely at the crafts and small trade practiced at each site.
Trade and Crafts
Work and production are universal human endeavors, and they are the basis for the development and ongoing prosperity of villages and towns. Crafts reflect the cultural identity of people living in one country and at the same time are testaments to the similarities across all people. The goal of the exhibition is to preserve the historic memory and to popularize our cultural heritage and traditions, thus strengthening our cultural ties and international cooperation.
Each museum created an online exhibition to showcase the crafts and trade that thrived in their respective settlements. Fort Ross’ exhibit covers the most prevalent 19th century crafts practiced during the 19th century Russian era:
The Izborsk exhibit, under the care of Izborsk Museum Director Natalia Dubrovskaya, showcases the following: (to be added)
Izborsk, now a Global Heritage Site, is situated 200 miles southwest of St Petersburg along an old trade route that utilized the lakes and riverways to move goods to what is today the Gulf of Finland.
The people of Izborsk were engaged in agriculture, fishing and hunting. Proximity to the border, location along the water and ground routes contributed to the development of crafts and trade. Izborsk became a center of international trade and cultural exchange. Trade contacts were a basis of cultural exchange and cross-cultural interaction. The geography of trade was vast: objects from Byzantium, Siria, Africa, Scandinavia, Baltic area were discovered in Izborsk during archaeological excavations. One could meet Livonian, Dutch, Swedish, Hanseatic merchants in Izborsk. Craft goods produced in Izborsk were exported to many countries. Moreover goods from the vast Russian market were also moving through Pskov area, Isborsk being part of it. Izborsk and Pskov became an important window into Western Europe.
Izborsk and neighboring Pskov are a pleasure to visit. The landscape is beautiful, the history rich, and the Russian hospitality is strong. We highly recommend you make the journey! For more photos of our trip to this region, see FRC’s 2014 travel page and check out the links below.