The State Memorial and Natural Preserve "Museum-estate of Leo Tolstoy "Yasnaya Polyana"
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Государственный мемориальный и природный заповедник «Музей-усадьба Л.Н. Толстого «Ясная Поляна»

Among the fabric items in our non-memorial collection, the collection of peasant clothes that belonged to peasants of the Yasnaya Polyana village stands out with its bright and cheerful colours. There is a rare photograph in our collection which shows three local peasant women (Alsinya Bazykina with daughter and granddaughter) and helps us imagine such items in their natural environment. In the photo, Aksinya’s daughter Lukerya has on traditional clothes of our region: a shirt, a ponyova (i.e., a married woman’s woolen skirt sewn of several pieces of fabric and having a richly decorated hem) and a zanaveska (i.e., an apron). In our collection we have items almost identical to such a skirt and apron. Looking at the photo, it is easy to understand where Tolstoy drew his inspiration to create unmatched characters in “Polikushka,” “The Idyll,” “Tikhon and Malanya” and his other works. Thus Stepanida appears before our eyes in “The Devil”: “She stood there, in a white embroidered apron, a red-brown skirt, and a bright red kerchief, barefoot, fresh, firm, and handsome, and smiling shyly.” The image of this woman personifies natural strength, beauty, intelligence, health, and a unique charm.

Our collection of peasant clothes is not large; it has only 15 items. But it shows a typical peasant costume with all its characteristic features. The main fabrics that were used to make these items are home-made canvases and wool of plain weave. The fit of the items is characterized by “constructiveness,” it is always based on the width of the home-made fabric. The majority of items in the collection are women’s clothes, i.e. more expressive and elaborate from the artistic point of view. Among them there are specimens of both everyday and festive clothes, the only difference between them being the quantity of decorative details and brighter colours. Men’s clothes are represented by a smaller number of items, but they are also typical ones, clearly showing the uniformity of the men’s peasant costume: a kosovorotka (a shirt with a collar fastening at side) and pants of traditional fit. One of the items in the collection lets us see the change of the peasant costume in the second half of the 19th  – early 20th century: the influence of general fashion at first introduces into it the use of factory-made fabrics, decorations, and footwear, and later also changes the style of the clothes. In the early 20th century the sateen sarafan (i.e., a pinafore dress) becomes very popular. The sarafan in our collection is made from a high-quality factory-made fabric and has an elegant pattern. Its owner was not only a skillful woman, but she surely had a refined esthetic taste too.   

For peasants their clothes never were just a “group of items” used to cover one’s body. They were an important part of their life, part of their identity. A folk costume is a real treasure of any nation’s culture. The bright and expressive items of the collection of Yasnaya Polyana peasants’ clothes, no doubt, belong to the most valuable sources for studying the material and spiritual culture of the Russian people. 

Women’s sleeveless jacket. Late 19th cent. Russia, Tula Province, Yasnaya Polyana village

Velveteen, chintz, cotton felt; machine-woven, hand-sewn; hand-embroidery

Length: 73.0 cm; width at the bottom: 344.0 

ТК 2

Included in the museum collection in the 1930s

Belonged to a peasant family from the village of Yasnaya Polyana 

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