• Bulgaria!

    Bulgaria: An old Turkish bridge. Go Now!

    Bulgaria
    The isolated mountains of Bulgaria hide cultural gems around every corner, including this old Turkish bridge in the Rhodopi Mountains. Explore Bulgaria!

  • Italy!

    Italy: Rome' historic buildings. Go Now!

    Italy
    Crumbling buildings in Rome (pictured) only add to the atmosphere in a country where old is redefined and western civilization begins. Explore Italy!

  • Portugal!

    Portugal: Palace of Pena. Go Now!

    Portugal
    Although next to the seas and made famous by trade, Portugal boasts dynamic landscapes and architecture, including the Palace of Pena (pictured) near the town of Sintra. Go to Portugal!

  • Denmark!

    Denmark: Landscape. Go Now!

    Denmark
    From cities like Copenhagen to islands, beaches, and vast fields (pictured), Denmark offers incredible history, architecture, scenery, and more. Begin Your Journey!

  • Czech Republic!

    Czech Republic: Astronomical Clock in Prague. Go Now!

    Czech Republic
    The Astronomical Clock in Prague (pictured) makes every tourist list, but the towns, including Cesky Krumlov, and the mountains offer a change of pace. Go Now!

  • Armenia!

    Armenia: Noravank Monastery. Go Now!

    Armenia
    With a unique language, foods, architecture, and identity, Armenia is a fascinating country and culture unlike no other in the world. Begin Your Journey!

Architecture of Russia

WARNING: Russia's border with Ukraine is unstable and tensions are high, read this travel warning before going!

Russian Architecture - Vladimir
Vladimir

Stereotypical Russian architecture is the natural descendent of Byzantine architecture, which should not be surprising as Russia is the successor of the Byzantium thrown. This style begins with Constantinople (Istanbul) and St. Sofia's in Kyiv, but greatly evolved in Russia itself, particularly with church architecture.

Russian Architecture - St. Basil's on Red Square in Moscow
St. Basil's in Moscow

The best place to begin with the transformation of Russian architecture is in what is commonly referred to as the "Golden Ring." These cities have churches and monasteries from the 1100s, many of which are rather unique or formed the basis, on which later churches were modeled. The most popular cities in this ring are the cities of Vladimir, Suzdal, and Yaroslavl. From the 1100s into the 1300s these cities were leaders in construction and the Byzantine style's evolution can be clearly seen in the various churches. Often regarded as the best examples from this time are St. Demetrius' Cathedral (1191) and Assumption Cathedral (1158-1189), both in Vladimir.

During this same time and into the 1400s, the city of Novgorod was also an architectural leader as it served as the region's capital city until the 1400s when Moscow took over; the Cathedral of St. Sophia (1045-1052) in Novgorod is another example of early Russian architecture. The city of Pskov was also developing the Russian style at the time, most notably with the Cathedral of St. John (1100s).

The last highly influential city at the time was Moscow, but Moscow's power and architectural influence didn't blossom until the 1300s and later. Moscow became a leader in both church architecture as well as in fortification architecture as some of the country's most well-known and recognizable monuments were built in Moscow during the 1300-1500s.

Russian Architecture - Church of Transfiguration on Kizhi Island
Kizhi Island

Moscow's Kremlin (kremlin meaning fortress in Russian), is an excellent example of defensive fortifications (refortified 1485-1516), but inside the kremlin walls are numerous churches that are also noteworthy. Many of these churches were modeled after those in the cities of the "Golden Ring," such as Uspensky Cathedral (1475-1479) and the Cathedral of St. Michael the Archangel (1505-1508). More well-known than either of these though, is St. Basil's Cathedral (1555–1561), which sits outside the kremlin walls on Red Square itself.

During this same time there were other churches and fortresses being constructed throughout Russia. Trinity Sergius Lavra (1345-present) in Sergiev Posad represents church architecture throughout the ages, but peaked during the 1400s to 1700s, although it is having a Renaissance today. On the military side, the kremlin in Kazan is also very impressive as it was originally Tatar (descendants of the Mongols) and has many remnants of this architectural style, most strikingly in the reconstructed Qolsarif Mosque (built in the 1500s, but destroyed and re-built in 1996-2005).

Russian Architecture - Communist Blok Apartment Building in Izhevsk
Communist Apartment in Izhevsk

After a brief introduction of Baroque, which includes the Church of the Intercession (1689-1694) in Moscow, St. Petersburg was founded in 1703, moving the capital and the architectural center of the country to Peter the Great's new city. St. Petersburg's architecture is a combination of late Baroque or Rococo and neo-Classicism, but truly has its own distinct look and design.

Russian Architecture - Kul Sharif Mosque in Kazan
Kul Sharif Mosque in Kazan

St. Petersburg has dozens of buildings in these styles. Saint Isaac's Cathedral (1818-1858) is in a more pure neo-Classical style, while earlier buildings tend to be primarily in the Rococo style, such as Smolny Cathedral (1748-1764), the Winter Palace (today housing the Hermitage Museum; 1730s-1837), and perhaps the most impressive structure in the St. Petersburg area, Petergof (or Peterhof/Petrodvorets; 1714-1800s). Petergof served as the tsars' Summer Palace and is again in numerous styles, but tends to resemble palaces of Western Europe more than much of St. Petersburg.

Russian Architecture - Modern Moscow
Modern Moscow

Throughout history, most Russian architecture has been constructed of wood so has not lasted real long. In any Russian village there are sure to be numerous wooden houses, but undoubtedly the most impressive of these are the churches on Kizhi Island, often referred to as Kizhi Pogost (1700s), which look like many other Russian churches, but are made from wood.

With the rise of communism in the early 1900s, a new architectural style came. This communist style was built for efficiency and use over design and aesthetics, but it now dominates the country. These simple buildings were built at different heights during different leaders' rules, but little else changed over time. It is impossible to visit Russia today without seeing hundreds of these buildings, even in long forgotten Siberian cities, these buildings are impossible to escape.

This page was last updated: May, 2014